Micro factories - new project for smarter textile production

Article · 2020-08-31

In the textile and fashion industry, a large amount of products are overproduced, which leads to unnecessary emissions of chemicals and resource consumption in terms of, for example, water and electricity. The newly started project Mikrofabriker will make visible and remove waste in the value chain.

The purpose of the Mikrofabriker project is to explore the potential for automation and digitization in the textile and fashion industry and at the same time generate a number of concrete business cases. Automation Region runs the project together with Smart Textiles at Science Park Borås.

In January, Automation Region visited Smart Textiles in Borås. Jonas Larsson and Erik Valvring showed around and gave a background to the challenges and opportunities in the Swedish textile and fashion industry.

– The goal is to develop technology and manufacturing processes for circular and sustainable flows and make them available to more actors, says Elin Asplund, project manager at Automation Region. For three years, we will develop automation solutions and create good examples to strengthen the Swedish textile and fashion industry.

– It would be fantastic if we could achieve a profitable Swedish textile production with the help of new technical solutions, says Erik Valvring, project manager at Science Park Borås.

The project will, among other things, investigate how new automation solutions and better information management can streamline production, increase flexibility towards end customers and at the same time strengthen transparency and sustainability throughout the value chain. The project focuses on three areas:

  • Demonstrate a value chain for knitted products where highly automated manufacturing processes can enable local production.
  • Create transparent and traceable value chains through information gathering and digital solutions.
  • Develop concepts for "zero-waste" and production "on demand" in cutting and joining processes to reduce material waste and overproduction.
Workshop and kickoff for the project in Smart Textiles' premises on 26 August. Photo: Vasilios Batziokas.

– Digitized information management in production has the potential to provide more secure traceability and better transparency, says Jonas Larsson, researcher and process manager at Science Park Borås. This can be, for example, using sensors in the production flow or technology that stores information in a garment. These types of solutions can provide major sustainability gains and new business opportunities linked to recycling.

– Another important part is to develop concepts for shorter lead times and smaller batches so that the production volume can be adapted to demand, says Elin Asplund.

At Science Park Borås, there is a great deal of knowledge in textile production, based on Borås' history as a "textile city" with several leading textile companies and extensive education and research at the University of Borås. The project is also geared up by Circular Hub and Textile and Fashion 2030, two sustainability projects focusing on business models for circular economy at Science Park Borås. Automation Region and a number of automation companies contribute with expertise in areas such as innovation management, automation processes, flexible manufacturing units, system integration, additive manufacturing, AI and sensor systems.

– The collaboration with Automation Region and the companies adds expertise and perspectives on production that we have previously lacked, says Jonas Larsson. Along with our knowledge of the textile processes, we have good conditions to develop interesting solutions.

The three-year project started with a workshop in Borås on August 26th. Contact Elin Asplund if you are interested in participating in the project or want to take part of the results.