Since its foundation in 1992, the Saxon Textile Research Institute e.V. (STFI) has been a strong innovation partner and reliable service provider. Textile materials have always characterized its work, the potential of recycling was also recognized early on. Carbon fiber recycling, initially started as a niche project, even led to the establishment of the Center for Lightweight Textile Engineering, bringing together aspects of nonwovens and recycling research with the field of high-performance fibers and lightweight engineering.
The fall of the Berlin Wall brought profound changes to the East German research landscape. Today‘s STFI at the present location in Chemnitz, for example, arose from the merging of the two institutes FIFT from Karl-Marx-Stadt and the ITT from Dresden. 27 companies and institutions founded the association on February 17, 1992. Out of a total of 600 employees, just under 60 could be taken over. This is especially bitter when you consider todays struggle for skilled workers.
Expertise in nonwovens and recycling
In the course of the founding process, the predecessor institutes were certified as having particularly high competence in the field of nonwovens. Core of the heritage thus formed the fields of spunbond nonwovens and textile recycling, in particular the tearing process.
As one of the first scientific STFI platforms, the “re4tex – recycling for textiles” colloquium brought industry and research into a dialogue. It was decided to anchor nonwovens even more firmly in the future as one of the institutes main field of research.
First investigations into the basic processability of electrically conductive carbon fibres in the carding process began as early as 2005. With the establishment of a carbon nonwovens technical center on the premises of the STFI, an important step to intensify the work was taken in the year 2011. Using modified cutting and tearing technologies, processing methods for dry carbon fibre waste were successfully developed.
In 2013, the award “BMWi Rohstoffeffizienz-Preis” gave the topic a clear push and strengthened STFI’s intention to further expand the field. With the inauguration of the Center for Textile Lightweight Engineering in 2017, a modern plant technology for the development of carbon fibre nonwovens using the carding and airlay processes was put into operation.
Textile high-tech and functionalization
Since 2012, the Innovation Center Technical Textiles has brought together woven and knitted fabrics, semi-finished products for lightweight engineering as well as functionalization and textile ecology under one roof. The inventiveness in the field of woven and knitted goods at STFI is enormous, reaching from luminous textiles to rope structures, high-performance nets and plant support mats up to the processing of non-textile materials such as hoses, wires and sensors.
Together with industrial partners, research is conducted in the area of functionalization on formulations and technologies for environmentally friendly products with an optimal balance between product-specific performance and human ecological safety. In-house research, for example on UV-LED curing and the application of thermoplastic and reactive crosslinking materials, sets decisive signals in this area.
In addition, STFI has been accompanying the textile industry on its way to Industry 4.0 in the digitalization of production, the use of new digital technologies and the development of disruptive product innovations.
STFI – quo vadis?
In perspective, STFI will continue along the path and establish the Center for Textile Sustainability as the next step. Here, both energy-efficient dry finishing processes and another still missing, nonwoven forming process will be installed. Sustainability in the sense of resource, energy and time efficiency has roots and a future at STFI.