ESA title
Science & Exploration

Tested in a monsoon

10/05/2016 1299 views 16 likes
ESA / Science & Exploration / Human and Robotic Exploration / Couture in orbit

Germany’s SympaTex Technologies, a fabric sponsor for the Ravensbourne and ESMOD Berlin design students, produces fabrics that are waterproof, windproof, ‘breathable’ and fully recyclable. Haymo Strubel, the company’s Director of Apparel, explains:

SympaTex’s patented membrane technology is able to keep its wearer dry, warm and comfortable. Laminated onto the outermost layer of clothing, it allows sweat to escape freely while insulating its wearer from external wet and cold. The company has been around for a while – we’re celebrating our 30th anniversary this year. We were originally spun off from Dutch chemical company AkzoNobel to focus on this technology.

We supply both fashion and high-end performance companies. Some of our most challenging customers would be apparel designers for motorcycling and snowmobiling, because those wearers are riding along in free space but might also hit the ground or graze trees as they go – but they still need to stay waterproof. 

Sympatex Moisture-tech Laminate
Sympatex Moisture-tech Laminate

Similarly, high mountain climbers will need a lot of abrasion resistance while remaining waterproof and windproof the whole time.

The functionality of our laminates should last a long time. We won’t say forever because the outfit might end up getting physically destroyed. But they can certainly be washed at 40°C – some products at 60°C – on a repeated basis.

Some other companies’ smart fabrics are based around very small pores that can easily be blocked by dirt, soap detergent or even sweat residue. But our membranes work on a physical-chemical basis. It works because we have polyester and polyether next to each other within a compact layer, which has a push–pull effect to pull water vapour through it, to keep the wearer’s skin dry and comfortable.

We’re supplying laminates in the same way we work with our client companies: we send fabrics tailored to their requirements, laminated with our membrane, but we can also offer technical help if needed. A high-end fashion company might need to know the best place to position pockets or zippers while still staying waterproof. 

Sympatex rain chamber
Sympatex rain chamber

For practical testing we have a big ‘rain tower’ where we can simulate an hour or more of monsoon-strength rainfall, to check the design doesn’t end up leaking anywhere. Our Sympatex membrane has a water column of 45 000 mm (meaning the amount of water it can endure before leaking), while our standard guarantee for all Sympatex laminates is at least 20 000 mm.

It’s not the first time we’ve been involved in an activity like Couture in Orbit, but normally the theme is something more everyday in nature, like urban couture. The inspiration behind Couture in Orbit, of space and also sustainability is a good fit for us because we’re already looking at the world in this way. According to our slogan “guaranteed green”, our strategy is to be more sustainable and caring for the environment. Because our membranes are made from polyester they are very environmentally friendly and 100% recyclable. Similarly, during our production process nothing is wasted because all the leftovers can be reused for production.

So we’re intrigued to see what the students come up with – it promises to be very new and interesting. 

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