Man-made fibers are gaining popularity compared to the natural fibres in recent times. One of them is the spandex fiber which has captured the garment industry. Spandex is a lightweight, soft smooth synthetic fiber which has a unique elasticity. Due to its elastic property, it is used in making stretchable clothing. It is also known as 'elastane' in Europe and many other parts of the world.
Spandex is made of synthetic polymer called polyurethane which has extraordinary stretch ability. The long chain of polymer is produced by reacting polyester with diisocyanate which contains at least 85% polyurethane. Spandex is strong, durable and was first invented at DuPont's laboratory in 1959, in Virginia. Many areas of the garment industry were transformed after its arrival.
Characteristics of Spandex Fiber
The spandex fiber is of better quality, light, supple and more adaptable compared to rubber. The fibers are made of innumerable polymer strands, because of which it possesses unique elastic property. Moreover, this fiber can stretch up to 500% of its length. The fiber is resistant to wear and tear caused by sweat, detergents, body oils, lotions, etc. When spandex fabric is used in garments, it prevents bagging or sagging of the material.
Garments made of spandex gives perfect fit and comfort. Further, in spite of repeated stretching, it will retain its original length and shape. Fabrics with spandex are abrasion resistant and have negligible damage from 'needle cutting' when sewn, whereas in other elastic materials the needle sometimes causes damage.
Production of Spandex fiber
Melt extrusion, reaction spinning, solution dry spinning and solution wet spinning are the main methods of producing spandex fibers; the first step being production of prepolymer in each process, which further is reacted in various methods to produce long spandex fiber. 'Solution dry spinning' method is the most used method to produce spandex. Almost 90% of spandex fibers produced in the world are manufactured using this method.
Uses of spandex
It is well known that spandex is highly used in the apparel industry. However, this is also a useful fabric for hospitality and industrial organizations. Spandex fabrics are mostly used in garments where comfort and fit both are required like hosiery, swimsuits, exercise wear, socks, surgical hose, undergarments, gloves, cycling shorts, wrestling suits, rowing suits, specialized clothing like zentai suits, motion capture suits, denims, etc.