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Advances in Fibrous Materials, Nonwoven and Technical Textiles

By Seshadri Ramkumar, Texas Tech University | January 3, 2007

Cotton City in India Hosts First International Collaborative Conference

Coimbatore, popularly known as the Manchester of South India hosted the international technical conference on "Advances in Fibrous Materials, Nonwoven and Technical Textiles – AFNIT from August 7-9, 2006." Professor Mallyah and Dr. Seshadri Ramkumar of USA served as Organizing Secretaries. This was this first ever collaborative conference between two academic institutions SSM college of Engineering, India and Texas Tech University which was supported by two US based international professional/trade associations: 1) Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry (INDA) and 2) American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC). Over 250 delegates from USA, UK, Germany, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Israel, Hong Kong, Iran joined their colleagues from India in making the conference a big success. The conference received good support from the Government of India and local industries. The Honorable Mr. E.V.K.S. Elangovan, Union Ministers of State for Textiles inaugurated the conference in the Indian way by lighting a traditional lamp which symbolizes brightness and spreading of knowledge. The Honorable minister gave the inaugural address, which had news to cheer-up the Indian researchers and the industry. The Government of India has recognized technical textiles as a major thrust area and will be supporting new "Nodal Centers for Research on Technical  Textiles."

This news was certainly a pleasing one for Indian and a happy surprise for delegates from western countries where textiles and allied areas are not receiving much Government support. The minister also released the conference souvenir and CD of the proceedings. The souvenir contained felicitations from top Government of India executives such as His Excellency The President of India Dr. Abdul Kalam, who in his earlier private life had been a scientist himself heading India's space program. Mr. J. N. Singh, Textile Commissioner and Mr. K. Shekar, Director, DRDE, Gwalior graced the inaugural function and offered opening remarks about technical textiles and textiles in defense applications. Mr. Kanti Jasani, representative of AATCC, USA and Ian Butler representative of INDA, USA delivered brief messages at the function. This inaugural function on the morning of August 7th was full of pageantry and a delight to watch for foreign participants visiting India.
Opening Ceremony Featuring the Central Minister and Representative of INDA and AATCC.
Central Minister Lighting the Traditional Indian Lamp and Inaugurating the Conference. Mr. J. N. Singh, Textile Commisioner, Mr. Shekar, DRDE, Dr. Ramkumar, Texas Tech University and Dr. Mr. M. S. Mathivanan, SSMCE are seen with the Minister during the Inauguration.  

The conference had 12 sessions that included: 1) Keynote lecture; 2) Invited paper session 3) Nine parallel sessions and 4) Poster session. This provided a good mixture of papers from academia and industry enabling the presentation of basic research and applied and marketing papers related to advances in fibrous materials and technical textiles. Ian Butler, Director of international marketing of the INDA-USA, presented the keynote lecture on the prospects for the Nonwovens Industry in Key Global Markets. The main purpose of this talk was to educate Indian entrepreneurs about the potential of nonwoven industry in India, the status of the global nonwoven industry and where India stands today. Currently, India has limited nonwoven manufacturing capability with an annual output of 35,000 tones compared to 755,000 tones annual capacity in China. This lecture served as an eye-opener for the opportunities that the nonwoven and technical textiles industry presented for emerging economies like India.

Invited papers were diverse in nature and included papers covering the broad spectrum of the fiber industry. Ben Shuler from Hills, Inc., Florida talked about modern extrusion technologies for developing complex shaped fibers such as islands-in-sea. Reliance Industries of Mumbai, one of the world's leading polyester staple fiber producers has been recently exploring multicomponent fiber systems and a talk from Reliance featured latest  developments such as Recron and Micrelle. Michele Mlynar of Rohm and Haas Company, USA made a present on alkyl phenol ethoxylate free and ultra-low formaldehyde binders for use in technical textiles. Seshadri Ramkumar and colleagues from Texas Tech University presented latest developments on the non-particulate decontaminate wipe technology for chemical warfare decontamination. A brief history on the development of mechanized cotton industry in the US and its economic impact was given by Professor Mallyah of India. This presentation coauthored by Seshadri Ramkumar, which highlighted the impact of research and development on the fiber industry and proposed the need for value-added textile industries in growing markets such as India. The paper highlighted the fact that we are living in a "flat world" and opportunities are enormous for fiber/textile industry in India if the industry thinks long term and invests in R&D.

