The E-Class Cabriolet With Sun-Reflecting Leather

In Article2 Minutes

Month: August 2020

Ever sat down in your car and bounced right back up again due to the hot material on the seat? No matter what seat and trim material you use, sunlight will heat up dark surfaces to scalding temperatures in the enclosed cabin. The near-infrared sun waves heat up the material, which absorbs the radiation. Automotive World writes about a coating technology for leather that get this issue out of the window though.

The seating in the new Mercedes E-Class Cabriolet has been outfitted with sun-reflecting leather (not to be confused with white leather). This prevents the heating up of the material, keeping it cooler by up to 13 degrees Celsius in the sun, with the top off and on. The special pigmentation and coloring do not affect the aesthetic value of the interior. This only goes to illustrate range of properties that are available in the automotive leather industry. Leather that keeps cool is nothing new. Many automotive leather makers have already offered leather with this technology for many years. Leather has reactive properties to different climates, which is in the very nature of the material. The added ability to reflect UV, not just withstand it, makes automotive leather more durable and thus increases interior longevity.

This prevents the heating up of the material, keeping it cooler by up to 13 degrees Celsius in the sun, with the top off and on.

Due to safety issues, sun-reflective gloss surfaces are rarely used in car interiors. Instead most OEMs opt for matte-coated materials to limit the risk of blinding the driver. The technology used for this model allows the brand to espouse once again on the functional properties that make such a unique surface material, best suited for the interior of your car.

Read the full article about this leather innovation.

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    Timberland Invests In Sustainable Regenerative Ranches

    In Article2 Minutes

    Month: August 2020

    Farming has been blamed, incorrectly, for a large part of our global carbon footprint. Recent insights and data have shown us that the truth is quite different, and agriculture actually plays a vital part in regenerating the earth which we have exhausted. Various programs have already been successful, and shoe brand Timberland is now taking the leap by investing in ranches that are regenerative in nature. Ruminants play a vital part in that system.

    Timberland has engaged in a partnership with the Savory Institute as part of their sustainability efforts which focus on better products, stronger communities and a greener world. By being part of an effort to shift gears in sustainability and even regenerating what is lost, the company takes a small step forward. Their partnership also enables the Savory Institute to further develop their Ecological Outcome Verification program, which is vital to reach critical mass for large scale implementation.

    Shoe brand Timberland is now taking the leap by investing in ranches that are regenerative in nature. Ruminants play a vital part in that system.

    The EOV program gathers data from the regenerative ranches to see the actual impact of their efforts. The program website states, ‘Sustainability is a bridge. Regeneration is the destination.’ Finding the proof that regenerative farming has a positive impact on our world is instrumental in the future of both our food industry and the use of leather. Developments in animal farming make this large step forward possible and will also benefit animal welfare. The commitment of Timberland to regenerative farming shows us a future that harnesses our relation to natural materials, which is a more sustainable future than one of replacing natural materials with petroleum-based alternatives.

    Read the full article HERE.

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      Why Water Is So Important For Leather Tanneries

      In Article13 Minutes

      Month: August 2020

      You’ll find many tanneries around the world located near rivers. There’s a good reason for that and it’s called H2O – water. Like various other industries, water is used in many process steps and sourcing directly from rivers was historically the obvious way. Why do we need water to produce leather? Where is all that water used in the leather-making process? And more importantly, what happens to the water afterwards?

      Water as the perfect solvent

      When we speak about the chemical side of leather production (or chemistry in general), a solvent is a substance that dissolves a solute (a soluble substance). The result is a solution. We make a solution every day when we make a cup of tea or mug of coffee. Even the sugar (or sweetener) you use is technically a chemical that dissolves into your favorite brew.

      Solvents are usually liquids, but there are gasses and solids that function as solvents. If we talk about industrial applications, water is usually excluded from the solvent label. The reason is mostly because water has no harmful chemical properties as opposed to other solvents. Water-based is often considered environmentally friendlier, but it’s still a solvent. In fact, water is the universal solvent and the reason for that is… well, chemical.

