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In recent years, digitalization has advanced worldwide, and many industries have been accelerating a shift to more efficient ways of making things. But, where does that leave complex products like medical devices, composites, performance textiles, and even smart textiles?
Transitioning towards a sustainable supply and production plan is a challenging but important investment of time, resources, and thought power that is happening so fast, that the changes are whiplashing many companies, leaving management feeling the pressure to choose between profitability and innovation.
Implementing sustainable changes to their businesses, supply chains, and products is imperative in the current environment of traceability and transparency.
Simply wrapping arms around and understanding the impacts the waste the most complex products we are already making have on the ecosystem as a whole, is a challenge for any size business. Will the push for sustainability dampen humankind’s push to invent, create and make next-generation innovations over the next two to five years that it takes to implement? Will there be a pause in innovation? Will consumers accept the same products they’ve been buying, just revamped to be environmentally and socially beneficial to the planet?
Cut and sew apparel presents specific challenges, but what happens when the products are not apparel but wearable or drivable, flyable, and implantable?
Defining, measuring, and assessing all the scrap and manufacturing inconsistencies from traditional woven sheets and flocked automotive composite panels such as carbon fiber, fiberglass, and even natural fibers like hemp still present several obstacles to scrap that are virtually indestructible.
When we are talking about complex products and the next generation of innovation, is it even possible for sustainability and innovation to coexist in the same product?
Is it truly possible to make these complex multifunctional products that meet the many requirements in terms of strength, flexibility, durability, and stability with even less material that we use right now?
Creating sustainable yet innovative products using kitting as additive manufacturing that meet ISO standards in footwear and medical products or have compound curves in fiber reinforced electric vehicle preforms and sporting goods, performance textiles, and even smart textiles are all not only possible, many are already being scaled and produced, not just in experimental sample formats, but ready for mass production.
That all may sound cool but how do we take those things to the next level?
What does innovation look like at Fabdesigns? Advanced Ultra- Dimensionally Knitted textiles with nearly zero waste.
Imagine next-generation apparel, footwear, or medical devices that adapt as we move through different environments. Consider 3D and 4 D composites with integrated strengthening strands, data cables, and other structures built right into preforms, making layup consistent, quick, and repeatable for everything, from light weight electric vehicles to drones, and surfboards.
We would need to embed materials in multiple directions to optimize performance.
Adding a warp fabric element on a flat knitting (V-bed) machine poses significant difficulties, including challenges in providing a weft knit warp element for top feeding strands into the machine, essentially creating the effect of a warp and Fabdesigns has spent several years and many iterations perfecting such a machine modification.
Fabdesigns knitting master, Bruce Huffa, has perfected the hardware and software, while his wife textile engineer, Concetta Huffa has streamlined the trajectory, drag, and friction of the material through machinery, preprocessing, and after processes for utilizing knitting as additive manufacturing as a reliable and consistent system of mass production.
In the fabrics shown here, Fabdesigns continues to optimize doing more performance function with less materials yet making new innovations as easy as possible to implement, which is why we created a reversible system that adapts existing equipment giving the machines superpowers to make new things.
Current developments and production at Fabdesigns combine a trifecta of patents to take flat knitting as well as textile engineering to the next level of multifunctionality while continuing our mission of being tremendously mindful of sustainability. Their introduction of a true warp knitting structure on a flat knitting machine where the machine can manipulate multiple warp structures along a completely knitted panel in the knitting process creates many options for embedding conductive strands for data, energy, light, and heat in automotive, aerospace composite panels, and interiors.
The same technology adds ligaments to soft goods like yoga wear and adds auxetic materials to medical and sports gear for rehab and training. The warp varies multiple knitting types in zones (inlay, knit, tuck, intarsia, floating), depending on the type of performance characteristics required in a particular zone and the specific needs of the material processing.
Over the past several years, Fabdesigns has created the ability to provide multiple weft-knit warp insertion reinforcement configurations in one or more areas of a weft-knitted textile. Each warp insertion is also able to create novel constructions independent of other warp structures on the machine. The weft knitted textile may be one or more layers or even built by a series of inserts.
At the core of this innovative framework are five general sources of value adds to transform existing products and add whole platforms of new technologies.
