The Institute of Textile Technology and Process Engineering Denkendorf – ITV Denkendorf – is Germany’s largest and oldest textile research centre. Research is carried out in specialised laboratories and technical centres, covering the entire range of textiles from raw materials to the final product, both in basic as well as applied research.
The roots of the ITV Denkendorf, the largest German research centre of its kind, go back to a small weaving school that was established in Reutlingen in 1855.
40 years later, the weaving school established a spun rayon educational spinnery in the city of Denkendorf close to Reutlingen, which was expanded over the years and in 1979, as a result of the merger of several institutes including the ITV, became the research centre of industrial cooperative research - DITF - German Institutes for Textile and Fibre Research. The ITV has a research and production area of 15,000 m2, 200 staff, owns 450 patents and carries out about 600 industrial consultations per year. Research is also carried out in cooperation with other institutions, in particular the University of Stuttgart with whom the ITV has close ties, but also with other national and international universities and industrial concerns.
The ITV carries out research and development on behalf of companies and public authorities. In addition, it also offers services in testing laboratories or in pilot plants. The ITV's associated Produktservice GmbH deals with the transfer of technologies in the area of medical textiles and biomaterials. The ITV's textile know-how is divided into six business areas with a total of 29 research areas, where the entire range of activities of the textile production chain is covered.
Researchers from the "Department of Fibre and Yarn Technologies" focus on the 1st stage of textile production, including the development of new polymers and fibres for medical applications, but also the production and processing of fibres, the finishing of yarn or the use of renewable materials. The "Biomedical Technology" department focuses on special nerve guidance channels made of innovative polymers, which, when pulled over the ends of torn nerves, help them grow together again. Like all absorbable polymers developed at the ITV, these channels dissolve after a certain time. "The nerve guidance channels are currently being prepared for clinical tests," said Dr. Michael Doser, Head of Biomedical Technology at the ITV. "We know that many people are eagerly awaiting further developments. I am sure that in the long run these nerve guidance channels will become an integral part of everyday application."
Researchers from the "Surface and Structure Technologies" department focus on the next step in the production chain leading to planar textile materials. This work involves the optimisation of traditional techniques as well as the development of new techniques to create fabrics with special functions as well as technical textiles. Besides basic research, the new materials are already being produced in small series. The next step will involve the testing of how functional elements can be integrated into fibres and textiles. Of great interest in these developments are renewable materials such as plant fibres, biopolymers and matrix systems in fibre composites (polylactide, chitosan). Researchers from the "Functionalisation" department are to a growing extent using bionics principles, i.e., natural constructions for technical products: for example, they have already created a technical blade of grass from fibre composites, which is both light and stable. They have also developed textiles for swimsuits that do not get wet based on the principle used by fishing spiders (Ancylometes bogotensis). "The technical blade of grass can be used for a broad range of lightweight constructions, for example in aeroplanes, cars or building construction," said Dr. Thomas Stegmaier, Head of the Technical Textile Competence Centre at the ITV. The researchers have also developed a transparent, flexible insulating material based on natural principles: Modelled on polar bear fur, the researchers have come up with a material that can be used to cover sun collectors. "This product is already being commercialised. Serial production has recently been started by our industrial partner SolarEnergie Stefanakis," said Thomas Stegmaier. For its success in bionics research, the ITV was selected as one of the winning institutes in the German government's "365 Landmarks in the Land of Ideas" competition.
The ITV not only looks at the product itself, but is also interested in the creation of value in the production process. Research focuses on the rationalisation and automation of processes or environmental technologies. This is of great importance considering that the textile industry is regarded as the sector with the highest degree of automation. Therefore, such innovations are an important prerequisite for the ability to stay competitive – both at home and abroad.