E.I.R.S.: Using AI to radically change how textiles and stains are treated in the laundry industry

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We have designed, and are testing, a breakthrough technological system that transforms the way stains are treated in the industrial laundry process – significantly reducing the amount of energy and chemicals needed to clean textiles, and prolonging the life of the fabric.

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Why current stain treatment processes are harmful to our planet

Every week 53 million textile items are processed by the UK laundry sector alone. Bedding, PPE, workwear, towels, scrubs and cleaning equipment that healthcare, hospitality, manufacturing and other industries could not operate without.

Industrial laundries play a significant role in supporting other industries, providing essential services crucial for hygiene, sanitation, and compliance with regulations. In medical settings, clean linen is a fundamental requirement for maintaining infection control and patient safety. Despite this, many industrial laundries run on inefficient systems consuming an unnecessary amount of valuable resources. What are the causes behind these inefficiencies – and what are the consequences?

The one-size-fits-all approach

There are many variables that determine what the best cleaning process for a laundry item is: type of fabric, colour, stain type, stain level, and more. Research into hotel use and linens shows that an estimated 60-70% of all bed linen have only been slept in once, with many items remaining stain-free. Despite this, the laundry industry employs a one-size-fits-all approach and items that need minimal cleaning are treated the same as those heavily soiled. As a result, an unnecessary amount of energy and water is used, and the lifespan of the textile is reduced.

Chemically treating the whole fabric

When textiles are processed, chemicals are applied to the whole item, as opposed to the stained area only – causing unnecessary use of harsh chemicals. Considering that the chemical sector is the largest consumer of energy and responsible for 7% of all global greenhouse gas emissions (TFS Initiative↗), this over-consumption of chemicals can result in toxic waste harmful to humans and the environment, as well as add to the problem of global warming.

Ineffective stain removal

The textile industry is a significant contributor to climate change. It takes almost 10’000 litres of water to produce one bedsheet, and textile production alone is, according to data from the European Government, responsible for 20% of global clean water pollution. In the laundry industry, batch-processing and full-fabric treatment make for ineffective stain removal. Many items need to be rewashed multiple times, causing further wear and tear to textiles. Items that remain stained often fall below safety or quality standards and need to be discarded – increasing textile consumption, waste, and greenhouse gas emissions further.

Early intervention and recognition of stains

Together with our partners, we are developing a new system that puts an end to the one-size-fits-all approach by automating the recognition, identification, and treatment of individual stains.

Our patented system based on AI technology, using powerful algorithms and advanced robotic instruments, can recognise and analyse textile stains at speed. Assessing the composition, the system can identify appropriate treatment for the selected area of fabric and apply a precise application of chemical limited to the stained area only.

Automating the treatment of individual stains

One of the most important, as well as most difficult, challenges in targeted stain treatment, is to identify its composition. Different types of stains require different treatments, so it is important to know what caused the stain in order to select the most appropriate method of removal. Our system employs cutting-edge machine vision technology with powerful algorithms to recognise, locate, identify and categorise different types of stains accurately and at a very high speed. Once stains are identified, robotic arms equipped with specific stain treating tools apply the appropriate treatment to each stain, ensuring optimal removal without damaging the fabric. Continuously evaluating and improving its stain recognition and treatment capabilities as more data is collected, the system refines its performance over time.

The value of identifying and treating textile stains individually

  • Reduces textile waste by increasing the lifespan of textiles

    With its spot-specific treatment, E.I.R.S. uses chemicals sparingly and stains are removed more effectively. As a result, excessive washing is no longer needed and textiles retain their quality and last longer – resulting in improved cleaning quality, reduced textile consumption, and decreased textile waste. As the AI model continually learns, its accuracy and efficiancy is improved over time.

  • Reduces costs by minimising the need for energy, water, and chemicals

    By treating stains individually, the resources needed to clean textiles are significantly reduced – resulting in cost savings for both customers and end-users. As the system is also able to identify stain-free textiles, the level of disinfection intervention can be adapted to suit the clean that is required. As a result, there is no longer a need for extensive washing, and the energy, water and chemical consumption is significantly reduced.

  • Significantly reduces the environmental impact of laundry

    By putting an end to batch-processing, we reduce consumption of valuable resources, eliminate waste, and minimise the amount of pollution and toxins released into the environment. As a result, the environmental impact of one of the most energy- and emission-intensive sectors worldwide, is drastically reduced.

Our aim is not just for the E.I.R.S. system to reduce the usage of chemicals, water and energy in our own industrial laundry. We want to make it available to all and reform the industry on a global level.

Peter Hillman, Founder & Managing Director

Despite its negative impact on the environment, the process of removing stains and cleaning textiles is still an unsustainable process, using up valuable resources that we no longer can afford to waste. The E.I.R.S. system offers a new innovative solution to textile treatment that is putting an end to the one-size-fits-all approach and is significantly more efficient and sustainable than current processes. It is an exciting development in the field of textile treatment.

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Kannegieser
Planet A
Innovation Management

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