Textile companies gear up for antiviral fabrics

At a time when financial health is impacted, repurposing units is going to help in sector’s revival

By   |  Published: 28th Jun 2020  12:32 amUpdated: 27th Jun 2020  10:39 pm
Shiva Texyarn, which has received ISO 18184 certification is making masks using antiviral technology for both frontline workers and consumers.

Hyderabad:  As the world faces the Covid-19 crisis, there is an urgent need for antiviral fabrics. Research shows that viruses and bacteria can remain active on textile surfaces for up to two days. Realising this scenario, India’s textile companies have converted the pandemic-induced economic crisis into an opportunity, by coming out with antiviral textiles.

Technical textiles/specialised fabrics are finding their way in the making of masks and personal protection equipment as well as apparels now. This has resulted in several Indian textile companies partnering with overseas antiviral technology companies. Even though this fresh demand may not nullify the Covid impact on the sector, the antiviral fabrics could prove as a saviour in these testing times, giving room for fresh value-added products, says industry.

One of the early entrants in this space has been Coimbatore-based Shiva Texyarn. The company has been working in the technical textiles space, making products for the Armed Forces such as chemical and biological warfare protection suits, and is one among the 5-6 companies which make such products globally. The company also makes high altitude clothing for the Army as well as bags and rucksacks.

Repurposing operations

Dr K S Sundararaman, MD, Shiva Texyarn told Telangana Today, “When Covid hit us, the Central government realised that protective coveralls were not available in India. Shiva Texyarn became one of the earliest companies to start making coveralls in the country. We were among the only few companies, which had both specialised garmenting technology and the fabric to make them. As we were making and supplying coveralls to Hindustan Latex Limited, the nodal body for the Ministry of Health, we further diversified into making masks and started supplying to hospitals and pharmacies. We realised that either there is a N95 mask, which is a highly protective mask, which people are finding difficult to breathe, particularly elderly and children, or there is a cloth mask, which offers no protection.”

He added, “We wanted to look at something that is via media, washable, economic and provides viral protection. We zeroed in on the Swiss HeiQ technology. The chemical has been tested on SARS-Cov2, which is responsible for the current pandemic. Additionally, the technology has the capability to kill the virus in a few minutes. The deactivation period of the technology is the shortest in the market. We are using this technology to make masks. We are different from other textile companies as we combine certain other chemicals with HeiQ technology, with certain repellant capability.”

The company has obtained globally accepted ISO 18184 certification, making it the first in the country to receive it for the antiviral activity.

Value-added products

Dr Sundararaman informed, “In the medical sector, there is a need for surgical scrubs. When we use barrier fabric for coveralls, there is a certain level of discomfort. We are creating a product using antiviral technology to create scrubs that are comfortable for use. In defence, there is an expectation to combine the antiviral technology with rainwear and outerwear, which will allow them to enter into virus-affected areas, if there is an emergency. Besides frontline workers, we also want to cater to the needs of migrant labour. We want to make our products available across India and are also receiving enquiries from the US.”

When asked if the company is looking at any green-field unit, he said, “There are no immediate plans. If there is one place where we are looking beyond Coimbatore, it is Telangana. The State government is very proactive and industry-friendly.”

Technology collaborations

In addition to Shiva Texyarn, HeiQ Materials in association with Taiwanese specialty chemical company Jintex Corporation is introducing its antiviral technology in India with several textile companies including Arvind and RSWM.

According to Kulin Lalbhai, ED, Arvind Limited, “In a very short period of time, we will introduce into the Indian market, fabrics that will provide best-in-class viral protection and are fashionable at the same time, under the brand Intellifabrix.”

RSWM (formerly Rajasthan Spinning & Weaving Mills) has also announced the launch of antiviral fabric range ‘ViroSecure’ with HeiQ technology. The company is targeting 20 per cent of sales in FY21, with its offering available from July 20.

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