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By Max W. Sung

Errant airbags: The automobile, since its first commercial production by the Ford Motor Company in 1908, has transformed society in the twentieth century. As an alternative to horse-drawn carriages and carts, the automobile provided far superior transportation, fast and flexible, and was instrumental in expanding business and leisure opportunities for the general population.

With its greater speed, the risks for serious injuries and deaths from automobile collisions have exponentially increased. The Global status report on road safety 2013 published by the World Health Organization (WHO), a compilation of data from 182 countries up to 2011, estimated that 1.24 million people were killed worldwide in motor vehicle collisions. 91% of the fatalities occurred in low-income and middle-income countries, even though these countries have only half the world's vehicles.

In motor vehicle accidents, the sudden deceleration which occurs during collision causes the diver and occupants in the vehicle to be thrown against stationary components of the vehicle and suffer serious injuries which are often fatal. In the United States, legislation mandating the incorporation of safety features, such as three-point seat belts in 1984 and supplemental airbag restraints in 1998, have been responsible in part for reducing the fatalities in motor vehicle collisions.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the US has tracked fatalities and injuries resulting from roadway crashes since 1964. Fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles travelled per year had decreased from 5.39 in 1964 (45,645 deaths) to 1.10 in 2013 (32,719 deaths). In 2013, 65% of the fatalities in road accidents were vehicle occupants and 49% of them were unrestrained. The use of seat belts and airbags were estimated to have saved 12,174 and 23,213 lives, respectively. First patented by John Hetrick in the US in 1951, airbags are a synthesis of textiles and technological innovation. Sensors embedded in the vehicle become activated in the event of a collision, leading to ignition of chemicals housed in a metal air inflator and release of a large volume of nitrogen gas to inflate the airbag in 35 milliseconds. The interposition of an inflated airbag between the driver/passenger and stationary components of the vehicle serves as a cushion against the impact to the human body. Immediately after impact, the airbag deflates through small vents along the side. The mechanics have been worked out for driver, passenger and side airbags to maximise protection according to the spatial localisation of the occupants in the vehicle.

The more recent generation of airbags are made of Nylon 6.6 from 420-denier fabric woven at 181 x 181 yarns per 10 cm, which combines the strength of the fibres with a looser weave that permits lighter weight, flexibility and packageability. The fabric pieces are stitched together with sturdy threads designed to withstand the pressure of an expanding airbag. Major textile machinery manufacturers such as Pfaff and Duerkopp-Adler have designed specialised machines for seam and stitch reliability as well as quality control for seam defects.

The Takata Corporation, based in Shiga Prefecture in Japan, has developed from its founding in 1933 as a textile weaving company to a leading manufacturer for automobile safety products, including seat belts and airbags. Takata started research into airbags in the 1970s; commercial production and sales started in 1990. Takata has since acquired subsidiaries and established 56 production plants in 20 countries worldwide, with more than 48,000 employees. As per its website, Takata has worked to achieve its dream of "a society with zero fatalities from traffic accidents" by improving automotive safety systems. It is ironic therefore to find the company embroiled in a series of airbag ruptures when deployed, spewing shrapnel and causing stabbing injuries to the head and neck of the driver and others in the vehicle. The first such case was in Alabama (US) in 2004. Since then five deaths and 139 injuries have been reported. Four of the five deaths occurred in the US. The fifth was in Malaysia last July.

Analyses of the airbags have shown that ruptures did not result from defects in the airbag fabric or seams, but from metal fragments from the air inflator which housed the chemicals for nitrogen generation. Apparently the air inflator was not strong enough to withstand the chemical reaction; so it exploded, sending metal fragments that pierced the airbag and resulted in serious, sometimes fatal, injuries to the driver and passengers in the vehicle.

At a hearing in December in Washington DC, convened by the US Committee on Energy and Commerce, Takata's senior vice president for global quality assurance, Hiroshi Shimizu, did not indicate a root cause for the airbag ruptures, but was supportive only for a regional recall of airbags where high temperatures and high humidity may have played a role in exploding the inflators. Most, but not all, of the airbag ruptures in the US have occurred in Florida and Puerto Rico which could suggest that explosive reaction could have been exacerbated in conditions of high temperature and humidity. Others have hypothesised that ammonium nitrate, which had been used as one of the component chemicals in the air inflators since 2000, may have destabilised with time, resulting in more explosive reactions which could not be contained by the metal inflator.

