The Yadkinville manufacturing plant of Unifi Inc. will undergo a major equipment transition by adding new yarn texturing machinery made by a Switzerland technology group.
Unifi's announcement Friday coincided with the International Textile Manufacturers Association's trade fair in Barcelona, Spain.
The manufacturer declined to disclose the capital investment because it is in the quiet period of its next quarterly report cycle, but said it represented "a significant investment."
Unifi said it planned $25 million in capital investments in fiscal 2019, which ends June 30.
"There will be an implementation timetable established based on availability of the equipment and installation timeline," said Tom Caudle, Unifi's president and chief operating officer." "We would expect first production in late 2020."
Unifi expects the equipment transition to not affect its Yadkinville workforce, its largest U.S. plant with about 1,000 employees. It also has a large hub in Reidsville with at least 250 employees.
Unifi is acquiring Oerlikon Barmag's eAFK Evo texturing machine in which it collaborated in the design and production testing process since October.
Caudle said the machines will allow Unifi to change how it makes Unifiber virgin and Repreve-branded recycled polyester and polyamide yarns.
Repreve, introduced in 2006, is polyester yarn made from chips that come mainly from recycled bottles. Sorbtek is its moisture management yarn.
Repreve-based yarns are used to make products for the apparel, outdoor, home textiles and automotive sectors.
Unifi and its partners have recycled more than 16 billion plastic bottles, with a goal of recycling 20 billion bottles by 2020 and 30 billion by 2022.
At the ITMA trade show, Oerlikon is exhibiting Repreve yarns produced on the pilot machine, along with fabrics made from the yarn.
The companies said the production machines will produce "consistently high-quality yarn across a broad range of products, and enables new, innovative performance yarns."
Caudle said the new texturing technology "is positioned to revolutionize yarn manufacturing."
"We believe these new machines are a step change (in at least 20 years) in texturing efficiency and capability.
"This investment will enable Unifi to continue to serve our customers and attract new customers through its history of manufacturing excellence, ensuring strong employment in the region."
Unifi will hold exclusive rights in the Americas to the machines. "We will be evaluating all opportunities to bring it to every market where we manufacture," Caudle said.
A key element of the machines is the 300-millimeter-long EvoCooler with its active cooling technology that allows for a larger production window.
Combined with the EvoHeater element, the companies said the machines increase texturing speed by about 20% and are projected to contribute up to 25% savings on production energy costs.
Oerlikon has two business segments - surface solutions and manmade fibers - with about 10,500 employees at 175 sites in 37 countries, including about 1,300 in the U.S.
On May 29, Oerlikon debuted a $55 million innovation hub and advanced component production facility in Huntersville. The 125,000-square-foot facility started out with 60 employees.
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