Production of fine fabrics in Hard
The experiences of Willy Hermann with using the HKS 2-3 in a gauge of E 50
Willy Herman operates a large weft knitting plant with roughly 210 machines and a small but perfectly formed warp knitting section. With these production facilities, this manufacturer is catering for an exclusive niche market - the production of knitted fabrics in a gauge of E 44 and finer. Machines having up to 80 needles per inch are used to produce its SUPERFINE weft-knitted fabrics. The HKS 2-3 in a gauge of E 50 is used in its warp knitting department. This is a high-speed tricot machine with the finest needle spacing in the world. Willy Hermann is a pioneer in producing extremely fine warp- and weft-knitted fabrics. "We are the biggest producers of fine knits. We are setting the standard and pushing the boundaries even further," explained Hannes Hermann, Production Engineer Sales, R&D.
SUPERFINE - a lucrative niche
Willy Hermann's SUPERFINE fabrics (Fig. 1) are super-smooth and the knitted construction is virtually undetectable to the naked eye. These lightweight fabrics may also have bodyshaping characteristics. The products produced in Hard are classified in accordance with INVISTA's LYCRA® beauty concept. They have a high elastic recovery, are comfortable and are not bulky - a profile which means that these exclusive fabrics are increasingly taking over from conventional foundation garments, which feel like "scaffolding" when worn. "Lingerie just has to be super-fine," says Hannes Hermann when commenting on this trend. China in particular is demanding superfine fabrics as reimported, ready-made articles and to cope with domestic demand there. But Europe is also an important market for Willy Hermann.
The yarn combinations, finishing techniques and stretch properties can all be adjusted to cater for the continuing demand for fine-gauge fabrics in stylish collections. The company's own design and pattern department is responsible for producing a wide range of designs (Figs. 2 + 3) bearing the firm's hallmark. Close cooperation with the finishing company, comprehensive fabric inspection, and an in-house laboratory also guarantee that high-end fabrics are produced. As well as being fine and stylish, Willy Hermann's textiles are also environmentally friendly. All the company's products are certified in accordance with the Öko-Tex® Standard 100. This label is an important factor for the market, since 80% of all the company's knitted fabrics are used in lingerie, which is worn next to the skin. The company's products are also used in swimwear, sportswear, outerwear and casual wear.
The production of E-50-gauge fabrics - easier than it sounds
Willy Hermann's warp-knitting department currently houses 16 machines, most of which are in KARL MAYER's RSJ and HKS series. The key machine is the HKS 2-3 with a gauge of E 50 (Fig. 4).
This high-speed tricot machine was delivered in the middle of 2012 and went into operation shortly afterwards. "In view of the experiences that our workers have had with superfine weft knitting machines, they approached this new machine with great respect," explained Hannes Hermann. However, they were quickly impressed by the smooth, almost fault-free running of this new machine and were soon filled with enthusiasm. "The HKS is a top-quality, reliable machine," stressed this experienced production engineer. Particularly important is the fact that the machine is fitted with carbon-fibre-reinforced components, which has extended the temperature window and guaranteed trouble-free running. Finishing the superfine fabrics also proved to be easier than expected - in fact, almost child's play when compared to processing E-50-gauge weft-knitted fabrics. "Every pattern is a 'precision landing'," said Hannes Hermann in conclusion.
Warp versus weft knitting - same fineness, different results
Generally speaking, an E-50-gauge warp-knitted fabric looks finer than a weft-knitted fabric produced in the same gauge - but this difference can usually only be detected by experts. It has been suggested that the reason for this slight difference is the higher contraction of the wales in the warp-knitted construction.
However, the differences in processing are more surprising than the differences in the appearance. In this case, the warp-knitted textiles are much easier to both produce and finish. A comparison of the productivity rates also shows that the warp knitting technology is more efficient. When comparing the productivity of the HKS 2-3 in a gauge of E 50 with a circular weft knitting machine of the same gauge, the high-speed tricot machine, with a speed of 3,200 min-1 and an output of 46 m2/h, clearly stands out. At a maximum speed of 1,920 min-1, the weft knitting machine produces 19 m2 of fabric per hour.
The market develops a taste for new fabrics and new possibilities
The Interfilière show in Paris is one of the most important platforms for presenting the E-50-gauge warp-knitted fabrics produced by Willy Hermann. The first collection was exhibited one year ago - but with only moderate success, as Hannes Hermann explained. At this year's show, the company exhibited a broader range of fabrics and was delighted to get excellent feedback. "Asian textile companies were particularly enthusiastic about our collection and are also willing to pay a higher price for such exclusive fabrics," said the grandson of the company's founder with some satisfaction.
The warp-knitted fabrics being exhibited by Willy Hermann weigh between 90 and 160 g/m2, guarantee freecut processing, i.e. making-up without having to process the selvedges, and are extremely soft. The fabric handle is determined mainly by the yarn run-in and the gauge. The results of a project, which is currently underway with the Modeschule Hallein (Hallein Fashion School) to study the design possibilities offered by these extremely fine knitted fabrics, should increase awareness of these fabrics on the market.
E 40 and E 50 - and even finer?
With the HKS 2-3, E 50, Willy Hermann is currently well placed on the market for superfine knitted fabrics. "The world of warp-knitted fabrics does not need anything finer at the moment, since the differences at these fine needle gauges are almost invisible to the naked eye," explained Hannes Hermann when speaking about the future direction of the company. Rather, the company intends to press on with new textile developments in the lingerie and clothing sectors using its existing facilities and aims to create another string to its bow in the form of technical textiles. An important step towards achieving its goal was its participation in Techtextil 2013 in Frankfurt.
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