An Expert in colour management, Textile colouration, Textile testing and Man-Management skills. Looks after business in the ASEAN region (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka).

Easing out from the lockdown, one of the crucial segments of textile industry, the wet processing industry is stepping up and incorporating the much needed changes in the manner of production. The face of textile wet processing (along with all other industries) is slowly developing to become an eco-friendly one. It is a long shot to bring drastic changes. Mr. Yogesh  Gaikwad helps us get a transparent view of the industry- its strengths and weaknesses and a look at the effects of the pandemic on the industry.

  • What are the recent trends that the textile wet processing industry is looking at, in terms of the type of dyes used, prints and finishes?

If you look at 2020, Initially India was already experiencing a slowdown in demand, which was a matter of concern. Then came one of the strictest lockdowns for COVID-19. This meant the industry had to adapt itself to new norms which it never had faced, so nobody knew how to deal with it. The industry tried to survive by manufacturing PPE kits, masks and other products that were in demand during the pandemic. However, these were nowhere near to cover the losses due to lockdown. After the restrictions were eased, the industry started limping back to production levels which were necessary to survive. By October exports picked up and industry was getting optimistic. By December the industry realized it can no longer survive on apparel only; there was a need to shift to technical textiles. In years to come India should emerge as a front runner when it comes to technical textiles, this will however need strong government support in infrastructure specifically electricity and water. The skills levels needed for this, will have to developed by the industry and organisations like the SDC who can provide authentic knowledge. Since technical textiles is a much more technology driven than apparels.

  • The awareness of pollution is rising, and the wet processing industry being one of the most severe pollutants of water, is the industry in India ready with state-of-the-art technology to reduce the water pollution caused by wet processing?

The pollutions levels are either stable or rising all over the world (varies from place to place and Pre-pandemic era) and this is in-spite of some organisation trying to control it by means of legislation and demand for compliance norms from brands and retailers. The major hurdle is that the consumer does not appear in any of the legislations. There is no responsibility attached to the end user. For example, household washing of garments generates maximum effluent load in textile industry. Some household soaps may have chemicals, which can harm the fish in river but there are not enough legislations to stop this at least in India.

We need a wholistic approach to pollution. Colouration process needs to be modernized, for example switching from exhaust methods to cold pad bath in knits. This does require a better understanding of machinery and process technology. SDC can help the industry with its world-renowned training and online courses. Use of pigment printing where ever possible, helps to reduce wastage of resources, minimize lead time, however I don’t see many companies investing in this idea.

The bottom-line is we need to think out of box and develop a confidence to take risk. The industry has been complacent for a long time.

  • What are the problems faced by the wet processing industry right now, with the production slowly coming into flow after the lockdown?

The lockdown simply made the industry go to switch off mode. As the lockdown measures are eased, the industry is finding its strength back. Some will have to relook at their business models and go for a robust one. Technical textiles seem to be promising, but it operates very differently than traditional apparel industry. Collaboration with companies having the technological know how should help a great deal. In technical textiles, one cannot sell a defect as an effect. A defect remains a defect unless resolved.

  • Are there any technologies for dyeing, which do not produce any harmful effluents for the aquatic environment?

The first technology that created a lot of interest was from DyeCoo around 15 years back. It did not get the success which it may have wished for. The technology was waterless, so could have solved many issues. More research is needed in the use of supercritical CO2 dyeing. Digital printing did pick up, though at a very slow pace along with sublimation printing which employs less demand for water. Some innovations did make a mark for example, Liquid Indigo for continuous dyeing of cotton for denim fabrics, Moist Cure for continuous dyeing of cotton and polyester cotton blended woven fabrics one step dyeing, etc.

The ideal technology in my opinion would be the 3D manufacturing technology for textiles. This is still at its infancy, however with new innovations in the software and polymer technologies are making good progress, the success should come earlier than anticipated.

  • What do you think about natural dyes? They are used in some small-scale industries, but they are not water fast, do you think natural dyes can take over synthetic dyes sometime soon?

Natural dyes are picking up in demand and exports are rising. They find use not only in textiles but also food, cosmetics and medicinal applications. India is one of the leaders in this sector and has abundant knowledge about its application. I have also seen the use of natural dyes on murals, on the skin in Indian films. The sector is promising but has many challenges such as, more dyes are needed to get a decent depth of shade, Fastness is not always up to the expectations, use of undesirable mordants, no advantage with reducing effluent load. Bio-dyes is also another emerging sector and while in conversation with a Ph.D student who is working in this area, it seems challenging to get the yields but it should click if they find the right factors that influence the yield. The SDC would be organizing an online global event to promote the two sectors in probably May 2021.