Professor Dieter Muller of Bremen, Germany presented an update on latest research on glass-fiber reinforced composites for applications in automobiles and aircrafts. Ravi Vedula of Noveon, USA presented Noveon's extrusion spun spandex technology. Extrusion spun spandex finds applications in heat sensitive fabrics and the process is environmentally friendly and avoids the use of solvents. Ink-jet printing is in vogue these days and a presentation by Trident, USA featured developments on water based pigments for ink-jet printing. The latest Fabric Fast TM Ultra inks with submicron particles for achieving color strength and enhanced wash fastness was featured in Trident's presentation. Jimmy Lam from Hong Kong Polytechnic University presented a comparative study on the low stress properties of two sets of  fabrics, wool/wool blends and heavy weight cotton denims, with the objective to determine the hand-related properties of the common fabrics that are widely used in the apparel industry.

Professor Kenneth Langley of University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth presented his recent work on developing precision and bias statement for the quantitative fiber analysis. A presentation by Rod Lampen of England featured flexographic and gravure printing and coating for nonwovens. A timely presentation on world cotton market was presented by Sam Mohanty of Texas Tech University. With the WTO negotiations not coming to a settlement on cotton subsidies, this talk presented United State's view on US and World cotton markets. Christian Maennich of Coatema coating machinery, Germany presented the developments in coating technologies for medical and smart textiles. Recently, there is a great interest in the industry on the use of different antimicrobial technologies such as nano metals, halamines and copper oxides. Cupron, Inc. of Israel has developed copper oxide based antimicrobial technology and a presentation by Gadi Borkow presented results on anti-viral gloves and filters using the CuO technology which has been focused to deactivate HIV-1 and other viruses. The invited session featured diverse topics and it was intended to brief the conference participants the developments that are taking place in the entire spectrum of the fiber/textile industry.

The conference had nine general sessions spread over three. These parallel sessions provided the opportunity for academics and research scientists form research labs and industry to present their recent results. Almost all institutions in India that offer   textile degrees participated. Leading research laboratories such as the Defense Research and Development Establishment, Gwalior, Central Institute of Research on Cotton Technology, Mumbai, Ahmedabad Textile Research Association and South India Textile Research Association contributed to the success of the conference. Research papers on nanotechnology, defense textiles and smart clothing received much attention. Papers on breakthrough behavior of sulfur mustard vapor on carbon and chitosan for wound healing came form the leading Defense laboratory-DRDE, Gwalior, India. Topics such as Green Manufacturing, Nanotechnology in Textiles, Comfort, Basalt, Banana, Betel and coconut fibers, biopolishing with mushroom, development in air-vortex spinning, electronic sweaters and plasma treatments were some of the papers that were discussed in the parallel sessions.

The conference ended with a formal valedictory function. Mr. KG Balakrishnan, a leading textile industry person from Coimbatore presided and distributed certificates to the participants. A brief summary of the conference was presented by the international organizing secretary, Seshadri Ramkumar. The conference also provided opportunities for international participants to visit local institutes. A special dance program in South Indian tradition known as "Bharat Natyam," meaning dance of India was arranged for foreign delegates, which was much liked by international visitors who are visiting India for the first time.

The conference had over 80 papers presented and generated a lot of interest all over India even in broad press and other media outlets. India's  leading newspaper, The Hindu, Business Line presented reports on the conference showing the impact of the conference. It should be noted that the conference played its part in creating more awareness and highlighted opportunities for high-tech textiles industry in India. An important outcome is that the Indian government is planning to propose special degree programs in technical textiles in leading academic institutes in India—a welcome effort!

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