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By Max W. Sung

Ultimate comfort: Protective clothing (PC) is again a focus in the upcoming technical textiles conference (Techtextil) in Frankfurt next month. While technological advances have continued to enhance the ability of PPE to protect against environmental hazards, comfort for the user continues to pose a compliance problem in the proper and more prolonged use of PCs.
PC designed to prevent the penetration of hazardous chemicals and microbes also prevent the transmission of moisture and heat from the body of the user. The resulting layer of thermal resistance can prevent the restoration of core body temperatures to normal ranges suitable for physiologic processes. Studies of physiologic responses in human subjects, while wearing PC compared with those not wearing PC, have been reported and showed that the added weight and insulation of PC is responsible for the physiological strain, leading to increases in heart rates and body core temperatures and decreases in tolerance time.

Humans, like most mammals and birds, can maintain their core body temperature within a narrow range suitable for physiologic processes necessary to sustain life. This temperature range is centred at 37.0 degrees Celsius, which is usually higher than ambient temperatures. The body has to constantly generate enough heat through metabolism to maintain the core temperature within this narrow range. Despite the lack of fur or feathers to retain body heat, humans have evolved physiologic responses to mitigate variations beyond this narrow range.

The body core temperature can rise because of exposure to high air temperatures or from increase in metabolic activity during muscular activity or with fevers from infections. Under these circumstances, the blood vessels in the skin dilate and blood flow to the skin increases. Heat is dissipated through convection as the lower ambient temperature flows over the skin surfaces. The skin also starts to sweat on the surface; evaporation of the sweat takes heat away from the skin and lowers the core body temperature. The efficiency of sweat evaporation depends on the ambient temperature, relative humidity and air velocity across the surface of the skin.

Clothing which would prevent the dissipation of heat through convection and sweat evaporation could interfere with the restoration of body core temperature towards its normal range, resulting in a subjective feeling of discomfort. On the other hand, fabrics which permit air and moisture transfer would be subjectively experienced as comfortable clothing.

Decrease in body core temperatures can also occur with low temperatures and exposure of skin to water such as rain. Here the body compensates by reducing blood flow to the skin by vasoconstriction of blood vessels, hence reducing heat loss through convection. In addition, the body initiates the shivering reflex, whereby heat is generated from increased metabolism caused by involuntary muscular movement. Here, clothing can create a thermal resistance layer and prevent heat dissipation.

Based on the importance of thermoregulation for the human body, particularly with regard to heat dissipation, it suggests that apparel fabrics which permit moisture and heat transfer would be high on the list for comfort. That may well be the case for consumers of protective clothing, where barrier isolation is responsible for thermal insulation and discomfort. For the average consumer of clothing, however, comfort has been shown in numerous population surveys to mean a whole host of concerns in addition to thermophysiologic issues such as heat retention and sweat removal.

Aesthetic comfort is an overwhelming concern for the average consumer. It includes how the garment fits and drapes the body, and whether the garment is aesthetically pleasing to the eye and whether it is a pleasurable experience to wear the garment. Consumers would sacrifice some thermophysiologic comfort for a well-fitting garment particularly if the garment does not need to be worn for a prolonged period of time.

Tactile comfort has recently been recognised as an increasingly important issue for consumer satisfaction. Seams as a source for skin irritation and discomfort has led to the innovative development of circular knitting machines which produce seamless garments. The feel of the fabric against the skin is an important parameter and is at times a highly personal choice.

Methods for assessing and quantifying the various comfort concerns have been developed. These involve, for example, laboratory measurements of moisture and heat transfer across fabrics to the use of heat generating thermal manikins to simulate the human body in assessing thermal insulation of clothing. Measurements of the friction coefficient of fabric against simulated skin surfaces attempt to assess the tactile comfort of fabrics.

Ultimately, a consumer's decision to purchase a garment is a highly personal one, where touch, smell, feel and fit at first hand are the determining factors.

The multitude of studies on clothing and comfort has yielded some interesting insights. One is that humans can adapt to different environmental conditions both in terms of physiologic responses and clothing needs. The second is that a set of predetermined environmental conditions in terms of ambient temperature, relative humidity and air velocity, often associated with high energy costs, is necessary for comfort. Alternative environmental condition which is less energy consuming can be used without sacrificing comfort.












Special Reports

  • Will Africa become the new China? Captains of the apparel industry gathered in Hong Kong in March for the annual Prime Source Forum - the meeting point for decision makers in the fashion and textile industries and the platform for knowledge sharing - this time marking its 10th anniversary. The topic that received their top most attention was Africa, a continent with great potential to become a global textile and garment production hub.

    Adan Mohamed, the cabinet secretary in Kenya's ministry of industrialisation and enterprise development, who delivered the keynote address, eloquently argued that why investors and industrialists should consider Africa as a continent of great opportunities. Citing how countries neighbouring India and China have worked together with acknowledged sourcing centres to diversify production opportunities, Mr Mohamed indicated that similar opportunities exist in Africa for those who will explore and develop them. With the benefit of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) that has given both energy and incentives to the sub-Sahara countries, he said Africa would compete more effectively with Asia in the future.

