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Man-made /Artificial fibers

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Man-made fibers are fibers in which either the basic chemical units have been formed by chemical synthesis followed by fiber formation or the polymers from natural sources have been dissolved and regenerated after passage through a spinneret to form fibers. This fibre came to success when the researchers obtained a product by condensation of molecules presenting two reactive aminic groups with molecules characterised by two carboxylic reactive groups.

The fiber came to success when the researchers obtained a product (polymerized amide, from which the name polyamide) by condensation of molecules presenting two reactive aminic groups (hexamethylenediamine) with molecules characterized by two carboxylic reactive groups (adipic acid). In order to be differentiated from other polymers belonging to the same chemical class, this polymer was marked with the acronym 6.6 which indicates the number of carbon atoms (that is 6) in the two molecules forming the repetitive polymer unit.

Polyester fiber

This is the most important man-made fiber, with a production of 22 million tons in 2003 (58% continuous filament/42% staple fiber), which since some years overcame cotton production. The number of plants installed in the world is estimated already now at more than 500.

Another aspect of considerable importance under the geographic-economic point of view is the fact that 75% of the production is located in Asia. Polyester wrung the record of most produced synthetic fiber out from the polyamide fiber already in 1972 when it reached a share of 65% in the synthetic fiber market. Its success is due to its particular characteristics, to its versatility in the various application sectors and to the relatively low raw materials and production costs.

Polyamide fiber

This fiber category practically opened the textile market to fibers with no connection to the world of nature.

The production, performed worldwide by about 300 plants, amounts to 3,9 million tons (2003) and is distributed into polyamide type 6 (about 60%) and polyamide type 6.6 (about 40%); it is composed mainly of the continuous filament (85%), against 15% of staple fiber. The major producing countries are still Europe and USA (45% of the market).

Acrylic fiber

The production of this fiber is estimated at 2,6 million tons (2003) and West Europe is still today the area with the highest production (30%).

This fiber found its main use in the traditional wool sectors and is being produced in practice only in form of discontinuous or staple fiber.

It shows negligible production increases and consequently, its share in the man-made fiber market fell from 20% in 1970 to 9% in 2002.

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Polypropylene fiber

This is the last-born man-made fiber and, as it is used also in near sectors (as in the plastic industry), its importance in the textile sector was not always adequately monitored. In fact, even excluding such sectors, the production for merely textile uses (carpeting, clothing, technical uses) can be estimated at 3,0 million tons and shows steady growth rates. The most significant producer areas are Europe and USA.

Other man-made fibers

Within the group of fibers with high-tech performance, the elastane fiber (spandex) stands out for its characteristics of elongation and elasticity: its consumption in 2001 has been estimated at 160.000 tons.

Aramid fibers are appreciated for their mechanical and fireproof properties (consumption estimate in 2001: 33.000 tons), while carbon fibers are used in composite materials for hi-tech applications estimated consumption in 2001: 13.000 tons).

Elastane is produced mainly in Korea and in Taiwan (other producers: USA, Japan, Germany); aramid and carbon fibers are mostly produced in the USA and in Japan.

Development of synthetic fibres world production
Development of synthetic fibers world production

