Microfiber: Manufacturing, Benefits, End Uses, Appearances & Development

Last Updated on 27/05/2021

Microfiber: Manufacturing, Benefits, End Uses, Appearances & Development

Harshani Wijendra
Sri Lanka Institute of Textile & Apparel Technology (SLITA)
Email: harshani_bipasha@yahoo.com

 

What is Microfiber?
A microfiber is defined as a fiber (including staple fibers and filaments) of linear density approximately 1 dtex or less, and above 0.3 dtex. Microfibres find their use in air filters, dust wipes, etc., because of their high surface area as compared to normal fibers. Microfibers are half the diameter of a fine silk fiber, one-third the diameter of cotton, one-quarter the diameter of fine wool and one hundred times finer than human hair. Even finer fibers are produced, of 0.3 dtex or less, but these are commonly referred to as super-microfibers.

Manufacturing process of microfibers
Microfibers usually exhibit a linear density of less than 1 dtex. There are various methods of manufacturing microfibers, including modified conventional spinning. All three conventional spinning methods, namely, melt spinning, wet spinning and dry spinning can be employed to manufacture microfibers. The production through classical spinning processes is difficult for several reasons:

  • The mechanical stability of the very thin fibers leaving the spinneret is very low. In case of melt spinning and solution spinning, process stability is limited.
  • For a given number of bores, the productivity of the spinneret reduces with linear density of the fibers.

As a result of the technical difficulties to produce very fine diameters of synthetic fibers, alternative technologies were developed to produce such fibers in technical scale. Besides the hydrolytic removal of fiber polymer to reduce the fiber diameter of polyester fibers also bi-component fibers (polyester/polyamide) are used to prepare microfibers through splitting. In this process a bi-component fiber is produced which consists of two non-compatible polymers. By action of heat, chemicals (e.g. alkali) and intensive mechanical treatment the two components of the fiber then are split into microfibers of low diameter.

Benefits of Microfiber

1. Effective at capturing microbes: Several studies have determined that microfiber is better than cotton at capturing bacteria. The University of California, Davis Medical Center compared the amount of bacteria picked up by a cotton-loop mop and by a microfiber mop. The cotton-loop mop reduced bacteria on the floors by 30%, whereas the microfiber mop reduced bacteria by 99%.

2. Prevents cross-contamination: Microfiber cloths and mops are available in different colors so that a color-coding system can be implemented for specific uses. For instance, in bathrooms, pink cloths can be used for toilets and yellow cloths for sinks. Green cloths can be used for office cleaning.

3. Reduces chemical and water use more effectively: A University of Massachusetts Lowell study determined that because the micro fibers mopping system uses less water and chemicals, it reduced the amount of water and chemicals handled, and it eliminated the need to wring the heavy cotton mops, resulting in less potential for worker injury.

End-Uses of Microfibers
Micro fiber is used to make mats, knits, and weaves for apparel, upholstery, industrial filters, and cleaning products. The shape, size, and combinations of synthetic fibers are selected for specific characteristics, including softness, toughness, absorption, water repellency, electrodynamics, and filtering capabilities. In previous article I have discussed about application of micro fiber.

Main products for which microfibre are ideally suited:

  1. Microfiber Glass Cloth
  2. Duster/Multi-purpose Microfiber Cleaning Cloth
  3. Microfiber Scrubber
  4. Microfiber Kitchen Cloth
  5. Microfiber Optical & CD Cloth
  6. Microfiber Mops
  7. Microfiber Cleaning Sponge
  8. Microfiber Cleaning Cloths – Terry Cloths, Suede Cloths, Waffle-Weave Cloths

Appearances of Micro Fiber:

Structure comparison of microfiber
Fig: Structure comparison of microfiber

microfiber structure

Cross-section of radial type of micro fiber
Fig: Cross-section of radial type of micro fiber

Development Micro Fiber:
During the middle of the 20th century, the manufacturing of synthetic fibers began to expand into new areas. One of the breakthroughs was to take the sludge that was left over after oil had been refined and turn it into a synthetic fiber that could be used in upholstery; the process of refining this waste product yielded a substance known as polypropylene, which could in turn be processed into a thin olefin fiber. Olefin fibers were ideal to use in the production of car upholstery, home and office carpeting, and even some draperies. Olefin fibers caught on in a big way during the 1970s with one company in particular, Hercules, Inc., producing their own branded form of olefin fiber, which was dubbed Herculon®.

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