Applications of Nonwovens in Apparel Industry

Nonwovens Fabrics:
The term ‘nonwoven’ implies something that is simply ‘not woven’. Nonwoven fabrics are one of the oldest and simplest textile fabrics. It is one of the fastest growing branches of textile production. Nonwoven is a sheet of fibers, continuous filaments or chopped yarns of any nature or origin, that have been formed into a web by any means, and bonded together by any means, with the exception of weaving or knitting. Nonwoven fabrics are engineered fabrics that may be a limited life, single-use fabric or a very durable fabric. Nonwoven fabrics provide specific functions such as absorbency, liquid repellency, resilience, stretch, softness, strength, flame retardancy, washability, cushioning, filtering, bacterial barrier and sterility. Nonwovens are used extensively in the apparel industry for interlinings, clothing and glove insulation, bra and shoulder padding, handbag components and shoe components.

Nonwovens in Apparel Industry

Applications of Nonwovens in Apparel Industry:
There are versatile applications of nonwoven fabrics or materials in apparel sector due to their unique characteristics. Their versatility, lightweight nature, and cost-effectiveness make nonwovens an integral part of the apparel industry, contributing to improved performance and enhanced wearer experience. Nonwovens are widely used as interlinings, providing structure and stability to garments without adding bulk. These are also employed as insulating layers in outerwear, enhancing warmth and comfort. Additionally, they serve as disposable components in hygiene products like masks and surgical gowns, offering protection and breathability. Moreover, nonwoven fabrics are utilized in shoe manufacturing, providing cushioning and moisture-wicking properties.

Important applications of nonwovens in apparel industry are summery below:

1. Nonwoven interlinings: Nonwoven interlining defines materials based on nonwovens that are incorporated into articles of clothing during production to fulfill a range of functions. Nonwoven interlinings are therefore one of the oldest successful applications of nonwovens. It is used for stabilizing is to reinforce or stiffen certain parts of a garment in the desired way. Moreover, these areas, often the most visible on a garment (for example collars and cuffs on shirts and blouses), should look good and should not lose their appearance after the care cycle.

Nonwoven interlinings
Fig: Nonwoven interlinings

2. Nonwovens for protective clothing: Protective and safety textiles of the most diverse kinds are classed as technical textiles with a high-tech character. Protective clothing are used mainly in personal protective equipment (PPE) in the following areas:

  • Protective clothing (body protection)
  • Protective gloves
  • Protective headgear
  • Protective footwear
  • Protection against falling
  • Protection against drowning

Protective clothing manufacturing, mainly against fire and chemicals, is the major driver of the apparel manufacturing market for nonwoven fabrics. Nonwoven fabrics are further utilized for manufacturing of masks, surgical gowns and also as protective clothing against chemicals, pesticides, manufacturing electronics, and in all laboratories.

personal protective equipment (PPE)
Fig: Personal protective equipment (PPE)

Nonwovens are a component of protective clothing systems. They vary in the fibrous materials used and in their textile construction. In particular it is worth mentioning their use:

  • in disposable clothing for chemical/aerosol/dust protection
  • as liner components in moisture and cold protection composites
  • as bulky insulation linings with a protective function against the effects of heat from a radiant heat source, flames or hot objects

3. Nonwoven support materials for footwear: Nonwoven materials play a crucial role in footwear as support components. They are used as insoles, providing cushioning, comfort, and shock absorption to the wearer’s feet. Coated textile support materials – summed up under the term “artificial leathers” – compete with “genuine leather” in most diverse applications, e.g. as shoe upper and upholstery cover materials. For their lightweight nature, flexibility, and versatility, nonwovens have become essential support materials in the footwear industry, enhancing overall performance and wearer satisfaction.

