Around the world in 60 minutes
W. L. Gore, a long-standing PCIAW® Trusted Member and pioneer for high-performance barrier fabrics, has for the first time in its history opened its curtains for a behind-the-scenes, digital exploration of 20 GORE-TEX laboratories, offering 360° panoramic views for over 100 different testing stations.
As the pandemic prevented physically visiting the GORE-TEX labs, Gore has leaped into the digital era to offer virtual accessibility to all, reaching far beyond what was previously achievable.
A scientific approach to product development
GORE-TEX’s scientific approach to engineering durable, breathable and protective fabrics throughout decades of vigorous research and development has consolidated its position as the market leader. The company-owned laboratories test Gore’s membranes, laminates and seam sealing tapes throughout the product development process, in addition to the later stages of manufacturing and quality assurance. Gore’s robust testing regimes ensures that a product will last for the maximum amount of time, whilst performing as effectively on the first day as it does on the last.
PCIAW® had the honour of a personally guided virtual tour as we digitally spanned the globe, navigating GORE-TEX’s collection of state-of-the-art scientific testing facilities, led by Jonas Andersson, GORE-TEX Fabrics Division, Workwear Business Unit and Oli Wilson, GORE-TEX Professional Footwear, Emergency Services & Workwear.
Elevating garments to the next level
The world-renowned brand works in collaboration with its trade mark licensee partners which are integral in the design and manufacturing process. Jonas Anderson, GORE-TEX Fabrics Division, Workwear Business Unit commented: “Our trade mark licensee partners visit our labs with their designs, where Gore works consultatively to bring their creations to the next level. We invested heavily in how a waterproof garment is built; it is not about how our fabric performs on the roll, but how the fabric performs as a garment. Our brand is all about what people experience when they wear a product equipped with GORE-TEX technology”.
An interactive digital tour
The first stop of the interactive digital tour teleported PCIAW® to the Garment Centre laboratory, located in Putzbrunn, south of Munich, Germany. At first glance, we see an array of Hi-Visibility workwear and a selection of sewing machines located in a well-lit white room. With a click and twist of the computer mouse, we can browse the entire room and zoom-in on the products as though we are really there. Icons appear around the laboratory rooms, signifying a point of interest, featuring videos and information for a complete, immersive experience.
Unparalleled insights for design and quality assurance
The GORE-TEX labs lay at the heart of the company’s scientific approach to innovating on their product ranges. Whilst Gore certifies its products externally, the company-owned labs offer unparalleled insights through its design and quality assurance processes, aiding their research and development teams to continually innovate and improve. Jonas commented: “When you consider the demands for workwear, especially for the emergency services whose safety depends on the reliability of the garments, it is imperative that we can prove that the product will perform as intended. We need to understand how durable the product is and what its life span is”.
The highlight of the interactive, virtual tour for PCIAW® was the Rain Tower test. Developed by W. L. Gore in the 1980’s in conjunction with the Met Office, the Rain Tower simulates a real-life experience of end-users in outdoor environments. The tanks release water in a controlled way, mimicking the size, velocity and frequency of rain drops. Since the Gore Rain Tower’s conception, a similar version has now become a European norm, EN14360, as a non-compulsory version of EN343. Gore’s own testing goes one step further for its own workwear standard GPST2 with side nozzles replicating wind-driven rain to ensure impenetrability from all sides.
Testing for comfort and functionality
In a matter of seconds, PCIAW® lands in Delaware, U.S, entering the Biophysics Lab to discover how GORE-TEX ensures comfort and functionality. The Environment Chamber puts the garment to the test with extreme temperature variations from -20 to +45 degrees, factoring-in humidity, solar radiation and wind. GORE-TEX delves into the physiological interaction between person and clothing with human testing replicating the activity levels likely to be experienced by the end-users. GORE-TEX products are highly waterproof; of equal importance is the breathability aspect to ensure comfort for end-users working in hazardous environments.
Oli Wilson, GORE-TEX Professional Footwear, Emergency Services & Workwear, finished the virtual journey back in Germany in Feldkirchen-Westerham, Bavaria to guide us through two Footwear Labs. In Footwear Lab 1, Gore’s Bottle Test ensures only the high-grade outer-layer fabrics with a water permeability of >5mg/cm2/h see application on GORE-TEX products, six times higher than current standard requirements. The GORE-TEX philosophy is to surpass expectations and regulatory standards. The company-owned labs facilitate testing to deliver products to match their ambition. Footwear Lab 2 tests the full boot construction, Gore licensee partners submit boots for testing from every batch they manufacture to ensure the GORE-TEX standards are continually upheld.
Oli explained that the GORE-TEX laboratories operate in the same way as independent labs. By the time a new product is tested by an independent lab for accreditation, Gore is close to certain of it passing due to their own rigorous testing in the development stage. He went on to say, “A lot of what you are trying to do in a lab is to try and break down the material. If you can break it down faster and find a correlation to real life circumstances, you can run more tests in a shorter space of time. The faster you test, the faster you can innovate”.
PCIAW®’s virtual guided tour
This immersive tour offered PCIAW® the chance to see first-hand the scientific testing which rigorously takes place on a daily basis in the GORE-TEX labs. In a year of unprecedented social restrictions during a global pandemic, Gore has innovated to overcome the obstacles and has succeeded in substituting a physical visit with a digital version which genuinely offers an experience to remember.
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