      Without water no leather tanning

      Each H2O molecule has a positive electrical charge (where the hydrogens sit) and a negative charge on the other end (where the oxygen sits). Due to this polar arrangement of its atomic structure, it can disrupt the bonds holding other chemicals together, so that they dissolve into their salts. It doesn’t do that with everything, but lots of salts find themselves dissolving in water. It’s a lot like magnets. Water molecules thus have a positive and negative end, which attracts. Salts are similarly made up of positive and negatives, so they are attracted to their opposites. Water has the strength to pull these salts apart and dissolving them by attracting their parts to the water molecules.

      In the leather making process, water has two functions: to dissolve and carry the chemicals, and to allow the leather to mix and turn in the tanning drum without scuffing or damaging it.

      Water Function 1: solvent

      In the leather making process, water has two functions: to dissolve and carry the chemicals, and to allow the leather to mix and turn in the tanning drum without scuffing or damaging it.

      Water dissolves chemicals, enzymes and dyes in the processing of hides, converting them to leather and finishing them. For example, lime dissolved in the water can seep in-between the leather fibres, allowing it to open up the structure of the leather, puffing the leather up. This enables the tanning agent to penetrate the structure and fix to the collagen to make it non-putrescible. The de-liming agent then, in turn, is dissolved into the water so it can remove the lime and the leather shrinks back. Without water as carrier (solvent) in this process, tanning would be impossible.

      Water Function 2: mechanical action

      Water also helps in the process of mixing the hides in the drums, preventing rubbing or damage to the hides and ensuring even distribution of the above-mentioned agents. After all, we expect hides with consistent performance and a smooth appearance. (Though there is a new trend towards celebrating the natural aesthetic of leather, just as we celebrate the grain and knots in authentic wooden furniture.) This is called the mechanical action of water. New innovations look at whether this can be done with other substances; there’s even a company selling reusable plastic beads to realize this process (water is still needed to dissolve chemicals). Water fulfils various functions in the process steps, which we’ll look into next.

      Water consumption in the tanning process

      All data used here are rough estimates. As each tanning process is different and available methods for higher efficiency vary, these merely serve to given an indication, based on global statistics. It’s important to note that tanneries don’t just discharge water, but also purify it and often recycle it. This greatly affects the water footprint.

      Beamhouse & Tanning processes ~55-70% water of total water usage

      The beamhouse process is a name for the preparation stage where the hide or skin is made ready for tanning. This is, by far, the most intense process with regard to water usage.

      • Soaking
        Frequently, hides are salted or pickled to preserve them. In the soaking stage, the hides are cleaned and brought back to their original, fresh state. During this stage, residues like blood, dirt, dung, and other proteins are also removed from the hide. Using fresh hides significantly lowers the water impact here, which is what many European tanners now do.
      • Liming & deliming
        Hair, wool and flesh are loosened during the liming stage with mechanical removal, followed by a dehairing operation with chemical treatment. A paste of lime and/or enzymes are put onto the hide. This helps remove all unwanted elements from the hide or skin and leave only the collagen central layer. After liming, the paste needs to be removed, which is done with ammonium chloride or sulphate. Another treatment usually follows, which is bating. Here scud, short hair and grain correction takes place.
      • Pickling
        In the pickling process, the hide is made ready for tanning (bating also is important for this) as the leather needs to have the right pH values for the tanning agent to be effective. Many tanners have integrated the deliming, bating and pickling process, which saves them time, water and resources.

      During the beamhouse process, between 7 and 25 m3 water per ton of hides is used (Buljan & Králl, 2019).

      • Tanning Operations
        The more efficient the beamhouse process is, the less needs to be done in the tanning phase. Here the hide is stabilized with tanning agents and turned into leather. The chemicals to do this need to enter the collagen structure of the dermis and penetrate the protein structure.

      During the tanning operations, between 1 and 3 m3 water per ton of hides is used (Buljan & Králl, 2019).

      Post-tanning process ~ 25 – 45% of total water usage

      During post-tanning, the leather acquires its final properties, meaning the leather is made suitable for its final application. This is done through retanning cycles, where various chemical agents enter the hide structure.

