The Rupp Report: Evergreen Industrial Fabrics

For the Western textile industry in general, and for European producers in particular, technical textiles were and are the main anchor of prosperity over the past 25 years. Growth rates remain steady.
Today, there are virtually no areas where technical textiles could not be applied in any some form. However, there are a few things to be considered to be successful in the nonwovens sector. Parallel to the sector’s growth, the specialized exhibition Techtextil in Frankfurt along with its associated events in other cities around the world, has become the number one event for this sector of the industry.
Techtextil 2015
In the beginning in 1986, the show was not accepted at all by the industry. It was wishful thinking was the least negative comment made about the show back then. At that time, only DuPont with a big booth was sure this will be the future. Today, everybody knows, this is the future. Exhibitors and visitors are looking forward to the biggest Techtextil ever May 4-7, 2015. According to show organizers Messe Frankfurt, by now the floor space booked already is 10-percent higher than the total space occupied in 2013. In addition to international market leaders, numerous new exhibitors have already signed up for Techtextil 2015.
For the third time, Techtextil will be held concurrently with Texprocess, an international trade fair for processing textiles and flexible materials. The following countries will be represented by their own pavilions: Belgium; China; France; Great Britain; Italy; Portugal; South Korea; Taiwan; Turkey; and the United States. New is a Swiss pavilion.
Apparel People
“Quite remarkable is the fact that apparel manufacturers too from all over the world will present their latest developments in the sectors of functional apparel and smart textiles”, says Michael Jänecke, director, Brand Management Technical Textiles & Textile Processing, Messe Frankfurt, at a recent Techtextil press conference. According to Jänecke, there is a remarkable array of companies, which are by now known to be very active in the field of apparel, such as Huntsman Advanced Materials, Klopman International, Outlast Europe, Schoeller Textil and Toray GmbH.
Modified Program Of Events
For the first time, the show will last four days. For many years, the Rupp Report has complained that this event should take place over four days, instead of three, because the number of side events has increased. Many exhibitors claimed that they don’t want to pay for floor space and the visitors are going to attend more seminars than visit booths.
The Techtextil program of events has now been expanded and optimized for 2015. The new center of Techtextil and the concurrent Texprocess is the “Innovative Apparel Show” — four universities and fashion schools will present their innovative designs on all four days of the fair. This also should illuminate synergies with Texprocess, the Trade Fair for Processing Textile and Flexible Materials, parallel to Techtextil.
The concept of the Techtextil Symposium also has been modified: The themes of the third event, the Avantex Symposium for functional apparel textiles, have been integrated into the four-day congress. Instead of concurrent lectures, the Techtextil Symposium is now split into six successive lecture blocks in hall 4.2, the middle of the fair.
Subjects to be covered at the Techtextil Symposium 2015 include thermoplastic composites, bio-based polymer composites, hybrid yarns, self-cleaning textiles, 3-D printing, 3-D spacer fabrics for personal protective equipment, multiaxial technologies for customized technical textiles, smart fabrics, and a lecture on the Spacetex project.
The Commerzbank Report
Despite all the positive news, it is difficult to get real facts and figures about the technical textiles and nonwovens markets. The most prominent reason is possibly the fact that such a task is very expensive and difficult to achieve. However, at the recent Techtextil press conference, Jürgen Grebe, corporate sector analyst with Germany-based Commerzbank AG, presented an outstanding report, which provides comprehensive insights into the growth perspectives of the technical textiles sector.
Also Commerzbank realized that technical textiles are conquering more and more new application areas and are superceding conventional materials. Examples of this are reinforcement materials made of textiles in concrete construction, artificial arteries in medical technology, and textile sandwich materials in vehicle construction and sporting equipment. And this is just a few insights into this extraordinary work. The Rupp Report will come back to this work in a future column.
Nonwovens With A Substantial Contribution
In the period from 2007-2013, European manufacturers of technical textiles saw stronger growth than the European economy as a whole. In the crisis years 2008, and in particular 2009, above-average slumps were visible, however. The subsegment nonwovens, the production of which has increased by 11 percent since 2011, made a substantial contribution to this growth. According to Grebe, for 2015, it is to be assumed that this area, as well as the other technical textiles, will see a moderate rise of some 2 percent in the production index. However, with the textile-reinforced fiber composites – the so-called composites – the high level seen in 2007 will not be attained again due to weak demand in France, Spain and Italy. In contrast, German, British, and Eastern European manufacturers posted considerable increases in production.
With a smile Grebe explained that the winning goal in the 2014 World Cup final was scored by Mario Götze from Germany who was wearing a “knitted” soccer shoe — showing that new manufacturing methods constantly are being developed. Technology leadership is, therefore, a key success factor. “The German sector is regarded as the global technology market leader, also thanks to the excellent networking with the German research sector, which is itself unique worldwide,” said Grebe. He also stated the focus was on high-quality, sophisticated product areas, and the sector was avoiding to the greatest possible degree competition with suppliers of mass-produced goods and low-quality products, that were primarily based in Asia. “Looked at that way, the German sector is predominantly the result of a successful structural change on the part of producers of traditional textiles to become highly technical and specialist manufacturers of high-quality textile products,” he added.
Favorable Growth Rates
Through to 2018, the global market for conventional textiles is set to grow from somewhat more than $130 billion at present to as much as $160 billion, states the report. In this respect, the most important buyer area remains the automotive industry. Yet sectors such as construction textiles and geotextiles, as well as niches such as ecotextiles, are gaining in significance. For nonwovens, it is expected that worldwide sales will increase from $33 billion at present to more than $42 billion by 2017. Here, the biggest buyer area remains the hygiene sector, Grebe stated. Higher growth rates are believed to be possible for composites — in particular due to strong demand in the buyer sectors vehicle construction, wind energy and aviation. At present the global market volume for composite materials is estimated to be just less than $100 billion. In total, the global market volume for technical textiles is currently more than $250 billion.

January 27, 2007