3-D narrow fabrics expand possibilities
Under a Small Business Innovation Research grant for a project with the U.S. Air Force, Bally Ribbon Mills of Bally, Pa., developed a quad-axial loom. Through research and development in that process, the company learned a lot that it was able to apply to commercial items.
“Now we are able to make thicker and more complicated parts,” says Mark Harries, marketing executive. “It led us to having more experience to develop 3-D preforms.”
In working with NASA engineers on thermal protection for the Orion space capsule, the company developed custom looms to weave a 3-D block 3 inches thick in what Harries calls “an iterative process,” progressing from 1 to 2 and then 3 inches. Commercial customers are interested in those thicker, high-strength composite products as well, Harries says.
Fabdesigns Inc., a textiles innovation center in Malibu, Calif., specializes in 3-D knitting.
“We can knit narrow components of Kevlar® and Dyneema® for covering specific sizes and shapes of automotive interiors that need abrasion resistance inside the seat cover,” co-owner Connie Huffa says. “We can knit multiple straps that fan into one anatomically correct strap for dynamic pull in medical applications. We can add padding and extra abrasion resistance where there is hardware. We knit in silicon exactly where it needs to be for anti-slip.
“This is all with nearly zero waste,” Huffa continues. “We know all these materials are expensive, so we put them exactly where they need to go and use only what is necessary.”