Nonwoven fabrics have become an extremely important segment of the textile industry in recent years. The technical developments in polymers, nonwoven processing and fabric finishing have led to significant improvements in fabric physical and mechanical properties including fabric handling and drapability, tensile properties, abrasion resistance, pilling and washing stability, dyeing and printing that create prospects for nonwoven fabric applications in particular in apparel outerwear. This chapter briefly discusses the various nonwoven fabric production processes including web formation, web consolidation and finishing. An introduction to different joining techniques is also discussed and at the end future trends in the non woven market are outlined.
Nonwovens do not depend on the interlacing of yarn for internal cohesion. Intrinsically they have neither an organized geometrical structure. They are essentially the result of the relationship between one single fiber and another. This provides nonwoven fabrics with characteristics of their own, with new or better properties (absorption, filtration) and therefore opens them up to other applications.
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So, What’s to Non-Woven Fabrics?
- Non-woven fabrics are felted or bonded together
- Non-woven fabrics have many uses in textile products particularly as internal strengtheners and to assist sewing, such as interfacing
- Many non-woven fabrics are disposable products
- Laminated fabrics may not be non-woven but bonded together with heat or glue
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Nonwovens are in fact products in their own right with their own characteristics and performances, but also weaknesses. They are around us and one uses them every day, often without knowing it. Indeed they are frequently hidden from view.
Nonwovens can be made absorbent, breathable, drapable, flame resistant, heat sealable, light, lint-free, mouldable, soft, stable, stiff, tear resistant, water repellent if needed. Obviously, though, not all the properties mentioned can be combined in a single nonwoven, particularly those that are contradictory.
Non-woven fabrics are made in two main ways: they are either felted or they are bonded. The fabrics use fibres rather than yarns; these are laid randomly or in a uniform way to make web-like layers. They are held together by either the felting or bonding process.
Wool felt is the most common non-woven fabric and is produced by using short staple fibres from wool or other animal hairs (such as camel). Wool is an ideal fibre because its surface has natural hooks like scales, which when moisture, heat and vigorous movement are applied, interlock with each other. The heat and damp conditions cause the fibres to curl up, and the scales locking together prevents the fibres from straightening out again. When you wash a natural wool jumper and it shrinks in size the jumper is actually felting and you can’t make it bigger again no matter how hard you try to stretch it back.
Because the fibers are loosely connected, nonwoven fabrics are often more porous than other forms of textiles. In order to gain integrity, the fibers in nonwoven fabric are bonded by using one of the following methods.
There are three main methods of making bonded fabrics:
- Dry laid: a web of fibres is laid in a drum and hot air is injected to bond the fibres together.
- Wet-laid: a web of fibres is mixed with a solvent that softens the fibres and releases a glue-like substance that bonds the fibres together and then the web is laid out to dry.
- Direct spun: the fibres are spun on to a conveyer belt and glues are sprayed on to the fibres, which are then pressed to bond; if the fibres are thermoplastic (will change shape with heat) then the glue is not needed in this process.