A Day at the Industrial Fabrics Association International

by Madison Maxey, LOOMIA Founder and Chief Innovation Officer

Conferences are a dime a dozen, but the Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI) is one that I think stands out from the crowd. (For those who aren’t familiar, IFAI is a not-for-profit trade association with membership opportunities for interested companies.)

The conference always has something innovative and specific to the host city up its sleeve. For instance, last year’s conference in New Orleans included a good ol’ second line parade. This year’s conference took place in Dallas, and attracted a broad array of “ingredient” vendors.

This year, I gave a talk on LOOMIA’s processes and principles for making e-textiles that can scale. A good crowd turned out and it was exciting to share our language and design rules with the audience.

Other presentations dispensed helpful information on heating, embroidery and printing when it comes to e-textile production methods.

Most people buy clothing and soft goods and don’t think twice about where those materials come from. At IFAI, everyone is thinking about the source of those materials. From the warp knit textile used for your garment, to the plastic grommet detailing used for a pant’s drawstring, IFAI has every piece and part you could imagine.

IFAI also awards grants for innovative work in textiles. This year, awards went to a range of recipients from large groups like Gore-tex for reflective fabric development, to students who worked on e-textile development for Electromyography Garments (pictured at left).

The event merges old and new, industry and academia, and does it all in a space where there’s plenty to touch, source and feel.

So why does LOOMIA make the trek every year to IFAI? Two main reasons:

  1. Electronic Textiles
  2. Material Sourcing

Electronic Textiles

For electronic textiles, IFAI always has breakout sessions and exhibitors from the industry. There is a strong community of electronic textile industry leaders who attend from IPC representatives, to product makers like Lumenus and Volt threads. This year, Volt and Lumenus had an inspiring booth this year that featured Lumenus technology in a Timbuktu backpack.

Another highlight was an excellent talk from Stephanie of Apex Mills. She highlighted the work of groups and resources currently leading the e-textiles industry. She also highlighted recent work out of Drexel and collaborations with AFFOA to advance the e-textiles industry, showing us samples of cap touch knitted swatches that have just two pins

Sourcing

On the sourcing side, IFAI had a large floor full of everything textile-related. I wish people could see how exciting the machinery and materials are in the textile space!

One of my favorite booths was the hot air welding company, Miller Weldmaster (pictured at left.) As you walk by, they’re welding together plastics all day. These plastics can be used to make inflatable items (like an inflatable boat) or waterproof items like welded boots.

IFAI also had a “how it’s made” station showing how a waterproof duffel bag (pictured at left) was developed. From cutting, to grommeting, to welding, the process was shown step-by-step. The machinery used is very different from a classic sewing machine.

Overall, IFAI 2018 was an exciting conference with great sourcing, insightful e-textile talks, and incredible machines for manufacturing fabrics. We are looking forward to returning in 2019!