Enabling design and business innovation through new textile technologies
Joseph, Frances; Heslop, Peter
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Textile production initiated the first industrial revolution, with James Hargreaves’ invention of the Spinning Jenny in 1766 introducing the beginning of systems of mechanized mass production. More recently, the development of new forms of digital manufacturing has given rise to a “New Industrial Revolution”. This paper considers the introduction of digital textile technologies in relation to this new “maker” economy and to traditional industrial textile and apparel design and production systems. While factors such as high investment costs, technology limitations and the need for specialized technical knowledge initially restricted the uptake of new technologies by traditional textile and fashion design manufacturing companies, technology developments are overcoming many of these problems. However, a lack of access and usability has limited engagement and innovation by designers, makers and technology entrepreneurs. This paper discusses the achievements, opportunities, limitations and impacts of work conducted through a university-based research and development centre that provides access to advanced technologies and associated technical, research and design expertise in areas of digital textile printing and seamless knitting for product development, sampling and training. Drawing on case studies developed from client and staff interviews, product and market analysis, recent theoretical writings and a contextual review, the paper will consider ways in which these technologies are helping designers and companies to do things differently and create value. More immediate and localized design development strategies can support on demand production of specialized, high value products locally and internationally. They have also provided more effective design and production methods to other industries; for example, costume designers for film, theatre and television companies. This facility also provides support for new areas of application and new manufacturing processes, for example in the areas of shaped, seamless knit and e-textiles. Through these studies, traditional fashion production and market problems such as remote global supply chains, the separate and highly specialized roles of designers and technicians in the knitwear industry, the production of pre and post-market textile waste and the minimizing of stock levels are reconsidered. Business concepts and strategies, enabled by new forms of digital manufacturing are related to approaches discussed in the case studies.