Geelong’s manufacturing past evolves into pioneering future

The launch of the Future Fibres Hub

Please note: Images in this article were taken before current COVID-19 safety measures were in place.

In a feat of reinvention, Geelong’s manufacturing background is being transformed by innovative research and development projects. These projects revolve around advances in fibre technology.

The Future Fibres Hub

Located at Deakin University’s Waurn Ponds campus, the Future Fibres Hub has received $A13.2 million in funding from the Australian Federal Government’s Industrial Transformation Research Program. The project will be led by Professor Xungai Wang from Deakin’s Institute for Frontier Materials, which has a history of world-leading fibre research. It involves collaboration with Swinburne Institute of Technology, the CSIRO, six international universities and five industry partners..

By bringing together industry experts, this collaboration will accelerate the development of future fibres-based materials, which have a broad range of applications in the textile, medical, industrial and automotive sectors.

But it’s not only these industries that will benefit from the project—the flow-on effects will help to create the materials and jobs of the future.

Deakin University’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane den Hollander describes the project’s importance: “It will allow us to continue to make advances in important medical procedures, such as human tissue engineering, through to…lighter and cheaper carbon fibre materials for the automotive sector. This will help to position Australia as a leader in fibres research and development and provide jobs in Geelong.”

The Hub at Geelong is part of Deakin’s innovation precinct, and is already home to several industry partners involved in the project.

Carbon Revolution

One partner located within Geelong’s technology precinct is Carbon Revolution, a privately-owned Australian company with origins in advanced materials research and development and vehicle engineering. Carbon Revolution produces the world’s only one-piece carbon-fibre wheel.

Originally building carbon composite wheels for competition, they have moved into manufacturing for the luxury vehicle market. Carbon Revolution conducted much of their early laboratory testing in Europe, which ensured that the rigorous standards set by European OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) were met.

The Carbon Revolution team are committed to meeting, even exceeding, OEM standards before any product is launched on the automotive market.

Draggin Jeans

Another company involved in the project is excelling on the global market. Draggin Jeans are a Melbourne-based business manufacturing protective motorcycle jeans. In addition to winning numerous awards, they are the only motorcycle clothing brand in the world whose products have passed Certified European Level 1 and 2 standards for abrasion, burst and tear resistance.

Green denim

Not just for motorcycle riders, denim jeans are the most popular clothing item on the planet. More than 450 million denim jeans are sold globally each year. According to Professor Wang, their manufacturing has a significant environmental impact, and recycling is a worldwide problem. Old denim products are dumped in landfills, and the dye run-off from manufacturing can pollute water supplies.

A team from the Future Fibres Hub have come up with an innovative solution to the denim problem, dubbed “circular denim”. This involves pulverising old denim into ultrafine particles, which are then coated onto new undyed denim.

The process will require significantly less water and energy, allow the dyes to be re-used, and produce less effluent discharge.

“Our ‘circular denim’ approach is a completely new one,” explains Professor Wang, “addressing both denim waste and new denim manufacturing at the same time, and we believe it will have a lasting impact on both the environment and the global clothing market.”

It seems the global market agrees. As one of five finalists from 2885 entries in the Global Change Award (which provides seed funding for projects promoting sustainable fashion), the team has been awarded €150,000 to take the idea to industry.

These innovative projects are helping to position Geelong as a significant player in the technology and jobs of the future.