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Technical Textiles: A Glimpse into the High-Tech World of Fabrics

Published: February 2, 2024
Author: TEXTILE VALUE CHAIN

In the early days of textile manufacturing, the main goal was to provide clothes that satisfied social demands while highlighting aesthetic and decorative elements. But as time went on, people began to value functional properties in addition to aesthetics. As a result, to represent this shift in demand, textiles are now divided into two sectors: traditional and technical textiles. 

The term “traditional textile industries” refers to those that manufacture traditional clothing, blankets, curtains, lingerie, and other items to meet consumer demand as well as aesthetic standards. Conversely, the technical textile industry involves the manufacturing of goods that can fulfill certain needs, such as weatherproofing against extreme cold or other weather conditions. By 2030, Kings Research projects that the global market for technical textiles is likely to garner a value of $360.26 billion.

Let’s learn everything you need to know about these textiles in this comprehensive guide. 

What Are Technical Textiles?

Textile goods and materials that are primarily employed for their functional characteristics and technical performance rather than their decorative or aesthetic properties are known as technical textiles. Making high-tech, high-performance fabrics that offer a major functional added value in addition to their attractive appearance, this industry is one of the fastest-growing in the textile sector. A common method of producing these textiles is the textile coating process.

The textile industry is not only seeing a rise in the use of textiles for clothes, but it is also maintaining a strong position for the use of textiles, or technical textiles, for purposes other than clothing. The uniqueness and complexity of technical textiles stem from the necessity to comprehend and apply the principles of textile science and technology in order to provide answers, not only for the most pressing technological issues but also frequently for engineering ones.

Raw Materials

The raw materials used to make technical textiles include:

  • Natural fibers – Cotton, Jute, Wool, Silk, and others
  • Synthetic polymers – PES, PAN, PA, PP, and others
  • Regenerated fibers – Acetate fiber and Rayon
  • Minerals – Asbestos
  • Metals – Steel, Carbon, and others

Out of the materials mentioned above, synthetic polymers are frequently utilized in the creation of technical textiles because of their superior qualities viz., improved strength, durability, and abrasion resistance. They are also used to manufacture these textiles for cars, protective gear, and medical applications, and can be designed to reach high-performance qualities. These textiles benefit greatly from the use of synthetic polymers like nylon and polyester since they do not significantly stretch or shrink while in use, making them appropriate for uses where dimensional stability is crucial. Furthermore, because synthetic polymers are so versatile and can be produced in a variety of colors and textures, they find extensive applications in various sectors.

Types of Technical Textiles

Technical textiles can be broadly categorized into several groups according to their intended usage or application. They are typically categorized as:

Protective Textiles or Protech: Protech is used to shield people or property against risks like impact, fire, and chemicals. Bulletproof jackets, flame-resistant apparel, and protective gear are just a few examples.

Medical and Hygiene Textiles or Medtech: Medtech textiles, such as bandages, implantable materials, and surgical gowns, are utilized in healthcare and medical applications.

Industrial Textiles: Geotextiles, filter fabrics, and conveyor belts are examples of indutech textiles utilized in industrial environments.

Transportation Textiles: These textiles are utilized in tires, seats, and other parts of vehicles for transportation purposes.

Construction Textiles or Buildtech: These textiles, which include textile membranes, geotextiles, and erosion control fabrics, are utilized in civil engineering and construction applications.

Sports and Leisure Textiles or Sport-tech: Sports textiles, such as nets, ropes, and other sports equipment, are utilized in sports and leisure activities.

Home Furnishing Textiles or Hometech: Bed linens, curtains, and upholstery are examples of home furnishings that use hometech textiles.

Agricultural Textiles or Agrotech: Crop covers, netting, and materials designed to control erosion are examples of agrotech textiles used in farming.

Eco-Textile or Ecotech: Sustainable textile, or eco-textile, is a category of textile that is made and processed in a sustainable and ecologically friendly way. This can involve using non-toxic colors and finishes, natural, renewable, and biodegradable materials, as well as water- and energy-saving procedures.

