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Manufactured fabrics & the fibers that make them

Updated on by Sarina

All textile fibers are classified as either natural or manufactured. Natural fibers are fibers obtained from nature. Eg. cotton, flax, jute, silk, and wool. All the other fibers which are chemically made are called manufactured fibers; Manufactured fabrics are composed of manufactured fibers.

manufactured fabrics

Manufactured fibers & fabrics

The term “manufactured fiber” means any fiber derived by a process of manufacture from any substance which, at any point in the manufacturing process, is not a fiber – according to ftc.gov’s – textile-products-identification-act.

The fibers that belong to this category are either entirely produced from chemicals or are a combination of chemical processing and raw material sourced from nature.

Types of Manufactured fibers

The manufactured fibers can further be classified as:

Regenerated fibers

Regenerated fibers are made from cellulose polymers that occur naturally in plants such as cotton, wool, hemp and flax. Regenerated fibers include those based on cellulose (rayon, acetate, triacetate) and protein-based fibers (azlon).

Regenerated fiber is also known as semi-synthetic fibers or regenerated synthetic fibers made from raw materials with long-chain polymer structures. They are modified and are partially degraded during the chemical processes.

Synthetics fibers

Synthetic fibers are made of polymers that do not occur naturally but are produced entirely in the chemical plant or laboratory, almost always from by-products of petroleum or natural gas. Synthetic fibers include acrylic, modacrylic, nylon, olefin, polyester, spandex and vinyon

Different types of Manufactured Fibers & manufactured fabrics
Regenerated Fibers


Rayon

Rayon is a manufactured fiber composed of regenerated cellulose fiber, made from wood and related agricultural products. It has the same molecular structure as cellulose. It is also called viscose. Many types and grades of viscose fibers exist. Rayon is today one of the most popular dressmaking fabrics; tops and dresses,  skirts – all can be made with rayon fabrics.

Lyocell

Originally trademarked in 1982 as Tencel, Lyocell fiber consists of cellulose fiber, made from dissolving pulp and then reconstituting it by dry jet-wet spinning. The fiber is used to make textiles for clothing and other purposes. This fabric feels like soft cotton, and it is used to make everything from dress shirts to towels to underwear. While some garments are made entirely from lyocell, it is more common to see this fiber mixed with other types of fibers like cotton or polyester.

Modal

This is a regenerated cellulosic fiber that has found fame in the age of activewear. Breathable and absorbent, this cotton alternative is used to manufacture underwear, pajamas, bathrobes, bedsheets, and more. It has better dimensional stability than other viscose fibers. 

Acetate fiber

This is a semi-synthetic polymer, also known as cellulose acetate, used to make textile fabrics for clothing. This is a regenerated cellulosic fiber, made from wood pulp, like viscose, modal, cupro, and lyocell. Acetate fibers are used to make linings, blouses, dresses, wedding and party attire, home furnishings, draperies, upholstery, slipcovers, etc. 

Tri-acetate fiber

This fiber is made from cellulose triacetate. The difference between acetate fiber and tri-acetate fiber is that triacetate has better heat resistance. Other than that it is very similar to acetate – It is resistent to mold, mildew, and insects. 

Cupro

This is a ‘regenerated cellulose’ fabric made from cotton waste. Cupro is a regenerated cellulose-based fabric in the rayon family. It has been known as the best-quality rayon, with extremely fine filaments, and no surface markings or striations. Cupro material is breathable and regulates temperature like cotton, drapes elegantly, and feels like silk. They are often used for elegant dresses and blouses.

Synthetic Fibers


Polyester

Polyester fiber is a synthetic fiber created from coal and petroleum. It is Abrasion-resistant, Dries quickly, Durable, Lightweight, Strong, Wrinkle resistant. Polyester is often used in pants, shirts, suits, and bedsheets either by itself or as a blend because of its wrinkle-resistant property and its ability to retain shape. Since these garments are frequently worn and washed, their stain resistance and durability are desirable qualities.