Shigehisa Takada, third generation Chairman and CEO of Takata Corporation, has issued a statement announcing the steps that Takata will take to resolve issues relating to its airbag products. Takata will be working with top scientists to evaluate its products and the recent inflator rupture events. An independent quality assurance panel will be formed to audit Takata's manufacturing procedures for making inflators, including inflator propellant. Two former secretaries of the US Department of Transportation have been appointed as special counsels. Takata's capacity to produce replacement kits will be expanded to meet the demands of the evolving recalls.

One death from a rupturing airbag is one death too many. We look forward to Takata's efforts in making airbags safe and in restoring the public's confidence. .












Special Reports

  • Lower price and subsidy may rule cotton trade this season: Cotton production in 2014-15 season is forecast to be over 26 million tons, more or less similar to previous season's. Total output in the Northern Hemisphere could be around 23.8 million tons and in the Southern Hemisphere 2.6 million tons. Average price during the season could be around 74 US cents per pound with world cotton trade likely falling 11% to 7.6 million tons. Considering such possibility some governments are extending subsidy to farmers. . China has offered a subsidy of 2,000 RMB/ton to growers in nine inland provinces in 2014. India has a minimum support price system that did not go into effect in the last few seasons due to high prices, but prices have fallen enough to trigger the minimum support price this season. Pakistan announced a support price of 3,000 rupees per 40kg and the Trading Corporation of Pakistan that has not purchased cotton since 2005-06 was to buy about one million bales of lint in November at the minimum support price.

Exhibitions & Conferences

  • Fibres, fabrics, fashion and high-tech garments: Through the years, fibre companies and their clients have formed grouping or satellites that have become an important arrangement in the international halls of textile trade fairs. This is most useful to buyers in search of the supplier companies. This trend, most useful to buyers in search of supplier companies, was clearly evident at the 20th anniversary show of the Intertextile Shanghai Apparel Fabrics (ITSAF) in October. At this event, DuPont de Nemours showcased eco-friendly Sorona fibre; Invista highlighted Lycra, Thermolite, and Coolmax products which are important to high performance, next to skin, sports and outdoor wear; Cotton Council International and Cotton Incorporated presented innovations of the cotton world; Lenzing emphasised variations of the cellulosic fibre Tencel, Modal and Viscose; Birla Planet promoted a range of viscose and cellulosic products; Hyosung featured its polyester yarn and specialty nylon yarn, Creora; and Korea Chemical Fibres Association pavilion presented polyester fibres and yarn manufacturers.

    By Vicky Sung

  • A new venue for holding four textile shows simultaneously twice a year: Intertextile Shanghai Apparel Fabrics (ITSAF) is to make a new leap for greater success. Three other textile sector trade shows - China's leading fashion apparel show CHIC, which is held annually in Beijing for the past 22 years, as well as the knitting fair PH Value and the Yarn Expo - are also taking the leap. All of them will move next year to a new venue, the China National Exhibition and Convention Centre (Shanghai), which is now in the final stage of construction in the Hongqiao district of Puxi. It is considered to be the world's largest single block building and exhibition complex.

  • Milano Unica in ITSAF: A partnership that will carry on: The purpose of Milano Unica, the international textile fair organised in Italy, partnering with Intertextile Shanghai Apparel Fabrics is to bring quality textile manufacturing to China. In this edition of ITSAF, Milano Unica presented collections ranging from the classic to street wear for men and women, which confirmed the versatile character of Italian textiles.

  • New alliance for China denim industry: Denimizing non-denim garments - like knitted fabrics printed with denim effects and patterns being used for jackets and trousers to look like denim products - has become popular. And denim was one of the focal points of the 2014 Cotton USA Executive Delegation Seminar held in China last September. Eight representatives of the US cotton industry travelled to Guangzhou, where more than 60% of China's garment industry is based, to conduct the seminar and to discuss various aspects of the US cotton market and trade issues with Chinese customers.

    By Alpana Shrestha

  • More exhibitors sign up for ITMA 2015 in Milan: The number of exhibitors signed up so far for the 17th edition of the international textile machinery exhibition ITMA in Milan next November has far exceeded the number of exhibitors at the previous show held in Barcelona in September 2011. Exhibitors at the 16th ITMA in Barcelona had totalled 1,355 coming from 45 countries; whereas for the next edition in Milan a total 1,380 exhibitors have already registered by the end of October, when more than a year to go before the show begins.

