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Just because it's soft doesn't mean it's not durable

Feb. 17/24 2014, Volume 27/number 21

By Louis Iannaco

During the last few years, soft fiber has been all the rage in the carpet segment. Ever since Invista’s launch of Tactesse, a growing number of players have thrown their hats into the soft fiber arena. However, the one constant during this time of “softer is better” has been the perception that softer means less durable.

Long before the soft movement reached the homes of consumers, carpet manufacturers knew they would have to provide soft products that wouldn’t crush or matte. Whether it was testing their products via in–house or third-party foot traffic, using higher yarn twists or changing fiber’s molecular structure, mills continue to make durability a top priority.

Screen Shot 2014-02-24 at 1.55.53 PMAt Shaw, where its Caress carpet features the mill’s Anso nylon, Trey Thames, vice president of residential marketing and product management, said Shaw spent a great deal of time researching, testing and modifying its “super soft fibers” before launching them. “Caress was subjected to walk tests rather than a traditional mechanical (Hexapod) test. Having people walk all our styles and measuring their actual foot traffic gave us confidence Caress would perform in consumers’ homes.”

James Lesslie, assistant to the chairman at Engineered Floors, said to ensure its Puresoft Cashmere carpets perform, the company inserted 20% additional twist levels in its soft carpet fiber versus its traditional fiber, giving the mill one of the highest twist levels in the industry in both its traditional Puresoft fiber and Puresoft Cashmere fiber.

In addition to the higher twist, Engineered Floors also has its Puresoft Cashmere styles undergo a battery of walk tests. This takes place at an independent lab using people, not machines. “Carpets aren’t tested with machines in the real world; they’re tested by people walking on them,” Lesslie explained. “For us, the way to ensure our performance is to rely on ‘real world’ testing on all our soft styles.”

At Beaulieu America, the idea behind its latest soft offering, Perfection, is to provide the perfect balance between softness and durability. As Matt Johnson, senior director of product management, said, the mill does just that with its Nyluxe fiber. “Every time you go down in denier per filament, you have a trade off in durability, so you get softer and a little less durable. We believe Nyluxe has that sweet spot.”

In addition, in order to have that durability, Beaulieu, like Engineered, has twisted its yarn very tight, keeping a narrow gauge and fairly low pile height.

According to Johnson, there is a lot of high pile height that feels like cotton in the industry. “That’s why we’ve pulled ours down, like a commercial carpet, and made it all 1⁄10-gauge. We’ve over-twisted and over-engineered it to make sure any soft nylon product you get from Beaulieu performs like anything else we have.”

Danny Wade, Beaulieu’s executive vice president of research and development, explained the reason behind the fiber’s strength is because Nyluxe 8dpf luxury nylon has 275 individual filaments in each fiber bundle. “And when combined with a twist of 6.6 turns per inch, you get not only softness but durability.” Like Shaw and Engineered, Beaulieu also walk tests its Nyluxe products for appearance retention. “On a rating scale of one to five,” he said, “with five being no change, Nyluxe products rate 4 to 4.5.”

Technology deliversScreen Shot 2014-02-24 at 1.57.49 PM

Seth Arnold, Mohawk’s residential brand director, said from the start, SmartStrand had a “different” molecular structure and was a fiber that would perform “remarkably well. It can absorb and deflect the crushing/matting other fibers had and can do it at the level of softness well beyond what we’d seen in polyester and nylon.”

Even though the industry, including Mohawk, has brought soft nylon and polyester to market, neither of those “holds a candle” to the durability of SmartStrand Silk, Arnold noted. And when it comes to nylon, Mohawk is using the same type of technology it used to create Silk. “We use our Wear-Dated fiber and have two times the fiber of an ordinary soft carpet. The yarn’s density is wearing better than some unbranded nylons.”

With Mohawk’s new Continuum process, Arnold said the mill has been able to get a higher grade PET polymer because of the bottle resins that have to be built at certain FDA-approved standards. The mill had noticed a greater tensile strength in these fibers that it could build through its Continuum process.

“We have a big advantage with polyester with Continuum as it provides the guarantee that you’re going to get the highest performing soft polyester available,” he explained.

