Industrial Materials Research Centre (IM-RC)
INDUSTRIAL MATERIALS RESEARCH CENTRE (IM-RC)
The livestock industry contributes about 12 per cent of Kenya’s gross domestic production, 40 per cent of agriculture sector’s gross domestic production and 50 per cent of employment in the agriculture sector. Leather sector accounted for 2 per cent of formal manufacturing employment and 1.3% of manufacturing value-added. Currently (2023), the leather sector is a KES 15 billion industry and provides 17,000 jobs (7,000 formal and 10,000 informal). The industry has the potential to produce 3 million hides and 18 million skins, increase tannery utilization from 25 to 100%, generate KES 120 billion and employ 100,000 people. Potential of raw hides, skins and leather value chains have however not been fully commercialized. Kenya is a minor exporter of leather and leather products. About 89% of the country’s leather export is the low-value, partially-processed (wet blue) leather. The other export products are raw hides and skins (5%), finished leather (2%) and leather footwear and handbags, travel wear and other leather products (4%). The quality of finished leather from local tanneries is poor and cannot compete with imported leather. In addition, the competitive position of the leather industry is impacted negatively by imports of new low-cost and second-hand footwear and other leather products. Kenya's leather is produced and sold as a commodity with little quality or design differentiation. Other challenges facing the leather industry include unsafe management and disposal of solid and liquid effluent.
Research and Development Activities in Leather Section
- Promote green manufacturing technologies and circular economy in the leather value chain such as chrome and fat recovery, recycling and re-use of tannery effluent; high exhaustion principles in tanning; organic leather processing aids such as vegetable tannins, and fat liquors from natural oils and waxes; and utilization of leather off-cuts and shavings to make building materials.
- Design and manufacture leather goods and articles from conventional (cows, goats, sheep) and non-conventional hides and skins (ostrich, crocodile, snakes, fish, zebra, rabbits) using computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing.
- Provide technical support in design, layout, installation, commissioning and maintenance of leather processing equipment.
- Provide entrepreneurs with technical knowledge and skills to enable them develop market-ready products and services. Clients receive support on product formulation and design, standardization, packaging and certification. The training can be individualized, in groups, and on/off-site KIRDI premises.
Key Facilities in Leather Section
- The leather section has assorted equipment such as tanning and pilot scale drums, leather splitting and shaving machine, embossing / plating machine, buffing machine, leather spraying booth, leather staking machine, leather testing equipment, and waste water analytical laboratory.
Textiles and Apparel Section
The textile and apparel industry is Kenya's second largest manufacturing sector (after agro-processing). It accounts for 6 per cent of the manufacturing sector and has capacity to contribute to over 15 per cent of manufacturing sector gross domestic production. Kenya has about 52 textile mills of which only about 15 are operational at less than 45 per cent capacity due to low level of skilled labour and productivity. Kenya has thousands of apparel companies. About 170 are medium and large while 75,000 are small and micro companies. Twenty-one companies operate in Export Processing Zones (EPZs) employing an average of 37,800 employees. Textile sector is one of the most polluting industries and requires special mitigation measures. Bio-based materials, which are composed of organic constituents derived from renewable resources have desirable structural and functional properties such as biodegradability and cost-efficient production, and present a viable growth alternative to environmentally unfavourable synthetic fibres, such as acrylic, nylon, polyester, for fabric and yarn production.
Research and Development Activities in Textile and Apparels Section
- Valorisation of organic fibres from plants (cotton, sisal, abaca, coir, hibiscus, flax, jute, hemp, ramie and kenaf), animals (silk and wool); agricultural wastes (banana pseudostem, bagasse, pineapple leaves and coconut husk) to produce fabrics, textiles and apparel such as sanitary pads, handicrafts, hairpiece, carrier bags and packaging materials.
- Promote green manufacturing and circular economy practices such as utilization of natural dyes instead of synthetic dyes; development of fibre removal (singeing) technologies to reduce the risk of fabric burning during conventional (flame) method of smoothening (removal) of protruding fibers from fabric
- Research and development on biodegradable desizing agents from microbial resources, effluent bioremediation agents using enzymes and exopolysaccharides, application of generally-recognized-as-safe microorganisms in textile processing and end-of-life use of clothes (valorization of clothes destined for landfills).
- Provide entrepreneurs with technical knowledge and skills to enable them develop market ready products and services. Clients receive support on product formulation and design, standardization, packaging and certification. The training can be individualized, in groups, and on/off-site KIRDI premises. Capacity building programmes are in textile, sanitary pad, embroidery and tufting technology (mat and carpet-making) and branding textile products.
- Provide technical support in design, layout, installation, commissioning and maintenance of textile processing equipment.
- Product standardization and quality assurance tests such as dyeing, washing, rubbing fastness and wear.
Key Facilities in Textile and Apparels Section
- Equipment in the facility include a sanitary pad making machine, computerized embroidery machine, banana fibre extractor, mats tufting machines, rotary screen-printing machine.
- The laboratory has textile testing machines for wash fastness, infra-red dyeing, crock meter, wear fastness, water permeability.
Ceramics and Building Materials Section
More than 60 percent of urban Kenyans live in slums and other low-quality housing undermining their dignity and exposing them to health hazards. In addition, limited access to financial resources has resulted in utilization of building technologies that yield poor quality structures and cause environmental destruction. Clay-based bricks are essential building materials for constructing affordable housing in rural areas. However, current methods of brick production using traditional clamp kilns are inefficient because they consume large amounts of wood fuel resulting in environmental pollution and deforestation. In addition, the quality of the bricks is low and highly variable with losses of up to 50 percent. Provision of affordable housing requires use of low-cost building materials that are environmentally friendly, sustainable and have low carbon footprints.
Research and Development Activities in Ceramics and Building Materials Section
- Promote green construction technologies for building materials and components such as form works boards, partition blocks, ceiling boards and insulation materials from agricultural by-products, such as bagasse, rice husks and coconut husks; and recycled industrial waste materials such as leather shavings and plastics.
- Screen local soils and mineral resources such as Kisii soapstone, Mukurweini or Makueni clays, pumice and diatomite for development of household and industrial products such as chalk, bricks, tiles, ceramics, tableware, pipes, cookstove liners, water filters, and kiln furniture.
- Product standardization and quality assurance services, such as compression test and tensile test for concrete and wood panels; ball milling services for rocks and soils; and minerals testing.
- Consultancy services in plant structural design and development, kiln and incinerator design, soil and minerals analysis, and structural and concrete technologies.
- Provide entrepreneurs with technical knowledge and skills to enable them develop market ready products and services. Clients receive support on product formulation and design, standardization, packaging and certification. The training can be individualized, in groups, and on/off-site KIRDI premises.
Key Facilities in Ceramics and Building Materials Section
- The section has compression testing machines, ball mills, tensile testing machines, high and low temperature ovens and plastics extruding machine.