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Web Exclusive | November 2017

Foam dyeing for denim gives better results

A demonstration of a key innovation in foam dyeing of yarn for denim was held recently at the Texas Tech University Fiber and Biopolymer Research Institute in Lubbock, Texas, USA. The event was hosted by Indigo Mill Designs (IMD), with the company commercialising this technology under its IndigoZERO™ brand. Representatives from across the apparel industry and numerous denim manufacturers were on hand for the event, along with early stage funders Wrangler, Lee, and the Walmart Foundation.

“Early in our research, we found that foam dyeing of yarn for denim gives significantly better results when combined with our IndigoZERO™ technology. Zero rinse water discharge and the reduction of chemicals used in dyeing indigo dramatically improve the sustainability of this process while reducing costs at the same time,” said Ralph Tharpe, Founder and Managing Partner of Indigo Mill Designs. IMD, along with Gaston Systems Inc, will work with early adopters of the technology to build machines capable of running this innovative new process.

Gaston’s proprietary foam generation and application technology was built into the research machine at Texas Tech. “Now we must work to scale the research machine design to a full-size production unit. Our relationship with IMD will result in a fundamental change in the way indigo is applied to yarn,” said Chris Aurich, Managing Director of Gaston Systems. “A large fabric mill uses millions of gallons of water every day to dye denim,” explains Dr Sudhakar Puvvada who leads denim innovation work for Wrangler and Lee’s Global Innovation Center, and has served as an advisor to IMD. “IMD’s innovation can greatly reduce that amount and cut the energy needed for dyeing and wastewater treatment.”

IMD’s foam-dyeing process also will allow fabric mills to produce much smaller quantities, when desired, than with conventional processes. In addition to reducing waste, smaller fabric runs will allow for greater design and marketing flexibility in the denim industry. “The reduction in water required for dyeing is dramatic and processing costs will be reduced. Additionally, the IndigoZERO™ system speeds up product development time, perhaps reducing it by as much as 90 per cent,” said Dean Ethridge, lead researcher at Texas Tech. “We’re grateful for the investment and technical contributions of Wrangler and Lee, along with the research funding from the US Manufacturing Innovation Fund in helping to make this innovation commercially possible.”

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