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Improved usage of coated leather by the mapping of sub-surface faults


The aim of this project is to develop a prototype system capable of detecting and mapping the flaws in leathers before the finish coat is applied. This will enable users of coated leathers to avoid hidden non usable areas resulting in fewer rejected shoes being made and an improvement in the utilisation of the leather. Coated leathers, which account for over 30% of all leathers used in the footwear industry, have had their grain surface buffed off to remove surface blemishes and defects before final surface coating. The finished material presents a uniform and almost unmarked surface which suits the footwear manufacturer who needs shoe components which are blemish free if the shoe is to meet the quality standards demanded by the customer. Unfortunately, faults which lie deep in the leather are not removed by the buffing process and these can cause significant problems when the shoe upper is stretched over the last. During this process the vamp or toe portion of the shoe is subjected to relatively high strains and this causes the deep hidden flaws to be brought to the surface and the shoe is rejected at final inspection. This is a serious problem for footwear manufacturers throughout the European Community resulting in significant losses. Rejects occur at two stages within the shoe production process - following cutting and at final inspection. Cut pieces are inspected manually to try to detect hidden flaws by pulling and stretching them under a strong light and, typically, 5% of all cut parts are rejected in this way. By examining all cut parts the reject rate of the finished shoes is around 1% of production. The total cost of wasted leather combined with the reduced value of rejected shoes represents a loss of well over 115k ECU per annum for a typical SME shoe manufacturer. The goal of this project is to provide a fault mapping system sited in the tannery. The information generated by the system will be passed together with the leather to the cutter in the shoe factory who will be able to avoid cutting critical shoe parts from those fault areas identified. This will enable shoe manufacturers to reduce waste and lower reject rates of footwear manufactured from coated leathers. In addition the project will provide improvements in quality, cutting process efficiency and the morale of the workforce.

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Sanders & Sanders Ltd.
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Spencer Road
NN10 9AE Rushden
United Kingdom

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Participants (9)