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Australian Fire fighters doing Burn over training.

Bruck Textiles – Australia takes on the world of protective textiles

From its beginnings in the 1940s, as a manufacturer and supplier of furnishing and fashion apparel fabrics, Bruck Textiles has evolved to be a provider of innovative high quality technical textile solutions for personal protective clothing that’s used around the world.

Bruck, today, is a privately owned Australian company and is Austalia’s largest manufacture of woven fabrics and is a significant contributor to the economic wellbeing of north-east Victoria, from the Mill site in Wangaratta, Australia. This contribution began post the Second World War, as regional Victoria saw over 300,000 migrants from more than fifty countries find their first “Aussie home” in the town of Bonegilla, 80 kilometres north of Wangaratta. Some of those migrants had textile experience from Europe and took up work at Bruck Mills – a converted aluminium plant built to support the war effort but never commissioned. Bruck’s continuing success is driven by the goal to provide high performance, comfortable fabric and now focuses on protective textile solutions for personnel in Defence, Fire and Emergency Services, Metal Smelting, Industrial and Corporate wear.

Even from a mill in Wangaratta, the Australian Industry is globally connected to all sources of flame resistant fibre and raw materials that are at the forefront of the most advanced protective fabrics in use. Innovation comes through supply chain partnerships and locally, working with RMIT and the CSIRO researchers, Bruck and others are developing the innovation pathways for fabric and garment assembly that will continue to support the Australian domestic capability. For its part, Bruck is invested in commercial research and development, and these strong links with Australia’s leading research institutions have seen world leading solutions for manufacturing, textile design and protection, particularly in the field of metal splash protection and dual perform station wear/wildland firefighting garments.

Australia’s fibre production continues to lead the world in cotton and wool. Supporting that position at the fibre and textiles level is the CSIRO. CSIRO has extensive expertise in chemical and fibre research and is supporting the long term competitiveness of Australia’s wool and cotton primary industries, chemical industries and now advanced carbon fibre production and end use.

In the textile and garment space, RMIT School of Fashion and Textiles and the Centre for Advanced Materials and Performance Textiles (CAMPT) – based in Melbourne – work on projects that have direct and indirect benefits to the protective textiles industry. Key amongst these is ensuring the succession of the domestic capability and knowhow for the future benefit of manufacturing and users of personal protective clothing. RMIT’s capabilities also extend to the measurement of comfort through skin modelling and sensation testing through to advanced whole garment testing. RMIT has one of less than a handful of articulated sweating thermal mannequins that can objectively assess metabolic thermoregulation in a whole ensemble without the cost and subjectivity found in human subject field trials. To aid the design of protective clothing, RMIT can provide fit analysis via a similar mannequin that can feedback on parts of the garment that may fit to tightly or loosely which may restrict movement or be a potential area for undesirable compressive heat transfer.

International, both RMIT and CSIRO have exposure through published research with representatives from both organisations are attending international conferences and trade events to present and gain insights into emerging trends and new research that may shape the way materials and assemblies are produced in the future.

Jet Dye house process used by Bruck Textiles.

Jet Dye house process used by Bruck Textiles.

Textile testing is critical for protective clothing and certified garment manufacture. The local industry relies on NATA certified laboratories providing public testing to ISO and Australia/New Zealand Standards for materials and personal protective clothing and equipment. This capability is met by AWTA and VicLab through ISO 15025 certification and the range of NATA accredited test methods each laboratory has been recognised to undertake. As accredited testing represents a significant contribution to product quality assurance and is essential to product certification, the Australian industry utilises independent third party testing providers that are trusted and provide timely, reliable and consistent results. Because of this, it is not unusual to draw upon the individual expertise of more than one accredited laboratory to complete compliance testing. In some cases the frequency of testing and required narrow performance margins makes it essential for in-house laboratory testing so in Australia NATA certifies and independently audits a small of private laboratories; one of these is located at Bruck’s Wangaratta Mill and has been under continuous NATA certification since 1964.

As a manufacture of technical textiles becomes even more specialised, the processing knowledge applied to the production of textiles and the expertise in the supply chain will have direct benefit to the ongoing care of the protective clothing ensemble. This approach has seen the development of standards, the likes of NFPA 1851, that specifically addresses the care and maintenance of structural firefighting ensembles to reduce health and safety risks. Although Australia has not developed a similar standard the essential requirements area addressed in consultation to garment makers and laundries on essential maintenance and limitations for cleaning and repair of protective fabrics. Processes used in fabric production at Bruck have found direct application in commercial laundering. As small number of specialised laundries now provide a local solution to the maintenance of the protective performance qualities in an aging fleet of protective garments. This may be as fundamental as reinvigorating and recharging the chemical/water/oil repellent finish, through to advanced repairs to assembly components. These benefits from specialised laundries are also there for single layer garments with wicking finishes and anti-microbial finishes that are also subject to degradation through use in wildland firefighting and also station wear applications.

The expertise and knowledge in the Australian market will ensure a sustainable domestic industry to support local jobs and world class protective textiles. Essential to all of this is the relationship with the most fundament components common to all fabrics – the fibre and the chemistry used to produce yarn, felt and finished fabric. Every woven, knitted or non-woven textile used in firefighters protective clothing contains one or more fibres sourced from DuPont, PBI Performance, Teijin and/or Lenzing. These fibres are blended, (in some cases with Australian wool), spun into yarn and imported for use in weaving, knitting and finishing operations. Chemistry and dyes, essential to achieving certain performance requirements and corporate identity, are supported locally by Huntsman and DyeStar. All textiles used for protective clothing involve some kind of chemical processing, be it the finish that imparts chemical runoff performance or anti-microbial properties that keeps stationwear fresh for longer. As we operate in a global environment, Bruck and others, also require that the chemistry and fibre used is approved by European body OEKO-TEX® and poses no harm to human health in the finished article.

For more information, go to www.brucktextiles.com.au

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