Despite taking place against a gloomy economic backdrop, the IMB - World of Textile Processing trade show in Cologne last week certainly didn't disappoint when it came to new products and innovations. As this roundup of some of the technical highlights shows, faster time-to-market, better quality and lower cost are the drivers behind the latest developments.

Amann Group launched its Blue Sky Technology, which tackles forgery by protecting brand names and quality through intelligent sewing and embroidery threads. A new range of Lifecycle Threads is made from 100% recycled polyester.

AMF Reece's eyelet buttonhole machines have been expanded with the fully electronic model S-311 Ultraflex for use on jacket lapels or applications where buttonhole types change regularly. For trouser and skirt production, the DP-3500 is an automatic short seamer for darts and waistband pleats that can be used by inexperienced operators. And the new EBS Mark II electronically controlled button sewing and wrapping machine duplicates the quality of hand sewn buttons which stand away from the jacket front with a tightly wrapped shank.

AMP Pisani launched new machinery for moulding bra cups. Model P88 is used for foam cups and can adjust the thickness of the cups in 0.1mm increments. Unit P92 is recommended for pre-cut fabric pieces, and handles around 350 cups per hour.

Anne Selby showed the Compleat Arashi Shibori Wrapping Machine that mimics that Japanese technique of over wrapping fabric on a pole with string, and compressing it into pleats. The machine can also over-dye the fabric and steam-set the dyes and pleats.

Arvato Systems Technologies and Porini have bundled their software solutions into a fashion package based on the Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009 ERP system. It includes financial management, human resources, production, distribution, SCM, CRM, project management and BI, and helps manage a product over its entire lifecycle. Using Porini Visuals, the standard ERP functionality can be expanded to include tools for product development, quality control, analysis, and monitoring.

Audaces used IMB as the launch-pad for what it claims is the world's first vertical plotter. The space-saving Tower Jet combines different speed options and printing widths of 143cm, 163cm, 173cm and 183cm, and can use paper rolls of up to 250m in length.

Avery Dennison introduced a new high-speed double sided printer - the SNAP 700 - for producing apparel and retail tags, labels and tickets. The unit prints at 12ips or 300mm per second and features voice-assisted operation and maintenance prompts in seven languages. It is also available with RFID technology to read and write RFID tags.

The company also rolled out its new 3002T recycled polyester woven-edge satin tape made from yarn derived from recycled plastic bottles; and Eco Stretch Transfers which are 100% water-based and PVC free for a wide range of skin contact applications. It also displayed Digital High-Definition Transfers that allow customers to combine size data, care content, colour-by-size, micro printing and bar codes with multicolour heat transfer graphics.

Consorzio F.I.T. showcased a new shape of shoulder pad - called "saddled" shoulder pads - designed for classical jackets.

Dürkopp Adler unveiled its new free arm machine class M-Type Class 669 at IMB, as well as the newly developed special chainstitch machine Class 175 for processing difficult-to-feed outerwear materials.

Ecotech Software's Stage PPC (Production Planning Tool) interfaces with its Stage ERP software and can be used to collect information on production, fabric, sample status and delays on the planning board. From the planning board, information on a style can be accessed from Stage ERP.

Erbé's 'intelligent linking machine' was the winner of the IMB Innovation Award. This new machine can make a seam at a speed of 460 stitches per minute - the collars on cuffs are linked stitch by stitch. This patented process is claimed to be a world-first, turning traditional linking into a basic sewing operation. As well as time savings, other benefits include ease of use: it covers several gauges in just a few clicks and can also be operated remotely.

Eton Systems introduced its all-new Eton 5000 manufacturing and management solution which features the Eton 5000 syncro material handling system, Eton select  shop floor and management software, and Training & Support Services.

Fast React Systems has developed its range planning and costing module FastReact to accurately plan and cost for a new season or collection. For manufacturers, it now includes the capability to automatically plan and schedule multiple departments, for example cut and sew or knit and finish.

FastReact Sourcing also offers enhanced 'collaborative planning', which can communicate from buying office to vendors electronically, for better visibility, faster response, and reduced manual work and errors.

Gipsy Industries launched Anyapply, which it claims is the first semi-automatic machine that allows a single operator to glue any kind of rhinestone to almost any type of material.

Grafis-Software's CAD offers a complete workstation for patternmaking, grading, marker making and the import and export of pattern files. The interactive pattern blocks enable the user to alter a men's jacket from single to double-breasted, as well as for lapel and collar variations. The company's new BizzoFlex PDM software allows Grafis users to manage styles, markers and trimmings.

Human Solutions presented its new Vitus Smart LC2 3D body scanner for the first time - which it describes as a fast, non-evasive way to generate 3D body dimensions. The unit takes up less space than previous models. The company also introduced its iSize portal, being launched later this year, which allows apparel makers to check international databases of body dimensions.

Its Figura 3D solution also allows designers to try garments on 3D avatars with real body dimensions to save time and money in the collection development process.

Impression Technology Europe has developed a new ink delivery method for its direct to garment printers. The White Ink Management System (WIMS) agitates and re-circulates the white ink on a continual basis, eliminating ink sedimentation and the need for periodic machine maintenance.

