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6. Recommendations for Further Technical Developments

6.1 General

Research groups (and individual scientists) as exemplified by the CFC/FAO project team at the CCRI, and those elsewhere in other coconut growing areas, need to be exposed to, and to keep abreast of, current developments and information in their respective fields of endeavour. They need to network regularly with the acknowledged international R&D groups working in these fields. For the CCRI this includes fibre extraction and processing technologies, chemical processes (dyeing, bleaching and softening) and biochemical processing (retting, bio-pulping and bio-bleaching). Modern communication methods such as access to the Internet and e-mail networking and conferencing may provide suitable low-cost tools, where funding is strictly limited for access to journals and travel.

Exposure to international R&D work in similar areas of plant fibre product development (such as sisal, jute, kenaf and similar) and of textile finishing technologies would enhance the efficiency and relevance of current work programmes, and help plan for the future. A regular review of international work that would be of interest to the domestic coir industry could be compiled and distributed by newsletter into the domestic industrial community – and may prove to be financially self-supporting.

Access to international literature and modern handbooks is essential. Library resources at the CCRI and the CDA remain strictly limited. More resources are required, and might be planned in co-operation with others with an interest in using this resource, such as domestic industry and regional academia/education.

Training of research staff on newly available equipment is recommended, or the recruitment of dedicated technicians or analysts for routine analysis of samples. This would enable greater use to be made of analytical equipment within the different R&D groups at the CCRI. There is risk involved with providing greater access to expensive equipment, but adequate training should largely overcome risks of this kind.

More could be done to raise revenue at the CCRI with the provision of R&D services and technical consultancies to domestic industries.

Further exploration of scientific background, up-to-date technical information and, importantly, a fundamental knowledge of fibre processing technologies will be essential to consolidate the reputation of the CCRI as a consulting base for domestic industry.

Improved facilities are recommended, for example, improved access to a wider selection of the technical equipment available, for providing better services to customers (such as exporters). Future opportunities may involve the establishment of certifying laboratories (for ISO/ASTM/eco-labelling, for example).

International Coir Fibres Centre. The CCRI have made proposals to become a world centre for coir fibres R&D. This is an excellent long-term aim, and will provide a considerable challenge to the Director and staff of the CCRI and to the Coir Board of India. Reputations are earned, however, and cannot simply be assigned. An enhancement of international contacts may be achieved by the publication of research results in the relevant (referenced) international journals. This will provide for an exchange of technologies and information with other coconut producing areas, that the CCRI may become central to the network of Pacific and Indian Ocean coir fibre R&D workers.

6.2 Dyeing

Improved testing methods to evaluate dye bath exhaustion are to be introduced at the CCRI. This is encouraging. The subjective methods currently in use (i.e. visual comparison) need better quantification and standardisation to reduce requirements for chemicals and, importantly, to assess chemicals lost and wastewater discharged. With the UV/VIS spectrophotometer purchased within the project budget, it is now possible to quantify the concentration of dye in solution. Training the researchers to enable them to make full use of this equipment is essential. Alternatively, one option is to employ a full time Chemical Analyst to carry out routine analysis work of this kind.

Improvements to light, wash and rubbing fastness of the effect of direct/reactive dyes on coir is of interest. External advice from suppliers of dyestuffs on the use of these products would enable domestic coir industries to improve the quality of their products. Equipment to test the (water) fastness of dyes is essential to enable the dyeing procedures and the quality of the dyed products (e.g. Linitest steam pressure vat) to be determined.

In order to introduce modern methods and technologies or to upgrade traditional or existing processing and effluent treatment systems, the CCRI is recommended to seek the assistance of a specialist company or supplier of dyestuffs and dyeing technology.

Setting up central dye-houses is one option for smaller (co-operative) enterprises, to enable them to overcome investment barriers.

New colour ranges for novel dyes should be developed and introduced.

The feasibility of introducing alternative dyes such as water-based reactive and direct dyes, natural pigments and organic dyes and food-approved dyes should be further investigated. The use of specific cross-linking agents that open possibilities for low temperature dyeing is also of interest, to reduce the costs of heating.

Information should be generated on dye penetration into the fibre, and the effects of fibre pretreatment on dye uptake. This should be done in relation to existing and modernised processing practices and plant, and with respect to the work recommended for colour fastness.

6.3 Bleaching

Possibilities of further reducing the use of bleaching powder (containing chlorine) in bleaching recipes should be explored for the environmental benefits that may follow, notwithstanding some additional costs involved.

Investigations are recommended for pre-treatment processes that combine the use of bleaching chemicals and bio-bleaching, in order to quantify the reduction in the use of the bleaching chemicals required.

Biochemical methods of effluent treatment are of interest and should be explored, to reduce chemical waste discharge and the effects of pollution.

New recipes of peracetic acid bleaching should be investigated.

Tools to measure the effectiveness of bleaching procedures (brightness index) are essential for laboratory studies, to enable work to be evaluated accurately and to enhance the quality of reporting.

Analytical methods to improve the quantification of the use of bleaching chemicals in the different bleaching recipes are required. This should include before and after treatment of fibres or yarns, and the measurement of extractives (phenolics) and residual chemicals in effluent streams.

6.4 Softening

Softening of coir yarns could be improved by the introduction of more mechanized fibre processing (before spinning). If the fibres were to be carded and stretched into a sliver before spinning, much fibre irregularity could be reduced. The addition of batching oil would enable spinners to produce a finer count of yarn, which will affect the weight of the fabric. Mechanization of weaving is a logical next step for industrial development in the regions covered by the CFC/FAO project.

The development and implementation of testing protocols and methods to assess the effects of softening on fibre, yarn or fabric surfaces (e.g. abrasion or airflow resistance and optical methods to assess regularity of yarn and/or hairiness) are recommended.

A better understanding is required of the intrinsic physio-chemical properties of the lignin matrix in coir fibre in order to obtain improved fibre fineness, elongation and softening.

6.5 Printing

An evaluation of a range of suitable (i.e. commercial) spraying equipment for use with applying dyes to stencil plates should be undertaken.

A simple device to achieve a more even distribution of the dye on the mat would be of value for the improvements that may develop for printed coir products.

Better working conditions are required for print workers. Improved health and safety aspects of spraying would come from better ventilation during spraying, or from the use of closed systems.

Productivity of work would improve with more automation in the print/spray shop.

6.6 Drying

Pre-cleaning of fibres should be undertaken, as far as may be practical, before drying, to enhance the performance of the drier and to reduce energy losses from drying pith mixed with the fibres. (Pith is highly water absorbent and drying it is wasteful of heat energy).

A commercial fibre drier should have the flexibility to handle fibres with different drying characteristics, that retention time can be adjusted to suit moisture content and the levels of drying required.

Shared use of driers is required, that the investment in plant and access to technical management can be offered to a network of mills and producers. Central drying plants with sufficient drying capacity for market demand should be installed. Use and servicing charges should reflect running and replacement costs for the plant.

Further work is required to explore the potential for drying coir products on equipment already available and in use for other agricultural commodities.

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