News blog

FET continues to strengthen R&D department

FET has accelerated its recruitment drive with the appointment of Dr Kristoffer Kortsen as Senior Materials and Process Scientist. He will report directly to R&D Manager, Dr Jonny Hunter, who joined FET in early 2023 in a growing Research and Development team.

Kris’s main area of work is in Gel Spinning of UHMWPE (Ultra-High Molecular Weight Polyethylene). His contribution will help provide gel spinning expertise and equipment in the near future to a range of industries including medical, aerospace, defence aerospace and marine.

Originally from Denmark, Kris mostly grew up in Belgium. He completed a Master’s in chemistry at KU Leuven, graduating magna cum laude in 2018. For his Master’s placement, he worked on the production of impact modifier additives for PVC at Kaneka Belgium. Continuing a partnership with this giant international chemical manufacturing company, he joined the Howdle group at the University of Nottingham for a PhD project looking into the industrial potential of scCO2 dispersion polymerisations for additive production. After graduating, he worked in the Shaver group at the University of Manchester, developing a holistic approach to plastics recycling and sustainability across the many stakeholders in the field.

Kris’s experience in industrial chemistry, polymer chemistry and engineering is an excellent fit for FET. In particular, with FET’s focus on developing sustainable fibres of the future, his experience in areas like plastics recycling, extrusion, degradation, properties etc will prove to be of great benefit.

The R&D team continues to go from strength to strength in response to customer demand and FET’s drive towards sustainability and innovation. Currently the R&D department has a team of nine scientists and engineers that performs and assists with the trials requested by customers, alongside new process developments. Whilst small, this dynamic group covers multifilament, monofilament and nonwoven spinning trials.

Alongside this, the team will be able to provide gel and wet spinning trial work in the near future. The team has a vast array of experience and has supported a huge number of customers across multiple sectors to achieve their desired goals in a timely and cost efficient manner.

R&D Manager Dr Jonny Hunter (left) welcomes Dr Kristoffer Kortsen, Senior Materials and Process Scientist

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 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 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.

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.

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