1. Non-brand specific technology introducing multiple warps to fabric consistently and repeatedly.
2. Reversible technology that returns stock machinery to OEM in minutes.
3. The machine manipulates all the warp strands exclusively, eliminating human errors, and manual labor
4. Warp strands coordinate in zones, layers, and advanced Ultra-Dimensional Knitted Structures
5. Unspooling stiff materials consistently to maintain consistent quality, resistance, and strength ratios through mass production of a handful to over a million units
The Fabdesigns' patented warp invention is a reversible and non-damaging or permanent modification to a flat knitting machine that when combined with several of the Memminger-Iro MTD unspooling devices, creates highly-advanced functional hybrid textiles. These functions can be mechanical functions that combine the stretch characteristics of knitted fabrics with the stability of woven textiles, suited to various technical applications. They may also be electronic functions, ballistic functions, aesthetic placements or other geometrically or anatomically arranged warp structures combined with stitch structures.
Warp insertion, vertically, diagonally, overlapping, and with multiple material types and further expands the capability of the machinery to produce two-dimensionally and three-dimensionally shaped fiber reinforcing composite preforms shaped to the mold directly on the machine. Each preform can be made up of one or more layers, each having a different warp configuration to embed different characteristics into specific layers for functional purposes.
Reversible machine technologies modify stock machinery and enable the unique capabilities for using weft knitting as additive manufacturing. This means that the technologies are not brand specific and may be adaptable to a variety of knitting equipment.
In contrast to other available tools on the textile market, Fabdesigns 4D, 5D and now Ultra Dimensionally Knitted (UDK) additive technologies sets a new bar for technical innovation and allows CAD data to be prepared as intelligent, exact geometry for the next generation of knitting innovations.
Current methods of knitting carbon fiber and other fiber reinforcing textiles, integrating stainless steel, wire, heating elements, chain, fiber optic, auxetic, thermos-coupling wires, braids, aramids, para-aramids, chain, basalt, insulated fiber-optics, insulated wire, silicon rubber, or other specialized materials, pose challenges to the ‘depackaging’ and feeding of those materials into a conventional knitting machine utilizing standard OEM stop motions and standard OEM feeders.
Currently, the only practical alternative is using one of two unspooling devices from either of two machine builders, depending on which machine type the user is utilizing, and then in the case of one machine builder, only a maximum of two devices can be mounted on supplemental racking systems that take up the entire top of the machine, or in the case of the other one large unit mounted on the floor to the side of the machine. This limits the number of strands of these specialized materials able to be used in weft knitted fabric let alone a warp structure. These systems are also brand specific, expensive, and cumbersome to reverse.
Currently, utilizing the Memminger-Iro MTD unspooling device system, which is not- brand specific, up to 22 different types of these stiff materials can be unspooled into a single panel that is shaped in two or three dimensions consistently and repeatedly with no human intervention. Essentially the knitting machinery becomes a robot and each piece from the machine is exactly like the previous with no torquing or coiling of wires or breakage of conductive materials, and no extra tensioning of auxetics, metal, or ballistic materials. This means that in wearable textiles the resistance of wires is maintained consistently in each and every product because the wiring is presented in the same way to the machinery every time, without over-stretching, turning or curling that reduces performance.
Fabdesigns’ patented warp technology can be used with traditional coned yarns, and spools or incorporate the Memminger-IRO MTD in unspooling these materials to further introduce warp structures to the weft-knitting process, lending these technologies far beyond composites and easily to soft, next to the skin wearable base layer textiles, that integrate both smart textile technologies with performance-enhancing auxetics, artificial ligament supports, and embedding sensors for both sports and medical applications, as well as aerospace and beyond.
How do we create numerous types of sustainable, advanced textiles?
Varying different types of yarns and fiber types to support the weft knitted material is applicable to many industries that may need to restrict stretch, apply energy, data transmitting cabling, reduce impact or vibration through auxetic materials, or other strengthening requirements. The warp insertion allows many types of materials to be inserted vertically and in multiple directions, which by hand would require several tedious after processes, additional materials to be applied to the weft-knitted material, additional bonding, adhesives, and or seams. These after processes are usually messy, often labor-intensive, or manual operations where damage is prominent, and every piece is subject to human error.
Reinforcing or supporting weft knitted materials in more than one direction, and or in opposing diagonal directions, or changing directions of support in a weft knitted fabric require additional finishing, resulting in seams, layering, and / or multiple layers. Seams create failure points placement errors, adhesive, and or bonding irregularities. In the case of knitting Teflon, Kevlar, carbon fiber, stainless steel, composites, or other stiff fibers that resist bonding and or adhesives this problem is increased, and in most cases, a mechanical means of attaching support is required. Rather than thick spots, layers create interlocking componentry, and the addition of layers does not necessarily create a heavier product than that of a single-layer material. Fabdesigns patented process of knitting functional layers adds to the ability to create multi-functional products in the same volume and mass of material.
