Spandex is a synthetic fibre known for its exceptional elastic nature, and is stronger and more durable comparatively over rubber. Also known as elastane, this fibre was invented by a chemist named Joseph Shivers in 1959. It has much more elasticity than rubber and can stretch upto 600% of its natural shape. It started a revolution in womens clothing by the manufacture of intimate apparels that did not hurt. This invention brought a new era in the clothing sector later on, and is on the leading edge of fashion today, being used in mens and womens inner, outer, and active wear.
Spandex is a long chain of synthetic polymeric fibre. These fibres are produced in four different ways; melt extrusion, solution dry spinning, solution wet spinning, and reaction spinning. It is a polyurethane polymer, manufactured by the reaction of polyester or polyether gycol with di-isocyanate. The output yarns are normally white in color with a dull shine. They are supplied as zero twist, where the individual filaments are merged together to form a monofilament like a yarn. Spandex fibres are used in the making of lingerie straps, bras, sock tops, medical products that require elasticity, bathing suits, upholstery and many more. It can be added to any fabric, and to a variety of fibres for stretchability. But, it is never used as 100% for any fabric manufacturing.
- It can be stretched repeatedly more than 500% of its original size and can also recover back; immediately to its original size and shape once the tension is relaxed.
- It is stronger, and more durable than rubber.
- It is lightweight, smooth and soft, and provides comfort and fit to garments.
- Does not get spoilt due to body odor, detergents, or after multiple washes.
- It offers scratch proof abilities.
- This material is available in clear opaque luster.
- When exposed to heat and ultra violet rays, rubber get badly affected, while spandex remains unaffected.
Applications of Spandex Fibres:
- Stretchable Jeans: Spandex is also included in the manufacture of jeans for improving the comfort, fit, and adjustment.
- Active Sports wear: It is used in the manufacture of swimsuits, ski pants, cycling shorts, aerobic wear, golf jackets and many more.
- Compression garments: Spandex is used in the manufacture of surgical hose, bicycle pants, and support hose.
- Automotive Textiles: The fibre is used in the manufacture of door panel fabrics that stretch and adhere to the door.
Woven fabrics manufactured by applying spandex are being used for manufacturing skirts, pants, and other apparels. Along with the advancement in technology, spandex is effectively combined with wool, and cotton, and this moved its market demand further higher. Even a fall in the price of these fibres would only help them positively by broadening the scope of their applications. China is a leading manufacturer of Spandex. Its output has increased from 17,000 tons in 2001, to 155,000 tons in 2007.
Spandex fibres are used to add free movement, improve the look, fit and feel, control bagging, and maintain shape. Diversified applications emerge in the usage of stretch fibers. Companies are coming up with proposals for product planning to utilize the special quality of this fibre effectively. Due to its versatile applications, Spandex is rightly known as the Miracle Fibre.