Byline: Karyn Monget

Under the aegis of Steven R. McCracken, president of DuPont’s $3.5 billion Apparel and Textile Sciences mega-division, the corporation is arming its war chest with a wealth of ideas aimed at a bold new frontier: seamless technology and a new generation of yarns aimed at customized comfort and fit.
In its quest to build the biggest and best research and development technology in textile sciences, DuPont’s total budget this year has been hiked up 15 percent to $100 million, said McCracken, who also serves as a group vice president of the corporation.
That figure includes $36 million for what DuPont officials call a technical assistance center, a laboratory where DuPont customers such as Sara Lee, Express, Nike, Wacoal, Victoria’s Secret, Marks & Spencer and Liberty fabrics can work on proprietary research.
Beyond its Wilmington headquarters, the mission of Apparel and Textile Sciences fabric development incorporates a global initiative, with R & D facilities in nine countries, the newest of which is located in Taiwan.
Another key sector has been hardware renewal in the fabrics lab, dyeing and finishing areas, and weaving and knitting departments, for which $13 million has been allotted for renovation and equipment projects over a five-year period extending to 2002.
A breakdown was not available for the research budget for seamless technology. But since last year, the corporation has continued its fever pitch of working on innovative new ideas that eventually will encompass every apparel category and lifestyle.
A lot of additions have been made at DuPont’s R&D facilities here since last year, where a walk-through revealed two additional circular knit machines to produce seamless goods, including ready-to-wear items; a seamless full-boarded unit which helps eliminate creasing and wrinkling before and after the critical dyeing process, and a new bra molding unit that tests permanent molding techniques.
Michael Hunt, a senior chemist, demonstrated what he called a “dynamic force measurer,” by attaching an electrode to the side of his running shorts. The unit measured how easily — or not so easily — a garment can stretch as the body flexes and moves.
The unit, once it reached what Hunt called “the recovery curve,” or point of retention, compared traditional Lycra with a newer generation of Lycra Soft. The Lycra Soft results showed an easier stretch with the same amount of compression.
As noted, the goal continues to be to go beyond basic seamless looks and into a new kingdom of knitted engineered features that give different levels of stretch and control in a variety of yarns.
Beverly Selle of DuPont’s hosiery division, said the company was also “investing very heavily” in body scanners, laser units that give a 3-D image of a person’s figure. She would not elaborate except to say it will be applied to other categories in addition to intimate apparel.
However, Bob Kirkwood, DuPont’s global rtw technical manager, noted that the Levi’s store in San Francisco recently installed a similar 3-D scanner which determines a customized fit for a customer.
“It’s like going to a tailor,” he said.