Magazine July 2013

All the latest information from the textile world

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Biosteel® – AMSilk and the secret of the spider

Over millions of years, nature has brought forth various different and unique materials – these have often been surpassed in many ways by synthetically created ones. One outstanding example here is spider silk. AMSilk has now succeeded in synthetically producing this unique natural product and bringing it to market readiness. But what are the properties and the potential of this synthetic spider silk, known by the brand name of Biosteel®?

Just an imageThe spider web – synonymous with ultra-fine high precision

Stretchier than silk and more tear-resistant than Kevlar

The silk threads made by spiders combine extreme stability with a high stretch capability. The combination of these mechanical properties has so far been unequaled in conventional fibers: spider silk can absorb over three times as much energy as Kevlar or nylon before it breaks.In addition to its outstanding mechanical properties, spider silk is also hypoallergenic, sustainable to produce, and recyclable. It triggers no immune reaction, feels pleasant to the touch and has a silky shine.

Spider silk has fascinated humanity for thousands of years, especially because of its high stability and its medical safety. Researchers and companies have been aware of the potential of this natural product for many years, but have so far been unsuccessful in their attempts to make a synthetic version of the material and utilize it for new products.

Just an imageElectronically spun spider silk

From natural protein to an industrial product

AMSilk® has now succeeded for the first time in developing a globally unique fiber made from recombinant spider silk: it was presented to the public recently under the brand name of Biosteel®.

Like other synthetic fibers, Biosteel® can be manufactured infinitely as a monofilament or multifilament – alongside its outstanding physical characteristics, this is a benefit over insect silk and other natural fibers. Minimization of weak areas in the spider silk during the synthetic production process has also made it significantly easier to process.

Just an imageBiosteel® fiber bundle

Soft, pure white, shiny

Biosteel® feels pleasantly soft, has a silky shine, is water-absorbent and is pure white. It is gentle on the skin and, like normal silk, can be processed and dyed.

The spider silk used for Biosteel® is not produced by spiders at all: with the help of a method specially developed by the company, synthetically produced proteins are formed into a fiber. Using biotechnological methods, the raw material – initially in powder form – is produced in high quality and in greater quantities than could ever be produced from spiders alone. The process is based on findings by Professor Dr. Thomas Scheibel from the University of Bayreuth, which were further developed technologically by AMSilk.

The key benefits of this production process:

  • Defined, uniform quality
  • Monodisperse polymer
  • Freely scalable process
  • No need to breed and keep spiders

Commercial applications

Biosteel® enables the versatile properties of spider silk to be used commercially. The unique characteristics of spider-silk proteins can be adapted in a targeted manner to manufacture tailormade products. Applications for Biosteel® include technical high-performance textiles, sports articles or fabric-carrier textiles. Many studies have also shown that the material is especially suitable for applications in medical technology, e.g. for seam material, wound dressings or medical textiles. The most important applications of the new high-performance materials are:

  • Silk particles
  • Coatings
  • Foams and gels
  • Nonwovens
  • Fibers, yarns and fabrics

AMSilk: from raw material to end product

The core competencies of AMSilk lie in the development of production processes for spider silk – from raw material production and intermediate products to select prototypes and end products. The end products will be primarily realized with market-leading partners or licensees.

AMSilk has applications in 18 patent families, whereby several patents have already been granted. Ever since its foundation in 2008 the "idea laboratory" has grown, and now has over 20 employees.

Competence in the finest of gauges

The potential of synthetically manufactured spider silk represents a fascinating challenge: processing such filaments requires the very highest precision. The challenge is a familiar one to Groz-Beckert, and the company provides the optimal knitting-machine needles. This enables innovative products for industry and end-users to be created by AMSilk from the "raw material".

Your Groz-Beckert experts will be happy to provide more information about the ideal needles for processing Biosteel®, in order to create every conceivable product! With its Technology and Development Center (TEZ) the company also provides a perfect platform for joint product development. In the TEZ Competence Center "Loop Technology“, experts are working on today's and tomorrow's solutions. By means of co-development and co-innovation, customers are invited to participate in shaping the textile future.

AMSilk® is a registered trade mark of AMSilk GmbH, Germany, the European Union and the USA. Biosteel® and Spidersilk® are registered trade marks of AMSilk GmbH, Germany, brand name applied for in the European Union and the USA.