Bayer MaterialScience has inaugurated its state-of-the-art textile coating pilot line in Shanghai, China. At its headquarters in Leverkusen, Germany, the company has also installed new lab facilities, among them a lab coater. Along with the dedicated lab space in Pittsburgh, USA, these new investments will allow Bayer to further strengthen its capabilities in the coated textile sector.
The portfolio ranges from product synthesis and formulation to the development of next-generation coated textile materials. It will also open up further co-development activities with partners along the value chain to deliver innovative materials powered by waterborne polyurethane (PU) technology.
Strong market growth expected
The global demand for environmentally friendly synthetic leather and coated textiles is expected to grow strongly. The increase will be felt most prominently in China, home to 90 percent of the world's production of these materials. By moving the global product development and the lead for application development for textile-related products to China, Bayer is supporting this change. The Shanghai, Leverkusen and Pittsburgh facilities complete Bayer's support, allowing fast response to customers.
Further, by adopting a global setup Bayer is able to address customers with different operations in various locations around the globe. These new installations represent the next step in Bayer's plan to offer the best possible service to address the need for new materials.
"The textile industry has always had a thirst for new materials," said Nicholas Smith, global head of textile coating at Bayer MaterialScience, at the inauguration ceremony at the Polymer Research & Development Center of the company in Shanghai. "But today an even more dramatic change is happening: Many apparel and footwear brands as well as consumers have embarked upon a huge sustainability agenda to address the social and environmental impacts of the industry. Governments and regulators in textile material producing countries such as China are also calling for improvements."
Striving for a pioneering role
This adds up to an even stronger need for materials employing new chemistry and using new manufacturing processes. Bayer MaterialScience wants to be the partner of choice to the industry when it comes to PU leather and other coated textiles. With a very long experience in polyurethanes and an extended technical and application expertise, the company is well positioned to act as the industry pioneer. This in particular refers to facilitating the introduction of synthetic leather and other coated textiles based on waterborne PU, and to support building production capacities. Products derived therefrom address the need for both innovation and sustainability.
The newly-inaugurated textile coating line has a multifunctional coating head, two lamination stations, a twelve meter length drying oven, as well as a foulard. It is equipped with a digital control system and is suited for various application and processing methods in one line, such as direct and transfer coating with optional wet or dry lamination.
Besides that the plant is equipped with an embossing calendar, which enables embossing of a coated substrate. Line parameter settings are then directly transferable to industrial production, which means that manufacturers can significantly reduce the time expenditure for elaborate production trials.
Novel possibilities for differentiation
"The new textile coating pilot line will help us to demonstrate a comprehensive range of possibilities for the PU coating of textile materials," said Rolf Irnich, global head of textile coating application & technology development. "We can achieve a versatile look and feel, and a range of functionalities. We want to inspire the whole industry with what our waterborne PU textile coatings can do, and help manufacturers of PU leather and other coated textiles to develop respective capacities." With the development of these innovative textile coating solutions, the company offers manufacturers and brand owners a whole new dimension of possibilities for differentiation.
Working closely with manufacturers, industry associations as well as the Government, Bayer MaterialScience supports the PU leather manufacturing industry in China in upgrading production lines to more sustainable processes by means of waterborne PU technology. In addition to developing innovative materials, Bayer MaterialScience advises international brand owners in sustainable sourcing throughout the value chain.
"We firmly believe that we can make a difference in a world that is ready and asking for a more conscious approach to textile materials for fashion and sports apparel and footwear. It is clear that the change for a better life has to happen at the very beginning of the value chain," stated Smith. "Who better to make it happen than us?"