FET awarded £50,000 AMPI grant for spinneret research

FET has been awarded £50,000 of grant funding to collaborate with the University of Manchester on complex spin pack and spinneret designs. The grant is awarded by a consortium led by AMPI (The Advanced Machinery and Productivity Institute) and NPL (The National Physical Laboratory). AMPI’s Innovation for Machinery (I4M) programme supports businesses in West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester as part of an overall initiative to drive innovation for the UK’s advanced machinery manufacturers to meet the challenges of developing new technology and entering emerging markets.

In this project, FET will be working with the University of Manchester to conduct computational fluid dynamics (CFD) studies on a number of complex spin pack and spinneret designs. The aim of this work is to identify areas of improvement for FET’s spin packs and spinnerets and to use computer aided designs to develop significantly more efficient versions. The goal is that the research will improve the throughput of FET extrusion systems, thus reducing the amount of polymer lost through inefficient flow paths. This development, in turn, will reduce the environmental impact of synthetic polymer processing.

This funding will provide FET with access to the expertise of four universities and the National Physical Laboratory to develop the next generation of machinery.

FET counts the benefits of new polymer development

FET is celebrating a year of achievements since its new Fibre Development Centre was first opened. This period has shown a marked acceleration in the number of client technical trials conducted, involving the ever-increasing development of new polymers.

Since its inception in 1998, a major part of FET’s service portfolio has always been to collaborate with industrial and research establishments in testing, evaluating and developing high value materials with diverse, functional properties. FET’s previous Process Development Laboratory presided over the development of about 60 new polymer types in multifilament, monofilament and nonwoven formats.

Since the new Fibre Development Centre came on stream, this process has accelerated and the number of new polymers has now increased to over 70, with considerably enhanced facilities more than doubling capacity and increasing efficiency. Clients frequently spend several days on site participating in development trials and technical sales meetings, so the new Centre is designed to make their stay even more efficient and comfortable.

“In the last year we have supported more than 35 clients to conduct trials, many of which have gone on to conduct further trials or place orders for equipment”, explained FET’s Research & Development Manager, Dr Jonny Hunter. “The sheer variety of customers is considerable, we’ve developed new yarns for markets including: novel food products, robotics, aerospace, sportswear, sports equipment, automotive, defence and medical products, to name but a few”.

Hunter continues. “Over these 12 months, interest has ranged significantly from massive multinational companies to start-ups and spin-out companies. It is particularly encouraging that an ever-increasing proportion of new polymer trials relate to sustainable fibres, with more than 25 polymers now being from a sustainable source.”

With more new trials booked for the rest of the year and well into 2024, it is expected that many more cutting-edge new polymers will be developed, with sustainable fibres leading the way.

 

 

 

FET completes sequence of exhibitions for 2023

FET has completed a series of exhibitions around the globe, culminating in a very successful ITMA 2023, the world’s largest international textile and garment technology exhibition, which took place in Milan, Italy in June.

“This was a very hectic period for FET, organising participation in three exhibitions in Europe and Asia over a period of less than four months” commented FET’s Managing Director Richard Slack. “However, this provides a great opportunity for smaller specialist companies like FET to raise our profile on the international stage, showing what we can offer, alongside major corporations. Being able to meet so many customers face-to-face, post pandemic also indicates a welcome return to normal business relationships.”

Prior to this was INDEX 23 in April, the world’s leading nonwovens exhibition in Geneva. The exhibition season began earlier in the year with the “Green Textile and Innovation Technology Forum and Exhibition” in Hong Kong, taking a small booth to support the event and FET’s official agent in the region, Chemtax.

 

 

 

 

FET strengthens its technical team

FET has significantly strengthened its technical team with the appointment of Dr Jonny Hunter as Research & Development Manager. Jonny brings an enormous wealth of academic credentials to the department, including a Master’s in Medicinal and Biological Chemistry and a PhD in Sustainable Chemistry. This solid academic background is complemented by over 10 years’ R&D experience in industry, including FMCG and, in particular, medical devices, which encompasses wound care, the medical device manufacturing process and regulatory environment.

