The Faculty of Science and Engineering opened its doors at the Sackville Street Building so that technical staff from across the three faculties could see some of what goes on within a component of the School of Materials. This well attended Workplace Tour offered an opportunity to learn about the diverse and sophisticated industry of textiles, observing industrial scale sewing, weaving, knitting, dyeing and fabric printing equipment. These facilities are used to develop sound technical knowledge and an understanding of all the processes involved in the manufacturing of fabrics and development of fashion products. This tour looked at the facilities as well as the technical roles within the School who assist students and researchers understand the fundamental principles of materials and the manufacturing processes. Everyone enjoyed meeting with each of the technical staff as they walked us through the environment they work in.
First stop was the Spinning Laboratory where Peter Moroz explained how they prepare/process the raw materials to produce the different types of thread, and demonstrate the various types of machinery that can be used in the process. This then lead to the Weaving Laboratory where Mark Chadwick introduced 17 commercial looms and associated preparation equipment. In this area students and researchers come to understand the craft of fabric manufacture.
Laura-Ann Kavanagh is a relatively new member of the technical team, and she walked us through the Knitting Laboratory. There were around 18 commercial systems in the room that included flatbed, circular and warp technology for producing garments. This accompanies the hand knitted range as well, with plenty of examples of garments and other items produced available to view.
There was a lot of interest in the room that housed both the Laser Cutting and Digital Print Workshops. David Kenyon was able to show the range of Digital Print Technology and Computer Aided Design (CAD) Print Systems, as well as the laser cutter.
Hannah Rampley greeted us in the Dye House and talked us through a vital component of the industry – the ability to engineer the chemistry and colouration palette. The research being conducted is primarily involved with the synthesis, application, performance and measurement of novel coloured and colourless molecules. There is an emphasis on improving on conventional technology by developing ways of doing things better, quicker, cheaper and with decreased environmental impact.
We were introduced to the idea that if you are going to go into the field of Fashion Business you need to understand how the garments are produced. Fiona Colton showed us everything the Sewing Laboratory had to offer, where students are taught the basics of sewing, different types of stitches, and how to put a garment together. All of this helping them to identify what makes the difference between a quality product and a cheaper product.
It is clear that the School of Materials has gone through a technological regeneration. This makes for an evolving work place for the technical staff, passing on experience with conventional techniques and helping develop applications with new technologies.
Many thanks to Mark Chadwick and his team for hosting this tour.
Cassandra Hodgkinson (Technical Operations Manager)