News & Insights

FET and Sci-Lume Labs progress in Bylon development

Published: December 15, 2023
Author: TEXTILE VALUE CHAIN

Sci-Lume Labs, based at Francis Tuttle Technology Center, Oklahoma, is a new  start-up company, dedicated to developing a revolutionary synthetic fibre to benefit the fashion industry. Founder and chemist Oliver Shafaat hopes their new patent-pending product Bylon™ will make clothes made of synthetic fibres more environmentally friendly, as this is a bio-based and biodegradable apparel yarn
with an aim to replace nylon.

His priority was to research potential partners, and he identified Fibre Extrusion Technology Limited (FET), UK for their ability to support melt spinning of a diverse range of polymers as a contract research service.

FET designs, develops, and manufactures extrusion equipment for a range of high value textile material applications worldwide. Established in 1998, FET’s major strength has always been to collaborate with customers in testing, evaluating and developing high value materials with diverse, functional properties.

The collaboration process

The collaboration process between the two companies began in summer 2021.

Initial discussions highlighted FET’s ability to conduct lab tests to provide an initial spinnability assessment with just 100 g of material. However, those tests would not produce any usable yarns; to run a trial on a FET pilot line, the realistic minimum is 1-2 kg. Larger quantities of 5 kg or more would provide the opportunity to generate substantially more information and samples.

An NDA was then signed between FET and Sci-Lume Labs, so that the exact nature of the project could be reviewed. From these discussions, it became clear that FET would be a good partner, as they brought the industry expertise and facilities appropriate for carrying out the initial spinning trials.

At this point, Sci-Lume Labs focused their time on developing their novel polymer, and conducting extensive in-house trials in preparation for hand-off to FET. In early 2023, Sci-Lume Labs resumed contact with FET. Having made significant progress with their polymer, they were now in the position to run a melt-spinning trial. Initially, they wanted to conduct both a multifilament and monofilament extrusion trial (both of which are offered by FET), but decided to focus on  multifilament spinning. The details of Sci-Lume Labs’ in-house trials were discussed, in order for FET to keep ahead of the known issues during the upcoming trial.

In July, joined by Sci-Lume Labs’ Shafaat, the trial was conducted at FET’s Fibre Development Centre in Leeds. Shafaat commented: “I greatly appreciated being able to participate in the trial, as seeing melt spinning first-hand enabled me to better understand the process, and anticipate the problems Sci-Lume Labs might encounter as we scaled Bylon production. Owing to FET’s preparation, expertise, and facilities, the first-ever spinning trials successfully produced viable Bylon yarn for apparel.”

Sci-Lume Labs subsequently conducted further studies on the new yarn to better understand how it would respond to downstream processing such as knitting, dyeing, and wash/dry cycles. It did so without issue.

In October 2023, a further trial was undertaken at FET with the aim to generate more yarn, as well as improve and refine the Bylon spinning process. Unfortunately, this trial was not successful. Shafaat continued: “While I was not physically present, I was impressed by FET’s ability to provide effective, live communication throughout, and felt that FET was taking all the necessary steps to resolve the issues encountered during the trial.” Further offline discussion between FET and Sci-Lume Labs identified the root cause of these problems, which Sci-Lume Labs is working to address prior to future engagements with FET.

Summary

FET’s work on Bylon has enabled Sci-Lume Labs to better understand their  technology and to have physical products that can be showcased to apparel industry brands, manufacturers, and potential investors. The progress of this body of work has accelerated Sci-Lume Labs’ technological readiness level (TRL) from TRL 3 to TRL 6, bringing them significantly closer to their commercialization goal. The development process continues and hopes are high for a successful outcome for Bylon.

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