Our in-house laboratories are equipped with a comprehensive range of testing equipment and all our production is tested in accordance with rigorous ISO 9000 standards that are audited annually. Production samples are archived along with test results and each metre of material is identifiable by a barcode system that identifies each roll and contains all the information pertaining to its raw material formulation, production, storage and transport.
In the 1950s the use of plastic coatings in the textile industry was purely practical, and often referred to as ‘oil cloth’. It was prized for its durability and waterproof qualities, but its colours tended to fade in the sun and in time the material became brittle. By the 1960s, however, scientific advance led to new types of polymers, new types of machines, and new names such as faux leather and leatherette. These became standard in the automotive industry for door panels and seating. But the advances did not end there. New technology meant that instead of stiff, solid coatings, the polymer coatings were ‘blown’ in ovens to create what is now known as expanded or foam vinyl. These had a softness that could rival the most highly prized leather.
In the 1970s and 1980s with continued innovation, PVC-coated textiles came to be used in ever more upmarket environments, and increasing importance began to be placed on design as well as quality. Initially the focus continued to be on achieving the perfect replacement for leather, and a patented process even allowed our fabrics to be impregnated with the smell of real leather. In time, however, rather than being seen as simply a leather substitute, coated textiles became prized products in their own right. The CMI group, that was originally based at three sites across the UK before its international expansion, was at the forefront of many of these changes, as one former director noted:
"In the eighties and nineties we were at the forefront of R&D, and in a joint research project with a Swedish polymer producer, a German machine producer, and one of the automotive giants, we were in a race against the Japanese to produce more environmentally and recyclable products such as polyolefins."
Although the insatiable push for improvement often came from the powerful automotive sector, any technological improvement was also incorporated into the vinyl fabrics we produced for the hospitality, health and retail sectors. In addition to the highest quality, our aim has always been to create fine designs and styles that would enhance the products of our customers, and that is the endeavour we continue to uphold today.