THEN Lets The Air Flow

ShanghaiTex 2005

By Jim Borneman,EditorTextile WorldTHEN Lets The Air Flow

Fong’s Industries Co. Ltd. executives gather for “THEN-Let The Air Flow.”In a special
presentation by Hong Kong-based Fong’s Industries Co. Ltd. to the press assembled at ShanghaiTex,
the company’s “Let the Air Flow” theme was illustrated with a special video featuring Wilhelm
Christ, Ph.D. — inventor of the Airflow and a research associate at Fong’s Germany-based THEN
Maschinen GmbH subsidiary.In the 1970s, Christ, as head of the THEN research department, questioned
how the enormous water and energy demand in fabric dyeing could be lowered.“The traditional
machinery at the time used the water to carry dyes and to also drive the fabric,” Christ
said.“Thus, the water consumption was very high. In 1979, we started with the development of the
Airflow technology together with the German company Hoechst AG … the Rapid Color process as the
isotherm dyeing method.This development step, which was mainly applied in yarn package dyeing,
replaced the traditional dye liquor as transport medium. [Using this method,] the steam-heated dye
liquor was injected into the air-jet nozzle.“The next step was to efficiently distribute the small
amounts of dye liquor and auxiliaries onto the fabric:This could only be done through an aerosol.
The aerosol substituted the liquor used for hydraulic fabric transport and led to completely
changed relationship of mass.”According to the video, the development proceeded in giant steps and
the basic Airflow patent was registered in 1981.The inventors were Christ, Hans Ulrich von der
Eltz, Ph.D., and Albert Reuther. In 1982, the European patent was registered, and at the
application of the process started in many countries worldwide.“The first Airflow machine was shown
at ITMA 1983 in Milan,” Christ said.“[T]he first prototype machine of 10-kilo load size was
installed at the application laboratory of Hoechst AG. Subsequently, THEN successfully commercially
introduced the technology. In 1991, the first Airflow machine in round vessel concept was exhibited
at ITMA Hanover.This design formed the base for today’s Model AFE.”According to the company, the
Airflow AFS of 1991 and today’s AFE model illustrate a “targeted optimization in the process
technology leading to a reduction of chemical and water usage by 25 percent.”Today, Christ
continues his work at THEN, and is passing his expertise on to the next generation at the Fong’s
Group.“I am very pleased that the brand THEN maintains its excellent reputation in the world,” said
Christ. “And we have many more ideas!”

September/October 2005