Israeli start-up aiming to create digital revolution for textile industry

Driven by issues of sustainability and fabric waste, Israeli digital dyeing start-up Twine Solutions is aiming to transform the mammoth global textile industry.

An estimated 17% to 20% of global industrial water pollution results from dyeing and treating fabrics, with toxins from many of the8,000 synthetic chemicals used for clothing contaminating the world’s vital waterways.

Global fibre and fabric production, with notable contributions from the Asia-Pacific region and notably textile powerhouse China and the Asia-Pacific region, use as much as 200 tons of water to dye just one ton of fabric for the apparel industry – this amount is only enough to produce 1,400 pieces of clothing.

Twine Solutions wants to transform the mammoth textile industry at its very core: the thread.

To date, the company says there has been no such concept as ‘digital dyeing.’. Digital printing and analogue dyeing are well established within the industry, Twine is the first company across the globe to develop technology capable of digitally dyeing threads and penetrating into the fibre itself to give clothing manufacturers the quality they need.

‘The textile industry is the second-largest in the world, but is far behind much smaller industries when it comes to digital technology,’ Twine vice president of product and marketing Yariv Bustan told the Jerusalem Post. ‘Graphic art is very advanced and textiles is about 15 years behind. We need to bring digital technology into this industry.’

The Petah Tikva based company, co-founded by identical twin brothers Alon and Erez Moshe, offers the clothing industry two digital solutions to increase efficiency, boost sustainability and even enable improved personalisation garments.

The machine used only requires a standard electricity source and ink bought from the company. Unlike existing methods of fabric dyeing, which can cause pollution, Twine’s machine does not use water and can produce threads for knitting, embroidery and sewing.

The ability to digitally dye according to customer needs means the system can cut down on the huge quantities of textile waste produced through the supply chain. In the U.S. alone, an estimated 12.7 million tons of textile waste is annually sent to landfills.

‘Dyeing is a long and complicated process that is done in huge vats and since you dye only one colour at a time – and a lot of it – it forces the entire supply chain to demand large minimum order quantities,’ said Bustan. ‘You need to buy a lot of thread and store it. Even if you need a small amount, you have to buy a lot. Eventually, you’ll throw away 20% to 60% of the order.’

The second digital solution is the company’s ‘SnapMatch’ dye-to-match smartphone application, enabling users to identify colours for fabrics.

Currently, brands seeking to identify a special colour need to send colour samples to the dye house in remote locations and then wait for a manually mixed fabric sample to return. The process can take weeks, sometimes months.

Twine’s application, however, uses an algorithm to identify colours accurately, and immediately dye the thread according to the desired colour to produce a sample.

‘We are changing the supply chain, not just the tactic of how you dye, but also the strategy,’ said Bustan. ‘Instead of a remote dyehouse, we move it all in-house with a light infrastructure. System. We reduce logistics by permitting a virtual inventory and offer a faster time to market. There’s no stock, so there’s no dead stock and waste either.’

Twine also offers a unique capability that doesn’t exist in the analogue dyeing process, Bustan added, with Twine’s digital system enabling single threads to be dyed in different colours.

‘This type of threat cannot be produced with any other technology,’ Bustan said.

Twine’s technology has received a stamp of approval from sustainability groups and leading industry stakeholders, securing investments to the value of approximately $30m to date. Major backers include HP Ventures, Maverick Ventures, New Era Capital Partners and UK-based Coats, one of the largest traditional thread producers worldwide.

Beyond issues of sustainability and waste, a major driver of immediate and small-scaled printing is the increasing demand for personalised apparel. While major brands already offer digitalised personalisation of clothing, Bustan calls the current production process a ‘logistical nightmare’.

Brands would previously develop and produce collections and then sell them in-store, he explains, but today they increasingly sell products online and then run to produce them.

‘We have already changed the way we buy things in a digital manner and now we need to change how we produce the textile in a digital way,’ Bustan said.

By offering millions of different colour combinations without a single pre-dyed spool of thread, Twine’s digital technology enables manufacturers to offer real personalisation to customers seeking unique clothing.

While direct costs of Twine-produced fabrics are marginally more expensive than traditionally produced fabrics, the elimination of waste and associated supply chain costs mean that system users are promised a return on their investment within a short time-frame – as quickly as 18 months to two years.

‘We are targeting to be a corporate company that will change the textile industry from the very basic element of it: starting from the thread,’ said Bustan. ‘This is our advantage and vision because it’s the most basic element. We are going to digitalise the textile industry.’

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