Technical textiles is the fast growing segment of the global textile market and its current growth rate (CARG) has changed from 3% to 5% annually. According to a survey conducted by David Rigby Associates, by 2010, the requirement of technical textiles will be about 24 million tons per year.
The application areas of technical textiles are broadly classified into eleven categories. The projected demand for these categories by 2010 is shown in Table I. Product-wise, the consumption of technical textiles is outlined in Table II (projected for 2010).
Technical textiles in the form of fabrics account for about 70% of product consumption. Of this, nonwovens have the lion’s share due to their better economy and suitability for varied applications. Fiberfill is popular for residential and industrial applications where unspun fibers are used.
Only about 20% of technical textiles manufactured worldwide are made from natural fibers such cotton, silk and wool. The rest is from man-made/organic fibers. The projected global market size of technical textiles by 2010 is in the region of $20-$130 billion. As an emerging economic power, India has tremendous potential for production, consumption and export of technical textiles. The market size and potential for technical textiles in India is projected at Rs 30,000 crore by 2007-08.
Textiles in Automobiles
Of the Rs 30,000 crore technical textiles Indian market projected for 2007-08, around 6% is generated from the sale of automotive textiles. Nearly 75% of automotive textiles are used for tire cord fabric and seat belts. The remainder goes into helmets for reinforcement air bags, body covers, interior fabrics and insulation felts.
The automotive tire is intended to protect the rubber tube from mechanical damage. It consists of five main components—the carcass, breaker, tread, sidewalls and bead.
The seat belt is an energy-absorbing device designed to keep the load imposed on passenger’s body during a crash down to survivable limits. Primarily, it is designed to deliver non-recoverable extension to reduce the deceleration forces, which the body encounters in a crash. Air bags cushion the occupants in an automobile in the event of an accident. They provide protection against head-on-collision. Their use in combination with seat belts has reduced collision deaths and serious injuries by about 30%. In advanced car designs, the seat belt works in coordination with the air bags. It holds the occupants in the correct position to strike the air bag when it is inflated. Recent designs include inflatable seat belts.
Polyester, nylon 6.0, nylon 6.6 and viscose act as major fiber materials for the automotive industry. In the case of helmets, glass fibers are primarily used as reinforcement. A part of the interior fabrics and insulation felts used in automobiles are in the form of nonwovens.
Five percent of the Indian technical textiles market comprises meditech applications. Of this, nearly 35% goes into sanitary napkins, healthcare and hygiene products, another 30% comprises surgical dressings and sutures represent around 20%. Meditech also includes diapers and orthopaedic implants.
Fibers used in medical applications must be non-toxic, non-allergic, non-carcinogenic and be able to be sterilized without imparting any change in physical characteristics. Viscose is mainly used for healthcare and hygiene products due to its better absorbency. Nonwovens technology is popular in manufacturing these products in a cost-effective manner.
Sutures can be divided into biodegradable and non-biodegradable categories. Biodegradable sutures are made from fibers like collagen, polylactide and polyglycolide (all these fibers are imported) and non-biodegradable ones are from nylon 6.0 polyester and polypropylene. These fibers are available indigenously.
Protech’s share in the Indian technical textiles market is around 4%. In pro-tech, 40% of the material consumption is for bulletproof fabrics for military personnel and the remaining for FR (fire-resistant) apparel and upholstery. It is required that the fibers used for ballistic protection should have high strength, high modulus and low elasticity. In addition, the fibers should have high melting point, high cut-resistance, low thermal and electrical conductivity, resistance to heat, water, chemicals and UV radiation.
For bulletproof fabrics, paraaramid (Twaron–Akzo) and ultra high modulus polyethylene (UHMPE) filaments are mainly used in woven construction. For making FR apparel and upholstery, two methods could be employed. In the first, woven fabrics using conventional fibers such as cotton, viscose and polyester are produced and subsequently they are treated using appropriate FR chemicals. In the second method, FR fibers like meta aramid, FR viscose and FR polyester are spun and woven.
For extreme conditions, heavy fire protection suits are made of Basofil, a man-made BASF fiber. Basofil produced on the basis of melamin resin features outstanding thermal insulation properties and also has the advantage that it does not melt. Basofil suits are used by fire fighting personnel and by industrial workers exposed to high temperatures. Working suits for professional groups that are occasionally exposed to unforeseen flames and heat are also made from fiber blends such as Basofil/cotton and Basofil/wool. FR fibers need to be imported and manufactured similarly, which is expected to result in a stable increase in the consumption and export of the pro-tech sector.
In line with many advanced nations, there should be appropriate legislation in India for mandatory usage of FR textiles for application areas with higher probability of fire hazards such as theaters, restaurants, hotels and commercial complexes. This will promote a culture of appropriate pro-tech usage in Indian industries/enterprises.
Geo-tech and Oeko tech will account for nearly 10% of the projected technical textiles market in India by 2007-08.
Geotech & Oeko Tech
Geo textiles are permeable textile structures made of polymeric materials and are used mainly in civil engineering applications in conjunction with soil, rock and water. They are used in geotechnical engineering, heavy construction, building and pavement construction and environmental engineering.
Oeko tech is for protecting the environment from municipal and industrial wastes. Nonwoven fabrics have the lion’s share (80%) in geotextiles. For heavy-duty applications, such as runway construction at airports, highway engineering and railroad construction, woven geo textiles are also used.
