What do Firemen Think of Their Gear?

Fire Trucks

Fire Department

To show our appreciation, NICCA USA decided to invite the firemen of the Fountain Inn fire Department to a cook out at our facility.  I took the opportunity to discuss with them what they thought about their gear. One of their answers surprised me: “they work too well”! In fact the gear protects them so well of from the heat that they do not realize how far into the fire they have gone.  In a private home, that is not an issue. However, their main concern was when they have to go into large commercial storage buildings. Indeed the exits can be very far and their time is always monitored.

Another interesting answer was that they do not have under-layers available; under their fire suit they are wear their own clothes. So what about a fire retardant, breathable and cool under-layer?

Posted in Textiles Tagged

Cotton: A Day in the Life

cotton, textile

A single cotton fiber experiences many different places and processes before finding its way onto a shelf and into our lives.  From the field to the closet, we can dive into the lifecycle of cotton!

Starting as a seed, cotton is typically grown for six months beginning as early as February and as late as June (depending on the location).  Flower buds will form from a month to six weeks later.  When the flowers fall off, the white cotton boll that we see in the fields is left behind to thicken, forming hollow fibers.  Air dries and fluffs the fiber until ready for harvest.

Cotton is packaged and stored after harvest until being sent to the gin to separate lint and seed.  From here, the cotton will migrate to textile mills to become yarn for weaving or knitting.  Weaving interlaces the yarns horizontally in swift motions and complex patterns.  Woven fabric can be used for textiles like denim, gingham, etc.  Satin weave is the most common type, producing smooth fabrics with high sheen.  Knitting uses the yarn to construct patterns with interlocking loops which can be noticeably large or extremely small.

After weaving or knitting, raw cotton fabric, or greige, undergoes scouring to remove impurities.  This is the most important process phase in that it will determine the characteristics and quality of the finished goods.  After scouring, cotton fabric is mercerized in a bath of caustic soda.  Mercerization swells the fibers making them easier to dye, hold their shape better and more absorbent.  Cheaper cotton goods that have not undergone mercerization will be lower luster, fade and stretch out of shape.

Once preprocessing is complete, cotton fabrics must undergo several dyeing and finishing steps that involve textile chemicals.  It is dyeing and finishing that really make cotton’s life interesting.  For example:  after being washed and cleaned, one fabric may undergo a bath fixative process to secure dyes or a printing process that involves patterns of dyes.  After being dyed and dried, it’s time for textile finishing.  The cotton fabric can be treated with chemicals such as antimicrobial, water repellent, flame retardant backcoating agents, or softening agents that enhance the textile performance.  More than one finish can be applied to a single cotton fabric creating a wide variety of products!

Posted in Textiles Tagged , , ,

The textile Industry can be a pioneer in the Eco-friendly effort.

Let’s start with some numbers regarding the Textile Industry in order to have a better understanding of the impact that textile recycling can have. The Textile Industry represents about $1 trillion worldwide. This number includes all type of textiles, the more traditional like apparel, footwear bags but also textile that we might not see like underlayment for home insulation, tires reinforcement, and agricultural membranes. And obviously this is not an exhaustive list.

Even with limited knowledge of the textile manufacturing processes, it is easy to understand how big the impact of recycling can be on our planet. There are 3 main approaches that can be discussed when talking about recycling in the Textile industry; the first one is recycling of textile to create something new, the second one is to use old materials to make new textile and the last one is to recycle the resources needed to produce the textile.

Let’s start with the first aspect: recycling of textile

This approach targets mainly post-consumer items and scraps from the converting processes. What this means is that items not directly reusable are sorted depending on their colors, type of material and so on. The textile is then shredded and cleaned in order to make new yarns for weaving mills to make new flat fabrics or just used as fibers to make nonwovens, insulation or building materials.

This very straight forward process has a major impact on landfills. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, on average one person throws away 70lbs of clothing per year which represents about 3.8 billion lbs. of waste into landfills that could be reused. Two other impacts are the reduction CO2 emission and water consumption. As an example, 1kg of recycled textile can reduce CO2 emission by 3.6kg and water consumption by 6000L, use of fertilizers by 0.3kg and use of pesticides by 0.2kg according to a study made at the University of Copenhagen in 2008.

The brands have been aware of interest by their customer for eco-friendly labels and have been really creative. For example, Keen is using old airbags to make its “harvest collection” of bags and wallets.

keen blog

 

A second aspect is recycling old materials to make new textiles

These old materials can be anything from PET bottles to extrude and weave polyester to a jolt of caffeine to make active wear like Moving Comfort and its collection called S.Cafe. The only limit to this approach is the creativity of the chemists, engineers and designers.

short blog

Finally, recycling resources to produce textile

The textile manufacturing process is a heavy consumer of water. Most of the processes involved in making fabric and nonwovens, from scouring, bleaching, and dyeing to finishing, are done in a water bath. As an example the textile industry in India uses about 425 million gallons of water a year. Since water is used, the fabric or nonwoven needs to be dried – and that uses a lot of energy.  The textile industry also consumes a lot of crude oil. This resource is not renewable.

