The goal of the project was to explore the opportunities offered, by nanotechnologies, to the textile industry, and of the innovations in process plants and industrial organization which are needed to take full advantage of these opportunities. Consistently with the main focus of ASP projects, and with the initial lack of a specific industrial demand, a significant fraction of the work was devoted to ‘problem setting’: if a fruitful encounter was sought, an awareness of the peculiar characters of nanotechnologies on one side, and of textile industry on the other side, was needed.
The interdisciplinary team composition, including industrial expertise as well as management, materials and design, was appropriate to this task.
Information was gathered by various means with a broad scope, and showed a highly diversified scenario. ‘Nanotechnology’ turned out to be the fashionable collective name for a wide variety of technical endeavors, which range from imaginative proposals to technologies whose feasibility is being demonstrated, and to improvements of existing technologies in search of better selling names. ‘Textile’ is another collective name for a wide variety of products, ranging from ordinary clothing for which production cost is the crucial issue, to high quality fashion clothing which sees an interplay of technical performance and aesthetical appearance, and to technical fabrics for which technical performance has the crucial role. Producers range from mass producers of intermediate products, to highly specialized producers who found a niche for a specific end-product. The ability to promote and sustain innovation also sees great differences: a few firms simultaneously have the size that makes them able to undertake a development effort, and the market stability which allows it to assess its outcome over a time scale of years. At the other extreme, a great number of small producers lack the size and the technical infrastructure needed to invest in technological developments. At the same time the life cycle of several products is so short that it hampers the innovation of productive processes, because it needs a very short time-to-market and it does not justify the investment for new equipment. Compatibility with existing production plants and processes thus becomes a crucial issue. Once an awareness of the general picture was achieved, the two teams focused on two specific examples of the introduction of nanotechnologies. One team, in close interaction with the Pontoglio firm, explored the introduction in the production process of velvet of nanotechnological products, able to confer specific properties to the velvet, and still satisfying the constraint of compatibility with present production lines. The other team, without a specific industrial interaction, developed an innovative design of a product, a glove for winter sports, in which nanotechnologies were exploited to achieve better performance than those currently available. The new design captured the interest of Hydra Information Technology, an Australian Venture Capital Company, in contact with Fondazione Politecnico.
Principal Academic Tutors
Nuclear Engineering, Politecnico di Milano
Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering, Politecnico di Milano
Physics, Politecnico di Torino
Fondazione Politecnico di Milano
Fondazione Politecnico di Milano
Simone Sala [Team controller], Materials Engineering
Kun Fu, Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering
Michele Caramella, Mechanical Engineering
Anna Lottersberger [Project Communication Coordinator], Fashion Design
Dayana Pesando, Mathematical modelling in Engineering
Giacomo Vigorelli [Team controller], Management
Zhiqiang Zhao, Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering
Francesca Iacono, Mathematical modelling in Engineering
Giovanni Meola, Mechanical Engineering (Plants and Production)
Irene Roghi, Fashion Design
Michele Santoro, Computer Engineering