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ITMA 2003 Weaving Technology

Technological advances in weaving and weaving preparation machinery continue.

Abdelfattah M. Seyam, Ph.D.

I TMA 2003 brought to weavers major technological advances that will help them control their machines electronically via user-friendly interfaces, produce a broad range of woven fabrics, manufacture intricate jacquard designs at the speed of commodity fabric production, form leno fabrics faster, inspect fabrics on-loom, use optical and laser warp-break detection, reduce downtime by offering a higher level of automation, and perform quick style and warp beam changes.

Weaving and weaving preparation equipment occupied a significant share of ITMA's hall space at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham, England. Prior to the show, the attitude toward holding the show in the United Kingdom - for the first time in its history - was negative because of the low expectation of participation. Machinery makers, however, have been overwhelmed by the success of ITMA 2003 in terms of attendance and multimillion-dollar sales contracts.

The success of weaving and weaving preparation machinery makers at ITMA 2003 may be attributed to the realized advances that offer weavers low power consumption, flexibility and versatility while weaving at high speeds.

Benninger’s BEN-MATIC sectional warper performs most of the warping functions automatically, without operator intervention.

Sectional Warping
Benninger Co. Ltd., Switzerland, and Karl Mayer Textilmaschinenfabrik GmbH, Germany, showed impressive automatic sectional warpers, the BEN-MATIC and Rob-o-matic.

The BEN-MATIC performs the following steps automatically with no intervention from the operator:
•    The new band is firmly attached to the pattern drum by adhesive foil tape, which is attached automatically to the band.
•    Using two conventional lease reeds, the band is split into two sheets to form a shed, for fully automatic insertion of the leases and the sizing splits.
•    To obtain clear separation between the two sheets (clear shed), a split arm is inserted between them to overcome clinging caused by yarn hairiness.
•    The lease insertion system (insertion arm, knotter, lease thread feeder and air system) inserts as many threads as required in a loop form through the shed.
•    Adhesive tape is attached to the band, band cutting is performed, and the end of the band is attached to the pattern drum.

The final leasing and setting for beaming require the operator's intervention.

In the case of Karl Mayer's Rob-o-matic, the formation of the shed is achieved using harnesses similar to those used in weaving. The insertion of lease bars is achieved using a pneumatically operated gripper. The bands are cut after warping is completed. The cutting and beaming require operator intervention.

Integration Of Warp-Draw
And False-Twist Texturing

Karl Mayer showed a new direct warper that integrates warp-draw and false-twist texturing. While the warper is designed to handle a maximum of 700 warp yarns, a demonstration system handling fewer yarns was shown at ITMA. It was observed that threading of the yarns through different components was cumbersome, a matter that may cause extremely low warping efficiency. To be accepted commercially, the system must be more economical than separate draw texturing and warping processes.

Benninger unveiled a new development in pre-wet sizing - the TKV pre-wet/size box, which includes a pre-wetting bath and size box. The system is flexible in that the pre-wetting bath can be used as a second size box when treating warps that do not need pre-wetting.

Karl Mayer also showed a new pre-wet sizing system, the MPCPW. The system consists of a pre-wetting tank with double squeeze at entry and at exit, and a double-dip size box. The system is designed to have a short distance between the pre-wet and size boxes to prevent the warp yarns from kinking and cooling.

Tying-In And Drawing-In
At ITMA 2003, Germany-based Knotex Maschinenbau GmbH showed a range of new developments in tying-in technology. The Knotex KR-8 Monofilament Frame is specially designed to handle stiff, high-density warp yarns. The system is suitable for weavers of industrial fabrics such as woven belts for paper felts and hydroentangled nonwoven bonding machines. The clamping and tension rails of this tying-in machine are reconfigured to allow the operators to easily clamp the warp sheets from the top. Newly developed optional thread pressers permit the application of uniform pressure across the warp sheets.

Another new development by Knotex is the TS/2 TapeMaster tying-in frame. This machine is ideal for tying-in polypropylene and polyester tapes, and low-density warps including monofilament warps. The machine is equipped with a microprocessor that uses magnet sensors to evaluate the position of the advance feeler and report it to the thread picking-up elements; this results in precise picking up of the correct threads from the two warp sheets.

Knotex also has developed the AUTOFRAME™, a new remote control to monitor the status of an automatic tying-in machine from any location in the mill. The system allows the operator to perform other duties while the tying-in process is performed.