Invista engineers a unique fiber “cross section” in its soft Stainmaster products, according to Gary Johnston, senior marketing manager. “Cross section is the shape of the fiber. We’ve patented the fiber shapes we engineer specifically for each particular fiber application. For example, our soft products utilize a unique cross section so they’re able to deliver and perform well when tufted into a soft carpet.”

Johnston noted while the company has a specific denier it uses to provide soft shape and feel, it also contributes to the carpet’s ability to maintain its original shape. “Much of that stems from the original Tactesse fiber cross section we used early on. In fact, with Tactesse, we were the first to introduce a true soft fiber in the market.”

Since then, in order to enhance its product, the company has gone through many different processes and revolutions of fiber technology. As a result, Invista’s TruSoft carpet is “fantastic when it comes to touch and hand,” he noted, “but what’s most exciting is its durability and ability to stand up to household use/family activity.”

At Dixie, where the mill uses TruSoft fiber in its soft products, Dan Phelan, vice president of marketing, residential, said the company starts with premium type 6,6 nylons from Stainmaster then adds its own tufting and finishing expertise. “It’s our experience,” he concluded, “using higher stitch rates provides not only a better finish, but also better performance.”

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Engineered Floors: From startup to superstar in four years

January 20/27, 2014; Volume 27/Number 19

By Ken Ryan

Screen Shot 2014-02-12 at 11.59.06 AMThe decision to start Engineered Floors came in 2007, a time when both the flooring industry and Dalton were mired in a deep recession. The residential carpet business was in what industry pioneer and Engineered Floors chairman Bob Shaw called a “depression,” having dropped nearly 50% from its peak in 2005. The manufacturing icon said the decline ended just over two years ago in 2011 and has bumped along ever since. Continue reading Engineered Floors: From startup to superstar in four years

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Engineered Floors to offer video mill tour of new plant

Screen Shot 2014-01-23 at 10.05.58 AMDalton — Engineered Floors and Dream Weaver Carpet are announcing the next phases of their rapid growth at Surfaces. Dealers will be encouraged to ask about “SAM,” which the company describes as the largest carpet mill on a single site in the world. Engineered Floors and Dream Waver Carpet will give dealers a video mill tour at the show.

“We’re in tune with the carpet consumer and making carpet people want to buy, as evidenced by the increasing demand for our products,” said Gary Hollowell, vice president of sales and marketing. “The design benefits of our solution dyed Purecolor fiber allow us to create the tonal combinations of colors consumers are asking for today. Solid color carpet is quickly becoming passe with customers who want better performance and a more natural appearance on their floors. Our multi-color and tonal solid sales continue to increase as a percentage of our business.”

In 2014, Engineered Floors and Dream Weaver Carpet are adding 14 new styles and increasing the individual feed yarn colorations by 30%. This will allow for an exponential expansion of color combinations for consumers to choose from.

“Solution dye technology allows us to create many more color combinations that you cannot achieve in conventional piece dye technology,” said Melvin Silvers, president of Dream Weaver Carpet. “In addition, the enhanced performance of solution dye allows us to be the only mill that offers lifetime stain, fade and bleach resistance on 100 percent of our branded product offerings.  So with Purecolor solution dyed polyester, you can have both design flexibility and superior performance at a competitive price.”

Also new for 2014 is the Dream Weaver PureSoft Cashmere Space Saver Display. Fitting in just a few square feet of floor space, this display holds eight 20 x 30 sample blankets of Dream Weaver’s most popular PureSoft styles. The center panel lists the easy care advantages of this “soft as cashmere” carpet.

“Since we broke ground on our first manufacturing facility in 2009, we’ve been on a steady, fast growth trajectory,” said James Lesslie, assistant to the chairman. “In four years, we have never experienced a month that we did not have new equipment on order. Now, two plants later, as well as several expansions and a third plant on the way, it is safe to say we’re the fastest-growing carpet manufacturer in the world. We invite dealers to learn more about us.”

Engineered Floors and Dream Weaver Carpet will be exhibiting in booth S7549.

