Specialty Fabrics Review March 2021 - 48

[ MARKETS ] ADVANCED TEXTILES

The present pandemic
has highlighted the
importance of natural
products, from
cellulosic fibers or
natural chemicals,
to how we develop
lifesaving materials.

46 SPECIALTY FABRICS REVIEW / March 2021

Upstream fiber processing
capabilities like retting, breaking
of fibers, baling and transportation
logistics must be enhanced. In the
short term, applications where softness
and smoothness are not critical can
be explored, such as for industrial
products. From a farmer's point of view,
diversifying crops as a conservation
measure and looking for value-added
opportunities support planting hemp.
However, it needs to be done with care
due to the THC regulation.
Applications of hemp in fiber form
can be categorized as either industrial
products or consumer products. In the
near term, the industrial market may be
the best opportunity, as noted, because
characteristics such as rigidity and stiffness may be beneficial. For example,
durability, strength and performance
characteristics of 100 percent hempbased products in geotextile applications need thorough exploration.
But while developing products,
there should also be a focused
development on the machinery used.
The consumer textiles sector can look
for hemp utilization in blends with
cotton and other fibers, but this will
involve an understanding of machinery
and blend compatibilities. " Being
natural " is the incentive.
" All-natural fibers are great because
of plastic pollution in food and water
ecosystems, " says Hake.
Mechanical bonding nonwoven
technologies are predominantly
focused on fibers such as polyester,
viscose, cotton and their blends.
There is a need to build consortiums
involving farmers, policy makers,
machinery manufacturers and textile
manufacturers to investigate future
material and market possibilities.
The nonwoven and technical textiles
sectors are already looking to use hemp
for developing industrial wipes, with

the incentive being sustainability, but
processing remains a challenge.
For any market use, performance
standards and requirements must
be developed, which will keep
associations like the Industrial Fabrics
Association International (IFAI) and
the Association of the Nonwoven
Fabrics Industry (INDA) busy.
At the present time, the personal
care market drives hemp cultivation,
followed by food, industrial and
consumer applications. Consumer
textiles contribute about 14 percent
of hemp sales, according to Jon
Devine, senior economist at Cotton
Inc. " Lack of downstream supply chain
and import issues may influence the
hemp sector, " Devine adds.
Given that hemp sales to the apparel
segment are miniscule, what influences
cultivation? Being a sustainable fiber
and opportunities in industrial markets
will enable it to be an alternative fiber
to synthetics, provided its performance
characteristics are suitable. But the
industry is new, and as such it offers
enormous opportunity to research and
explore new applications and markets.
Seshardri Ramkumar, Ph.D., is a professor
at Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas.

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Specialty Fabrics Review March 2021

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