Centre of Excellence reviving the textile industry

A YORKSHIRE-based businessman has helped to create the world’s first three-dimensional weaving machine, which is providing a shot in the arm for the region’s textile industry.

The machine and other innovations were inspected by Business Secretary Vince Cable when he toured the Textile Centre of Excellence in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire yesterday.

The centre has developed new technology with backing from a textile innovation programme which has been funded through the European Regional Development Fund. Afterwards, Mr Cable said that a lot of people mistakenly believed that the Yorkshire textile industry had disappeared.

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He added: “What’s caused it to survive, and what is now really bringing it back again, are specialist products and new technologies. Businesses are beginning to realise making garments in China isn’t necessarily clever, because you’re a long way from your customers and quality may be a problem.

“There are two areas the Government can help, one is technology; by having technology centres around the country. We’ve got one for advanced manufacturing in Rotherham...But the main area is skills, because if, for example, you’re making new worsted cloth suits as a new business you need pretty sophisticated skills.”

He said the Government was supporting a new training model which would channel money straight to the employers.

He added: “I’m speaking at a big conference in London tomorrow, where some of the guys who were involved in textiles in the 1970s and 1980s are wanting to come back (into the UK industry). About 3,000 additional people in Yorkshire have been employed in textiles during the recession, which is amazing.”

The three-dimensional weaving machine can produce 3D ‘pre-forms’ – woven shapes that can be infused with composites or metal to produce lighter, stronger components, for the aerospace and automotive sectors.

The machine has been designed and built by Griffiths Textile Machines, based in Washington, Tyne and Wear and Chris Antich, of Huddersfield-based Antich and Sons. Mr Antich is a textile centre director, who has created the 3D operating system.

During his visit, Mr Cable met Mike Shergold of Jaguar Landrover, who will use the machine to manufacture prototype lightweight suspension components.

The centre has also created an MLSE machine, which processes fabric and fibre to produce low temperature dyeing, waterproofing, fire retardancy and anti-microbial properties. The technology was developed in Detroit by a supplier to General Motors. The inventor, Pravin Mistry, has moved from Detroit to Huddersfield, where he has established a business at the centre.

Bill Macbeth, the managing director of the Textile Centre of Excellence, said: “In the last month, we have had serious conversations with four firms who potentially could be relocating back to West Yorkshire from places like China, India, Egypt and Turkey. The rationale for manufacturing offshore is reducing. We need to do a lot more work to make sure we have got the skilled people here to take advantage of this.”

The Huddersfield and District Textile Training Company (HDTT) was established in 1976 to support the local textile industry. In 1999 the company established the Textile Centre of Excellence, a £2m development which has 25 staff.