An estimated 17% to 20% of global industrial water pollution results from dyeing and treating fabrics, with toxins from many of the 8,000 synthetic chemicals used for our clothes contaminating the world’s vital waterways.
Global fiber and fabric production, powered by the Asia-Pacific region and notably textile powerhouse China, can use as much as 200 tons of water to dye just one ton of fabric for the apparel industry – enough for only 1,400 pieces of clothing.
Driven by issues of environmental sustainability and material waste, Israeli digital dyeing start-up Twine Solutions is aiming to transform the mammoth global textile industry from its very foundations: the simple thread.
To date, the company says, there has been no such concept as “digital dyeing.” While digital printing and analog dyeing are well-established terms, Twine is the first company worldwide to develop a technology capable of digitally dyeing threads, penetrating into the fiber itself and giving clothing manufacturers the quality they need.
“The textile industry is the second-largest in the world but is far behind much smaller industries when it comes to digital technology,” Twine vice president of product and marketing Yariv Bustan told The Jerusalem Post. “Graphic art is very advanced and textile is about 15 years behind. We need to bring digital technology into this industry.”
The Petah Tikva-based company, co-founded by identical twin brothers Alon and Erez Moshe, offers the clothing industry two digital solutions to increase efficiency, boost sustainability and even enable improved personalization of garments.
The digital thread dyeing machine itself only requires a normal electricity source and ink bought from the company. Unlike existing polluting methods of fabric dyeing, Twine’s machine does not use water at all and can produce threads for knitting, embroidery, and sewing.
With the ability to digitally dye according to exact customer needs, the system also cuts down the huge quantities of textile waste produced throughout the traditional supply chain. In the US alone, an estimated 12.7 million tons of textile waste is sent to landfills annually.
“Dying is a long and complicated process that is done in huge vats, and since you dye only one color at a time – and a lot of it – it forces the entire supply chain to demand large minimum order quantities,” said Bustan. “You need to buy a lot of thread and store it. Even if you need a small amount, you have to buy a lot. Eventually, you’ll throw away 20% to 60% of the order.”
The second digital solution is the company’s “SnapMatch” dye-to-match smartphone application, enabling users to identify colors for fabrics.
Currently, brands seeking to identify a special color need to send color samples to the dye house in remote locations, and then wait for a manually mixed fabric sample to return. The process can take weeks, sometimes months.
Twine’s application, however, uses an algorithm to identify colors accurately, and immediately dye the thread according to the desired color to produce a sample.
“We are changing the supply chain, not just the tactic of how you dye, but also the strategy,” said Bustan. “Instead of a remote dyehouse, we move it all in-house with a light infrastructure system. We reduce logistics by permitting a virtual inventory and offer a faster time to market. There’s no stock, so there’s no dead stock and waste either.”
Twine also offers a unique capability that doesn’t exist in the analog dyeing process, Bustan added, with Twine’s digital system enabling single threads to be dyed in different colors.
“This type of threat cannot be produced with any other technology,” Bustan said.
Twine's technology has received a stamp of approval from sustainability groups and leading industry stakeholders, securing investments to the value of approximately $30m. to date. Major backers include HP Ventures, Maverick Ventures, New Era Capital Partners and UK-based Coats, one of the largest traditional thread producers worldwide.
Beyond issues of sustainability and waste, a major driver of immediate and small-scale printing is the increasing demand for personalized apparel. While major brands already offer digitalized personalization of clothing, Bustan calls the current production process a “logistical nightmare.”
Brands would previously develop and produce collections and then sell them in-store, he explains, but today they increasingly sell products online and then run to produce them.
“We have already changed the way we buy things in a digital manner, and now we need to change how we produce the textile in a digital way,” Bustan said.
By offering millions of different color combinations without a single pre-dyed spool of thread, Twine’s digital technology enables manufacturers to offer real personalization to customers seeking unique clothing.
While direct costs of Twine-produced fabrics are marginally more expensive than traditionally produced fabrics, the elimination of waste and associated supply chain costs mean that system users are promised a return on their investment within a short time-frame – as quickly as 18 months to two years.
“We are targeting to be a corporate company that will change the textile industry from the very basic element of it: starting from the thread,” said Bustan. “This is our advantage and vision because it’s the most basic element. We are going to digitalize the textile industry.”
Courtesy: The Jerusalem Post
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