Spandex

Also known as Lycra or elastane, spandex is a synthetic fiber characterized by its extreme elasticity. Spandex fabrics are mostly used in garments where comfort and fit are required, like hosiery, swimsuits, exercise wear, etc.

Nylon

This is considered a lightweight fiber. It’s added at the points of wear such as seats of jeans, knees, heels of socks, and toes. Once wet, nylon will lose it’s strength.

Acrylic fiber

This fiber is made from a synthetic polymer called acrylonitrile. Acrylic fiber is lightweight, warm, and soft to the touch. It is thus used in place of wool or blended with sheep wool or cashmere. Acrylic fabric’s common end products include sweaters, hats, socks, and knitting yarn. The acrylic material is hydrophobic like polyester and nylon, meaning it repels water.

Moda-acrylic fiber

This fiber is very similar in composition to acrylic fibers but with better heat sensitivity.

Microfiber

This is a synthetic fiber that consists of polyester and polyamide. Microfiber is a durable, soft, and absorbent material, making it perfect for a variety of uses. Because of the way it is made, microfiber is excellent for cleaning, apparel, furniture, and even sports gear. The fibers have been split into very fine strands that are porous and dry quickly. The polyester provides the structure of a towel, while the polyamide adds density and absorption

Metallic fibers

These are made up of metal, plastic-coated metal,
metal coated plastic, or a core completely covered by metal. Metallic yarn is used in making metallic fabrics.

Reference: wikipedia.com -metallic fiber

Mineral fibers

These may be manufactured from rock (mineral silicate fibers), ore, alloys, slag, or glass. These are usually used for industrial purposes.

Polyamide

This synthetic polymer fiber is used in the manufacture of nonwoven textiles. Read more about non-woven textiles here.

How are Manufactured Fibers Made?

Regenerated fiber is created by dissolving the cellulose area of plant fiber in chemicals and making it into fiber again (by viscose method). Since it consists of cellulose like cotton and hemp, it is also called “regenerated cellulose fiber.”
Regenerated cellulosic fibers are made from cellulose that is extracted from wood pulp, which is then chemically dissolved and extruded as a continuous filament, which can be cut into staple fibers.

Synthetic fibers (man-made fibers) are produced by joining chemical monomers into polymers using a chemical reaction called polymerization. The chemicals used are usually sodium hydroxide and carbon disulfide (derivatives of coal, oil, or natural gas). Synthetic fibers are formed by extruding a fiber-forming substance, called spinning dope, through a hole or holes in a shower head-like device called a spinneret. This process is called spinning.

Advantages of Manufactured Fibers

Manufactured fibers are usually more preferred than natural fibers due to their distinct characteristics, such as high strength and low cost, etc. A major part of the textile industry uses manufactured fibers in the twenty-first century because of their various advantages. These include low cost, higher strength, high manufacturing profits, etc. Some advantages of Manufactured fibers are described as follows:

• High strength: Manufactured fibers are strong and can easily carry heavy things without breaking. This is not true of all manufactured fibers. Regenerated fibers can be weak.

• Retains their original shape: Manufactured fibers retain their original shape so they can be easily washed and worn.

• They are elastic in nature. 

• They are generally soft and are used for clothing purposes.

• Manufactured fibers are generally cheaper compared to natural fibers.

• A variety of colours can be easily incorporated into manufactured fibers during their production.

• They are lightweight materials.

• Easy manufacturing: Natural fibers undergo long processes while manufactured fibers can be produced in factories in lesser time.

Disadvantages of Manufactured Fibers

• Some manufactured fibers (synthetic) do not absorb moisture and trap heat in our body.

• Some manufactured fibers cause skin allergies.

• Some manufactured fibers fail to absorb the moisture, sweat, and subsequently the wearer feels discomfort in hot climates

You can read about the individual fabrics here : Polyester; Nylon; Acetate; Acrylic; Microfiber; Rayon.

Related posts : Natural fibers and fabrics; Synthetic fibers and fabrics; Plant fibers; Animal fibers; Textile fibers; What are textiles?.

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