Saving Energy In Textile Coloration: Where Are We Headed?

Andrew Filarowski, Technical Direction, The Society of Dyers and Colourists.

Andrew Filarowski, technical director of the SDC, discusses the energy saving options presented in a recent white paper, Destination low carbon: Global technology and innovation reducing the environmental footprint of textile coloration.

We all know textile coloration has historically been a polluting industry for our planet but there are increasing numbers of ways in which we can reverse this problem.

It’s not always a question of awaiting innovation – much of the technology we can call on to help has been around for a couple of decades. Rather, dyers and employers are not always aware of the full range of options for energy saving and are understandably reticent about the outlay involved in implementing changes.

At The SDC, we are calling for a new era of sustainability, of making changes that will be recouped in efficiency savings. In reducing our industry’s carbon footprint we can cut down on manual processes and improve staff wellbeing too.

In our recent white paper, Destination low carbon: Global technology and innovation reducing the environmental footprint of textile coloration, we studied the advances of six companies who are leading this charge.

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Championed by cloud suppliers such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft, Industry 4.0 has given us access to more data than ever. But how does this impact energy savings in textile coloration? Using a machine-to-machine MQTT protocol, the team at Adaptive Control have automated key processes including temperature and motor control.

In turn, we’re seeing reduced cycle times and significant savings on electricity, steam and chemical use. While this is a worthwhile investment, it’s understandable to see some manufacturers quaking at the cost. If a full IoT solution isn’t possible, we can still follow the principles of reporting and monitoring to cut down on costs.

More efficient processes invariably lead to smaller margins of error. Sweden-based imogo are also cutting waste with high-speed valve technology, applying colour evenly and sparingly. This reduces our reliance on energy, water and chemicals – getting it right first time.

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Hence, energy saving is also a quality control exercise. The team at Archroma are turning landfill waste into high-quality petroleum alternatives. Using agricultural waste such as almond nutshells and bitter oranges, Archroma are producing dyestuffs with the same fastness as synthetic dyes.

There’s no compromising on colour, either, with digital algorithm technology processing 4,320 hues for cotton and 1,400 for polyester. To date, more than 15 tonnes of petrol-based raw materials have been saved, and we’re seeing interest from brands such as Primark and Esprit. Manufacturers looking to invest in sustainable technology will need convincing but our case studies have the figures to back it up.

Whereas traditional, dyeing methods rely on fabric immersion in dye liquid, involving vast amounts of water and energy intensive washing to remove excess dye, the Alchemie system jets the precise amount of dye deep into fabric fibres. It then fixes the dye so that high fastness is achieved without any wash steps.

As a result, the ‘Endeavour’ waterless dyeing machine eliminates the most polluting part of the dyeing process and produces no hazardous effluence. In energy saving terms, we’re seeing an 85% reduction, from 1kg of CO2 per polyester shirt to just 0.15kg.

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Meanwhile, Colorifix is cutting down on temperatures. Though the traditional dyeing temperature for nylon is 100°C, alongside 60°C for cotton, Colorifix can colour both farics at 40°C, using micro-organisms to produce pigments. Dyeing time is also cut from as many as eight hours to just three. All of these savings at scale present a bright future for the industry. We hope these few case studies are a sign of even further things to come.


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