    By Gail Taylor

  • Great opportunity for filter media in China: Addressing the fourth edition of Filtrex Asia, the nonwoven filter media conference and exhibition, in Hong Kong last month, the chairman of the China Filtration Society, Wang Yangxi, admitted that pollution in China was serious. That situation has opened up a great opportunity for filtration industry in the country. As much as 85% of the more than 40 billion renminbi (US$6.5 billion) worth of liquid filter that China produced in 2010 was used up in the country with only 15% shipped abroad. This year (2015), the value of liquid filter output (excluding car filters) is expected to exceed 65 billion renminbi ($10.5 billion). The increasing production and usage of filter media in China clearly demonstrate the country's commitment to fight pollution and develop a domestic filter media industry in aid of it. Meanwhile, sales of filter media worldwide were estimated at US$25 billion in 2010, the year EDANA, the global association of nonwovens and related industries, launched Filtrex Asia, Ten per cent of it, or $2.5 billion worth, were nonwoven filter media. Last year, the market for nonwoven filter media was estimated at $4 billion and it is poised to expand to $5.7 billion within the next five years. This fourth edition in Hong Kong had strong support from China. The China Filtration Society (CFS) and the Chinese Nonwoven Technical Association (CNTA) were its co-organisers.

    By C.K. Chow

  • Cotton prices unlikely to change much as stocks remain high: Cotton production during the 2015-16 season is projected to reduce to 24 million tons as planting area contracts 7% to just over 31 million hectares. Yet, ending stocks will total over 21 million tons and prices will fluctuate within a narrow range.

Regional Notes

Sri Lanka

From A.H.H. Saheed, Colombo

  • Colombo bids to regain GSP+: Sri Lanka's newly elected government is optimistic that the European Union will soon restore the GSP Plus concession that was withdrawn in August 2010 because of the failure of the previous government led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa to implement the international conventions on human rights. "There's good news…We have started a process which may lead in time to GSP Plus," said the head of the European Delegation to Sri Lanka and Maldives, David Daly, while attending an event organised by the National Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka. The new government, he said, has made many political commitments, including good governance and the rule of law, which are important steps towards regaining the GSP Plus.

  • Expansion bid: Weft fabric solutions provider, Textured Jersey (TJL), a joint venture between Sri Lanka's Brandix and Pacific Textured Jersey Holdings of Hong Kong, is moving to acquire Ocean India, a knit fabric manufacturer in India and Quenby Lanka, a Sri Lankan fabric printer.

Products and Technology

  • Spectrophotometer with new features: Colour management solutions supplier, Datacolor, has launched a new version of the portable spectrophotometer. This completely redesigned CHECK 3 offering excellent correlation to Datacolor's 600 series of benchtop instruments features a completely redesigned user-interface with an easy-to-navigate colour LCD display. It can deliver good colour measurement performance.

  • Fashion trends fit for creora fabrics: Hyosung, the world leader in spandex production, has released its 2017 fashion trends for garments and other products made of specialty creora spandex.

  • Yarn defect sensor: An optical sensor that can monitor individual threads for finest knots, fluff, filamentation, smallest thick places, capillary breaks on running threads, etc., has been developed by Loepfe Brothers of Switzerland. Called Falcon-I, this simple and reliable monitoring device can be installed before or after a weft feeder.

  • Twister for multiply glass yarns: A ring twisting machine for producing balanced multiply glass yarns has been developed by the Saurer Group. It is called VGT-P, with P denoting ply yarn, and is part of Saurer's Volkmann brand.

  • World's first piezoelectric fabrics: Professor Yoshiro Tajitsu of the Faculty of Engineering Science at Japan's Kansai University, and the Japanese chemical and pharmaceutical company Teijin have jointly developed the world's first polylactic acid (PLA) fibre and carbon-fibre-based piezoelectric fabrics.

  • Sorona for apparel: The Sorona fibre which DuPont introduced 15 years ago for making fabrics for apparel, home textiles, carpets, mats and automotive interiors can now be used also in such apparel segments as seamless, insulation and comfort stretch fabrics.

  • Yarn technology to cut CO2 emission: The Austrian technology consulting company, Xedera and the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology in partnership have combined improved hybrid yarn technology with advanced textile weaving and processing methods. Its ultimate benefit is reduced automobile emission of CO2.

  • Chomarat's new reinforcement fibres: Chomarat has launched two brand-new reinforcement fibres: G-Flow made of glass fibre, and C-Ply UltraThin, of carbon fibre.

  • A low temperature device from Atlas: Atlas Material Testing Technology that provides weathering technology and services has added a new innovation to its line of outdoor accelerated devices. This Low Temperature LTEMMA/ EMMAQUA, achieves cooler sample temperatures through a patented "cool mirror" technology that has very high reflectance in the UV and near visible wavelength ranges.

  • SDC yardstick for fabric testing: SDC Enterprises a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Society of Dyers & Colorists, has developed a range of verification fabrics to improve the controls available to organisations involved in textile testing.

  • Sustainable nonwoven for hygiene products: A sustainable nonwoven alternative for hygiene and personal care products is now available from Fitesa Simpsonville. This 100% bio-based spunbond called Fitesa is made entirely from plant-based materials.

  • Cygnus print software: Xennia's Cygnus print software, which has been deployed for many years in the company's own digital solutions as well as included in OEM hardware module packages, is now available as a standalone package for OEM machine builders wishing to incorporate advanced functionality into digital printing systems.

  • Fashion PLM has a new version: Lectra, the supplier of integrated technology solutions to industries using fabrics, leather, technical textiles and composite materials has released version 4 of its Fashion PLM.

  • Denim collection for spring/summer 2016: The Italian company, Europa, which produces high quality and technologically advanced stretch and super stretch denims, has unveiled its 2016 spring/summer collection of stretch denims. .

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