Stäubli AG, Switzerland, presented the OPAL, a new automatic leasing machine for leasing warp yarns. The OPAL can combine from one to eight warp sheets of multi-colors or a single color into one lease to prepare such warp for automatic drawing-in or tying-in. The OPAL is capable of handling continuous filament yarns as well as spun yarns. The leasing process is fully automated once the operator has programmed the required color sequence using a sensitive touch screen. The machine is equipped with a camera system to ensure correct yarn color order as programmed by preventing doubles and distinguishing between threads of different colors. Depending on the application, the leasing speed of the OPAL is up to 100,000 threads per eight-hour shift.

The OPAL provides weavers employing direct warpers the opportunity to make the process of producing stripped warps as easy as it is for weavers using sectional warpers.

Despite the absence of some weaving machine manufacturers, a significant number of machines was shown at ITMA. The weaving speed and rate of filling insertion (RFI) remained about the same as for machinery shown at ITMA '99. The marriage of air jet and jacquard, however, resulted in a higher speed of jacquard weaving than has ever been seen before. Today, the cost of jacquard weaving manufacturing is almost the same as that of weaving commodity fabrics. Additionally, the variety of fabrics woven at ITMA 2003 was broader than ever before, and was characterized by intricate designs and industrial applications.

The P7300 is Sultex’s fastest projectile weaving machine.

Air-Jet Weaving
Germany-based Lindauer Dornier GmbH showed one of the two widest air-jet machines (5.4 meters) on display at the show, the AWSL 4/EasyLeno. The Dornier machine was shown weaving leno fabric for carpet backing at a width in reed of 5.2 meters and a speed of 450 picks per minute (ppm), or RFI of 2,349 meters per minute (m/min).

Picanol NV, Belgium, featured a wide range of air-jet machines. Four machines out of the seven shown exceeded 2,000 m/min RFI.

Italy-based Promatech S.p.A., a member of the ITEMA Group, showed three air-jet machines. The fastest is its 3.4-meter-wide MYTHOS TEC, shown weaving sheeting fabric at a width in reed of 3.2 meters and a speed of 780 ppm, or 2,496 m/min RFI.

Switzerland-based Sultex Ltd., also a member of the ITEMA Group, featured the other of the two widest air-jet machines. The new 5.4-meter-wide L9400 P 540 N 2 L was shown weaving leno fabric for carpet backing at a width in reed of 5.33 meters and a speed of 420 ppm, or 2,238 m/min RFI.

Over at the Stäubli booth, Sultex showed another fast air-jet machine - the L5400 S 210 N 4 SP TL - weaving womenswear fabric at a width in reed of 2.1 meters and a speed of 990 ppm, or 2,079 m/min RFI.

Projectile Weaving
As usual, Sultex was the only company that showed a projectile weaving machine. Two machines were exhibited. The fastest is its P7300 B 390 N 4 SP D12, a 3.9-meter-wide machine, shown weaving a five-harness cotton sateen cloth at a width in reed of 3.51 meters and at 370 ppm, corresponding to 1,300 m/min RFI. The machine was equipped with four-filling insertion with individual feeder, guides and tension control for each yarn. The actual filling insertion rate considering the four simultaneous insertions is 5,200 m/min. The other machine  was the P73 RSP B 360 N 4 SP D12, shown weaving a cotton canvas cloth at a width in reed of 3.65 meters and a speed of 330 ppm, corresponding to 1,205 m/min RFI.

Rapier Weaving
Dornier exhibited four rapier machines. Its fastest is the PTS 8/S, shown weaving a fancy dobby fabric at a width in reed of 1.78 meters - the maximum is 1.9 meters - at 600 ppm, corresponding to 1,068 m/min RFI. Dornier's other machines were shown weaving jacquard labels, filter cloth, and jacquard fabrics with on-the-fly-pattern change (from upholstery to drapery) and variable pick density. The jacquard fabrics were woven using Stäubli's LX 3201 jacquard with 10,752 hooks.

Picanol showed six rapier machines ranging in width from 1.9 to 3.6 meters.

Italy-based Promatech S.p.A. showed eight rapier machines with widths ranging from 1.9 to 3.2 meters.

Italy-based SMIT S.p.A. showed a total of nine weaving machines, eight of which were rapiers, the other an air-jet. Six of the rapier machines were weaving fabric for a range of applications at RFIs that exceeded 1,000 m/min.

