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There if you need it

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Advanced textiles can be defined by virtue of their highly specialized fibers or a unique technical application. There are a large number of specialty fibers available for advanced textiles, but most are limited in production and tend to be quite expensive. In considering their use, one must ask if you really need them.

Most specialty fibers can be, and often are, used in knit forms for advanced applications: fibers like HDPE, PBO, PBI, PPS, PTFE, PEEK, and other “alphabet” fibers, as well as the carbon and aramids (Nomex®, Kevlar®) with which we are familiar. Some can best be used in warp knitting, others either warp, circular, or a special combination of techniques. These can be used alone or in blends to provide the specific property desired.

PBI, as an example, has outstanding fire-retardant properties, yet it is a weak textile fiber and is virtually always blended with aramids for end uses, such as garments for firemen or other extreme heat-protective applications. The Kevlar/PBI blend is the standard in fire service outer garments. Specialty blends are also available. Even custom-made fibers of one or more polymers are available, if the application demands special properties not found otherwise.

Cost considerations may dictate other fibers. Performance may be the primary consideration for extreme advanced niche products, however. For some specialty applications, such as military or aerospace, special fibers and/or fabric constructions may be required. In these areas, cost may be secondary to getting the job done or for safety reasons.

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

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