When an idea comes true – successful cooperation of Wood K plus with designer Jef Montes
In the course of a collaboration with company Haratech GmbH within the COMET program and the European research project Re-FREAM, first prototypes could be weaved and knitted based on a drawing of an innovative filament for the fashion industry on a blank sheet of paper within development time of only eight months.
Jef Montes, a Dutch fashion designer, studied at the ArtEZ institute of the arts Arnhem from 2008 to 2012 (Bachelor Degree). Soon after, he established his own label. For his collections, Jef Montes uses sustainable and recycled materials, like fishing nets, for the most part. 2018 he launched Studio Adaptive Skins, a textile architecture studio based in Arnhem with strong emphasis on responsive materials (https://studioadaptiveskins.com/). His intention is to use the environment as a tool to create new shapes. He wants to create shape within the materials rather than cutting patterns out of 2D fabric.
2019 Jef Montes joined the Re-FREAM network (Re-Thinking of Fashion in Research and Artist collaborating development for Urban Manufacturing), an initiative of the European Commission under the Horizon 2020 research and innovation program. Re-FREAM is a research project that invites artists and designers to connect with scientists on common ground to rethink manufacturing processes in the fashion industry. Within the project “Marinero”, Jef Montes works on a collection with focus on “tailoring by weather” (https://www.re-fream.eu/portfolio/marinero-jef-montes/).
Jef Montes' search for a suitable scientific partner with know-how in filament production led him to Wood K plus via Guillaume Clément from Haratech GmbH. At Haratech, an established system supplier for series production and special solutions, Mr. Clément is responsible for product development and R&D.
The kick-off meeting took place on November 11, 2019. After the terminology has been clarified (“What exactly is a filament?”, “Who means what by the term filament?”), Mr. Montes presented his approaches for an “Adaptive Archi(tectural) filament”. Plan A was a monofilament which takes on a 3D structure, after dissolving a water-soluble coating (manufactured by a melt coating process - similar to cable coating). Plan B provided a textured monofilament, which was also coated by a water-soluble polymer.
The monofilament should ideally be made from a recycled polymer obtained from marine litter (e.g. polyamide from fishing nets). As water-soluble coating, PVA (polyvinyl alcohol) should be tested at the beginning.
To evaluate the technical feasibility of plan A, a nylon thread with a diameter of approx. 0.5 mm was mechanically stressed in order to form an irregular structure (similar to rolling up a “gift ribbon” by scissors). Before the generated entanglements could be formed, the nylon thread had to be coated with a water-soluble polymer (“melt coating”) to freeze the internal stresses. The mechanical stress on the nylon thread should be implemented inline.
In addition to PVA, a milk-based protein polymer was used as coating. Due to the high viscosity of the water-soluble bio-polymer, the required diameter of ≤ 0.8 mm could not be achieved. Therefore, the subsequent tests were conducted using PVA. Here other challenges occurred. The poor adhesion between the two polymers led to a build-up of material in the tool and, as a result, to irregular material discharge from the nozzle. As well, the cooling by using a water bath led to a sticky surface of the coated filament and thus the filament could no longer be unwound from the spool. Through numerous adjustments, a filament with a diameter of 1.1 mm finally could be produced. Unfortunately, the mechanical and thermal stress in the filament manufacturing process led to a reduced "looping effect" after removal of the coating.
For comparison, plan B was tackled, since it was already possible to successfully produce textured filaments in preliminary trials. For this purpose, it was necessary to develop a kind of “embossing roller”.
To produce several kilometres of the textured monofilament as fast as possible, the process was gradually automated until 16 km of filament with a final diameter of 0.5 mm could be extruded. Due to the time-related end of the project, no further melt coating trials (plan A) could be conducted. These trials as well as the use of resource-saving recycling materials and biodegradable coatings should be considered in a follow-up project, which is currently discussed.
Numerous spools of textured monofilament were shipped to TextielLab in Tilburg (NL), another project partner. There the designs by Jef Montes were implemented in complex weaving and knitting tests.
Several prototypes for subsequent outdoor experiments and exhibitions, such as the Ars Electronica Festival 2020 at the Johannes Kepler University, were successfully produced.
The whole story and all facts about the “Marinero” project can be found on the Studio Adaptive Skins homepage and on Jef Montes' blog on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/jefmontes/?hl=de). The daily changes of the prototypes due to weather (rain, etc.) are also documented on the different social media platforms.
A few more interesting links for those who prefer to watch videos:
Re-FREAM is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 825647.