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Versatility Of The Millennium

Piece dyeing machine leads to higher profits.

By Dr. Gary Mock, Technical Director

T he textile business around the world is a very complex one. In order to be competitive in today's market, a dyer must be flexible and ready for change. The marketplace tomorrow may not offer a profitable position for the product you are dyeing today. How can you survive as a jet dyer in an uncertain world? The word is versatility.

The following article will explain how versatility has been engineered into a new jet-dye machine, a machine that earned the 1999 ATI Award for Innovation.

Following the 1999 Paris ITMA, the editors of ATI decided not to name a textile company for its annual Award for Innovation as it had done in the past, but chose instead to honor ten machinery companies for introducing innovative products at the show. The list included only one dye machine in the lot — the Gaston County Millennium Piece Dyeing Machine.

Why The Millenium?

The editors saw a number of piece-dyeing machines at ITMA. There were a number of newer products shown, but the winner had to be chosen from those shown for the first time. The Millennium clearly qualified. The machine was not developed until November 1998.

As Gaston County prepared for the upcoming 1999 ITMA, they looked back over an impressive product line, all descended from the world’s first jet dye machine developed by Victor Fahringer of Burlington Industries in co-operation with Gaston County in the early 1960s.

The first jet machine was designed to dye a robust product — 100-percent polyester double knit. In the following years, machinery manufacturers responded to the market by introducing soft-flow, fully flooded, air-jet and other changes to better handle different fibers and fabrics.

In the latter part of the 1990s, fabrics were developed with stretch and recovery in mind. Spandex fibers had been around since the introduction of Lycra® by DuPont. Lycra had been blended with nylon filament for women’s swimsuits and soon found its way into actionwear, hosiery and a host of other applications.

The 1990s also saw the incorporation of spandex into cotton blends as well. How could these fabrics best be dyed?

Simultaneously, delicate spun-yarn fabrics were being developed that required special handling. Both applications required a machine development that would allow bulking in the case of the stretch fabrics and delicate handling for spun yarn fabrics in one machine. If a dyer had a machine with this versatility, he could sleep better at night knowing he was as prepared for change as any potential competitor.

reel_635The design engineers at Gaston County had planned to introduce a new product for the 1999 ITMA. By November 1998, a prototype had been built when a customer called who wanted "the latest technology." Over the Thanksgiving holiday, 10 loads of fabrics arrived and were processed. After evaluating the performance of the machine against other offerings, they bought four 8-strand machines and have reordered two additional 8-strand machines.

To date, in a difficult global market Millennium machines have been delivered to seven customers from California to North Carolina to Quebec. The versatility of these machines can only be appreciated by itemizing the range of fabrics processed:
- Cotton jersey;
- Polyester microfiber suede;
- Polyester athletic-wear mesh;
- Polyester thermal knit;
- Cotton/spandex jersey;
- Nylon spandex knit;
- Polyester twill;
- P/C cuffs and collars;
- Polyester crepe;
- Polyester poplin;
- Polyester polar fleece;
- Polyester high stretch wove;
- Polyester micro-sanded ; twill woven;
- Polyester chenille;
- Nylon flock;
- Polyester satin;
- Poly/rayon twill; and
- Polyester non-woven.

What about weights and yields you might ask? One plant dyes cotton knits for the commodity market in tubular widths from 11 inches to 36 inches and five to eight ounces/linear yard.

Another uses the machine for 100-percent cotton, 100-percent polyester, poly/cotton and cotton/spandex blends for both the commodity and fashion market. Tubular width is 30 inches. Yield is 7-14 ounces/linear yard.

Achieving Goals

The machine is expressly designed with a low-lift profile and a high-traction lifter reel. High traction is achieved by using six chemically-resistant rubber inserts in the lifter reel. Fabric is easily loaded into the machine through a large machine port.

Changes in the venturi are easily made because the entire four-part assembly is just a short reach away. The large diameter "top hat" tapers gently into the middle gap ring, allowing the fabric rope to be guided gently and smoothly into the venturi.

The entering jet of dye liquor follows the venturi wall, and soon both fabric and liquor are delivered into a fully flooded inclined cloth tube. A mechanical plaiter deposits the fabric in gentle side-to-side folds at the rear of the machine. The fabric slides down and then forward to the front of the machine, gliding along a Teflon™ insert.

Strategically positioned drain holes in the cloth chamber allow the excess dye liquor to drain away to the bottom of the machine for reuse.

Dye liquor is exchanged by the turbulence of the venturi and cloth tube. Once an exchange is made, the dye liquid is heated further in an external heat exchanger, and another exchange is made in the venturi and cloth tube.

Depending on the fabric specifications, the bath turns over as often as 1.4 turns/minute. Also, depending on the fabric, turnover time can be adjusted to as little as 60 seconds for filament wovens to 180 seconds for surface and stretch sensitive fabrics.

Capacity varies around a nominal 450 pounds/tube. Each of the above fabrics can be optimally dyed by a different set of operating conditions. The design of the venturi assembly and large door make this mechanical change very easy for the man on the floor. Exchange time per port is measured in minutes.

Intelligent Control

Today’s dye machines don’t operate efficiently without a lot of computer control. The Gaston County Sentinel™ Controller is based on a Siemens hardware and software platform and uses the internationally accepted Profibus communication standards. It can be used as a stand alone for your first machine purchase or integrated with the SuperTex™ dyehouse management system used in over 120 dyehouses.

A controlled rinsing system is just one example of how savings mount when you implement such a system.

Today’s fiber reactive dyes exhaust better than ever, so less water is needed to rinse unfixed dyes. Rinsing can take place at higher temperatures, thereby saving cool-down time.

However, cool washing saves energy. pH-controlled rinsing enables the saving of water and improved quality. Salinity-controlled rinsing for reactive dyeings saves water and time. A Rapidrain™ system enables the machine to drain in less than one minute.

Productivity Improvement

 With all these features, productivity is at an all-time high for these dyers fortunate enough to have this versatility at hand.

How many turns per day can be achieved? It all depends on the procedure you select, the quality of all components and the efficiency of your dyehouse personnel.

Because of its increased productivity, the new Millennium machine needs attention more frequently than machines of earlier generations where dye cycles took 12 hours.

The Millennium has demonstrated its ability to dye 100-percent cotton reactives with a pre-bleach in as little as four hours.

Right first time, shade adjustments, reworks and other plant efficiencies will determine a dyehouse’s final turns per day.

January 2000