In order to minimize its impact on the environment, the textile industry has spent decades developing ways to reduce its consumption of these resources by recycling and reusing. One of the last examples of conservation to date is Levi’s patented method to reuse water during its finishing process for manufacturing jeans. The experiment started with Chinese suppliers. This process saves about 12 million liters over all for the production of 100,000 pairs of Jeans.

Consumers also need to realize that recycled goods are up to the same standards as brand new items. There is no issue of cleanliness or lower quality. Technology has come a long way. In order to illustrate this, here comes a little quiz; which of the following are from recycled materials and which are not?

A blog A     B blogC blog  C   D blogD E blog  E   F blog  F

 

 

Which is made from recycled materials?

A: the upper material comes from 8 recycled PET bottles

C: made from the in and out seams of 9 pairs of jeans

D: made from cotton scraps and clippings from manufacturing. The color results from the recycled materials therefore no additional dyes were used.

F: made from the remaining parts of the 9 pairs of jeans used for C

Posted in Green Chemistry Tagged , , , ,

InformEX 2015 – Specialty Chemical Tradeshow

InformEX is an annual tradeshow and conference held for companies involved in the specialty chemical and custom chemical manufacturing markets.  Geared towards anyone from production personnel to business managers, the tradeshow is a great opportunity for companies to investigate new manufacturing technologies, establish relationships domestically and abroad, and explore new markets.  Companies from various industries will have booths in the exhibition hall for those attending to approach and ask questions.  Several seminars on topics related to energy, pharmaceuticals, textiles, etc.  will also be held throughout the conference.  Nicca USA is looking forward to this opportunity to learn and grow within the realm of specialty chemicals.  Although, Nicca USA will not be hosting a booth, please feel free to connect with us via the InformEX 2015 app to schedule a meeting.

 

InformEX 2015 will be held in New Orleans, LA from February 3-5.  Hope to see you there!

InformEX

Posted in Featured News Tagged , ,

Hiyari Hatto (ヒヤリ ハット)

Near-Miss

In an ever-changing manufacturing environment, a continuous safety culture is extremely important.  One way to foresee and hopefully prevent accidents is through the Hiyari Hatto program used in Japan.  Hiyari Hatto (or Near-miss) refers to an instance when you witnessed or thought of something that almost happened, but didn’t.  When this type of situation occurs and you feel that something unsafe almost happened, then you should report the incident and how you felt.  Forms can be used for employees to submit their experiences to a safety committee.  The committee can evaluate the incidents for risk levels and develop plans to prevent the nearly-missed accidents from occurring.  For small issues, quick fixes may be applied to remove the hazard.  For larger concerns, it may be necessary for more extensive solutions and investments to eliminate the risk in the future.  No matter the level of seriousness of the issue, anytime an employee feels this danger after witnessing a near-miss, they should report the Hiyari Hatto to help prevent accidents before they happen.  With this program, everyone can actively participate in a culture of safety.

Posted in Featured News Tagged , ,

NICCA USA at ISPO 2015

ISPO is the biggest gathering of sportswear and the outdoor industry in the world. The exposition features over 150 events from technical discussions to a fashion show and innovation contests. ISPO is a great opportunity for actors of the textile industry to encounter drivers of fashion and innovation and also have a better understanding of the direction the sportswear and outdoor industries are going. NICCA Chemical and NICCA USA will take that opportunity to understand customer needs closely and use that knowledge as a basis for future innovation.

The 2015 edition will take place in Munich, Germany from February 5th to 8th. Come see us at our booth C2.618!

ISPO logo

Posted in Specialty Chemicals

New Products Launched for Cotton

In the past few years, customers have been seeking a more environmental friendly life style and this trend has influenced the textile industry in many ways. One major impact on the Industry has been a renewed interest in cotton fabric. Cotton has many intrinsic advantages: it is absorbent, breathable, soft and resistant to high heat.

In order to respond to that trend, NICCA USA is offering 5 new products aimed at the treatment of cotton fabric:

  • NEOFIXâ AF-802: hydrophilic fixing agent that dramatically improves the wet fastness of reactive-dyed fibers. It also enhances the wicking properties of such fibers. It does not degrade the properties of cotton and has no impact on finishing treatments.
  • NEOFIXâ RX-505: fixing agent that has an outstanding effect on chlorine and wet fastness.
  • NEOFIXâ IR-77: crock fastness enhancer that is recommended for fabrics like those found in denim and sportswear (cotton and blends) that need high performance in wet conditions.
  • NICCA SILICONEâ AQ-131: hydrophilic silicone softener with permanent softness and lubricity effects. It is recommended for articles like towels and undergarments that are washed often and need to keep a high level of softness.
  • NICCA SILICONEâ AQ-531: silicone softener that provides a permanent hand similar to silk for cotton and cotton/PET blends.

