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How Technology Is Changing the Textile Industry

  • December 7th, 2022

The textile industry is one of the oldest and most established industries in history. It's also one of the most technologically advanced. The ability to create new materials and fabrics, along with new methods for creating them, is leading to a revolution in textiles that could change everything from fashion to sofa upholstery.

As an industry, it’s responsible for a large portion of global trade, and it employs millions of people around the world. As technology advances, it is changing the textile industry in significant ways. Textile manufacturing is a highly competitive industry, and as the demand for textile goods continues to grow, manufacturers are constantly looking for ways to improve their processes. Let’s look at some of them.

Textile technology is evolving rapidly

Textile technology is the branch of textile engineering that deals with the design, production, and application of textiles. It encompasses a wide range of material sciences, including chemistry, physics, biology, and engineering.

Textile engineers are also concerned with designing and implementing fabric structures that are aesthetically pleasing and comfortable to touch. As a technology, textiles have evolved over time because of advances in science and expertise. Initially it was limited to weaving fibres together by hand, but now includes new methods such as 3D printing.

According to the International Trade Centre, the textile industry accounted for $720 billion worth of international trade in 2017.

Why is the textile industry evolving?

This is an industry that has remained largely unchanged for centuries, but it's currently experiencing rapid changes due to new advancements in manufacturing, materials processing, and design systems as well as new materials being used in products.

Technological advances in weaving, dyeing, finishing and printing have made fabric manufacturing more efficient, environmentally friendly and lower-cost than ever before.

Technological advances are changing this – from better-quality fibres to artificial intelligence (AI)-driven textiles – and these changes are set to revolutionise the way we view fabrics and how they are made. The industry has never been more dynamic than it is today.

From the development of new materials and technologies to the evolution of the global marketplace, there are a lot of factors that influence how textiles are made and sold. Here are four ways technology is changing the industry:

  • Advancement in 3D knit technology for making textile goods faster than before.
  • Innovations in automation and robotics.
  • More sustainable manufacturing processes.
  • Changing consumer demand for sustainable products.

Textile tech advances are resulting in improved fibre quality

The textile industry has always been at the forefront of technical innovation, and this is particularly true when it comes to developing new materials and fabrics.

The quality of fibres can be measured by their ‘fineness’ or ‘cleanliness’ – how much impurities they contain such as sand or plant matter – which affects how comfortable they feel against the skin and how durable they are. Thanks to advances in textile technology, it’s possible for manufacturers to produce higher-quality fabrics with fewer impurities compared with those produced even 10 years ago.

A great deal of research has gone into finding new ways to improve the quality of these fibres. For example, advances in molecular biology have led to improvements in the quality of cotton fibres. Meanwhile, research into nanotechnology has resulted in new nanofibre materials that could ultimately help reduce the amount of water and energy used during manufacturing processes.

Consumer demand drives textiles innovations

As consumers become more aware of what goes into their furnishings and their clothes, they are demanding more sustainable products from brands.

The textile industry has been in a state of flux for decades, with technological innovations and shifts in consumer tastes pushing companies to evolve. From the advent of new synthetic fabrics to the growth of e-commerce, the industry is constantly changing.

Digital fabrics is one of the most important innovation areas that we have been working on in recent years and Tom Stevens, our Head of Marketing, who is also closely involved in all our innovation projects, gives his thoughts about the role of the consumer in the evolution of the textiles industry.

TOM STEVENS: I think consumers are the main drivers of innovation in fabrics because their needs are changing, and the technology they’re using (that we’re all using) is evolving at a very fast pace. People will buy in different ways by using all this technology. They will run through a more dynamic customer journey by combining both online and offline touchpoints.  
We also face huge challenges towards creating a more sustainable world, and we have many opportunities at the same time to improve our processes and to provide more value to consumers in general. But we are aware that if we want to be relevant and future proof in all senses, innovation is essential: socially, ecologically, and economically. 
We must figure out which technology is the most relevant, and which technology can better facilitate the production of fabrics, as well as the marketing of fabrics, the sales of fabrics, and the distribution of them. Experimenting with and working on these aspects in a human-centred way: this is what our innovation work is centred on at its very core.
I see technology first as a perspective from where innovation can be undertaken. It can inspire innovation as soon as it provides, for example, alternative ways to produce things, ways to offer additional services, offer opportunities to improve parts of a process.  
Secondly, technology also facilitates innovation through creating new tools, for example, for real real-time collaboration for mapping processes, for brainstorming these can all speed up the innovation process.  