Manmade Fiber Classification

Manmade Fibers classification

Characteristics and usage of Manmade Fibers

Type Characteristic Major Uses
  • Luxurious feel and appearance
  • A wide range of colors and lusters
  • Excellent drapability and softness
  • Relatively fast-drying
  • Shrink-, moth-, and mildew-resistant
  • Apparel: Blouses, dresses, and foundation garments. Lingerie, linings, shirts, slacks, sportswear.
  • Fabrics: Brocade, crepe, double knits, faille, knitted jerseys, lace, satin, taffeta, tricot.
    Home Furnishings: Draperies, upholstery.
  • Other: Cigarette filters, fiberfill for pillows, quilted products
  • Soft and warm
  • Wool-like
  • Retains shape
  • Resilient
  • Quick-drying
  • Resistant to moths, sunlight, oil, and chemicals
  • Apparel: Dresses, infant wear, knitted garments, ski wear, socks, sportswear, sweaters.
  • Fabrics: Fleece and pile fabrics, face fabrics in bonded fabrics, simulated furs, jerseys.
  • Home Furnishings: Blankets, carpets, draperies, upholstery.
  • Other: Auto tops, awnings, hand-knitting and craft yarns, industrial and geotextile fabrics.
  • Does not melt
  • Highly flame-resistant
  • High strength
  • High resistance to stretch
  • Maintains its shape and form at high temperatures
  • Hot-gas filtration fabrics, protective clothing, military helmets, protective vests, structural composites for aircraft and boats, sailcloth, tires, ropes and cables, mechanical rubber goods, marine and sporting goods.
  • Thermal bonding
  • Self-bulking
  • Very fine fibers
  • Unique cross sections
  • The functionality of special polymers or additives at reduced cost
  • Uniform distribution of adhesive, Fiber remains a part of the structure and adds integrity, Customized sheath materials to bond various materials, Wide range of bonding temperatures, Cleaner, environmentally friendly (no effluent), Recyclable, Lamination/ molding / densification of composites.
  • Soft, strong, absorbent
  • Good dyeability
  • Fibrillates during wet processing to produce special textures
  • Dresses, slacks, and coats.
  • White and dyeable
  • Flame resistance and low thermal conductivity
  • High heat dimensional stability
  • Processable on standard textile equipment
  • Fire Blocking Fabrics: Aircraft seating, fire blockers for upholstered furniture in high-risk occupancies (e.g., to meet California TB 133 requirements)
  • Protective Clothing: Firefighters’ turnout gear, insulating thermal liners, knit hoods, molten metal splash apparel, heat resistant gloves.
  • Filter Media: High capacity, high efficiency, high-temperature baghouse air filters.
  • Soft
  • Resilient
  • Abrasion- and flame-resistant
  • Quick-drying
  • Resists acids and alkalies
  • Retains shape
  • Apparel: Deep pile coats, trims, linings, simulated fur, wigs, and hairpieces.
  • Fabrics: Fleece fabrics, industrial fabrics, knit-pile fabric backings, non-woven fabrics.
  • Home Furnishings: Awnings, blankets. Carpets, flame-resistant draperies and curtains, scatter rugs.
  • Other: Filters, paint rollers, stuffed toys.
  • Exceptionally strong
  • Supple
  • Abrasion-resistant
  • Lustrous
  • Easy to wash
  • Resists damage from oil and many chemicals
  • Resilient
  • Low in moisture absorbency
  • Apparel: Blouses, dresses, foundation garments, hosiery, lingerie and underwear, raincoats, ski and snow apparel, suits, windbreakers.
  • Home Furnishings: Bedspreads, carpets, draperies, curtains, upholstery.
  • Other: Air hoses, conveyor and seat belts, parachutes, racket strings, ropes and nets, sleeping bags, tarpaulins, tents, thread, tire cord, geotextiles.
  • Unique wicking properties that make it very comfortable
  • Abrasion-resistant
  • Quick-drying
  • Resistant to deterioration from chemicals, mildew, perspiration, rot, and weather
  • Sensitive to heat
  • Soil resistant
  • Strong; very lightweight
  • Excellent colorfastness
  • Apparel: Pantyhose, underwear, knitted sports shirts, men’s half hose, men’s knitted sportswear, sweaters.
  • Home Furnishings: Carpet and carpet backing, slipcovers, upholstery.
  • Other: Dye nets, filter fabrics, laundry and sandbags, geotextiles, automotive interiors, cordage, doll hair, industrial sewing thread.
  • Strong
  • Resistant to stretching and shrinking
  • Resistant to most chemicals
  • Quick-drying
  • Crisp and resilient when wet or dry
  • Wrinkle- and abrasion-resistant
  • Retains heat-set pleats and creases
  • Easy to wash
  • Apparel: Blouses, shirts, career apparel, children’s wear, dresses, half hose, insulated garments, ties, lingerie and underwear, permanent press garments, slacks, suits.
  • Home Furnishings: Carpets, curtains, draperies, sheets and pillowcases.
  • Other: Fiberfil for various products, fire hose, power belting, ropes and nets, tire cord, sail, V-belts.
  • Highly flame resistant
  • Outstanding comfort factor combined with thermal and chemical stability properties
  • Will not burn or melt
  • Low shrinkage, when exposed to flame.
  • Suitable for high-performance protective apparel such as firemen’s turnout coats, astronaut space suits, and applications where fire resistance is important.
  • Highly absorbent
  • Soft and comfortable
  • Easy to dye
  • Versatile
  • Good drapability
  • Apparel: Blouses, coats, dresses, jackets, lingerie, linings, millinery. Rainwear, slacks, sports shirts, sportswear, suits, ties, work clothes.
  • Home Furnishings: Bedspreads, blankets, carpets, curtains, draperies, sheets, slipcovers, tablecloths, upholstery.
  • Other: Industrial products, medical, surgical products, non-woven products, tire cord.
  • Can be stretched 500 percent without breaking
  • Can be stretched repeatedly and recover original length
  • Light-weight
  • Stronger and more durable than rubber
  • Resistant to body oils
  • Articles (where stretch is desired): Athletic apparel, bathing suits, delicate laces, foundation garments, golf jackets, ski pants, slacks, support and surgical hose.
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