For more information, contact us at NiccaService@niccachemical.com.

Posted in Featured News

SAVE THE DATE!

specialty-chemicals-slide-s

AATCC is having its 2015 International Conference in Savannah, GA on March, 25 and 26 2015.  NICCA USA has been selected to present its latest results regarding the Compatibility between C6 Water Repellent and Fire Retardant for a One-step Treatment.

Here is a sneak peek of the paper abstract:

Customers have become extremely demanding regarding the performance of their textiles. However, industry must match these new requirements without increasing the price of final product.  From a chemical manufacturer point of view, these new demands translate to developing agents that cost less or will decrease the process time.  NICCA USA has created a new C6 water repellent and bromine-free fire retardant that are compatible and can be used in the same bath. This agent imparts both properties without damaging the hand of the textile.

Save the date and come to Savannah on March 25 and 26 to listen to the presentation.

Posted in Specialty Chemicals

5S Tool for Efficient and Safe Operation

   5S Graphic

In the manufacturing industry, a lot of tools are used to implement process improvement, monitor production, and maintain safe operations.  Some of these tools are industry specific, while others can be applied to any industrial process.  A few of the well-known methods are: Six Sigma, HAZOPs, Lean manufacturing, and KPI.  Another tool that is becoming more popular in industry is the 5S methodology which originated in Japan with Toyota.  The 5S system is a workspace organizational tool comprised of five key principles to make work more efficient and safe.  Each principle in the system is defined by a Japanese term beginning with the letter “S”, thus the term “5S”.

Seiri (Sort), the first principle, represents the removal of unnecessary items, anything that is not useful or in use, and evaluating which items are necessary based on cost and other factors.  All necessary items must be placed in a designated area after evaluation.  Sorting reduces the chance of work disturbances caused by items that are unnecessary or in the way of the workflow.  The second principle, Seiton (Straighten), is the removal of wasted time by arranging things in order for smooth and easy operation.  This principle can also be characterized by the term “streamlining”.  After sorting and straightening the space, the next step is to shine – Seiso.  During this process the workplace must be cleaned, inspected regularly, and well-maintained to prevent equipment deterioration.  Together these steps ensure safe operation by keeping the manufacturing area tidy.

The final two principles in the 5S methodology stress maintaining the level set by the first three.  This is done through Seiketsu (Standardize) and Shitsuke (Sustain).  It is important to maintain high housekeeping standards, cleanliness, and keep everything in its designated place in order to standardize the results of Seiri, Seiton, and Seiso.  Once the standards have been set, the last step is to sustain the efforts daily and strive for continuous improvement by making 5S part of the routine.

By adopting these 5S principles as a tool, any company can more efficiently manage not only their production facilities, but also warehousing and office space.

Posted in Specialty Chemicals

Quality Circle: Another Approach to Quality Enhancement

The manufacturing of chemicals is an astringent process. It needs a strong team in the plant and in the lab to be able to assure customers with constant quality products. The role of each employee, from the operator, the Quality Control technician, the plant engineer as well as the Quality Control supervisor is critical. In order to have each link of that chain efficient and strong, Quality Circles can be implemented.

Quality Circles (QC) started in the 50’s in Japan in order to re-establish Japan as a business leader. Since then, the idea of “gathering the wisdom of the people” (translation of Circles from Japanese) has since been used around the world with significant success.

The Circles are composed of volunteer members who meet regularly to identify and solve work-related problems. The solutions are then implemented under management approval. These Circles are an additional tool to quality practices already in place in the organization. Quality Circles allow employees from the whole company to create a new way of solving issues by encouraging awareness, self-development and team-building. The members focus on having a different approach to traditional cost savings, waste reduction or process improvement.

NICCA Chemical held its 7th Quality Circle Meeting this past August. Every subsidiary met at the headquarters in Fukui, Japan and presented the QC projects they have been working on for the past two years. This meeting is an opportunity for all plants to brainstorm about how to improve quality in NICCA Group and how to provide the same quality products to customers around the world.  Once again, NICCA USA has been recognized for its contribution toward quality and its creative way of problem solving. NICCA USA was awarded the second place of the 7th Quality Circle Meeting.

Congratulation to all the QC Team and to all the employees for a great effort in implementing the new solution!

QC Circle

Posted in Specialty Chemicals