A significant market for FET’s meltspinning equipment is medical devices, so in-house expertise in this area is a vital commodity. FET’s commitment to developing sustainable fibres means that technical knowhow in sustainability is also essential. In this, Jonny Hunter has considerable experience and has in the past lead a number of innovation projects in sustainable chemistry and management.

 

This fresh input of knowledge and experience will benefit FET’s customers in their own drive for sustainable innovation in fibre technology. Mark Smith, the previous R&D Manager, is taking a short sabbatical and will be returning in a more strategic role as FET’s Director of Technology, so his continued presence will further contribute to FET’s breadth of technical expertise.

FET has also expanded in a number of other departments to reflect the rapid growth in sales over recent years. Mike Urey is the new Sales Engineer, bringing a wide industrial experience and strengthening all aspects of business development. Three new mechanical and electronic engineers and a new appointment in the design department all combine to take the company forward and sustain growth.

 

FET looking forward to ITMA 2023

FET will soon be exhibiting at ITMA 2023, the world’s largest international textile and garment technology exhibition. This show takes place in Milan, Italy between 8-14 June and FET has commissioned its biggest ever stand to reflect the company’s commitment to this event and the textile industry.

“This year we are celebrating FET’s 25th anniversary” says FET Managing Director Richard Slack “and we look forward to meeting customers at ITMA, where we can discuss all their fibre technology needs.” FET is on Stand H1 A101.

 

FET supports Green Textile Exhibition, Hong Kong

FET participated in the “Green Textile and Innovation Technology Forum and Exhibition” in Hong Kong, taking a small booth to support the event and FET’s official agent in the region, Chemtax. This was the first in a series of international exhibitions that FET will be attending in 2023.

The interactive exhibition was organised by the Hong Kong General Chambers of Textiles, with over 20 industrial experts and 300 guests in discussion forums and meetings. The major themes explored were sustainable solutions, new technologies and future trends in green textiles. The region is committed to improved sustainability in textiles, with China in particular setting ambitious targets for high performance fibre self-sufficiency, developments in biodegradable material and increased production capacity in recycled fibre.

This fits perfectly with FET’s ethos, having long been a leading exponent of sustainability in fibre technology. All FET systems are designed to be material efficient, can be bespoke designed and offer both flexibility and a high level of processing capability.

 

FET prepares for INDEX 23 Exhibition in Geneva

FET will shortly be exhibiting at INDEX 23, the world’s leading nonwovens exhibition in Geneva, 18-21 April.

As well as featuring its latest meltblown and spunbond technology, FET will focus on its new Fibre Development Centre. Construction and fit-out of this new purpose-built building is now fully operational and welcoming visitors. This modern two-storey development provides state-of-the-art facilities, including enhanced laboratory for client testing and product development.

Central to FET’s success has always been its ability to provide customers with advanced facilities and equipment, together with unrivalled knowledge and expertise in research and production techniques. The new Fibre Development Centre will further improve this service. Clients frequently spend several days on site participating in development trials and technical sales meetings, so the new Centre is designed to make their stay even more efficient and comfortable.

Resident equipment in the Fibre Development Centre reflects the wide range of fibre extrusion systems offered by FET to clients across the globe and will enable continued growth of the company through innovation.

“FET has long been a leading exponent of sustainability in fibre technology and the company’s commitment to extending its range of systems that enable sustainability is clearly illustrated in our message at INDEX 23” says Managing Director Richard Slack. “We are celebrating FET’s 25th anniversary since incorporation and look forward to meeting customers old and new at the exhibition in Geneva, where we can discuss your nonwoven technology requirements in detail.”

FET is on Stand 1068.

FET looks forward following stellar year

FET is celebrating a record breaking year of sales and product innovation. “Sales revenue for 2022 has easily beaten our previous high” said FET Managing Director, Richard Slack “and the research projects we have collaborated in have become increasingly challenging in terms of technical specification.”