Sultex showed three rapier machines. The fastest was weaving menswear fabric at 600 ppm, corresponding to 1,045 m/min RFI. The other machines were weaving labels and souvenir terry towels.

SMIT recently added air-jet weaving machines to its portfolio, including the JS900, introduced at ITMA 2003.

Multiphase Weaving
The Sultex M8300 multiphase weaving machine, revealed at ITMA '95, has continued to be one of the main attractions at ITMA. At last year's show, one machine was shown weaving a polyester/cotton dense 2/1 twill fabric of a 40.5 by 20.5, 40/1 by 28/1 (threads/centimeter [cm] and metric count) construction. The fabric was woven at 2,824 ppm, corresponding to a RFI of 4,775 m/min. This is an improvement over the machines shown at ITMA '99, when one machine was weaving a much lighter fabric of 2/1 twill and a 26.4 by 18.1, 40/1 by 28/1 construction. This lighter fabric was woven at a speed of 2,430 ppm, or 4,775 m/min RFI. The machine now is capable of producing denser fabrics at a higher speed than before, a sign of improvement. Sultex indicated the machine can weave plain, 2/1, 3/1 and 2/2 weaves; and warp density is limited to a maximum of 45 ends per cm.

The UNIVAL 100 jacquard machine from Stäubli uses a stepping motor instead of harness cords to control each end.

New Jacquard Shedding Concepts
At ITMA '99, Grosse Webereimaschinen GmbH, Germany, and Stäubli showed the UNISHED and the UNIVAL 100 jacquard machines. While Grosse's UNISHED is still in the prototype stage, the UNIVAL 100 has been made available for sale. The principle of shed formation of the two machines is different, but they have achieved a common goal - reduction in the number of jacquard engine parts.

The shed formation in the UNISHED, shown mounted on a Dornier LWV6/J air-jet weaving machine, is achieved using leaf springs. Each leaf spring is connected to a heddle that controls one warp end. The leaf springs, which are controlled by actuators, control the bottom shed as well as the top shed (a positive jacquard shed type). The configuration of the jacquard head and the individual control of each heddle (or warp end) allow the heddles to be set vertically. These settings eliminate the need for harness cords, magnets, hooks, pulleys, springs and the gantry. This results in lower building and air-conditioning costs. The jacquard head is mounted directly on the side frames of the weaving machine, thus making quick style change (QSC) possible in jacquard weaving, as it is easy to exchange the entire jacquard head, including the heddles.

The shed formation in the UNIVAL 100 electronic jacquard machine, shown on a Picanol OMNIplus 6-J250 air-jet weaving machine, is achieved by controlling each individual warp end using a stepping motor. Harness cord (or warp end) selection is performed electronically, and hence, fabric design is achieved in the same way as on any other current electronic jacquard system. The dimensions of the jacquard head - the jacquard head and tie width are the same as the reed width - and the control of individual warp ends by a stepping motor permit the harness cords to be set vertically. The design of the UNIVAL 100 eliminates the need for hooks, knives, magnets and pulleys, as each harness cord or heddle is directly attached to a stepping motor.

The UNIVAL 100 seems to have advanced significantly. In fact, it demonstrates the highest rate of filling insertion in jacquard weaving history. The UNIVAL design provides weavers with new opportunities that have never before been available in jacquard shedding. With such a system, the shed height can easily be set, and several sheds can be formed. All settings can be conducted electronically through a user interface without the need for mechanical adjustments. Another significant feature of the UNIVAL is its independence from the weaving machine drive, because it has its own drive without mechanical coupling to the weaving machine. According to Stäubli, UNIVAL's modular construction enables a jacquard capacity range of 5,120 to 20,480 warp threads (stepping motors).

Jakob Müller AG Frick, Switzerland, showed for the first time the MDL/C, an impressive new harnessfree jacquard shedding concept (international patents pending) that represented one of the main attractions at this ITMA. The shedding concept is based on individual electronic selection of warp yarns using special heddle wires. The company showed the system on its MDL/C label machine. The machine has no traditional jacquard head, harness or comber board. Additionally, the new concept eliminates the need for hooks, pulleys and returning springs. With such elimination, machine parts and size are dramatically reduced.

While the machine is still being developed and is not yet available commercially, it was running efficiently during the short demonstrations at ITMA. Other features of the MDL/C include: weft insertion using needles, thus allowing soft selvage formation; up to eight colors of filling yarns; and electronic warp tension adjustment and control.