  • Interfiliere Hong Kong sets 9th show in March: The Interfiliere Hong Kong exhibition that Eurovet organises annually will make its 9th presentation in a two-day event starting March 18 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. Commanding a leading position in the intimate apparel sector, Interfiliere Hong Kong is a venue for buyers sourcing quality intimates and swimwear with latest innovation and inspiration.

  • Texworld and Apparel Sourcing, the biannual event in France is scheduled to take place from February 9 to 12, 2015 at Le Bourget, Paris. For Texworld, this is its 36th edition and for ApparelSourcing, the 8th edition; and both events are organised by Messe Frankfurt France.

  • Graphics of the Americas, organised annually by the Printing Association of Florida (PAF), will hold its 40th edition at the Miami Beach Convention Center in Florida in February from 26 to 28. It is a unique event attracting over 8,300 printers, designers, and creative professionals mainly from North America, Central America, South America and the Caribbean.

  • Première Vision in Istanbul: Première Vision that made its first presentation in Turkey this October will make another presentation there in early 2015. It will take place at the CNR Expo centre in Istanbul from March 11 to 13.

  • Textile Expo in Surat: A three-day exhibition focused on textile machinery, accessories, yarns, fabrics and garments is scheduled to take place in Surat, the second largest city and the economic capital of the Indian state of Gujarat. It will be held from March 20 to 22, 2015 at the Surat International Exhibition & Convention Centre.

  • Asia's largest furniture fair: CIFM/interzum Guangzhou which is regarded as Asia's largest furniture production and woodworking machinery fair will hold its 12th edition at the Pazhou Complex in Guangzhou, China, from March 28 to April 1, next year.

  • Techtextil and Texprocess: Techtextil, the biannual international trade fair for technical textiles and nonwovens, will take place from May 4 to 7, 2015 in Frankfurt concurrently with Texprocess, the international trade fair for the processing of textile and other flexible materials. Both shows are organised by Messe Frankfurt.

  • Filtech in Feb at a new venue: Filtech, the international conference and exhibition for the filtration and separation world and adjacent sectors, which takes place at 18-month interval, is to be held on February 24-26, 2015 at a new venue in Germany - KoelnMesse in Cologne instead of Wiesbaden.

  • The International Wool Research Conference (IWRC) which began in Melbourne, Australia, in 1955 and held since every five years in a different city around the world will hold its 13th gathering form June 10 to 12, 2015 in Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang province in eastern China

  • ShanghaiTex in June: The international textile industry exhibition in Shanghai or the ShanghaiTex will be held from June 15 to 18, 2015 at the Shanghai New International Expo Centre. It will be the 17th presentation of this grand showcase of textile application technology.

  • Heimtextil India: The exhibition in India for home and contract textiles that Messe Frankfurt started last year will hold its second edition in June this year. It is scheduled to take place at Pragati Maidan, New Delhi, on June 24-26, right before the start of buying season in the country.

  • Bangkok gets ready for GFT/GMS: GFT, the international exhibition of machinery, materials and accessories for garment and textile manufacturing in the ASEAN region, and GMS, the garment manufacturers sourcing expo, are scheduled to be held concurrently from July 9 to 12 next year at the Bangkok International Trade and Exhibition Centre (BITEC). .


Regional Notes


  • California lifestyle brand to move into China soon: Just four months ago, addressing the China Fashion Forum at the HUB - Asia's leading branded fashion and designer trade show - in Hong Kong, experts had spoken of the difficulty newly developing brands face in finding good retail channels in China. Unaffordable cost is their major impediment. Well, a way out of that situation is in the making. With help from the organisers of the HUB, an internationally recognised multi-brand retail concept from Los Angeles, American Rag Cie, is bringing the multi-brand retail concept to China. It will open its first store in a prime location near Jing'an Temple in Shanghai in the first half of 2015.