Prestigious new projects during 2022 included a multifilament melt spinning line for Senbis Polymer Innovations, Netherlands enabling the development of textile fibres from recycled polymers or biopolymers; a FET-200LAB wet spinning system at the University of Manchester which will play a major part in advanced materials research in collaboration with the renowned Henry Royce Institute; and a FET-103 Monofilament line for RHEON LABS of London to help develop a hyper viscoelastic fibre from RHEON™ which displays high strain-rate sensitive properties. The latter two of these examples were aided by significant UK grants to develop advanced materials.

FET is now looking forward to 2023 with a record order book. The company’s newly opened Fibre Development Centre features over £1.5 million investment in customer laboratory systems that will further enable fibre trials and product R&D. Three new polymer types were developed with clients in 2022 and several more are lined up in 2023, which is expected to bring the total of different polymer types to more than 40 in multifilament, monofilament and nonwoven formats.

FET will be exhibiting at two major exhibitions in 2023; INDEX 23, the world’s leading Nonwovens show at Geneva in April; and ITMA, Milan, the world’s largest international textile and garment technology exhibition in June.

FET extrusion system features in UK Business Secretary’s visit

The UK’s new Business Secretary, Grant Shapps has visited the Henry Royce Institute’ hub in Manchester to seal the second phase of R&D investment in the institute of £95 million. FET had previously installed its FET-200LAB wet spinning system at the University of Manchester site and this proved to be a focus for the Business Secretary’s interest, as he discussed the project with FET’s Research and Development Manager, Mark Smith.

This wet spinning technology enables fibres to be derived from sustainable wood pulp to produce high quality apparel and trials are now underway to perfect this process. FET is a world leading supplier of laboratory and pilot melt spinning systems, having successfully processed more than 35 different polymer types in multifilament, monofilament and nonwoven formats.

During his visit, Shapps spoke of the investment programme as a means of reinforcing the UK’s standing as a leader in advanced materials research, development and innovation.

“R&D investment is a critical way to turbocharge Britain’s growth. Growing an economy fit for the future means harnessing the full potential of advanced materials, making science fiction a reality by supporting projects from regenerative medicine to robots developing new recycling capabilities, right across the country. Today’s £95 million investment will do just that, bringing together the brightest minds across our businesses and institutions to help future-proof sectors from healthcare to nuclear energy.”

The Henry Royce Institute was established in 2015 with an initial £235 million government investment through the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the latest £95 million sum represents the second phase of the investment.

Opportunities being investigated by Royce include lightweight materials and structures, biomaterials and materials designed for reuse, recycling and remanufacture. Advanced materials are critical to the UK future in various industries, such as health, transport, energy, electronics and utilities.

FET wet spinning system selected for major fibre research programme

FET has installed a FET-200LAB wet spinning system at the University of Manchester which will play a major part in advanced materials research to support sustainable growth and development.

This research programme will be conducted by The Henry Royce Institute, which operates as a hub model at The University of Manchester with spokes at other leading research universities in the UK.

The Henry Royce Institute identifies challenges and stimulates innovation in advanced UK materials research, delivering positive economic and societal impact. In particular, this materials research initiative is focused on supporting and promoting all forms of sustainable growth and development.

These challenges range from biomedical devices through to plastics sustainability and energy-efficient devices; hence supporting key national targets such as the UK’s zero-carbon 2050 target.

“We are delighted to be associated with such a prestigious research organisation as the Henry Royce Institute” said FET Managing Director, Richard Slack. “This flagship research programme into future materials reflects FET’s wide experience and commitment to enabling client development of textile fibres made from renewable resources”.

In particular, the FET-200LAB will be utilised in trials for a family of fibres made from wood pulp, a sustainable resource rather than the usual fossil fuels. Bio-based polymers are produced from biomass feedstocks such as cellulose and are commonly used in the manufacture of high end apparel. The key to cellulose and other materials like lyocell and viscose is that they can be recycled, treated and fed back into the wet spinning system for repeat manufacture.

