Ronda, N.C.-based Indigo Mill Designs (IMD) recently hosted an event at the Fiber and Biopolymer Research Institute at Texas Tech University (TTU), Lubbock, Texas, to introduce IndigoZERO™, a new foam-dyeing process for denim. The technology, commercialized by IMD and developed at TTU, was aided by a Walmart U.S. Manufacturing Innovation Fund grant. The research at TTU was led by professor Dr. Dean Ethridge.
Foam dyeing technology is not new, however, the technology had limitations in indigo dyeing because the indigo dyes react to oxygen in the air. The IndigoZERO technology works around those limitations making it possible to use foam-dyeing for denim applications with results as good as those found with conventional indigo dyeing methods, according to the developers.
“Zero rinse water discharge and the reduction of chemicals used in dyeing indigo dramatically improved the sustainability of this process while reducing costs at the same time,” said Ralph Tharpe, founder and managing partner, IMD.
Representatives from The Walmart Foundation, Wrangler and Lee — all early-stage investors — attended the reveal event.
“We’re grateful for the support of Wrangler and Lee, whose investment and technical contribution greatly advanced the process of commercialization with IMD,” said Ethridge. “Credit also goes to the U.S. Manufacturing Innovation Fund for supporting the research project that made the development of this technology possible.”
“Wrangler advanced the commercialization of this technology because we believe it has the potential to dramatically improve the environmental impact of our industry and help us achieve our brand goals for water conservation” said Tom Waldren, president, Wrangler brand.
IMD also is collaborating with Gaston Systems Inc., Stanley, N.C., to build machines capable of running the new foamless-dyeing process. Gaston provided its proprietary foam generation and application technology to TTU for the development work.
“Now we must work to scale the research machine design to a full-size production unit,” said Chris Aurich, managing director, Gaston Systems. “Our relationship with IMD will result in a fundamental change in the way indigo is applied to yarn.”