May 13, 2019 at 9:58 am #121459
Polartec Figureheads Discuss Kraig Labs Silkworm Solution
Written by Chris Remington-Published: 08 May 2019
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MUNICH – As Performance Days gets underway in Germany, T.EVO has spoken with Polartec CEO Gary Smith; Doug Kelliher, vice president of product management; and David Karstad, vice president of marketing and creative director, to learn more about the company’s new partnership with spider silk-based fibre producer Kraig Biocraft Laboratories. Chris Remington reports from Munich.
Unbeknownst to many, Polartec has toyed with the potential of spider silk-based materials for some time but to no avail. The US firm, a long-standing collaborator with the military, has explored this area before in an attempt to yield enhanced apparel for front line soldiers, which would in theory yield greater levels of strength, flexibility and durability in a lighter weight frame.
The prized material, with all its assets, has however failed to represent a feasible, marketable opportunity, with Smith telling us that previous iterations performed poorly when washed, dried or exposed to excessive heat.
“When you’re working with uniforms and workwear, you’re now talking about industrial washing processes, very hot, high heats, or harsh detergents. It’s about putting this fibre in a textile where it can do what it’s supposed to do,” he noted.
The draw of a collaboration with Kraig Labs, which started around 2-3 years ago, was built on the premise that this derivative was unlike others, as Karstad explains.
“This is the only type that comes directly from the silkworm. So you have an industrial level production process already created for the silk industry. They have an incredible regeneration rate, so going from a couple worms to a million worms is really fast,” he says.
The characteristics of this natural fibre and its derivatives are well-etablished, from its strength-to-weight ratio – comparable to Kevlar – to its durability that could in theory enable a garment, developed for the military for example, to withstand the wear and tear that comes with the job.
“We do dozens of collaborations with the US military, this is another one that’s come to us from a material. It’s something that we’ve been playing with for around five years,” Smith says.
“Right now we’re finding that a lot of the conversations we’re having with the US military and even global militaries is that they’re all looking at what’s next,” adds Kelliher, continuing: The good thing is is that we have over 700 constructions and so we’re playing around with some of those core constructions that the military is already adopting, but a lot is being driven by the programme office that we’re working with too, in terms of what their needs are; what the war fighters need and what they’re using it for.
While military applications represent an obvious market for products borne out of the Polartec/ Kraig collaboration, Smith was keen to point out that any fabrics enhanced by spider silk-based fibres provide multi-faceted opportunities.
“We cross-pollonate, we’ve had commercial applications that help the military and military applications that become commercial opportunities. We don’t compartmentalise that way unless there’s something propietary about a channel or a collaboration,” he says.
“Another thing, the fact that it’s naturally derived is interesting as well from a biodegradability standpoint.”
The Eco-Engineering initiative is one of the company’s main pushes in the market as it looks to implement greater PET plastic recycling measures in its supply chain. The fact that spider silk is biodegradable is by no means an afterthought as Polartec looks to launch a two-pronged attack with this collaboration.
May 13, 2019 at 9:59 am #121460
Dan@danspinnerMay 13, 2019 at 10:01 am #121463
Alice@alicetraderMay 13, 2019 at 10:03 am #121464
Alice, you are absolutely right
1 user thanked author for this post.May 13, 2019 at 10:05 am #121465
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