Spandex is a type of elastane fiber that is also referred to as dorlastan or lycra. It can be used as a representation of the huge milestones we have made in the development of man-made fibers. One of its most valued properties that cannot be found in nature is its extraordinary elasticity.
Kabao Industries produces ACY fibers that have an extension-at-break greater than 200 percent and show rapid recovery once the tension is removed. The invention of spandex has brought a new revolution in the fashion industry; it’s used in the manufacture of both men’s and women’s inner and outerwear.
Applications of Spandex
Spandex fibers exhibit rubber-like behavior and are used in instances where a high degree of permanent elasticity is necessary. For a piece of cloth cling to the body and still remain comfortable, elastane is a prerequisite for the fabric.
The advancements in technology have made it possible for spandex to be effectively combined with cotton and wool. These alterations have made the market demand for spandex to go higher as well as increase its scope of applications.
The fibers can be added to any fabric to improve its stretchability. Some examples of areas where spandex fibers are used include the making of tights, stretchable jeans, swimwear, lingerie straps, socks, corsetry, medical products that require elasticity and upholstery.
Spandex is also used in the automotive industry to make door panel fabrics that adhere to the door.
Characteristics of Spandex Fibers
- Can stretch more than 500 times of its original size and then get back to its original size. Once the tension is removed, the fibers go back to their original size.
- More durable and stronger than rubber
- Adds comfort to clothes thanks to its soft, smooth and lightweight feel
- Has scratch proof capabilities
- Does not get affected by harsh detergents of regular washes
- Spandex does not get affected by ultraviolet rays. It’s also not badly affected by heat
- It’s available in a clear opaque luster
The Manufacturing Process of Spandex
There are a variety of raw materials that are used in the manufacture of spandex fibers. The raw materials for stretchable spandex include pre-polymers and stabilizers. These produce the backbone of the fiber and protect the integrity of the polymer.
The Polymer Reactions
- The first step involves the production of the pre-polymer. The pre-polymers are then reacted further to produce a longer fiber. Two types of pre-polymers are reacted: macro-glycol and diisocyanate. The long polymer chain that is formed is flexible and has stretching characteristics.
The hydroxyl groups that are found on both ends of the macro-glycol chain are responsible for its stretchability while the isocyanate groups found on both ends of the di-isocyanate are responsible for the fiber’s rigidity.
- The pre-polymer then gets reacted with an equal amount of diamine in what is referred to as a chain extension reaction. The product is then diluted to form a spinning solution
- The solution is then pumped into a spinning cell where it’s converted into strands. The strands are heated and leave the cell as solid fibers.
- The fibers are joined together to form bundles of the desired thickness. This process is carried out by an air compression machine
- Lastly, the fibers are treated with a finishing agent to prevent them from sticking together.
What Does The Future Hold?
Since their discovery, the quality of the spandex fibers keeps improving and getting better. There is ongoing research that is aimed at improving quality. For example, it has been found changing the starting pre-polymers can further improve the fiber’s stretching characteristics.
Other spandex characteristics can also be improved when you use different ratios of the pre-polymer in the manufacturing process and using more effective catalysts. Different blends of spandex with conventional fibers are expected to produce higher-quality fibers.