The Hong Kong Institute of Textiles & Clothing presented its Intelligent Real-time Decision Support (IRDS) system for quick-response apparel production planning and control. The system can help manufacturers plan and balance production for quick response, and can be linked to RFID or bar-code based production tracking systems. Three modules predict the efficiency of each operator, the progress and completion time of each order, and the balance of each assembly line.

Intex Professional's Intex ERP system helps analyse, plan, implement, evaluate specific business processes. A new Graphical User Interface (GUI) means form layouts can be customised to specific user requirements. The system has been enhanced with new modules including MDM (Manufacturing Data Management), scope analysis of finished goods, data warehouse, and a warehouse management system for internal logistics.

Koppermann Computersysteme has added new features to its Tex-Store and Tex-Design software. Tex-Store is a tool that helps merchandisers, floor planners, product managers, and designers to create the best visual and economically viable presentation of a collection. User can now create a multiple page planogram booklet in PDF file format detailing the sales floor, which is automatically updated when a new there or collection arrives.

New functions in Tex-Design include a new file format that enables large image files to be saved as small files, and a redesign of the desktop. A company-specific stitch library can also be created, with users given the option to create a personal library of frequently used stitches.

Lawson Software used the show to announce a new Service Pack for the Lawson Fashion PLM application, which offers 20 new features. The web-based suite helps manage products, from design through production, and the new enhancements include improved filtering of user and business partner lists, new links between modules, better flagging of raw materials exported to the library, a Quick Launch menu and more powerful search capabilities. A new free text field for describing fabric constructions, availability of Pantone codes when selecting colours, and a sample type column enhance the information held in the system.

Lectra's latest innovations include a new version of its Modaris pattern-making solution (V6R1), with new construction tools to speed up pattern development as well as meaning fewer garment samples need to be produced.

Its Kaledo design software (suite V2) has also been updated with features such as multi-colour, space-dye, and fancy yarns for the development of complex knits and woven fabrics; and faster manipulation of repeats. And the Vector cutting range has been expanded with the Vector FX Extended for precision cutting of luxury suits. Used with the new Mosaic pattern recognition system, it can process difficult-to-match stripes and checks.

Pegasus presented chainstich machines with its minimal lubrication system, MLS plus, to prevent oil stains and splashes at high sewing speeds.

Porini, which exhibited with its German partner Arvato Systems Technologies, unveiled its 'Collaboration Sourcing Module,' a new product integrated with its PLM tool which brings together a number of planning, scheduling and tracking activities into a single software package.

PTC's FlexPLM Adobe Design Module is an add-on to the FlexPLM Adobe Illustrator Integration, and enables designers to create products in FlexPLM from within Adobe Illustrator. By having instant access to FlexPLM's colour and material libraries, users can quickly create product ideas and generate "design cards" in FlexPLM. This helps in the creation of more innovative designs and accelerates time-to-market through better design efficiency.

Red Ledge showed its Genus hanging garment scanning system, a high speed tool that processes up to 9000 singles per hour. The patented feed mechanism separates each garment and can handle a mix of metal and plastic hangers without the need for adjustment. It scans either front, back or side barcoded labels, with an RFID version available as an option.

RSG Rombold System launched a new version of its CTMS (colour thread monitoring system) which can be retro-fitted to different sewing equipment. The modules now include CTMS, remaining thread monitor, upper thread monitor, hot thread cutting, and vacuum thread catcher, which can be used together or individually.

Shapely Shadow's new FastFit360.com is an exciting web-based tool that allows retailers and suppliers to view samples and communicate style and fit changes visually over the internet. Images can be viewed as photographs or in 360° format (using FastFit studio), changes to a garment can be highlighted visually to avoid confusion, and a thread of comments helps eliminate any confusion.

Its goal is to speed up the design and fit process by passing work back and forth between offices, with smooth hand-offs, in a manner that lends to round-the-clock global work hours. There are also cost savings as fewer samples need to be shipped and stored.  

Shiro International introduced a compact version of its Fuwari cutting machine for the production of 3D embroidery. Instead of the traditional flat parallel stitches, the designs stand up to 5mm vertical to fabric.

SICoM showed an automatic machine for applying different sized eyelets and rivets over an area of 430mm x 400mm. Model M15-CN has a patented universal applicator head, which can also be adjusted to apply nail-heads and rhinestones.

TPC, based in Hong Kong, unveiled its Parametric Pattern Generator (PPG) software which creates virtual garments on a customised 3D virtual body form (avatar) and displays the related 2D patterns in real time. The integrated sizing and fit tool replicates the traditional fitting process from 3D to 2D in a virtual 3D environment. Originally developed for the made-to-measure business, PPG can also be used by the mass production ready-to-wear sector too. 'Morphological grading,' the company says, replaces arithmetical grade rules and ensures better fitting garments.

Wilcom International's latest version of its EmbroideryStudio software (e1.5) offers improved stitch quality and design tools combined with CorelDRAW X4, providing digitisers with a new way of creating multi-decoration designs.

Wings Systems' eXPerience (Wings' XP) Version 4 embroidery software integrates the latest software technologies and embroidery machine features. A new 3D environment provides a better overview of the design so that complicated embroidery designs are easier to produce. Features include curved direction on stitches and 3D effects.

By Leonie Barrie.