|Demand for hemp is now increasing after
150 years of decline. Producers in China are the main suppliers of
this material to the EU textiles industry, but quality is variable
and deliveries are irregular.
New production methods are needed, and this
project has been investigating ways of replacing the natural steeping
process with controlled, repetitive industrial enzymatic retting.
The partners have found that hemp fibres can be opened and refined
by a carding machine. This provides spinners downstream of the thread
carrier with a regular supply of homogeneous high quality material.
The project is part of a strategy for
offering the public a wider variety of textiles products. The interest
of the new carding machine lies not just in its commercial viability
due to improved product quality, but also in the potential for increased
production efficiency. It will permit, for example, the use of dead
plants for retting purposes. Potential customers have been identified
as far afield as the USA.