A high-tech firm in Michigan announced on June 17 that it has produced what it claims is the world’s first textile using its genetically engineered spider silk-based fibers. Kraig Biocraft Laboratories has collaborated with Warwick Mills to produce the fabric with what it calls Monster Silk. According to an advance announcement, the first Monster Silk™ textiles are knitted gloves. Kraig says that these are the first of many textiles that are to be created as part of the Company’s joint development agreement with Warwick.
“We have been working with various types of Monster Silk™,” said Charles Howland, President of Warwick. In a statement, Howland said “We find that all of these fibers are compatible with existing yarn processing and textile formation methods. As is expected, fiber consistency is not yet at fill production levels. However, for the current stage of maturity, these silk materials already have good levels of quality and consistency. We have been making jersey knit samples and will start weaving shortly. These small scale trials are key to helping identify, for Kraig Labs, areas for development for upcoming fiber production trials. We are reviewing textile properties of the samples with Kraig staff and exploring the most attractive applications for this fiber. Overall the trails are well underway and we are making good progress toward commercialization.”
Kraig founder and CEO Kim K. Thompson said of the development, “One of the biggest issues facing our company was creating our first textile and the open question of whether genetically engineered spider silk could be successfully processed using existing textile formation methods.”
“With this successful test, and the creation of the first Monster Silk knits, we have established that our genetically engineered spider silk works well with existing manufacturing methods. The creation of these knits is a huge milestone in our progress toward making genetically engineered spider silk available for industrial and consumer applications. The fact that these advanced materials process well on existing machinery will help speed up the development of advanced spider silk textiles.”
In May of this year, Kraig announced a significant improvement in the production of the genetically engineered fiber. According to its website, Kraig noted that in late 2013, its pilot production program’s viable silk cocoon yield rate was at approximately 30%. By March 2014, said the website, the yields increased to approximately 70%; more than double the output efficiency from the pilot phase. The spider silk is actually produced by genetically modified silk worms.
Spider silk is as strong as steel and is hoped to have a use in the future as a ballistic resistant material, perhaps with military applications.