 

RHEON LABS successfully completes collaboration trials with FET

RHEON LABS has now completed an extensive 6 month trial with FET, backed by a £173,000 grant from Innovate UK for feasibility studies. RHEON LABS has further developed its RHEON™ technology, a reactive polymer that dynamically stiffens when subjected to force. The technology can control energy of any amplitude or frequency, from small vibrations to forces at ballistic-speeds and therefore has a wide range of applications.

This Innovate UK Smart Grant-backed project aims to develop a hyper viscoelastic fibre from RHEON™ which displays high strain-rate sensitive properties. Creating a fibre with unique strain-rate sensitive properties will be a world first. It will enable the creation of a ‘breakthrough-generation’ of stretch textiles that can actively absorb, dampen and control energy during movement, rather than simply acting as a spring.

For close-fitting activewear and sports bras, the ability to actively control muscle mass or soft tissue movement during exercise will be a game-changing advancement. It will allow brands to engineer garments that relax during everyday use but actively stiffen during exercise for improved support and performance.

The Innovate UK grant was awarded under the category of Hyper-Viscoelastic Fibre Extrusion for Textile Manufacture. FET enabled the customer trials at its bespoke Fibre Development Centre using its in-house FET-103 Monofilament meltspinning facilities, in harness with RHEON and FET technical operatives. The next phase will be to upscale the trials of preferred materials on RHEON’s own new FET-103 meltspinning line, with FET’s continued support and expertise on hand.

Creating a fibre with unique strain-rate sensitive characteristics could be as radical a change in the market as the initial introduction of stretch fibre with the launch of Lycra™. The textiles would have a multitude of beneficial properties and would provide significantly less compression in the garment than conventional materials, substantially improving user comfort, support and performance.

RHEON LABS is a fast-growing materials technology company based in Battersea, London, and was recently named as one of the top UK tech startups of 2021.

Further successes for FET at Techtextil

FET enjoyed another successful Techtextil in Frankfurt, with high quality enquiries from technical companies and organisations worldwide, but in particular Europe.

Techtextil has always been an excellent fit for FET’s presence and aspirations in the high-end technical textile market. As the leading international trade fair for technical textiles and nonwovens, Techtextil attracts international blue-chip companies at the cutting edge of technology, seeking innovative solutions to technical challenges.

The company’s principle theme at Techtextil was Sustainability, since FET systems are ideally suited for both process and end-product development of sustainable materials. Our innovative stand was designed using as many sustainable components as possible and met with much approval from visitors.

The other main area of focus was FET’s new Fibre Development Centre, which is due to be unveiled in a few weeks’ time.

FET gearing up for Techtextil 2022

With just 3 months to go before Techtextil Frankfurt, FET is looking forward to exhibiting at this prestigious trade show once again. Techtextil attracts international blue-chip companies at the cutting edge of technology, seeking innovative solutions to technical challenges, so this event represents an ideal opportunity to demonstrate how FET can help achieve their goals.

FET is an acknowledged world leader in laboratory and pilot meltspinning equipment for a vast range of applications, such as precursor materials used in high value technical textiles, sportswear, medical devices and specialised novel fibres from exotic and difficult to process polymers.

However, FET will also showcase at Techtextil its more recent laboratory scale spunbond system, which enables client development of nonwoven fabrics in a number of formats and polymers. FET already has a number of spunbond systems in the field, including composite systems which utilise both spunbond and meltspun functions.

A major theme to be highlighted on the FET stand is Sustainability. The FET range of laboratory and pilot extrusion lines is ideally suited for both process and end product development of sustainable materials.

FET has successfully processed almost 30 different polymer types in multifilament, monofilament and non-woven formats, collaborating with specialist companies worldwide to promote greater sustainability through innovative manufacturing processes.

See FET at Techtextil Frankfurt – Hall 12.0, Stand A68

FET hails INDEX20 impact

FET is celebrating a successful INDEX20 nonwovens exhibition in Geneva, Switzerland, which closed on 22 October. Although the company has a long history in supplying meltspinning equipment for the nonwovens sector, this represents its first venture at a dedicated nonwovens show.