Advantages of Nonwoven Fabrics in Apparel:
Nonwoven provides a numerous advantages contrast to woven fabrics, particularly with respect to cost benefits, owing to its direct fiber to fabric formation process, high volume of production and less manpower requirement. This difference in cost is sufficient for them to completely replace woven fabrics for fashion apparel applications, if they were not suffered by the distinct disadvantages in terms of their mechanical properties, poor drape or flexibility. Design and production of a nonwoven fabric to mimic a woven cloth for apparel uses have to meet the following requirements such as:

  • Physical requirements
  • Thermo-physiological requirements
  • Biomechanical requirements
  • Psychological requirements

In the nonwoven, the combined contribution of neighbouring fibers depends totally on the extensibility of fiber and bond and is accordingly very restricted. The mechanism of nonwoven fabric fitting is represented by the fiber rotation, fiber straightening, bond rotation, bond expansion and fiber extension. The nonwoven can’t simply accommodate in-plane compression without buckling as it does not have the easy shear path. The incapability of nonwovens to distribute the stress at a tear, leads to premature breakdown in outer wear. To put it plainly, the nonwoven structure is not in a superior position to withstand tears, stitch gatherings and transfer of stresses in a fabricated garment in day to day service.

The solutions recommended to improve the performance of nonwoven for apparel applications are given below:

  • The presentation of highly elastic and tough fibers and similarly elastic and strong bonds needs to make nonwovens more sturdy and strong.
  • Darting of the strands between the two surfaces of the fabric and presenting bonding just at the midplane. This could improve the strength and flexibility of nonwoven.
  • Extra fiber length between bonding points must allow higher deformability and consequently decreased the fabric stiffness.
  • The chance of attaining greater degrees of filament freedom of motion would be improved with increasing space between the bonding points.
  • Better fabric drapeability could be achieved by the use of binders with enhanced mechanical properties.
  • The durable and washable nonwovens by need must be hydroentangled. Hydro-entangling produces fabrics that are flexible, soft and conformable, alike traditional woven fabrics.

Few of the nonwoven fabrics developed with various kinds of fibers are mentioned below:

  • Cotton-polyester blended nonwoven fabric
  • Polyester nonwoven fabric
  • Silk nonwoven fabric
  • Wool nonwoven fabric
  • Polyester durable nonwoven fabric

A 100% polyester nonwoven fabric can be manufactured from nonwoven web subjected to hydro-entanglement process. The nonwoven web is then gone through an image processing element which imparts a final design to the web. The web is passed through a three water jet nozzle sections at a speed of around 35 ypm (yards per minute) and at 150 bar entangling pressure. After hydro-entangling or spun lacing process, the binder which contains elastomeric mixture is applied while the web is passed through an application station. The web is then passed through a sequence of drying organized one over the other which are worked at around 310°C. Before utilization of nonwoven fabric for garment manufacturing process, the fabric should be pre-treated with a softening agent followed by jet dyeing and mechanical compaction to a level of 7%. Mechanical finishing treatments like sanforizing, sueding, napping, etc., can be carried out prior to or subsequent to printing and dyeing.

Freudenberg Nonwovens, German based top nonwoven manufacturer has introduced Evolon®, a spunlace bi-component nonwoven fabric made from polyamide and polyester nonwoven fabric to be used as an apparel outer fabric. It provides thermal insulation, washability, ultraviolet protection, breathability, wind resistance and quick-drying. Precision Custom Coatings LLC, one of the leading manufacturers of nonwoven and coated fabrics for apparel and industrial applications, has recently launched the Comfort Stretch Thermal Bond Nonwoven fabric, which offers good stretch, elastic recovery as well as comfort for the wearer.

References:

  1. Nonwoven Fabrics: Raw Materials, Manufacture, Applications, Characteristics, Testing Processes Edited by Wilhelm Albrecht, Hilmar Fuchs, Walter Kittelmann
  2. Nonwovens – Process, Structure, Properties and Applications by T. Karthik, R. Rathinamoorthy & C. Praba Karan
  3. Smart Clothes and Wearable Technology Edited by J. McCann and D. Bryson
  4. Satyajeet Chaudhari, Aadhar Mandot, Patel Milin & Matharu Karansingh: A Review On Nonwoven Fabrics Used In Apparel
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nonwoven_fabric

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  1. Applications of Nonwoven Hygiene Materials
  2. Characteristics of Nonwoven Fabric | Uses and Specialty of Nonwoven Products
  3. Protective Textiles with Its Enormous Applications

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