Jakob Müller’s MDL/C label machine features the new harness-free jacquard shedding concept.

Versatility: QSC
QSC has been available for cam or dobby since the early 1990s. At this ITMA, Grosse announced a new QSC for jacquard. The system was shown in a 10-minute video at the Grosse booth. The actual time of style change is said to be 90 minutes. The key feature of this development is the redesign of the harness tie for easy coupling and decoupling of harness neck cords from the hooks. With such a system, jacquard weavers are able to weave short runs.

In another demonstration of QSC, Dornier equipped air-jet and rapier machines with patented Pneumatic Shaft Lock (PSL). The system permits locking and unlocking of shafts using a touch display, which further facilitates quick change of warps and styles.

Picanol’s Quick Style Change system enables one person to carry out a complete style change in less than 30 minutes.

Variable Pick Density
Dornier, Italy-based Panter S.r.l., Picanol, SMIT and Sultex showed air-jet and rapier machines equipped with programmable variable pick density. The variation in pick density has been achieved through modularity and control of electronic let-off and take-up mechanisms via a microprocessor. The difference between low and high pick density is one order of magnitude.

Variable Speed
Variable speed weaving was first introduced by Picanol at ITMA '99. With a powerful super motor (Sumo), the machine can be driven directly without using a belt or clutch. The starting torque is very powerful and adjustable. The beat-up force is constant throughout the entire weaving process. The Sumo can be programmed to run at different speeds as desired. This is useful when weaving different filling yarns with different attributes. For example, a weaker yarn needs to be run at low speed, while another yarn can handle a much higher speed. Without variable speed, the machine has to run at low speed corresponding to the weakest yarn. Picanol now provides the Sumo motor as the standard drive for all of its new lines of OMNIplus and GamMax machines.

At ITMA 2003, Dornier, Panter, Picanol and Promatech showed variable-speed weaving machines. The largest difference in speed was shown by Dornier and Picanol.

On-Loom Inspection
At ITMA '99, Israel-based Elbit Vision Systems (EVS) Ltd. showed one of its on-loom inspection systems installed on a Picanol weaving machine. At this ITMA, EVS' LOOM-TEX on-loom inspection system was installed on Dornier's PTS 4/S rapier machine.

Barco NV, Belgium, and Uster Technologies AG, Switzerland, provided their own versions of on-loom inspection, the Cyclops and Fabriscan ON-LOOM.

The on-loom inspection systems use either cameras or scanners to scan the entire fabric. These systems now can be installed between the front fabric rest and the take-up rolls.

While this is an improvement over off-loom cloth roll and post-weaving inspection, more than 1 meter of fabric may pass before the system can detect it. The on-loom inspection systems can identify defects, capture and store images, report defects maps, and stop the weaving process if desired.

Promatech has its own inspection system, a new electronic eye, which it installed on one of its Leonardo Silver FTS rapier machines at this ITMA. System features include small dimensions, low cost and integration with the machine.

The function of the electronic eye is not only to detect defects, but also to interact with the machine and change the setting. While this may work for some defects, other defects may not be repaired or avoided without operator intervention.

Promatech’s Leonardo Silver rapier weaving machine features the HI Drive direct motor, which acts as an inverter and pick finding device.

New Leno Shedding Mechanisms
Dornier introduced a new leno shedding motion (patent pending) that is completely different from the traditional shedding motion. The Easyleno consists of a stationary guide bar, where the standard warp ends are drawn; and a movable guide bar, through which the leno ends are drawn. The stationary bar is moved once to the right and once to the left with each leno weave repeat. The movable guide bar is raised and lowered twice with every weave repeat (two picks). The lay controls the reed and the movable guide bar motions. At the beat-up position, the reed is in its most forward position (front center), and the movable guide bar is down. When the reed is at the back center, the movable guide bar is up. The Easyleno was shown on a wide AWSL 4 machine that was weaving carpet backing.

Sultex showed its new 5.4-meter-wide L9400 air-jet machine, which has an innovative new leno mechanism, the PowerLeno. The main components of the PowerLeno are a guide bar and an eyeleted reed. Shed formation is achieved by opposing upward and downward motion of the guide bar and the eyeleted reed. The guide bar is given a lateral motion to twist the yarns.