FET’s Managing Director, Richard Slack explains. “Techtextil and ITMA have previously been our main exhibitions of choice, but INDEX20 was an ideal vehicle for FET to launch our new laboratory scale spunbond system, which enables client development of nonwoven fabrics in a number of formats and polymers.”

FET already has spunbond systems in the field, including composite systems which utilise both spunbond and meltspun functions. The growth in global nonwovens technology, partly driven by demand for pandemic-related materials, is forecast to continue.

“We were delighted with the response at INDEX”, continued Richard Slack. “There was considerable interest shown in the new spunbond system and its potential for lab scale innovation. It’s clear that the industry is seeking new alternatives to synthetics at the moment, and our technology is able to assist with the testing and assessment of many of the new feedstocks being pioneered in this extremely inventive sector, where everyone is suddenly talking and cooperating with everyone else, regardless of whether they are generally competitors. We recorded in excess of 20 serious enquiries from totally new contacts and sectors, including blue chip companies in the hygiene, medical and packaging industries.”

“There were initial concerns about projected attendance figures, especially from China and USA companies, but we experienced good footfall from key decision makers, especially those from Europe. It was encouraging to at last experience the opportunity for face-to-face contact with old and new customers on a large scale and we are now starting to reap the benefits with enquiries continuing to flow in”.

Unique FET Spunbond Technology showcased at INDEX20

FET will introduce its new lab-scale Spunbond system at the INDEX20 nonwovens exhibition, stand 1163, taking place in Geneva, Switzerland, from October 19-22.

Complementing the company’s successful meltblown technology, the new spunbond range provides unprecedented opportunities for the scaled development of new nonwoven fabrics based on a wide range of fibres and polymers, including bicomponents.

The market availability of this new technology is particularly timely, given the industry’s current preoccupation with the development of new substrates based on biopolymers, sustainable resins or recycled fibres. FET has already supplied one of these new spunbond lines to University of Leeds in the UK, and a second, in combination with a meltblown line, to the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany.

MD Richard Slack comments “We look forward to discussing the possibilities of this versatile new system with interested parties at INDEX20 in Geneva,”. “It is capable of processing pure polymer with no requirement for processing aids or additives, to obtain a wide range of structural and mechanical properties, and there are numerous options for the post-processing of the webs.”

New premises update

We are delighted to report that we are well on course to meet the completion schedule for our new premises early next year. The old unit – which was becoming a bit of an eyesore if the truth be told – previously used for storage has now been demolished and the foundations installed on site.

The photograph, taken in August, shows good progress with site preparation and clearance. Construction is now underway and everything is at last beginning to take shape. We are looking forward to a speedy completion to take FET to the next level in our development. The new administration block will certainly help us to maximise efficiency and productivity, whilst the bespoke R&D department and Visitor Centre will be of enormous benefit to our customers in their testing and product development applications.

We will keep you updated regarding site progress over the next few months.

Further gains for FET in the Biomedical sector

FET has now delivered nine meltspinning systems to clients in the biomedical sector since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, with a similar number currently on order for 2021/22. This confirms FET’s position as an acknowledged world leader in meltspinning equipment for the production of precursor materials used in medical devices and the default supplier for absorbable suture production systems, with orders virtually doubling year on year.

Managing Director Richard Slack emphasised the long term planning and execution that has contributed to success in this industry. “FET has a long tradition in the highly regulated biomedical sector and we believe our experience is unrivalled. We have built a world leading reputation for melt spinning medical grade polymers in both synthetic resorbable and non-absorbable polymers and FET is now reaping the rewards of this initiative”.

Recent installations include a multi-functional system that can produce both multifilament and monofilament pre-cursor fibres, but nonwoven systems have been particularly prominent, driven by the burgeoning demand for FFP3 masks, gowns and other medical products required during the pandemic. These have been sold to medical device manufacturing companies across the globe, including the Far East, USA and Europe. Research organisations have also invested in FET systems for biomedical applications, the most recent being the University of Leeds in a laboratory scale Spunbond system.

