Technology Spain , Salamanca, Tuesday, April 28 of 2015, 18:15

A project of the University of Salamanca is developing woollen bags

Teachers of the Higher School of Industrial Engineering of Béjar have set in motion an initiative that aims to help to reactivate the town's textile industry

José Pichel Andrés/DICYT Teachers of the Higher School of Industrial Engineering of Béjar of the University of Salamanca are developing a project for the manufacture and marketing of different types of woollen bags. The objective is to sell an environmentally friendly quality product that could give a fresh boost to the traditional textile industry of Béjar.


“We are always looking for new openings for woollen products”, Javier Ramón Sánchez Martín comments to DiCYT. He is a researcher of the Chemical Engineering and Textile Department and the promoter of the idea together with Alberto Sánchez Patrocinio, a teacher of the Mechanical Engineering Department.


The initiative, which has been provisionally named Woolsac, was a prizewinner at the first Cross-Border Competition of Market-Orientated Prototypes, Prototransfer, and has been set in motion as part of the INESPO II European project in which universities from Castilla y León in Spain and from Central Portugal are taking part.


The objective of the production of quality woollen bags is to increase consumption of this fibre, which has many advantages. “The best thing is the raw material, the wool, which is hygroscopic [it absorbs humidity], a good insulator of heat, biodegradable, and up to a point even fireproof”, the directors of the project point out, thinking especially of the major environmental problem that has been caused by plastic bags and how they end up polluting the oceans.


The idea arose from an R+D project that was set up some years ago to promote the production and sale of wool from the local textile industry. Several studies were initiated to eliminate impurities in the wool, to develop new systems for bleaching the fabric, or to make use of the remains left over after manufacture. Subsequently the researchers decided to recover the initiative with a very specific product, the first results of which you now have before you.


Although the cost of wool is high compared with other materials such as polyethylene, polypropylene, or polyester, the promoters of the idea consider that this product has added value owing to its quality and may be very well received for certain uses. For this reason they have already manufactured specific designs such as glasses cases and bags for bottles of wine.


Smart fabrics


The second step is to create a collection with more sophisticated designs and thus enter the domain of fashion, for which purpose they already have some original prints. However, the project continues to evolve and the engineers who are developing it are now thinking of a new field, that of smart fabrics or e-textiles. “This is a mixture of fabrics, computer science, and electronics”, explains Javier Ramón Sánchez.


The possibilities are very varied. For example, "we can combine wool with elements printed with photosensitive pigments that change colour with the light” or propose wool as a basic fabric to develop the multiple smart garments that are beginning to be developed, with electronic components for all kinds of uses.


The fact of having won a prize at the Prototransfer competition has paved the way for full training with the ultimate aim of marketing the product. “They help you to think of ways of development, of problems that may arise, or of the business plan. The programme has been very well designed and the most important thing is that it helps you to create a brand, because we are going to try to make a product of great added value”, affirms Alberto Sánchez Patrocinio.


The project is currently ready to take the plunge and enter marketing, finalising details such as a possible name change or the creation of a website. With the support of a Béjar factory the idea may open up a promising line of business in what was a textile and wool town for so long.