Specialty Textile Chemicals: Future To Be Driven by Health, Tech, Sustainability & Functionality
In a conversation with Henry Dsouza of Textile Insights, Arindam Choudhuri, CEO, Fineotex Chemical Ltd; Dr. Christopher Harvey, President, HealthGuard® and Victoria Harvey, CEO & Operations Manager of HealthGuard®, speak about technical textile industry and how their companies are contributing to enhancing textiles.
Can you tell us about the textile chemicals and solutions HealthGuard Corporation Pty. Ltd. offers for the technical textile industry, and how they contribute to enhancing textiles?
Victoria Harvey: HealthGuard Corporation Pty. Ltd. conducts research, development and manufacture of a wide range of biotech solutions for textiles, PU foam, fibers, yarns, faux leather, leather and PVC materials. We provide advanced finishes that are designed to provide the treated article a biotech function, offering properties such as: anti-microbial, anti-viral, anti-dust mite, anti-mosquito, anti-bedbug, and multifunctional features in a single solution.
Can you highlight the flagship products that your company offers for technical textiles?
Dr. Christopher Harvey: HealthGuard® product line, includes both Topical Finishes and Masterbatch solutions. Our specialization in producing Masterbatch solutions is noteworthy, with a heavy investment in state-of-the-art equipment, including underwater die face cutters and machines capable of handling 1000 kg/per hour. We supply Masterbatch solutions that are used globally in polyester, nylon and polypropylene products. HealthGuard® Masterbatch solutions bring a variety of functional finishes to yarns, fibers and non-woven products.
A key advantage of our Masterbatch solution is the commitment to water conservation. For over 25+ years, we’ve focused on minimizing water use and preventing the bio-accumulation of chemicals in synthetic fibers. Our HealthGuard® Masterbatch solution, enables us to incorporate anti-microbial finishes, with broad-spectrum capabilities, along with anti-bed bug, anti-dust mite and anti-mosquito effect. We also provide multifunctional finishes, such as anti-microbial and anti-mosquito treatments for mosquito nets in a single application product. Unlike topical finishes that can wash off, our Masterbatch solutions are an integral part of the fibers chemistry, remaining active as long as the yarn is present.
In addition to our intelligent biotech solutions, we’re launching our ‘LifeStyle Range’ by HealthGuard®, which is distinguished by providing non-biotechnical finishes, with a focus on natural ingredients. The ‘Lifestyle Range’ initial launch will include an all-natural odour reduction treatment called ‘Odour Master’. ‘Odour Master’ does not eliminate the bacteria causing odours; instead, ‘Odour Master’ targets gas which causes the bad odour from microbes. This innovative approach is cost-effective and ideal for sportswear, sports bags, military uniforms, bedding and attire designed for hot, humid climates, such as in India and equatorial countries.
As part of the ‘LifeStyle Range’, we will soon be launching an exciting new Masterbatch product, which is a 100% natural cooling technology incorporated in polypropylene, polyester and nylon. Our Masterbatch cooling technology creates a noticeable temperature difference between treated and untreated articles, making it perfect for sportswear and bedding for hot climates. Athletes will benefit from wearing garments treated with our cooling treatment, as it reduces overheating during physical activities.
Can you provide insights into the current trends within the textile chemical sector in India?
Arindam Choudhuri: Certainly, the textile chemical sector has undergone significant transformation post-Covid. People are now seeking advanced fabrics that offer protection against everyday issues, such as mitigating the spread of germs through textile surfaces. Apparel is an integral part of our lives, with the average Indian using 10 different types of fibers & blended yarns daily, spanning from gym wear to nightwear. Each fiber requires unique treatment and there’s a growing interest in advanced textile materials.
I believe the advanced textile sector is thriving, especially in the realm of athletic wear. India has been reliant on importing fabrics from South-East Asia, but we have the potential to become self-sufficient. With a strong base in polyester manufacturing, we can explore innovations in nylon, polypropylene and acrylic, which garments already being produced in Ludhiana, Delhi NCR and Surat. This segment is witnessing considerable growth, with a focus on attributes like moisture management, quick drying, stain & soil release, anti-odour and, of course, anti-microbial properties.
Additionally, in the realm of classic wear, Indians favor cotton shirts more than anywhere else in the world. The cotton and linen apparel sectors are booming, and in the next 4 to 5 years, ready-made garment (RMG) exports from India are expected to surge, particularly in the cotton sector. Within this cotton domain, I believe the shirting/bottoms industry is poised for significant advancements. We’re seeing developments in soil & stain release, wrinkle-free, anti-microbial, stain-resistant and stain-repellent textiles, especially for trousers.
We are also introducing an innovative concept called “monsoon wear.” This involves highly breathable cotton-linen fabrics with a C-zero water-repellent feature. You can simply use a tissue to wipe off water droplets or mud, thanks to the fabric’s effective water-repellent treatment. Additionally, these fabrics incorporate robust anti-odour and anti-microbial treatments. This ensures comfort from morning to evening, even when the fabric gets wet, as it prevents bacterial odour, mildew and fungal growth.
