Better denim through chemistry
Levi Strauss has announced that it will soon use lasers to give its jeans that lived in look that makes jeans look so good.
Denim makers the world over currently use potassium permanganate to distress jeans. This acts like bleach but has a shorter effective life, making it easier to control. The downside is the effect on the health of production workers. If not disposed properly, it can be an environmental toxin, as well.
Distressing Levi’s jeans can involve sandpaper, the aforementioned potassium permanganate, even a Dremel to reach a prescribed level of “wear”. It can take a worker as much as half an hour to complete the job.
A laser can do the same job in 90 seconds, and do it very consistently thanks to the steps being followed automatically. The same process also lets the company experiment with prototype finishes very quickly. If the design is approved, it can be deployed with the distribution of a digital file.
Another advantage is that the distressing can happen on demand. Often the same cut and fabric is used for multiple styles which are distinguished by their distress pattern. Now Levi Strauss can hold back inventory until patterns of demand are identified and do the last step then.
The company expects to completely implement this new method by 2020.
This new approach, replacing chemicals with lasers, is an example of Principle 28 – Substituting of Mechanical Systems with Electromagnetic Systems at work.
Following this line of thinking, what mechanical or chemical processes are being used to produce products that could instead by done by lasers?