Read the full interview:

  1. Part One: Consumers, technology, and COVID-19 are driving change in the textiles industry 
  2. Part Two: Innovation, digital technology, and our need for a more sustainable textiles industry

High-performance fabrics are making a big technological impact

The textile industry is making a big impact with high-performance fabrics. These materials are used to make products that are more sustainable, comfortable, and durable. High-performance fabrics are made from natural fibres and engineered fibres, as well as polymers, metals and ceramics; they're used in everything from athletic clothing to medical devices. Some examples of high-performance fabric technologies include:

  • Nanoengineered fabrics for better breathability or insulation
  • Woven or knitted fabrics that reflect heat or block ultraviolet light
  • Polyester blends that absorb moisture faster than cotton alone

High-performance fabrics are used in a variety of industries, from the home fabrics and contract fabrics markets to the medical field and sports.

Digital twin technology in the textile industry

Digitised fabrics are instrumental in furthering the sustainability practices of architecture and design firms. They speed up prototyping, marketing and selling while also increasing the scope of product development and market reach. Learn more about TwinBru, our service that provides high quality renders of interior furnishings & scenes with 3D digital fabrics that match the actual fabrics.

So, what are we doing to contribute to a circular economy that is innovative, reduces waste and boosts sustainability? The answer is: digital fabric twins.

Digital twin technology is also making a huge impact in the textile industry.

But what are they? Simply put: a digital fabric twin is the digital reproduction of a physical fabric.

These digital twins always show the true colour and texture of the fabric and have a variety of applications for different businesses. By using digital twins, waste is drastically reduced by complementing digital design and prototyping processes with high quality, photorealistic digital representations of the fabric.

Read: Digital Twins: The Future of Fabric Libraries

Nanotechnology and textiles: nanotextiles

Nanotechnology is being used to create new textiles that are lighter, stronger and more breathable. These new fabrics can be used in place of conventional synthetic materials like nylon or polyester. They can also be integrated into existing textiles such as cotton and wool to give them unique properties.

Nanotextiles are made from tiny particles known as nanofibers that are less than one thousandth of a millimetre wide, or around 100 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair. The size of these particles allows them to be incorporated into different types of fibres with ease, providing designers with more freedom when creating new textiles with unique properties.

What areas of the textile industry are most innovative?

The textile industry is changing in many ways. There are, however, a few key areas where it's making the most progress.

  1. One of these is the creation of high-performance fabrics that can be used to make more comfortable clothing that lasts longer.
  2. Another way technology is changing textiles is through digital twins: 3D models created by scanning an object or person and then creating a digital replica on a computer screen. This allows designers to study fabrics before producing them; they can test different colours, patterns, textures and more without having to actually make physical samples—saving time and money in the process
  3. Nano textiles are continuing to evolve and come into wider market use

So, what does the future hold for the textile industry?

The textile industry is a major driver of the economy and a major employer. It's also a major contributor to growth and development, as well as being on the vanguard of technology.

Technology is changing everything we know about textiles. From smart clothing that monitors our health to self-cleaning fabrics, there are plenty of ways technology will revolutionize our lives in years to come.

As more and more people become aware of these new options and start using them regularly, we can expect even more advancements on top of what's already out there today. We're excited to see what else comes down the pipeline!

We've come a long way since ancient times when people first started making their own textiles. FibreGuard fabrics are more functional than ever before, and the best part is that they are still just as fun for our in-house textile designers to create.

Our furnishing fabrics are stain-resistant to ensure your peace of mind. It’s normal to be a little afraid of any accidental stains that might occur, but don’t worry.

GET IN TOUCH WITH US to learn more about our stain-resistant fabric ranges.