A better stitch in time saves nine A new monitoring system has been developed for enhanced make needle-punching of non-woven materials. The cost effective and eco-friendly technique will benefit a range of industries. Industrial Technologies © Shutterstock Non-woven fabrics (i.e. those that are not woven or knitted) such as felt represent a growing industry that offers many practical uses, ranging from the automotive industry to insulation material. As opposed to methods that use solvents and other questionable materials, needle-punching is an eco-friendly method used to create such fabrics. However, when recycled material is used to create the required felt, it can cause breakage and considerable damage to the needles and equipment. The EU-funded project 'Knowledge based process control system to optimize needle performance for high added-value needle-punched nonwovens' (Needles) wanted to improve on needle function in current equipment. It proposed a monitoring system to control condition and performance of needles in order to upgrade the quality of non-woven fabrics. With such a new system, end users are expected to save 40 % on needle costs and increase competitiveness of the sector. The system is also meant to decrease waste from rejected batches by about 19 million tonnes, yielding a large positive impact on the environment. Needles aimed to develop an online production system to predict defects and prevent them by monitoring, among other factors, stitch density, needle load, needle degradation and needle-board degradation. The technology employs a multi-sensor approach based on inductance and optic sensors, as well as advanced data processing in real time. The project successfully developed a novel tool for online monitoring of non-woven textiles that has the potential to decrease production costs, improve quality, optimise maintenance, streamline quality control and minimise waste. The lives of employees in the industry will also be improved considerably. This is yet another industry that will be made more competitive, eco-friendly and agreeable to work in, thanks to the efforts of EU-funded projects.