The combination of strong design competence and cutting-edge
cellulose-based technologies could soon result in new commercially successful
brands. VTT, Aalto University and Tampere University of Technology have launched
an extensive cellulose-based design product research project aiming to create
new business models and commercial ecosystems in Finland.
The joint research project is called Design Driven Value Chains in the World
of Cellulose (DWoC). The objective is to develop cellulose-based products
suitable for technical textiles and consumer products. The technology could also
find use in the pharmaceutical, food and automotive industries. Another
objective is to build a new business ecosystem and promote spin-offs.
The project combines Finnish design competence with cutting-edge
technological development, and makes use of the special characteristics of
cellulose to create products that incorporate the best qualities of materials
such as cotton and polyester. Product characteristics, achieved by using new
manufacturing technologies and nanocellulose as a structural fibre element,
include recyclability and one-off production.
VTT has developed an industrial process that produces yarn from cellulose
fibres without the spinning process, as well as efficient applications of the
foam forming method for manufacturing materials that resemble fabric. A future
combination of these methods will enable the efficient production of individual
fibre structures and textile products, even with 3D printing.
Projects are currently under way with the objective of replacing wet spinning
with extrusion technology. The purpose is to develop fabric manufacturing
methods that replace several stages of weaving and knitting without losing key
characteristics, such as the way the textile hangs.
The current share of textile industry raw material taken by regenerated
cellulose fibres is a meagre six per cent. By regenerating Finland's current
logging surplus (25–30 million cubic metres/year) into fibre, equating to
approximately 5–6 million tons, it would be possible to replace 20% of the
world's cotton. A corresponding fall in cotton production would reduce carbon
dioxide emissions by 120–150 million tons, and free farming land to grow enough
food to feed 18–25 million people. Desertification would also be decreased by
approximately 10 per cent.