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What is non-woven fabric? Everything you need to know about it

What is non-woven fabric (NWF)?

Non-wovens or non-woven fabrics are fabrics that are produced by mechanical, thermal or chemical processes, but without being woven and without the need to convert fibers into yarn, since the fiber webs are bonded together as a result of the inherent friction (entanglement) from one fiber to another thanks to these non-conventional processes.

What is the origin of nonwoven fabrics and how are they produced?

To form the nonwoven fabric, textile fibers are randomly dumped into a tray without any one direction needing to predominate and are bonded to each other by mechanical, chemical or heat means in the form of webs, mats or sheets. Nonwoven fabrics are made mainly from polymers, are inexpensive, have high strength and are commonly used for plastics. They can consist of one or several layers, such as SMS fabrics, which are trilaminated.

These fabrics can be made from fibers (the most commonly used are polyester and viscose rayon) and both artificial and natural filaments.

Types of non-woven fabrics

The two main types of nonwoven fabric are NWF in polypropylene (PP) and NWF in Spunbond-Meltblown-Spunbond (SMS), depending on the process used to create them.

NWF in polypropylene
Polypropylene is a fabric made of soft textured plastic fibers which are fused together using ultrasound and steam. There are different thicknesses of this material and due to its hygienic characteristics it is ideal in the health sector due to the high safety it provides to doctors, patients and the user in general, in addition to the cost-effectiveness it offers.

NWF in Spunbond-Meltblown-Spunbond (SMS).
This type of fabric consists of 3 layers and is also made from 100% polypropylene. Of these 3 layers, the two outer layers are Spunbond and the middle layer is Meltblown.

  • Spunbond. To form a spunbond or Spunbond nonwoven fabric, polypropylene is stretched into a continuous filament, which is then placed in a web along a conveyor belt. With the addition of chemical, thermal or mechanical bonding processes, the fibers form a strong, durable fabric, which is often used in applications such as carpet backing or filters.
  • Meltblown. Like a spunbond nonwoven, a meltblown nonwoven also uses polypropylene, but it is fed through a linear matrix to form long, thin fibers. These fibers are cooled by bursts of hot air, which are then forced through a collector mesh to form a fabric that creates a fine filter and is self-adhesive. Meltblown nonwovens are widely used in the production of medical masks, diapers and feminine hygiene products.

By making this 3-layer “sandwich”, you get an improved fabric as you combine and add the properties of both types of fabrics while reducing the disadvantages of each.

Principal characteristics of NWF

The nonwoven fabric has a wide variety of characteristics that bring them great utility. It is a lightweight, tough yet elastic fabric, breathable, soft, durable and sheds far fewer fibers than other fabrics. It repels water and liquids, has a high absorption capacity, and is resistant to high temperatures. In addition, it is easy to care for as it can be ironed, dry cleaned and is wrinkle resistant.

In terms of fashion, it becomes an attractive fabric because of its great drapeability, it can be easily dyed without color fading, and it can be sewn.

Uses and benefits of NWF

In the fashion industry, nonwovens are used for applications such as the creation of linings and footwear components, but above all, NWF is used in the production of industrial workwear, chemical defense suits and isolation and sanitary protective clothing such as face masks, as it is a non-flammable fabric, filters the air to bar the way to dust and provide an effective barrier against bacteria and viruses.

 

Non-woven fabric close-up. This type of fabric is very used in sanitary applications like masks or surgical gowns.

 

In conclusion, nonwoven fabric is a fabric with a wide variety of applications, which has become especially fashionable due to the Covid-19 health crisis.

If you are looking for fabrics for your next collection and you are thinking of doing it in a circular and sustainable way, you can find in our catalog fabrics that contribute to reduce textile waste and the environmental impact of fashion. You can also try to sell your leftover fabrics, maybe someone is looking for them!

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