Emerging Trends in Textile Innovation in 2024

The following innovative trends will have a big impact on how the sector develops in the future:

  • Smart Textiles

Smart textiles are made possible by technological advancements that facilitate communication between connected devices and the human body. Smart textiles use a range of Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to gather physical and biometric information about the wearer for efficient activity and health tracking. Additionally, to enhance component interconnectivity, textile makers use nanomaterials, biotechnology, and microelectronics. Aside from that, entrepreneurs are developing robust sensors that can survive several washings. In this sense, the firms provide robust, tech-driven solutions that defend against environmental risks and govern the human body.

  • Sustainable Supply Chain

In order to address the growing demand for reasonably priced apparel, manufacturers utilize technology to shift rapid fashion towards circular economies. Companies are encouraging environmentally beneficial practices like recycling and reuse. Manufacturing uses renewable energy sources, such as body heat, with blockchain to assure supply chain transparency while using algorithms to control production.

  • AI and Data Analytics

AI and data analytics are being applied in a variety of ways, from product inspection to management automation. These technologies quantify creases in cloth and identify visual flaws. In order to optimize business procedures, machine learning algorithms also find previously concealed operating patterns. Moreover, AI monitors customer behavior to offer more insightful recommendations and industry trends. Data-driven solutions thereby optimize processes, manage the labor pool, and raise the caliber of the final product.

  • 3D Technologies

The efficiency of textile design and manufacturing is increasing due to the availability of 3D technologies. Experiments with creative constructions, forms, and prototypes are made possible by 3D printing. Additionally, the method makes it possible to produce a variety of materials, from stiff ceramics to pliable polymers. It also advances zero-waste objectives by requiring eco-friendly products. 

Top Markets for Technical Textiles Around the World

With over 110,000 workers engaged in textile manufacturing, the UK has led the world’s textile industry since the Industrial Revolution. Roughly seven thousand of them work in the technical textile industry. Several large publicly listed companies with headquarters in the UK, operations of companies with headquarters abroad, and a sizable tier of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have demonstrated a remarkable level of resilience in the face of international competition and skill in identifying lucrative niche markets and applications for their products have all contributed to the emergence of a sizable technical textiles industry in the UK in recent decades.

Furthermore, UK universities, research institutes, and specialized textile testing firms conduct a substantial amount of research and development in the field of technical textiles. In terms of patents, textile innovation in the UK was ranked third globally and first in Europe between 2000 and 2015, whereas in the International Science Citation Index papers, it was placed third globally and first in Europe between 2000 and 2015. Additionally, the UK continues to be a significant hub for textile innovation and research & development.

The growth of the end-user industries is mirrored in the Indian technical textiles sector. Technical textiles account for roughly 12% of the Indian textile market. The nation’s industrial development and infrastructure are the main drivers of the expansion of Indian technical textiles. 

Investments are also being drawn to government programs. To establish a comprehensive manufacturing base for high-value technological textiles in India, the government has implemented the following policies.

  • Export Promotion of Capital Goods (EPCG)
  • Schemes for agro-textile usage in the Northeast region
  • Amended Technology Upgradation Fund Scheme (ATUFS)
  • Scheme for the usage of geotechnical textiles in the Northeast
  • Benefits under Schemes for Integrated Textile Parks (SITP) and Special Economic Zone (SEZ)

Looking Ahead: The Future of Technical Textiles

The future of technical textiles holds immense promise, driven by innovation, sustainability, and technological advancements. These textiles are set to revolutionize a number of industries with their eco-friendly and functional solutions, thanks to continuous advancements in materials, production techniques, and applications. Adopting these innovations would not only satisfy society’s changing demands but also open the door to a future that is more robust and sustainable.

Author Details

Name: Alisha Patil

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alisha-patil-6332a61a5/ 

Bio: A budding writer and a bibliophile by nature, Alisha has been honing her skills in market research and the B2B domain for a while now. She writes on topics that deal with innovation, technology, and the captivating world of business. An MBA holder in marketing, she takes on every challenge that comes her way with much enthusiasm and zeal. When not working, she loves to read or sketch. 

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