    By Alpana Shrestha


  • Battling contamination in cotton a key concern: India, now the world's largest cotton producer, is facing the continuing problem of cotton contamination which is by far the biggest negative for the image of Indian cotton. This was the topic for extensive discussion at a seminar called 'Quality University' that the Switzerland-based Uster Technologies held in the Indian state of Goa this month (Dec 5-7). With activities across the entire textile value chain, India is indeed keen on improving competitiveness from farms to finished fabric through both economies of scale and quality-enhancing measures. Special attention is aimed at raw cotton harvesting and ginning, to reduce contamination.

    By C.K. Chow


Asia Spotlight


  • Textile trade soars as world economy recovers: Global demand for both garments and textiles surged 9% and 7%, respectively as major markets started recovering from the economic problems caused by the US subprime crisis. Global demand for textiles and garments last year broke the 2011 record of $711.5 billion and reached $766.2 billion (up 8%). Trade figures released by the World Trade Organization show that the greatest gain was recorded by garments, which expanded by $37.6 billion (9%) over 2012. Textile trade increased over $20.2 billion (7%).

Products and Technology

  • A new US cotton APP for China: The Guangzhou-based Choice Easy Software has introduced a software called US Cotton Quality Retrieve APP for efficient and accurate assortment and allocation of cotton in Chinese spinning mills. Based on US national database for cotton, it is free for downloading for mobile phone application.

    By Alpana Shrestha

  • Label weaving machine for rapid production: An air-jet label weaving machine for making labels, images and technical narrow fabrics with cut selvedge has been introduced by Jakob Müller. This machine called MÜJET MBJL6 with 1,200 mm working width and fits into a production area of 2.05x4.24 m can operate at a speed of 950 min-1 and can produce more labels per hour.

  • This program can tell how to cut cloth for better profit: Fabric usually is the largest factor in the cost of any piece of garment. Therefore, how it is cut and processed is crucial to product's competitiveness and the profit it can promise. Considering this crucial factor, Lectra has developed V3R4, the most modern version of its Optiplan cutting-room solution, which builds on an already powerful cut-plan technology and evolves to further streamline operations, improve efficiency and minimise error risk.

  • Factory of the Future: A consortium headed by TenCate, the company that combines material technology with chemical technology in the development and production of functional materials with distinctive characteristics, has been granted a 1.5- million-euro development subsidy by the Dutch province of Overijssel to build an innovation centre called The Factory of the Future.

  • Itema's new generation airjet looms: Itema's R9500 Rapier weaving machine that was launched in October 2012 has now two new versions - A9500p and A9500e. These advanced versions, Itema says, offer weavers the "best solution and manufacturing style."

  • Komanda for fire safety and arc flash protection: Increased technical and performance requirements represent new challenges for fabric manufacturers active in the protective apparel market today. People working in a dangerous environment need improved protection against hazardous risks such as violent fires or electric arcing. Recognising this need, Norafin, a partner of Lenzing in the field of technical textiles, has developed a new range of high-grade fabrics. Called Komanda, it is a lightweight but strong and breathable re-usable material.

  • A new collection of Italian silk: Centro Seta, an Italian textile company known for styles, creativity and production excellences, has introduced its first collection of silk fabrics called Bacx collection which combine sustainable characteristics to high quality and technical performance standards and strong creative content.

  • Yunique releases improved PLM V6: Yunique Solutions, the product lifecycle management business unit of Gerber Technology, has released a new version of YuniquePLM V6 for the fashion and apparel industry with new features like development calendar, line planning, 3D file support, and mass sample request development. It can also run faster.

  • Product of the Year: A fabric called digitex decoflex that HEYTex Bramsche Germany developed has been chosen as a Product of the Year (Category: Media - Textile) by the US-based Specialty Graphic Imaging Association (SGIA) during the SGIA Expo held late October.

  • Merino muslin collection: US-based babywear brand aden + anais has recently launched a new pure Merino muslin collection that is using materials certified by The Woolmark Company and is also said to be taking luxury to the next level.

  • Machine-washable wool collection: Italian children's wear label Il Gufo has released its second Merino wool capsule collection in partnership with The Woolmark Company. This is a colourful machine-washable collection comprising 100% Merino wool sweaters, cardigans and turtlenecks, which enhance the natural qualities of the fibre including softness, odour control, breathability, resilience, lightness, easy care and elasticity.

  • Output booster: France's Spoolex SAS, which is involved in the engineering and the production of converting equipment for web formed products, has recently introduced a new line, Calemard Pegase 3, that it says is the "most successful and innovative machine" to boost productivity.

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