Members of the Cotton Incorporated team recently returned from ITMA 2023, an influential textile and garment technology exhibition. Held once every four years, ITMA is where key industry decision-makers gather to showcase the latest textile and garment processing technologies, machinery, and materials.
At this year’s exhibition, key themes identified included: a demand for enhanced conservation methods, sustainability, and efficiency – particularly within the weaving, knitting, dyeing/finishing, and printing sub-sectors. Below, our experts have summarized their findings by highlighting the top disruptors they identified as the most impactful for the future of the textile and garment industry.
From Dr. Kavita Mathur, associate professor in Textile and Apparel, Technology and Management at the North Carolina State University (NC State) Wilson College of Textiles:
“In weaving, automation and digitalization are integral to enabling greater efficiency, productivity, and sustainability in the industry. Several companies are incorporating these goals into their practice through equipment updates and advanced technology. As such, here are some top industry disruptors I observed at ITMA.”
- Digital platforms now offer everything from industrial to service-related applications, as well as machine functionalities such as energy and production monitoring, climate control, shed angle measurement, and waste reduction.
- Several shed formation solutions for frame weaving, designed for reduced maintenance and oil usage were on display.
- Newly released air-jet weaving technology was showcased, with updated functionality and increased efficiency, flexibility, and reliability with numerous electronic control monitors.
- The show also featured the latest in weaving machine technology, with innovations in high-quality performance and output, adaptability to evolving sustainability requirements, and ease of use.
From Alexis Mondragon, a former production supervisor in knitting, linking and finishing, who has worked with many premium American fashion brands. She currently owns her own knitwear business and works as a freelancer within the Manhattan garment district:
“ITMA was the perfect showcase for innovations that offer increased efficiency and quality in knitting. The knitting industry is also experiencing a major push for sustainability and a reduction in their carbon footprint, from inception to final product. Below I have highlighted some knitting industry disruptors I observed at ITMA.”
- The latest whole garment knitting machines feature a needle detection system for defective needles, automatic yarn end finishing, and a new system for more dimensional knitted patterns.
- These machines also feature updated capabilities which allow for the changing of yarns right on the machine.
- By utilizing 3D software programs, knitting professionals can ultimately reduce the number of samples needed at all stages of development and production, and react faster to changing market trends. Instead, samples can be presented via electronic 3D design, which reduces waste and cost.
Dyeing & Finishing
From Leon Moser, retired extension specialist in Textile Extension and faculty member at the NC State Wilson College of Textiles; currently a trusted consultant within the textile industry:
“Dyeing and finishing professionals expressed a heightened interest in improved automation, digital imaging, and increased productivity at ITMA this year. Here are some top industry disruptors that I observed.”
- New dyeing machines can now dye cotton at a 2.3/1 liquor ratio, far exceeding the current batch dyeing equipment.
- New lines of wake dyes were exhibited, which are obtained from certain waste products such as vegetable leaves, stems, and roots. We also saw automated ozone treatment, which allows for multi-level discharge from the top of the garment to the bottom.
- A highly automated laser system, in which a single operator loads garments onto two different forms and then automated lasers etch preprogrammed designs onto separate garments simultaneously, represents the latest in laser technology.
From Jamie Tyndall Franco, an independent consultant with over 20 years of experience in the textile industry, and Dr. Lisa P. Chapman, director of Graduate Programs, associate department head, and associate professor in Textile and Apparel, Technology and Management at the NC State Wilson College of Textiles:
“One of the fastest growing digital print technologies involves Direct-to-Garment (DTG) printers. Here are some top industry disruptors that we observed in printing while attending ITMA.”
- Direct-to-Film (DTF) garment printing solution allows for rapid printing of garments, which promises to be a major technology disruptor. DTF printing eliminates the need for fabric selection, plate making and pre-treatment.
- Impressive improvements have been made to digital scan type printers, which use a highly optimized manufacturing process. For example, some printers can now print as fast as 1,000 meters/hour.
- A re-engineered machine/system has significantly improved the sustainability of the entire printing process, with a patent-pending colorant set that eliminates pre-treatment, reducing chemical and water usage, time, and cost.
- Various new configurations for high-resolution printers were showcased, capable of producing some of the highest quality prints.
Exhibitions like ITMA 2023 are more than industry events; they are vital hubs for inspiration and innovation within the textile manufacturing industry. This year’s ITMA has revealed emerging trends with the potential to transform how we approach textile and cotton production, weaving, and sustainability. Our team of industry experts attended, absorbing insights and technological advancements, providing exciting updates for apparel brands on key industry disruptors. This collective knowledge is not just shaping the future; it’s enhancing the present, offering practical solutions to make cotton the fabric of choice today.