Vijay Kumar

2017-07-03 09:00

This is how traceability in textiles can be integrated

Black and white twisted threads with different dense twists form a pattern in a woven or knitted piece of fabric. This pattern can be used as a traceable tag, and is the prototype done by the doctoral student Vijay Kumar at the Borås University. This tag is more difficult to forge than other types of traceable tags for textiles.

The textile industry is a business that sometimes is accused of having to little transparency in the supply chain, and of having non sustainable operations. With a traceable tag, which is fully integrated in a textile, it would be possible to reach many benefits, both in the textile supply chain, and for the consumers. Since this tag would become a part of the fabric/garment, it would not be possible to remove or replicate in the same way as other tagging of textiles, for instance RFID-markings, QR-codes or patches with bar codes.

Tag that identifies the product

Traceability consists of two parts: an information carrier (tag) and an information system. The tag is used to identify the product in the supply chain, and can also make it easier to recall products, or save data from the information system.

“A couple of advantages with my concept is that it’s made completely of textiles and that it’s only read visually”, says Vijay Kumar. “It will be possible to do the reading with an app in a smart phone, and no special technical equipment will be needed. That it’s not readable electronically from a distance, can also be beneficial from an integrity point of view. As far as I know, my prototype for tagging with yarn is unique world-wide.”

Vijay Kumar is a textile engineer and has also studied Textile Management. He’s had a PhD position, which has been paid for by the  ”Erasmus Mundus Joint Doctorate programme: Sustainable Management and Design for Textile",  and has been divided between three different universities: The Swedish School of Textiles at the University of Borås in Sweden, Lille 1 University in France, and Soochow University in China.

Information carrier

His aim with the research has been to investigate the possibilities to integrate an information carrying tag in the fabric/garment.

“One of my supervisors suggested that the tag in some way should be connected to the yarn”, he says. “At first I tried to use conductive yarn, but I thought it would not work very well, since it was made of a different material. Then, I was inspired by bar codes, and got the idea to arrange the information in same the way as the appearance of the yarn.”

By using at least two different colours, for instance black and white, for the threads that are twisted together to a yarn, it’s possible to make varied patterns. The twist can be more or less frequent, and be turned to different angles. And it’s possible to weave or knit any number of threads with twists in different combinations after each other, to create a unique pattern. This is something the producer can do without having to depend on another party.

“Then it’s possible to load the code with whatever information you like. It could be a guarantee to know, that this really is the exact textile from the brand and production that it’s said to be. There can also be a need for traceability for the occasions, when textiles have to be recalled due to some error in the production. Another field of use is to give all the actors in the supply chain an opportunity to keep track on how much is produced and where the delivery is.”

He also mentions that the increasing demands for producers to show that they don’t use child labour, that the staff has good terms, and that the production takes place under environment friendly terms, makes the safe and traceable tagging even more important. Transparency has become a competitive advantage.

Further development

Vijay Kumar has thereby developed a concept for how traceable tags can be integrated in textiles. Now different aspects of the method need to be developed further.

Vijay Kumar has thus developed a concept for how traceable tags can be integrated into textiles.

“Modifications of how the weaving or knitting should be carried out need to be done, and of course methods for using the concept in different types of textiles of different materials and dyings, etcetera. There is also a need for frameworks and rules for the management. In order to make this work as well as possible, development must take place in cooperation with the industry. I hope to work on this in any new project, now that my doctoral dissertation is complete.

Read more

Read the doctoral thesis ”Exploring fully integrated textile tags and information systems for implementing traceability in textile supply chains”.

Main supervisor: Daniel Ekwall, Docent in Logistics.

Text and photo: Lena M Fredriksson