Educating the next generation25 April 2004
The Igualada Tanning School, otherwise known as the EUETII - ESAI, has been offering leather technology studies for over four decades since it was founded 1958. As well as a tanning school, staff and students at the Escola Universitaria d'Enginyeria Tecnica Industrial d'Igualada (EUETII) are also involved in collaborative research with the private sector, governmental and other European Union funded projects. The school has two types of study: one that offers technology studies solely for leather and another that offers engineering studies with a tanning major. The school offers a two-year course known as the Leather Technician Certificate, a three-year Leather Technician Diploma and a Master's in Science in Leather Technology which is an extra year following the diploma. The school has approximately 150-200 full- and part-time students of which 30-40 typically study leather technology. The majority study for engineering-based qualifications. Most leather students study for 2/3 years for a degree covering all aspects of leather. Lectures are conducted in Spanish and a number of students learn Spanish prior to attending the leather courses. A number of students attend courses from Central and Latin American countries such as Colombia and Mexico. EUETII cooperate with the Mexican technical school CIATEC based in the tanning and footwear area of León. The School is located in Igualada, a mid-size town of 40,000 inhabitants, which is a major tanning area. Igualada is home to some 40 tanneries employing some 900 people. Major tanning names include Fontanellas y Marti, Vivapel, Badia and Farres Cia who manufacture mainly footwear upper and sole, upholstery and leathergoods leathers. Specialities of the town are full vegetable tanned leather (including sole) and high quality calfskin leathers. Being located close to such a concentration of tanneries is a distinct advantage for students attending the school as they are able to work with local companies on projects and trials. EUETII also work very closely with the research institute AIICA which is also located in Igualada. Plans are also being drawn up to amalgamate the two bodies into one location. AIICA have recently completed a purpose-built laboratory and pilot plant on the outskirts of the town (see Leather International, August 2003 page 33). For the leather courses, there are between 10 and 12 part- and full-time lecturers from both industrial and academic backgrounds. 'The professors at EUETII are well qualified and have wide experience in leather production and the chemical industry', Antoni Ruis, director of the Igualada tanning school told Leather International. 'We have several research groups established and students are encouraged to contribute to research projects such as the mechanical properties of leather, ultrasonic processing, tanning chemistry, and environmental impact including waste minimisation, life cycle and effluent analysis', he added. As well as the teaching laboratories the school houses research laboratories, physical testing and analytical laboratories. The pilot plant is located on the lower floor of the three storey building. The plant includes small scale versions of all the major pieces of tannery equipment including a spray finishing line, a rollercoater and a vacuum drying table. The school has a library that will soon be integrated into the Technical University of Catalonia library system. Its most important collection is the tanning technology materials. Other specialities in the school include the environment and water, industrial processes, and paper. The School is associated with the Technical University of Catalonia and some of the degrees are issued by that institution. This is the case with the Master of Science in Tanning Technology Studies. The degree is awarded by both EUETTI and the UPC, the Technical University of Catalonia. Ongoing research at EUETII There are a number of ongoing research projects taking place at the tanning school in Igualada. Funding comes from a range of sources such as the regional government of Catalonia, the Spanish government and the European Union. Research is also financed through collaborative projects with commercial companies such as tanners or leather chemical suppliers. Much of the research is co-ordinated by Joaquim Font I Valles, head of laboratory at EUETII. 'We collaborate with other similar research associations in the EU such as the LGR and the BLC', says Font. 'We are working closely with a number of private firms and the leather research centre in Brazil, Senai', he continued. Some of their research projects are as follows: * Chrome recovery. The tanning school is involved in a project with the University of Madrid to develop new methods of sequestering chromium from tannery wastewaters. The aim of the project is to recover all chrome and recycle the recovered chrome back into the tanning process. This includes recovering chromium from retanning processes. A fungal bacterium is being used to recover the chrome from waste. Research has identified that the fungus is able to withstand liquids containing high levels of oils, fats and metal compounds at both low and high pHs. * Chromium VI. EUETII have been one of the leading organisations looking into finding a new method of determining chromium VI traces in leather samples. Results were presented at the IULTCS congress in Cancun last May. * A Catalan government funded project is looking at methods of better waste management. The study is looking at synergies between industrial sectors to minimise waste. One sector's waste may be another's raw material. * New developments in vegetable tanning. This is a collaborative project with the Brazil mimosa extract producer Tanac. * Reduction of sulfide in liming. Pilot plant studies have shown that sodium sulfide levels in liming can be dramatically reduced using hydrogen peroxide. Future trials are to be conducted on a commercial scale to try and perfect a sulfide-free liming system using hydrogen peroxide.