“We have successfully developed the world’s first non-woven microfibre suede made from partially plant-based polyester, using non-edible plants,” says Katsuhiko Ando, section manager, setting out the Toray Group’s environmental aims for the coming years.
“With this newest ultrasuede® technology, Toray will keep moving ahead towards building a carbon-neutral society.” For Toray’s ultrasuede® portfolio, this means developing its microfibres to increase their plant-based polyester content, currently 30 percent, with 100 percent plant-based textiles targeted.
Already promising a 1kg reduction in greenhouse gas emissions for each kilogram of fabric compared to conventionally-produced ultrasuede®, a 0.47-litre reduction in oil usage per square metre, and a saving of 600 barrels of oil per year for each 4000 vehicles upholstered, Toray – a Tokyo-based chemical industry company with businesses in 25 countries and regions worldwide – is committed to responsible production.
This includes energy- and water-saving, resource recovery and recycling, and importantly, ensuring that the raw biomass materials it sources are waste products that do not have a negative impact on food production or supply.
Creating more responsibly-manufactured textiles is crucial, as automotive OEMs must seek to reduce the well-to-wheel and whole-lifecycle environmental impact of the vehicles they produce, including end-of-life recyclability and even second-life applications. And Toray’s ultrasuede® production not only involves pre-consumer waste materials: its advanced feedstock recycling technology enables reductions in energy consumption.
Lightweight, supple, breathable and strong, ultrasuede® is immensely versatile and is applied in the fashion, furniture and accessories industries as well as in automotive interiors, where it is easily adapted for seats, door trims, overhead systems, headlining, instrument panels and other tactile surfaces.
Cross-sector collaborations inform both the process technologies and the treatments made possible, such as laser-cutting, embossing or printing, with trends monitored by Toray’s research and development team. “We’re always developing new collections for the newest seasons of the fashion market,” says Ikuko Okura, design coordinator.
“Since ultrasuede® is used for various applications, we’re applying our fashion design essence to other markets and industries, including automotive interiors. A lot of famous brands are starting to use our materials, because of the variety of our products and processes. We hope we can continue to satisfy many designers in different industries with our ultrasuede®.”