This morning, we visited the South India Textile Research Association (SITRA), an organization funded by India's federal government under the Ministry of Textiles. SITRA is one of the world leaders in research on functional textiles, specifically those for medical use. The SITRA facility we visited is not equipped as a factory, so it does not produce products on a large scale. Instead, it serves as an incubator for companies that want to test new products but cannot afford the necessary machinery or are not yet ready to invest.
At SITRA, they prioritize the "Modi" movement, which is something we've been hearing about at a lot of our visits. This movement is working to motivate more production in India to improve its economy and productivity. Some of the medical textiles they work with include bandages, artificial organs for surgery, hospital gowns and hospital masks. All of these products are then used in hospitals throughout India, and slowly they are improving the lives of the Indian people. SITRA does a great job of assisting companies in developing new textile technology.
At the beginning of our tour, we saw how face masks are produced. It is essential that these masks, which are used both in hospitals and on the streets, are constructed properly, and SITRA has perfected an efficient method to do so. They use the spun bound technique to merge three layers of plastic without weaving. I also find it exciting to see non-wovens being made, and in this case, it was incredible to be able to see how an ultrasonic heat-bonding process is utilized by SITRA's equipment to churn out 2 face masks every second. These masks, made of polypropylene, are used not only by doctors and patients, but also by many of the workers in the factories we visited. The SITRA employee giving us a tour informed us that these masks must have a 98% filtration rate in order to meet standards, and factory workers should use a new mask every day, whereas doctors should switch their mask each time they see a new patient. These masks, which are not biodegradable, are recycled by being melted down and sanitized after use.
SITRA houses a lot of other examples of medical equipment. They have a machine specifically for making 50% viscose 50% polyester alcohol pads and wet wipes. Additionally, they have a tricot warp knitting machine that is used to create mosquito nets, temporary heart patches, and bandages.
At SITRA, they are constantly working with companies to develop the most cutting-edge methods for creating textiles of various uses. Their ultimate goal is to make the best products in the world so people can be healthy. They hope that by developing these textiles in India, they can keep revenue inside the country. In the last decade, India’s hospitals and medical facilities have been growing rapidly and moving toward a more “Western” style of large hospitals with many doctors and specialists under one roof. SITRA is helping these hospitals keep up with change by providing them with the latest technology in medical textiles.
SITRA has so many incredible pieces of technology, and perhaps the most interesting machine I saw was a giant conveyor belt that makes maxi pads. I had no idea that so much work goes into producing such a simple product!
As we toured around the SITRA facility, we were shown every type of weaving an knitting machine. From rapier looms to air jet and projectile weaving machines, SITRA has it all. They even have a spun-bound machine, which creates non woven fabrics using polymer filaments and intense heat. Last spring, I took a Fiber Science class that explained how all of these machines work, but I never really understood the processes until seeing it in person!
I was really inspired by SITRA’s motivation to assist companies with knowledge, machinery, and funding. They play a vital role in helping India to reach new heights in their medical capabilities. At the conclusion of our tour, we were shown a room filled with products that SITRA has helped create, including spine braces, finger casts, and bandages. Unlike in America, these products do not require government approval before being used in hospitals, so newer, more innovative products can be easily tested in the market to see if they are successful!
After our tour of SITRA, we went shopping at a mall in Coimbatore. At the mall, I discovered that KFC is kosher in India and it tastes 10x better than it does in the US. We ended the night with another rickshaw ride!
Tomorrow, we move on to Ooty, our final stop in India!