As the textile industry veers rapidly toward technological and industrial innovation, the nature of fabric testing has grown more complex, a fact evidenced in a recent article by Advanced Textile Source covering the Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI) Expo held in October in Charlotte, N.C.
This year’s IFAI conference, sponsored by North Carolina State University (NCSU) College of Textiles, included an Advanced Textiles Conference Testing Track. Now that manufacturers routinely claim exceptional properties for their products, such as anti-flammability, odor control, and thermoregulation, textiles are facing increased scrutiny from consumers and the government. Extensive testing is still cheaper than a product recall, as one NCSU College of Textiles faculty member pointed out.
The pressure has been a boon for the testing industry. A recent report by MarketsandMarkets estimates testing-related cost will reach $7.22 million by 2020. Meanwhile, the projected compound average growth rate of global textile testing from 2015 to 2020 could reach 4.6 percent, the article pointed out.
Testing practices are still catching up to innovation and production. For example, a presentation by Dr. Emiel DenHartog of NCSU’s Textile Protection and Comfort (TPAC) Center, warned of the need to investigate real-world functionality in thermal testing, a critical process in developing military and industrial safety apparel.
Electronic textiles present an even greater challenge, as Dr. Jesse Jur, a professor at NCSU, demonstrated using a garment with sensor-enabled ink. After two standard washings, the sensors began to fail, even after adding thermoplastic polyurethane to strengthen the ink. Research on smart fabrics must emphasize washability and the impact of electronics on the body, he concluded.
Several companies exhibited new tools for certifying textiles and tracking their integrity as they moves through the supply chain. Applied DNA Sciences showed off their new fiber tagging technology, designed to help manufacturers prevent the addition of counterfeit fibers in their product. Texbase Inc, a software company, presented a system for managing testing data aimed at simplifying the certification process.
Ultimately, testing advances highlighted in the Testing Track of the IFAI Expo, point to a robust future for the textile industry.
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