Knowledge atlas Science

Cammann Gobelin Manufactory, Domestic Silkworm Cultivation

DE_19_Eschke Camman_Silkworm breeding_Portrait_1

In the medical and health sector, the demand for natural-based thread material has been increasing again in recent years, following the replacement of such materials by synthetic products since the 1980s. There is particularly high demand for silk yarns used in implants and surgical stitching. Peggy Wunderlich and Torsten Bäz, together with their cooperation partners, have made it their mission to revive silkworm cultivation in Saxony together with and to make silk thread a versatile product usable for various healthcare applications.

Name of Field in the local language
Materialforschung für den Medizin- und Gesundheitsbereich
Area of Expertise
Silkworm cultivation
Scientists / Scientific team
Dr. Udo Krause, Dresden Seidenkokon Native Silk GmbH, habilitated molecular biologist has researched the effect of natural silk. Ines Rönnefahrt, Initiative Zernikow e.V., Silkworm Cultivation. Peggy Wunderlich and Torsten Bäz, owners of two textile companies with expertise in processing materials, including silk
Location, Institution, Website
Waldenburger Agrar GmbH & Co.KG, Waldenburg. Fermila GmbH & Co. KG, Waldenburg. Initiative Zernikow e.V., Großwoltersdorf. Link to website
Contact
Cammann Gobelin Manufaktur, Inselsteig 16, D-09577 Niederwiesa (Ortsteil Braunsdorf). e-mail: info@cammann-manufaktur.de, phone: +49 174 8904044
Type of Institution
Private companies and associations

Laboratory and research space
Agricultural area for the cultivation and breeding of mulberry trees (decentralized) on approx. 10 ha and as field boundaries and street avenues with currently 3 companies and one association. Rooms for cultivating silkworms, 4 separate systems each with approx. 30 m².
Materials and equipment
Agricultural area, also border areas and small areas. Seeds and cuttings of the mulberry tree (large-leaved varieties). Eggs of the silkworm with overwintering areas. Cultivation and holding areas with shelf frame systems, multi-stage changeover areas air-conditioned. Spinning devices, work surfaces and night breeding room. Cocoon sorting and preparation of the fiber qualities (reel, cleaning, etc.).
Technology / Tools / Machines
Agricultural processing (incl. cultivation) of the mulberry trees, typical horticultural technology. Small animal husbandry and cultivation of insects, manual labor. Textile processing of the fibers as raw material (reel, washing plant, yarn preparation).
Research Methods / Processes
Continuous cultivation and care of the mulberry trees. Harvesting and preparation of the leaves for feeding. Keeping the caterpillars from hatching to spinning, 4 stages. Preparation of the cocoons for use as semi-finished products. Processing of the fibers into finished products. Interdisciplinary collaboration with natural scientists, farmers, doctors, and textile technicians for the theoretical development of the project, formulation of goals, advertising for participation of agricultural businesses (cultivation of mulberry trees), breeding and processing of cocoons, approval as a medical product, certification of textile manufacturing processes.

Awards, certifications, or scientific recognition
Patent applications for the processing of the fibers. Approval for various applications (medicine, health, etc.). Certification of plant qualities.

Today, silk as a raw material or yarn material for textile production is usually import material mainly from Asia. The production is carried out under economic aspects. Yield security and maximization is ensured, among other things, by the use of pesticides. The possibility in Saxony to produce according to controllable standards, small-scale and thus without chemical additives, opens up the possibility of using the fibers in sensitive areas, such as the health sector. A traceability of all cultivation and manufacturing processes guarantees the required quality of the end material.

Already in the 16th century, there were the first attempts in Saxony to cultivate mulberry trees and breed silkworms. The aim was to establish silk production for textile processing in Saxony in order to achieve economic independence from expensive imports. This is still evidenced today by some centuries-old mulberry trees. After a parasitic disease of the caterpillars, breeding in Germany came to a standstill in the 19th century and only experienced a resurgence with the production of parachute silk in the 1920s. Silk was produced in small quantities for clothing and technical fabrics, especially in the Saxon Vogtland, until the 1960s. The rearing took place decentrally in the private sector, the reeling of the silk then centrally in the Plauen spinning hut. 

Peggy Wunderlich and Torsten Bäz tie in with this tradition with their project. However, their goal is the production of medically usable silk threads. The silk is to be used, among other things, as sewing material and as yarn for implants for operations. The advantage lies in faster wound healing and the degradation of the material in the human body.

For the cultivation of the mulberry trees according to strict ecological criteria, various agricultural businesses in Saxony could be won. The seed for this is obtained from different suppliers and adapted to the regional conditions in a separate breeding. After a growth period of 2-3 years, the leaves of a tree are usable for caterpillar breeding. The breeding of the silkworm caterpillars – currently still in the test phase – is carried out under the organization of Peggy Wunderlich and Torsten Bäz in specially equipped rooms at the cooperation partners. In parallel, there is cooperation with partners from different sectors for the further processing of the cocoon. Some processes have already advanced to patent maturity

Only the middle third of the unwound silk thread meets the qualitative requirements for further use as a medical product. For the remaining 2/3, co-operations with researchers in the textile industry and designers are being established or expanded.

An additional aspect is the official approval of the silk thread as a medical product. A group of doctors who are following the course of the project and driving the individual steps of the release are already working on this. The temporal goal is the use of the material in 6-8 years.