      • Neutralization
        After tanning the hide, the leather is often neutralized for post-tanning processes. Because the hide will be (depending on the tanning system) cationic, neutralization is required for effective uptake of anionic retanning agents, dyestuffs and fat liquors. Here the leather is washed, neutralized (with neutralizing agents) and washed again.
      • Retanning and fixing processes
        Retanning, dyeing and fat liquoring are usually done at the same time. Here again, working agents need to enter the structure of the hide and be taken out afterwards.

      During post-tanning, between 4 and 8 m3 water per ton of hides is used (Buljan & Králl, 2019).

      Finishing  ~ 5% of total water usage

      Finishing gives the leather its final coating and looks, and is often subjected to some additional treatment.

      During finishing, between 0 and 1 m3 water per ton of hides is used (Buljan & Králl, 2019).

      The total water impact

      Though water is essential for the creation of many of the flexible materials we use, including leather, consumption and pollution are major sustainability issues. You may not be aware of it, but we use up to 250 litres of water to produce 1 kilogram of PET (polyethene terephthalate). That’s the plastic used for water bottles. The total amount of water used depends on various factors like weight, size and type. Hides used in fashion can be 27 kg per hide, where automotive uses 36 kg hides. This comes down to a water use per kilo of leather in a range of 12 l/kg to 37 l/kg (or water used per hide of 324 l/hide to 1,332 l/hide). But this excludes processes like tannery cleaning and maintenance. According to Swartz (et al, 2017), the difference in usage can be quite significant. Particularly vegetable tanning uses copious amounts of water. When we talk about pollution levels, there is also a difference if a tannery is full process or only part process, and there are many other actors to consider.

      Efficiency is essential and reducing the water footprint has been a key focus point for years. In fact, water use in leather production has significantly reduced over the last 25 years. In our next article, we’ll look more closely at this topic.

      Read more about the water footprint and sustainable water management.

      Selected sources

      • Buljan, J., Král, I. (2019) The framework for sustainable leather manufacture. UNIDO. Retrieved from: Leather Panel. [Accessed on 30 July 2020]
      • Nazer, D. (2010) Saving Water and Reducing Pollution in the Unhairing-Liming Process in the Leather Tanning Industry. Published in: From Scarcity to Sustainable Water Use in the West Bank, Palestine. CRC Press, Francis & Taylor Group, United States.
      • Nothing To Hide (2015) Essay Ten: Water Consumption – Reducing water use in tanneries. Retrieved from: Nothing To Hide.[Accessed on 8 July 2020]
      • Olson-Sawyer, K., Madel, R. (2020) The Water Footprint of Your Plastic Bottle. Retrieved from: Foodprint. [Accessed on 8 July 2020]
      • Sundar, V., Ramesh, R., Rao, PS, Saravanan, P., Sridharnath, B., Muralidharan, C. (2001) Water management in Leather Industry. Journal of Scientific & Industrial Research Vol. 30, June 2001. Retrieved from: JSIR. [Accessed on 9 July 2020]
      • Swartz, C., Jackson-Moss, C., Rowswell, RA., Mpofu, AB, Welz, PJ. (2017) Water and Wastewater Management in the Tanning and Leather Finishing Industry: Natsurv 10 (2nd edition) – Report to the Water Research Commission. Retrieved from: Research Gate. [Accessed on 8 July 2020]

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        Why Automotive Leather And Car Leather Are Different To Other Leathers

        In Article7 Minutes

        Month: August 2020

        Most consumers are not aware that there is any difference between the leather of their shoes, sofa, or car seats. Leather is leather (unless it isn’t), but closer inspection reveals that there’s a big difference between the materials used in fashion or upholstery and the ones used in your car. Automotive leathers are an entirely different product, highly engineered and designed to meet the most stringent performance, aesthetic and environmental requirements, and customer demands.

