Fabric of Freedom

An IIT-D team is working on yarn and novel structures to make monumental tirangas stronger and durable
Team from SWATRIC working on the new fabric
Team from SWATRIC working on the new fabric

Ever wondered how the Tricolour always flutters — withstanding extreme weather conditions, diverse politics, and the weight of a nation, especially as we celebrate our independence day. 

To solve the weight of the issue, a team led by Bipin Kumar, Professor in Textile and Fibre Engineering Department of IIT-Delhi, has created several prototypes. These will be tested September onwards with installation of a flag on the IIT-Delhi campus. 

“We have spoken to several flag pole vendors because making a flag pole takes one month. Our target is to install a 100-ft flag pole before October 2 to test its durability under real weather conditions. Since I have made several prototypes, I will check them every two months,” he adds.

Kalsi Brothers manufacturing unit
Kalsi Brothers manufacturing unit

Kumar is a Mentor at SWATRIC, a research-based start-up incubated at IIT Delhi in July 2021. He informs that work on the fabric design and raw material began two months ago. “At present, we are working on yarn and novel structures to make the flag fabric stronger and durable. The fabric technology is based on knitting, but further information on the design and specifications fall under IP protection and cannot be shared. But the prototypes have given encouraging results under lab conditions. We have already achieved a 200% increase in fabric strength compared to the one available in the market.”

This project started due to a letter that SWATRIC got from the Flag Foundation of India, raising several concerns about the flag’s fabric. Ashim Kohli, CEO, Flag Foundation – a non-profit body that won a seven-year long court battle that enabled all Indians to display the tiring at their homes, offices and factories, 365 days of the year, says, “I got to know that the existing flags were getting torn very fast. When I delved further, I realised that manufacturers have no answers because they don’t follow any scientific process to select the fabric. Since I was not technically qualified to know that, I got in touch with IIT Delhi.” 

Gurpreet Kalsi, General Manager, Kalsi Brothers, who runs a fabric factory in Moti Nagar and a flag manufacturing unit in Jhandewalan, shares that the flags are made using polyester, satin, and khadi. The cost of a 20x30ft monumental flag begins from Rs 25K and goes to Rs 25L, depending upon the size. SK Chabria, Owner of The Flag Company that has produced flags from shiny knitted polyester for over 15 years now, agrees with Kalsi, saying new fabric will increase customer satisfaction. 

“At present we get a lot of complaints about the fabric. And research is a costly procedure that can be done by an organisation like IIT only, and I am happy it’s being done.” Bipin adds that if the size of these PET fabric based flags is small, they are durable but if they are bigger, they get torn within seven to 15 days, incurring huge replacement costs.

“Since it’s about the pride of a nation, our aim is to bring the cost down at least by 50 per cent. I cannot commit anything but we will provide the best solution at an economical price,” he says. “IIT authorities had visited my unit and I helped them with all the information and fabric they required, and I think if they successfully develop something, we can together we can provide quality products to people,” wraps up Kalsi.

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The New Indian Express