Polypropylene (80%) and polyester (15%) are mainly used for geotechnical applications. Polyamide and polyethylene are used to a lesser extent. Monofilament, multifilament, staple and slit film yarn are used in woven geotextiles. Natural fibers such as jute and coir are also used to a limited extent where there is a specific requirement of biodegradability. High-density polyethylene (HDPE) is mainly used for oeko tech applications.
Textiles For Soft Luggage
Around 22% of the technical textiles market in India is projected to be represented by pack tech. Ninety percent of the pack tech materials are polyolefin (mainly polyethylene and polypropylene) woven sacks and the rest are soft luggage products, jute sacks, hessian and high grade jute bags. The available fiber materials and manufacturing technology in India are quite adequate to produce the entire range of pack tech materials indigenously.
Manmade textiles in the form of knitted fabrics are extensively used for many agricultural end uses mainly due to their favorable price/performance ratio, ease of transport and set-up, space saving in storage and long service life. Some of the popular agricultural fabrics are plant nets, sunscreens, windshields, harvesting nets and nets for protecting crops from birds.
Agricultural textiles will form 1.5% of the projected Indian technical textiles market. Nylon, polyester, polyethylene and polyolefin are the fiber materials used for agro tech. All these are manufactured indigenously at present. Warp knitting is the major technology route for agrotech.
Indutech and Sporttech
Industrial textiles and sports textiles account for 5% and 7% of the market segment. Industrial textiles are products like conveyor belts, hoses, battery separators, filters, bolting cloth and decatising cloth. Nylon 6.6 and SHT polyester are the major fiber components.
Sport tech includes footwear, sleeping bags, ballooning fabrics and parachute fabrics. Nylon 6.0 and Nylon 6.6 cotton and acrylic fibers are suitable for making sport tech.
There is a growing market for sports footwear made of synthetic leather (nonwoven polyester).
Cloth Tech, Home Tech & Build Tech
Cloth tech, home tech and build tech account for 30%, 6% and 5% respectively of the projected Indian technical textiles market.
Cloth tech includes sewing threads (50%), narrow fabrics—elastic, velcro and labels and items like interlinings and zip fasteners. Sewing threads for technical applications are engineered to meet stringent quality specifications. Threads for high temperature are required to hold the seam and secure it in extreme temperature conditions (between 260°C and 1100°C). Threads are usually made from quart, glass carbon, polytetra fluoro ethylene, steel and aramid fibers.
ndian technologies are quite adequate for cloth tech production.
Home tech also includes fiberfill (including fiber from recycled polymer waste), jute carpet backing cloth, stuffed toys and blinds. Build tech covers tarpaulins, hoardings/signs, scaffolding nets, awnings and canopies.
Nylon 6.0 polyester and cotton are the raw materials for production of build tech. The use of coated nylon and coated polyester fiber fabric is increasing at a faster rate for manufacturing tarpaulins.
Vinyl coated polyester fiber fabrics have low elongation, minimum stretch and shrinkage over a wide range of temperature and humidity conditions and resistance to UV degradables and hence are the sought-after materials for high quality truck covers.
Raw Material Status
India is rich in natural fibers such as cotton, jute and hemp and conventional manmade fibers such as polyester, polypropylene and nylon. They can be used for a certain range of technical textiles. However, high performance specialty fibers such as aramids, carbon fibers, high modulus polyethylene (HMPE), polytetra flouroethylene (PTFE), polyphenylene sulphide (PPS) polybenzimidazole (PBI) and elastanes, are yet to be produced in adequate quantities.
rnThese fibers are allowed to be imported on a duty-free basis for a stipulated period, say five years, which will act as a stimulus for the growth of the technical textiles industry. Creation of indigenous manufacturing facilities will help in the long run for a competitive Indian technical textiles industry.
India has a good infrastructure for spinning, knitting, wet processing and finishing and these machinery in their present form can be employed for producing technical textiles for certain conventional applications. However, to ensure adequate impact under globalization, the use of newer technology should simultaneously take place. This includes nonwovens, warp knitting and friction spinning. Nonwovens technology accounts for 50-60% of all technical textiles manufactured the world over. Spun yarns used for producing technical fabrics are predominantly from friction spinning systems (70-80%). Bringing these technologies to India is to be attempted from the viewpoint of bringing down their cost in the long run. Until such time, this machinery should be allowed to be imported on a duty-free basis with certain conditions.
Centers of Excellence
To ensure sustained growth in technology adoption, manufacturing and market promotion of technical textiles, creation of centers of excellence will be a step in the right direction. These may be set up at various textile research associations after identifying their areas of specialty. A nodal agency will be required for coordinating the activities of these centers of excellence. To start with, approximately 20 to 25 specific products may be identified by the nodal agency and each center of excellence may be assigned five or six products for development, identification of appropriate technology, trouble shooting and market promotion.
This exercise may be carried out initially for five years. After this, based on the progress made, another 25 critical technical textiles may be identified and the development process repeated. This process should continue, without interruption, until India becomes one of the major players in the global technical textiles arena. In view of the exorbitant cost of equipment meant for quality evaluation of technical textiles, centralized testing facilities will have to be created at the centers of excellence particularly for the benefit of SMEs. Indian Standards are to be framed for different categories to promote the manufacture of indigenous technical textiles. Awareness programs, interactive marketing, workshops and exhibitions should be conducted to promote these textiles in different parts of the country on a regular basis.