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Engineered Floors wins Deal of the Year award

Screen Shot 2013-10-23 at 1.08.54 PMDalton—Dalton-based carpet maker Engineered Floors has received the regional award for the Deal of the Year by the Georgia Economic Developers Association for the company’s $450 million plans to expand in Northwest Georgia.
 The expansion will result in the creation of 2,000 new jobs in the region. Continue reading Engineered Floors wins Deal of the Year award

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Georgia, carpet firms begin training program

Screen Shot 2013-10-04 at 11.18.07 AMDalton—Georgia state officials, working with the carpet industry, launched the Fast Track Innovation Program to provide technicians with on-the-job training. The 10-week program—developed by the Northwest Regional Commission, Georgia Northwestern Technical College and Governor’s Office of Workforce Development—is being offered to individuals selected by the companies. Continue reading Georgia, carpet firms begin training program

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Polyester sees continued growth through 2013

Experts: Solution-dyed fibers take maker share from nylon

Sept. 16/23 2013; Volume 27/number 11

By Ken Ryan

Screen Shot 2013-09-25 at 1.53.19 PMWhen the economy went south in 2007, consumers either removed flooring as a purchase priority or sought value unlike ever before; fiber systems’ market share perfectly illustrates these situations. According to FCNews research, nylon went from a 59.8% share of the pie in 2007 to 48% in 2012 in terms of volume. Interestingly, 11% of that number was gobbled up by triexta, with polyester mainlining about a 25% share. Continue reading Polyester sees continued growth through 2013

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Staying ‘home’ creates local jobs

Volume 26/Number 25; April 29/May 6, 2013

By Matthew Spieler

America was built by manufacturing, and flooring companies such as Shaw continue to employ U.S. workers.

When considering the Made in the USA movement, one area discussed consistently is how it helps create jobs for American citizens. Since the recession hit its nadir—and energy and transportation prices began to soar—there has been a resurgence of companies either touting how they continue to keep their manufacturing in local communities or, in many cases, bringing back some or all of their production to U.S. soil.

While the flooring industry was one of the hardest hit by the economic downturn, manufacturers and suppliers are quick to point out they continue to do their part to keep American communities thriving by producing their goods domestically. Continue reading Staying ‘home’ creates local jobs

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Quality control: Key advantage to local mill production

Volume 26/Number 25; April 29/May 6, 2013

By Matthew Spieler

With production in Barnwell, S.C., Kronotex is able to check for quality control, something extremely important for producing goods under the Formica brand.

Dalton—Mohawk is hitting the road this year and taking its SmartStrand with DuPont Sorona with it. The mill will continue to prove SmartStrand’s performance attributes in the coast-to-coast “License to Spill” carpet showdown tour in partnership with the nationally syndicated lifestyle television show, “The Better Show.”

The tour, which will make at least 12 stops, will showcase the cleanability and performance of SmartStrand at festivals and home show events. Attendees are invited to spill everything from ketchup and Kool-Aid to wine and coffee on SmartStrand carpet to see if it will clean with just water or mild detergent. Mohawk will promote its local Floorscapes and ColorCenter members at each tour stop and encourage consumers to visit their nearest aligned retailers to take advantage of promotional offers. Continue reading Quality control: Key advantage to local mill production

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Made in the USA: Domestic doesn’t have to mean more expensive

Volume 26/Number 25; April 29/May 6, 2013

By Matthew Spieler

For companies like Armstrong, which has 14 U.S.-based factories, local production provides numerous cost benefits, such as greater speed to market.

One of the main reasons companies have cited for exiting the U.S. in favor of making or sourcing their products internationally is price, namely the cost of labor and regulations, which they say hamper their ability to effectively compete with products coming from countries that do not put a value on either.

While this is something with which it is hard to argue, many flooring companies point out the cost differential is not as steep as most think, allowing them to offer products and services equal to or better than those that are imported. Continue reading Made in the USA: Domestic doesn’t have to mean more expensive

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Engineered Floors to expand new facilities

Dalton-based carpet manufacturer Engineered Floors has announced expansion plans for new facilities in Northwest Georgia. “We are pleased that these new facilities will allow for further job creation in the area,” said Robert E. Shaw, chairman and CEO.

Construction will take place in multiple phases over a five-year period. When completed, the expansion will represent more than $450 million of investment and result in the creation of 2,000 new jobs.