The FET in-house Process Development Laboratory and ongoing collaboration with biomaterial polymer suppliers has helped to optimise the biomedical melt spinning technology.

New FET melt spinning system upgrade for NIRI

FET has installed a new melt spinning system to upgrade research facilities at NIRI, the Nonwovens Innovation & Research Institute Ltd UK, the global leader in nonwoven engineering and product development.

FET’s Managing Director, Richard Slack commented. “We are absolutely delighted to secure this order with such a prestigious research organisation as NIRI, a reflection of much hard work and a sign that FET is moving in the right direction in a fast-changing world of textile development. In particular, NIRI had a requirement to invest in the most flexible and adaptable melt spinning technology available and FET was able to satisfy this priority”.

The installation comprises a FET-102 Series Laboratory Melt Blown Spinning System and FET-103 Monofilament Melt Spinning System. This advanced equipment enhances NIRI’s extensive pilot facilities and state-of-the-art analytical laboratory for fast tracking innovation. In particular, the FET meltblown system will be utilised for R&D, pilot projects, sampling and prototyping, proof of concept testing and for designing cost-effective, sustainable and innovative products.

NIRI helps global manufacturing companies to identify new opportunities for meltblown nonwovens, develop their next generation of products and accelerate their commercialisation activities. NIRI’s new upgraded laboratory and pilot system from FET can process a wide range of polymer types, including chemically recycled polymers, bio-polymers and many difficult-to-process materials.

FET installs new Spunbond system at University of Leeds

FET has completed the installation and commissioning of a new FET Laboratory Spunbond system for the University of Leeds.

This FET spunbond system is now an integral part of the research facilities of the CCTMIH (Clothworkers’ Centre for Textile Materials Innovation for Healthcare), led by Prof. Stephen Russell based in the School of Design, University of Leeds, who commented “The new spunbond system is perfectly suited to our academic research work, and is already proving itself to be extremely versatile and intuitive to use”.

This spunbond system complements existing research lab facilities at the university, which covers all areas of fibre and fabric processing, physical testing and characterisation. It forms part of a wider investment in facilities to support fundamental, academic research on ‘future manufacturing’ for medical devices, where the focus is on studying small-scale processing of unconventional polymers and additive mixes to form spunbond fabrics with multifunctional properties.

Key to this research is developing the underlying process-structure-performance relationships, based on the measured data, to provide detailed understanding of how final fabric performance can be controlled during processing.

As a rule, many exciting materials developed in academic research struggle to progress beyond the bench, because of compatibility issues with key manufacturing processes such as spunbond. By leveraging mono, core-sheath and island-in-the-sea bicomponent technology, the Leeds University team is working with polymer and biomaterial research scientists, engineers and clinicians to explore the incorporation of unusual materials in spunbond fabrics, potentially widening applications.

FET new premises to enable expansion drive

FET has now commenced construction of a new purpose-built Research & Development Centre to enable continued growth. This innovative two-storey development will be situated on the adjacent site, providing state-of-the-art facilities, including a Visitor Centre and enhanced Process Development Laboratory (PDL) for client testing and product development.

Clients frequently spend several days on site participating in development trials and technical sales meetings, so the Visitor Centre is designed to make their stay more efficient and comfortable. Sales, administration and design departments will also be housed in the new building.

The addition of the Visitor Centre will free up a considerable amount of space for production and other facilities in the existing premises. This major refurbishment phase for the existing premises is scheduled for completion at the end of 2021. As a result, FET’s manufacturing capacity will increase by more than 50% to cope with customer demand.

Substantial year-on-year growth has driven this initiative and FET’s current order book in excess of £10million has provided the opportunity for equipping the company infrastructure for the future. Sustainability has been at the forefront of FET’s growth, supporting customers in their development of sustainable textiles and this principle is reflected in the choice of building materials and products for the Visitor Centre wherever possible.

It is expected that the new Visitor Centre will be opened in the first quarter of 2022.