New product mimics the real thing

Designing Smarter Technologies

The collaborative research partnership between Deakin University and HeiQ Australia has delivered its first commercial product to market.

“HeiQ Real Silk” reproduces the luxurious tactile properties of silk using the cutting edge short polymer fibre technology developed by HeiQ Australia and Deakin University’s Institute for Frontier Materials (IFM).

Deakin’s chief researcher on short fibres, Dr Alessandra Sutti said it had been an admirably short time between the establishment of HeiQ Australia and the launch of a commercially viable product.

“This is the result of hard work by a dedicated team of multidisciplinary researchers at IFM and Deakin’s School of Engineering,” she said. “The task of the team is to enable scaled up production and to help HeiQ Australia to get off the ground by developing new products and new devices to make those products.

“Silk is a unique material – soft, temperature regulating, highly absorbent and fast-drying, highly tear-resistant and virtually wrinkle free – and is well recognised by consumers as a luxurious and comfortable fibre that evokes a sense of exclusivity.

“These unique properties and the historical recognition of the luxuriousness of silk help to make it a special and highly sought after material.

“With “HeiQ Real Silk”, the key properties of silk are replicated by applying a minute amount of the natural raw material to the surface of any fabric.”
Dr Alessandra Sutti Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Frontier Materials

“HeiQ Real Silk” is being marketed through the Swiss parent company HeiQ Materials AG and Dr Sutti says that HeiQ being so active in the international market place has helped the product’s launch.

“These are novel materials that industry isn’t used to yet, so we need to break the ice in multiple systems before we can commercialise them. It helps that HeiQ Materials AG has channels to the international market and the vision to develop the product.”

HeiQ Australia, a joint venture between Geelong biotechnology company Cytomatrix and Swiss textile innovation company HeiQ Materials AG, was established in 2014 to develop and manufacture high-value short fibre materials for domestic and export markets.

The short polymer fibre technology is based on a patented manufacturing platform developed by Deakin and Cytomatrix researchers.

HeiQ Australia last year entered into a collaborative research agreement with Deakin that will advance the development and commercialisation of short fibre technologies and products over the five year program.

HeiQ Australia is also an industry partner in Deakin’s Industrial Transformation Research Hub and Innovative Manufacturing Co-operative Research Centre.

In 2015 HeiQ Australia was awarded a Next Generation Manufacturing Investment Programme grant to build a scale-up manufacturing facility to produce short polymer fibre materials at an industrial scale.

The ability to scale-up the manufacture of short fibre materials benefited from an earlier partnership between Deakin, Cytomatrix and Geelong engineering firm Austeng, to build a pilot plant system funded by a $500,000 grant from the Skilling the Bay program.

HeiQ Australia’s CEO Dr Murray Height was enthusiastic about the collaboration with Deakin University.

“HeiQ Australia benefits from a strong collaboration with the researchers at IFM and Deakin’s School of Engineering. When industry and university researchers work closely as genuine partners with an open dialogue on how to solve problems it makes for an ideal environment for ideas to be rapidly translated into commercial products.

“Deakin has created a good environment for close collaboration with industry partners and the rapid development of ‘HeiQ Real Silk’ has benefited from this can-do attitude.

“HeiQ Australia appreciates the strong research collaboration with Deakin and continues to work closely with world class researchers here in Geelong to industrialise this unique technology and bring new products to the global market.”

While HeiQ Materials AG expects that the fashion industry in particular will benefit from the new product, the first adopter is the company’s long standing partner Bekaert Deslee, a manufacturer of mattress ticking fabrics, which launched its mattress ticking with “HeiQ Real Silk” in March.

The Institute for Frontier Materials

Recognised as one of Australia's leading materials research organisations, the Institute for Frontier Materials' mission is to foster innovation and excellence in materials science and engineering research.