        Quality and performance

        Leather is a natural product, which means there’s a certain level of variety. Normally it’s the grain that tells us something about the quality. Yet, like with every product, you need to find the right balance between quality, performance and application. Some examples in different kinds of leathers are: An upholstery leather will need to be softer and more malleable than shoe upper. Fatliquors are used to make the hide fibres soft. Belts, bridlery and saddles have a focus on appearance but are working items that need more firmness and may have less softness. Chamois leather used to dry your car uses fish oils.

        Why are all these leathers produced with different properties and not just treated to have the best on all fronts? Different ways of making leather result in performance tailored for the purpose. Unlike the leather for your jacket or shoes, automotive leather would be too firm. Compare it to fabrics: the material that would be beautiful for a wedding gown is a horrible choice for hiking gear. Another example is denim shirts, which are a much softer, thinner denim than is used for your jeans. More and different performance qualities than needed would simply be wasted and use more resources than needed. Car leather is a peculiar case in that regard, as it is one of the leathers that needs to do a lot. Its property is not singularly focused on either hardness, flexibility, resistance, or touch. It’s all of these properties. Let’s have a closer look.

        Automotive leather – Thickness

        One of the differences is in the leather thickness. Weight reduction in car interiors is a focal point and has been for some years, especially with the increase of electric car mobility. Other mobility sectors face the same challenge because less weight means a reduction in fuel consumption. The thickness of leather, though, determines how strong and resistant it is to damage. Car leathers are commonly less than 1.4mm thick, with surface coatings less than 50µm thick.

        To achieve this thickness, the hide is shaved. The thickness is always quoted as a range by the tanner as it will vary by as little as 0.1 mm (one-tenth of a millimeter).

        Automotive leather – performance

        Another major difference between automotive leather and other leather types are performance standards. Consumers expect higher expectations from car leather compared to other leather types. After all, car interiors are subjected to heavy use, high temperatures, sunlight (UV), staining, and soiling. Many of these issues are already dealt with by the natural properties of leather. Standards continue to improve, and coatings enhance the natural qualities of the materials. Lightfastness, rubfastness, (chemical) resistance, and flexibility help car seats to withstand the daily wear, tear, scuff, stain, and soiling. Temperatures in vehicles can go up to around 100°C, so stopping the leather from shrinking or cracking is vital. This is one of the reasons why high specification leather is the preferred choice for mobility interiors outside of automotive. Seating in aviation takes a heavy beating day in, day out, especially with regard to soiling. Leather only needs occasional wiping down.

        Obviously, these properties are not unique to car leather, but combining high-resistance levels with a pleasant touch and feel qualities is where it stands out.

        Consumers expect higher expectations from car leather compared to other leather types.

        Automotive leather – Look and touch

        Leather gets a lot of additional properties during the finishing stage. It determines resistance levels, but also the final look and feel of the material. Automotive interiors demand perfection, so every leather is finished in such a way to create an equal surface and even cut. It needs to be flexible as well, move with its user, but bounce back afterwards.

        Special colouring using dyes and pigments add a unique appeal, often with a matte look effect. This serves both aesthetic and safety needs, as sunlight should not be reflected from the surfaces. Special coating technologies help realize this, but also add a unique feel to the material. Milling leather in the dry milling, enables tanners to add specific textures, which add to the interior appeal.

        Car interiors need uniformity, so everything is reproducible. The texture and even the feel of the material. The handling can be vastly different. The final feel may be waxy, silky, slippery, grippy, or talc-like – or even combinations of these.

        Car leather is built to last

        It probably comes as no surprise that automotive leather is made to last for many years. Little special care is needed, as the leather is made to withstand its use and most frequent forms of damage. Most impressive though is the type of treatment the leather has had. Any material we touch frequently, in a space we spend hours in, should be safe. Most of the treatment of leather, the finishing, and aftercare products are water- or bio-based. If you also wonder about the ‘new car smell’ being gone from many cars, it’s because interiors are more and more VOC-free. Meaning, no volatile organic compounds in the in-car air.

        Considering this, it is clear automotive leather is not just leather.

        Did you know leather is the favorite upgrade for car interiors? Discover the fact

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