This is especially true in knitted support fabrics, which are widely used for surgical implantations, such as support mesh, artificial ligaments, and heart support structures. Fabdesigns’ invention allows the innovation of numerous types of textiles that meet the many ISO-13485 class 1 to class 3 requirements in terms of strength, flexibility, durability and stability, making flat knitting machines highly suitable for white room manufacturing environments.
According to the most comprehensive and current engineering standards for three-dimensional knitting, adding warp structures to weft knit fabrics, and especially shaped fabrics creates a whole new world of flat knitted products. Blending different fibers and being able to dose them horizontally, vertically, and diagonally as well as overlapping them in small or large areas to support, enhance, and even dampen vibration is now possible. This is a significant advancement in reinventing many types of products from fiber-reinforced composites, medical devices, footwear and even yoga wear.
Each warp structure is integrated as part of unitary knitted construction. One or more warp structures are integrated and completely formed and constructed by the machinery. Each warp strand is completely manipulated into a fabric base structure, or any additionally knitted layer, layer portion, component, appendage, or fabricated ply entirely by the machine, and each layer, layer portion, component, appendage, or ply can also be configured by the knitting machine in the same knitting process.
Fabdesigns’ patented method of introducing a warp structure to a weft knitting machine and the fabric-making process on a V-bed flat knitting machine creates a unitary construction made by the machine, in the same way, each time. Each warp incorporated one or more materials and embeds them into one or more weft and warp stitch structures. Each warp can be independent of each other or overlap for specific technical purposes. Each stitch structure has a unique set of mechanical properties derived from the properties of the materials chosen, the tension exerted by various knitting machine parts on the material, and how the materials interlace and interloop with each other in a variety of directions.
Fabdesigns’ patented Ultra-Dimensionally Knitted components may also incorporate inserts mechanically or manually put into place, such as hardware, foam, wiring, fiber optics, printed circuit boards, computing chips, heating elements and other materials placed into the pockets, channels, welt tunnels, gores, voids, and other structural and functional knitted constructions to provide support, stability, cooling heating, e-textile and or smart performance characteristics. Warp structures can also intersect, connect to, frame, and otherwise interact with the integrated structures or placed inserts.
These combinations of multiple Fabdesigns’ patented technologies are building the next generation of Ultra-Dimensionally-Knitted products in many industries from footwear to medical, aerospace, and automotive, and beyond as Fabdesigns seeks commercialization partners in multiple industries with the same values of hyper-efficiency, consistent quality, and building the products and technology, which mindfully ensure the future of our planet. Fabdesigns is first approaching some of its favorite clients to give them first opportunities to license these and several other options in Fabdesigns' growing patented technology portfolio. (Shown are test swatches and not client work.)
Performance strand materials arranged in the warps can be anatomically, mathematically and proportionally arranged in a warp structure, with one or more warp structures or groups of strands are varied in delivering specific desired performance characteristics from strength to impact easing strands integrated into a base fabric structure to ease the impact of motion in running, jumping, bursting, or sliding.
There may be one or more stitch structures on materials in a base fabric. Each panel can also have two or more layers, layer portions, components, appendages, or ply portions with combined functions to form a unitary construction. The pieces then fold or are plied on top of one another Origami style, sandwiching structures and creating highly complex Ultra-Dimensionally Knitted structures according to Fabdesigns' patents US11401638B2 and US20190360134A1 and others granted and pending in the US and elsewhere. The properties of each warp structure combined with how it is introduced into the fabric as a structure and the manner in which warp structures and fabric structures are combined influence the performance and comfort of the resultant fabric.
Each warp can travel through a series of customized Ultra-Dimensionally knitted product configurations that are built by an interface of part of the machine with on-demand, mass customization parameters that create individual and unique product configurations and warp arrangements for each individual end consumer, making Ultra-Dimensional Knitting sustainable in that the system only uses what material is required for each individual client’s product.
These combinations of multiple Fabdesigns’ patented technologies are building the next generation of Ultra-Dimensionally-Knitted products in many industries from footwear to medical, aerospace, and automotive, and beyond.
Besides growing its own IP portfolio, Fabdesigns is also seeking other likeminded commercialization partners to license and help them nurture these technologies in other industries that share the values of hyper-efficiency, integrity, consistent quality, and building the products and technology, which mindfully ensure the future of our planet.
(Shown are test swatches and demos of Fabdesigns and not client work.)
Connie Huffa – Fabdesigns, Inc.
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