In addition to these exciting developments, it’s worth noting that numerous new innovations are emerging, offering fresh elements to the industry, often beyond the realm of natural colours, demonstrating the dynamic and ever-evolving nature of the textile sector in India.
Where do you see the specialty textile chemical industry in the next 10-15 years?
Arindam Choudhuri: Well, we’re witnessing a notable shift in consumer awareness and priorities. The increasing education and access to information, particularly through platforms like Google and travel experiences, have led to a growing concern among parents about their children’s health and well-being. Concepts such as anti-microbial, anti-dust mite, anti-bed bug, anti-viral and anti-mosquito solutions have gained prominence and people are becoming more tech-savvy. When we mention a “smart shirt,” they want to know what makes it smart. They enquire about moisture absorption, drying speed, temperature control and energy efficiency with quick drying property. This signifies a shift toward smarter and more functional textiles.
In addition, there’s a significant focus on sustainability. While many are discussing recycled and reusable fibers at levels like 3% or 5%, some of our customers are exploring the possibilities of 100% recyclable cotton fibers. Our chemical expertise allows us to remove any color, add various specialty silicones and finishes and create fibers for mélange textiles.
Our chemical innovations aim to make textiles more breathable and wearable, especially in response to rising global temperatures. Europe, for instance, can experience hotter summer days than Mumbai. Given this shift, the linen industry is thriving in Europe and we’re adapting to meet the changing needs.
In conditions with scorching heat and high humidity, fabrics can easily become damp, leading to odours caused by acidic or alkaline body secretions. This drives the need for anti-odour technologies. Advanced solutions are emerging to address these evolving consumer demands.
The future of the specialty textile chemical industry appears to be driven by a combination of health-consciousness, tech-savviness, sustainability and a desire for more functional textiles.
Can you tell us about the company’s commitment to sustainability and responsible manufacturing practices within the textile chemical industry?
Dr. Christopher Harvey: Sustainability is at the core of our operations. Our factory is a net contributor of solar power to the grid, meaning every product produced by HealthGuard® has zero impact on the electric grid. We generate more electricity from our solar panels than we consume, making our operations environment-friendly. We’re proud to state that our products do not contain any heavy metals or bio-accumulative substances, ensuring there are no residual chemicals for future generations to inherit.
Victoria Harvey: To further reduce our environmental footprint, we employ bulk production strategies. We request forecasts from our customers, allowing us to run bulk productions instead of using pumps and compressors extensively, which further minimizes wastewater production. We have dedicated tanks for specific products to avoid wastewater, whilst employing an EPA-approved drum recycling program that results in re-circulation of drums, reducing the need for new drum manufacture. Additionally, we engage in an IBC swap program with local customers, re-using containers and minimizing wastewater for cleaning.
Arindam Choudhuri: Being a responsible company, we’re dedicated to sustainability. We’re increasing our use of IBCs over drums and we request recycled polyester bags for our powder materials, promoting recyclability. Moreover, we’re introducing concentrate product lines to reduce energy consumption during production and minimize chemical use in our customers’ supply chains. This, in turn, reduces transportation emissions and waste water discharges.
Furthermore, we’re proud to be pioneers in sustainable chemistry. We’ve developed a 100% natural fibre treatment process that eliminates the need for caustic soda, hydrosuphide, Sodium Bi-carbonate and acids, all of which are environmental waste water culprits. By removing these elements from textile processing, we significantly reduce carcinogens and TDS , COD (Chemical Oxygen Demand) levels, contributing to a cleaner environment.
Our commitment to sustainability is reflected in our certifications. We’re Oeko-Tex, ZDHC and Bluesign certified, signifying our dedication to responsible chemical management. We’re also EPA registered for antimicrobial products and hold certifications such as Eco Passport Oeko-Tex, Green Screen from the US CBD, and more. Sustainability is deeply embedded in our DNA.
Can you tell us more about your partnership with Health Guard?
Arindam Choudhuri: HealthGuard® is a critical and essential partner for our company, as we serve as their global marketing partner. HealthGuard® are experts in pioneering leading biotech solutions and our responsibility is to market these solutions effectively. When asked about our best product, I should mention one that competes with American and European manufacturers — is safe, compliant, highly cost-effective, with x100 wash durability whilst maintaining exceptional performance with sustainable chemistry attributes.
We have developed a synergistic chemistry with HealthGuard® treatments that ensures fabrics remain effective after x100 washes. The high durability of functional treatments is very important. Sustainability includes keeping an item in use for a longer period of time, which is why we developed chemistry to support long lasting effect, with high performance. This partnership is about HealthGuard® innovation and our role in identifying its unique selling points and presenting them to the market. Together, our joint venture is making significant progress.
How was the response to Health Guard at Techtextil India 2023, especially considering it was the first time for Health Guard in India? How was the response for Fineotex?
Victoria Harvey: Indeed, the exhibition has provided us with a fantastic opportunity to introduce our established range of HealthGuard® products to India. The response to HealthGuard® at Techtextil India, 2023 was incredibly positive. We were nearly out of brochures on the first day and had to reprint more for the remaining two days. The interest and engagement from clients, prospective clients and attendees were overwhelming. It felt like a massive success, with clients pouring in from day one. Overall, our experience at Techtextil India has been truly enjoyable.