We went to the ITMA show last week for the first time. It is a fair which is held every four years and which is traveling. This time it was Barcelona (at the Fira de Barcelona), next time it will be Milan it seems.
We were struck by the scale of this show: it is immense, halls as far as the eye can see, filled with industrial machines designed for the textile industry. What makes the ITMA show interesting is that the machines work during the show. This is what makes this show absolutely exciting. It is possible to see colossal machines in operation due to their size (sometimes several tens of meters) and their complexity, which require a power supply and very specific installations (compressed air, ventilation, etc.). Getting them to work is a feat. It is therefore an extraordinary show, populated by professionals from all over the world who flock to see the latest innovations. What is impressive is the mechanization of processes which goes ever further: machines cost more and more and require fewer and fewer employees to operate.
Staying only one day, we had to look over about 10% of the show, except for the “knitting machine” area which we explored a little more in depth, even if we didn't look at the part at all. “flat knitting”, that is to say flat knitting to make sweaters and other knitted garments. The most impressive machine we saw was this one: it makes carpets in 5m wide strips. Although these are carpets with a very high knot density (I no longer have the density in mind), it is capable of producing 30cm of carpet per minute over 5 meters wide! The machine can have 36000 reels (sic) for different inputs. Knowing that each of the coils is several kilometers long, if you put all the coils end to end, you can go around the earth several times! This machine is truly dizzying.
To tell the truth, if we were in Barcelona, it was not for the exhilaration of these machines, but for a much simpler machine, although already complex: the knitting machines. In this sector of circular knitting machines (with a sock diameter), the Italians reign supreme, notably with the Lonati group which is a colossal player and which also owns Santoni, another large company in the sector. However, we were thinking about buying a machine for micro-production in Paris, and we chose a much smaller, more family-run company. Large companies have machines intended for large manufacturers for whom production rate is the priority. For us who are toying with the idea of micro production in our store in Paris, we are rather looking for versatility as well as reliability in production. This is why we turned to a company that manufactures machines that are certainly much more expensive, but truly at the cutting edge in terms of innovation. We were happy to meet one of our suppliers there who told us: “Busi is the Porsche of the knitting machine when Lonati is the Volkswagen”. From certain points of view, large series are of interest (in particular for the software part) but we are convinced that our choice is the right one given our demands for excellence.
Finally, the last observation of this show that we have only skimmed over is the great absence of the French. I don't think we saw any French stands. Of course there was and as I said above, we only covered 10% of the show. But it is clear that alongside the Germans, Italians and Chinese, France should not weigh very heavily in terms of innovation in textile machines. However, in an industry which is becoming more and more capital intensive (that of textiles), the added value of the sector is increasingly in the design and export of these prodigious machines.