A new Fabric Touch Tester (FTT) that takes the guesswork out of fabric hand feel has won a Grand Award of Equipment and Machinery Design in the 2016 Hong Kong Awards for Industries.

Developed by the Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA), the tool measures multiple physical properties of fabric specimens such as thermal transmission, bending, compression and surface friction in both warp and weft directions in one single trial.

The instrument provides a concrete scientific value to a measurement that has, until now, been purely subjective.

According to Edwin Keh, CEO of HKRITA, "the Fabric Touch Tester will speed up the communications between designers, fabric mills, and retailers. As such, production efficiency of the textiles and clothing industry will be improved.

"Our industry needs a paradigm shift to focus on efficiency. HKRITA strives to explore more disruptive technologies which address the needs of the industry and the community."

Suggestions are that industry can make use of the analysis data to develop a set of guidelines or product standards in terms of touch feel for specified products. Software with integrated prediction models is also designed to calculate touch feeling scores for fabrics.

Keh has repeatedly spoken out on the need for fashion retailers and brands must take a hard look at their current business models and supply chains if they want to remain competitive into the future.

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HKRITA has also teamed up with the non-profit H&M Foundation as part of a EUR5.8m (US$6.5m) collaboration to develop new technologies to recycle blend textiles into new fabrics and yarns.

HKRITA leads $6.5m R&D on recycling blended fibre fabrics