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Routine, not ordinary

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Not all applications requiring advanced fibers are exotic. The use may be routine but the fibers used make it an advanced textile. For example a “routine” knit is used for underwear for soldiers in war zones subject to IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and similar flame or heat hazards. The product being used in Iraq did an excellent job of wicking moisture away and aiding cooling in hot climates; yet, it was flammable and often, when exposed to flames, resulted in injuries or death.

Working with consultants and yarn producers, Gehring Textiles came up with a special yarn blend of proprietary components. These yarns were knit into a fabric for underwear, allowed the wicking and cooling properties of the previous products used, but with high levels of flame resistance. Millions of yards were knit and made into garments for soldiers in areas subject to IED exposure—a routine use, but for an extraordinary application.

Firefighter gear is another application where “routine” knit constructions are used, but of aramids or blends for hoods, gloves and cuffs to protect the head or hands. Similar products are used by race car drivers as well as dragsters where very high-octane fuel is used and crashes with explosions or fires can happen. Every millisecond is crucial to protect from death or injury. Steelworkers, as well, may utilize similar products.

The development of the Kevlar® “string knit” glove of several years ago resulted in the reduction of hand injuries up to 90 percent for automotive workers and others working with sheet metal. Safety was of prime concern along with reduction in medical costs and lost production. It uses a routine type of knit but one using advanced materials to provide extraordinary protection.

William C. Smith is a technical textile consultant. He can be reached at (

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