The main feature of these new leno mechanisms is the gentle action on the warp yarns, which allows leno weaving at higher speeds than traditional leno. These systems can switch from leno to plain weave if the lateral movement is skipped.

Terry Weaving
A new air-jet machine by Dornier, the ATVF 8/J ServoTerry®, was shown weaving terry fabric with variable height loop. In this system, a servo motor replaces the traditional terry cam for pile formation, so the reed does not drop back. When the reed is at the front center, the fabric is positively driven toward the reed to form the piles. The fabric is moved by positively driven backrest and terry bar in combination with the temples. The pile warp feed can be programmed to produce terry fabrics with variable-height loops for effect.

Dornier unveiled an air-guiding system for the rapier. During its movement, the rapier glides on an aerostatic support instead of traditional guide rollers. The air is supplied by a strip, which reduces wear on the rapier.

Dornier’s PS-Type rapier weaving machines can weave everything from delicate to industrial fabrics.

Warp-Stop Motions
Dornier showed Germany-based Protechna Herbst GmbH & Co. KG's Laserstop optical warp-stop motion working with a PTS 4/S rapier machine with monofilament warp. Picanol showed a laser-based warp-stop motion installed on an OMNIplus 2-P 280 with polyester warp. These types of stop motions, if successful, would eliminate the drop wires that cause harmful abrasion, especially to sensitive yarns.

Van de Wiele’s Carpet and Rug Explorer weaving machines weave product face-to-face.

Carpet, Rug And Velvet Weaving
Germany-based Schönherr Textilmaschinenbau GmbH, a member of the Stäubli group, demonstrated a new face-to-face carpet weaving machine, the Alpha 360. The Alpha 360 is equipped with the electronically controlled Stäubli dobby type 2685 and Stäubli LX2490 three-position electronic jacquard machine. The machine has a reed width of 4.27 meters, with pile yarns drawn in 4.2 meters wide, which can be reduced to 3 meters. With such specifications, the machine is capable of producing rugs, as well as wall-to-wall carpets with a range of 200 possible weaves. Carpets and rugs with combinations of loop and cut pile, face-to-face, bouclé, pile, and flat fabric can be produced on the Alpha 360. It also is possible to weave patterns such as carpet specifications and names on the ground and on the carpet back. Additional features of the Alpha 360 are the use of servo motors to control the cutting tool, and the use of two separate servo motors to control the take-up motions of the two carpets, which ensure consistency of desired carpet length through precise control of pick density.

Belgium-based NV Michel Van de Wiele showed its Carpet and Rug Explorer (CRX) machine weaving face-to-face fabrics. This new weaving machine is equipped with a rapier guiding system with air cushions, conjugated cams that drive the rapier, a pile-cutting tool and reed, and continuous warp let-off. The pile yarns are controlled by a new generation of electronic jacquard machines - the Bonas MJ from Bonas Machine Co. Ltd., England - which is characterized by a compact selector that has reliable selection principle without springs, levers and pivots.

Van de Wiele also showed its latest generation of velvet weaving machine, the Velvet Tronic (VTR). This machine, equipped with air-cushion-guided double rapiers, weaves velvets for upholstery, decoration, dress and automotive fabrics; and Italian velvet and shadow velvet, among other fabrics. Two machines of this type were demonstrated at ITMA 2003 - the VTR23 and VTR33. The VTR23 was shown weaving plain velvet using dobby shedding motion developed by Van de Wiele. The VTR33 was shown producing a jacquard velvet fabric. These fabrics are for the piece-dyed upholstery market. They are characterized by their light weight, softness and chenille effects.

Ready For More
While the new developments shown at this ITMA are significant, the demand for more continues in order to advance weaving to become faster, more efficient and fully automated. To realize this, research and development are needed to address the following:
•    elimination of drop wires as means of monitoring warp end-breaks through enhancing warp quality and/or smart sensors;
•    automatic repair of warp breaks;
•    a fully automated start-mark mechanism that does not need labor intervention;
•    reduction of filling waste to the length of the fringes that remain in the fabric;
•    a fully automated style change; and
•    a multiphase weaving machine for dobby and jacquard weaving.

Editor’s Note: Abdelfattah M. Seyam is a professor in the department of textiles and apparel, technology and management at North Carolina State University’s (NCSU) College of Textiles, Raleigh, N.C. He obtained a B.S. and M.S. in textile engineering from Alexandria University, Egypt, and also holds a Ph.D. in fiber and polymer science from NCSU.

February 2004