Recent advances in both single and multi-head embroidery machine technology have also led to a rapid increase in the range of different embroidery materials on the market. Niki Tait rounds up some of the latest.

The latest embroidery variations include three dimensional embroidery, embroidery on leather and technical textiles with different layers of material and coatings, and combined with high machine speeds have in turn created new challenges for the embroidery machine needle.

Groz Beckert has developed the DBxK5 range of embroidery machine needles especially for use in modern high performance machines. Their bending resistance is said to be higher than any of the other needle systems currently used in the embroidery industry.

There are three main variations of the DbxK5: standard chrome for general applications, the titanium nitride coated SAN 1 Gebedur for higher stability and maximum resistance against wear, and the KK version which has an even lower bending resistance. The KK has been designed for applications such as three-dimensional embroidery.

Each needle is available in various sizes with different point and eye styles, the choice of which depends on the end-use application.

For example, with knitwear a needle point which is too sharp will create loop damage or needle cuts, while a needle which is too thick will push out the loop under tension and break it. When embroidering onto leather, cutting points are not normally suitable since changes in the stitching direction can result in previously sewn threads being cut, excessive perforation of the leather and irregular stitch hole openings.

Version 4 of ZSK's Sequin Device is not only quicker to use - an increase from 700 rpm to 1000 rpm - but it also allows the attachment of 3mm sequins. The previous version catered for 4-9mm sequins.

Reinforcement fibres and stitching
However ZSK's main news is the development of embroidery machines for placing reinforcement fibres and stitching, thus opening up totally new marketing opportunities to the company in the automotive industry, for example.

The machines can be used in applications where the production of components or textile structures requires the stitching of variable geometry ply stacks, or where fabrics need to be reinforced locally.

The process is made more cost efficient through a combination of high stitching speed and multiple sewing heads on each machine, each producing identical preforms. In comparison to other textile technologies the loss of expensive materials like carbon or aramid fibres is very low, which also minimises the problem of waste disposal.

CAD embroidery software ensures that the machine takes required orientations for specific reinforcement fibres into account. A large number of different patterns are used to stitch the fibre. Optional cutting and bending lines are also available, which can be used in combination with a standard embroidering head for applying reference points.

New badge technique
Madeira has created a new technique for producing badges that involves embroidering directly onto a special heat soluble 'plastic' material called MadeirAS film. No non-woven or other backing or base fabric is used.

This means that cutting out the finished badge using scissors or laser-cutters is not necessary, saving time and money and improving the quality of the badges.

The MadeirAS film is fixed into the frame of the embroidery machine, and the outline of the badge embroidered using fixing stitches. Within this outline, a grid support of running stitches is embroidered to stabilise the field for the filling stitches. The filling stitches are then embroidered, followed by the badge's motif or characters.

A 2.5-3 mm edging around the outline is embroidered with close satin stitches which perforate the film enabling the badge to be easily removed. Any film residue can be removed by ironing or hot pressing. Madeira is selling its film in 100m long rolls of 50 or 100 cm width.

Water soluble film
Gunold has developed Solvy Film 80, a strong water soluble film for burnt out embroideries, mobile appliqués etc. The Solvy Film 80 is placed in the embroidery hoop without any additional backings and after embroidering the visible material is cut around the embroidery. The film is completely soluble in lukewarm water.

Main areas of application include multi-head and Schiffli embroidery, English embroidery, burnt out embroidery, Richelieu and lace. An example of use could be in a mobile appliqué such as a butterfly. After washing, the body of the butterfly is sewn onto a T shirt, but the wings are in-stitched and still mobile.

Gunold Twilly provides a permanent nonwoven backing for batches, emblems, logos, and labels. It is permanently coated with a strong adhesive which, the company claims, cannot separate from the fabric even when boil washed or dry cleaned.

Gunold Glowy is a fluorescent embroidery yarn available in seven pastel colours. With a thread count of 75/2 nm (120/2 den) it is appropriate for all embroidery motifs designed for thread count 40. No loss of luminosity is guaranteed after 50 washes.

Fluorescent thread can be used for safety purposes as its long-lasting luminosity makes embroidered logos, letterings, and motifs shine in the dark. This is an advantage over reflecting materials which only reflect light immediately directed towards them.

Niki Tait, C.Text FTI, FCFI heads Apparel Solutions, which provides independent assistance to the apparel industry in the areas of manufacturing methods, industrial engineering, information technology and quick response.