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11 / 11 / 2020
Smartex innovates with Lenzing, developing the first automated inspection system for circular knitting machines thus eliminating textile waste from manufacturing process
11 / 11 / 2020
Smartex innovates with Lenzing, developing the first automated inspection system for circular knitting machines thus eliminating textile waste from manufacturing process

At Lenzing, we are constantly striving towards a sustainable future. Not only do we actively invent new technologies to combat waste internally, but also provide support and resources to likeminded partners in hopes for the textile industry to achieve environmentally responsible processes throughout the supply chain. We are always excited to partner with businesses who want to make a difference and share the same vision. Our recent partnership with Smartex, a behind-the-manufacturing-scene company, is another great example of driving impactful change through collaborative technological innovation.

Founded in 2018, Smartex came to fruition after its founders identified a major problem in defective productions in textiles, particularly in circular knitting machines. The founders realized a majority of waste was produced during the production stage that negatively affected company margins, retail prices, and the environment. In the past, the only solution was to conduct inspections in-person after manufacturing where there’s already fabric wastage. Thus, Smartex came onto the scene with a pioneering idea: to develop a fabric defects detecting device that eliminates textile waste during the manufacturing process.

Armed with innovation, Smartex approached Lenzing in February 2019 and thus sparking the beginning of a rewarding collaboration. Lenzing, impressed by the great willingness, supported their idea by providing necessary resources for further Smartex developments.

“When Smartex approached us with genuine passion to reform the outdated practices of the textile industry, we connected instantly,” said Rex Mok, Vice President of Global Technical Marketing Development at Lenzing. “Fabric wastage had always been unavoidable during production, but with Smartex’s revolutionary invention, we will be able to precisely detect any defects to reduce environmental pollution, which perfectly aligns with Lenzing’s sustainable values.”

Founding members of the Smartex team arrived at the Lenzing Application Innovation Center (AIC) in Hong Kong to utilize Lenzing’s machineries, textiles, and technical knowledge to implement a system of cameras and technologies that can be installed in circular knitting machines to accomplish real-time fabric defect inspections. After extensive R&D and introduction to the market, Smartex successfully commercialized this technology at the end of 2019 to reach the first group of customers. The system is able to create a roadmap of possible types and coordinates of defects, and offer insights about the efficiency of machines and percentage of defective production.

In early 2020, Smartex tested the system for 70-days straight and garnered monumental results. Per month, the Smartex system saved €930 in raw materials, 22 hours of production time, 21,613 liters of water, and reduced 228kg of CO2 emissions. Moreover, Smartex contacted various brands, such as PVH Corp., Li & Fung, and Hong Kong Productivity Council (HKPC), that could validate the system and potentially implement this device into their internal manufacturing systems.

“It’s not about recycling or reuse. It’s about avoiding textile waste,” said Smartex co-founder Gilberto Loureiro. “We are extremely thankful to Lenzing for lending us their facilities to conduct demonstrations, improve our product, and present this project to major companies. None of this would have been possible without the amazing team at Lenzing.”

Currently, Smartex operates in the United States, Portugal and China with investments from Fashion for Good, a platform for sustainable innovation supported by major consumer brands such as Chanel, Adidas, and Gucci. It has also been selected by Forbes for the “30 Under 30 list of entrepreneurs” in 2020. This innovation reduces the need to waste raw materials, water, energy, and time to fix defective textiles, and thus, epitomizes everything Lenzing is working towards. By collaborating with more likeminded partners like Smartex, Lenzing hopes to further advocate for eco-conscious production processes and strengthen the textile community’s commitment to sustainability.

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