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Safe And Sound

Reeves Brothers, LINQ Industrial Fabrics and Hexcel Schwebel produce textile products for safety and performance-related applications.


Safe And Sound Reeves Brothers, LINQ Industrial Fabrics and Hexcel Schwebel produce textile products for safety and performance-related applications. 
Globalization. Diversification. Innovation. Specialization. Important words all, especially for the future of the U.S. textile industry. While still a neophyte to the concept of a world marketplace, the U.S. textile industry is making inroads and nowhere is this more evident than in the arena of technical and industrial fabrics.Technical fabrics create a wide range of opportunities for textile manufacturers and capitalize on the U.S. industrys ability to make high-quality fabrics to the most exacting specifications.From geotextiles to armor, from aerospace fabrics to automotive airbags, from filters to truck covers, U.S. companies have few peers in this growing segment of textile production. Reeves Brothers Diversifies Into High-Tech MarketsReeves Brothers Inc., Spartanburg, S.C., is known for the production of its famed Vulcan® brand of printing blankets, but the Engineered Fabrics Division of the company has diversified into high-tech markets that maximize its production capabilities. Among the many fabrics woven and coated with specialized treatments at the companys facilities in Spartanburg and in Rutherfordton, N.C., is a material for the escape slides in commercial aircraft.These slides, obviously, must be manufactured to very stringent safety requirements because of the safety factors involved, said Tom Layton, director of sales and business development, Reeves Air Safety group. The slides are manufactured from multiple fabrics that work together to form a single product. Flooring fabrics are mounted to a tubing material that can inflate and stay inflated for a specific amount of time. The base fabric for the slide is a multiple-denier nylon substrate woven using Dornier rapier looms at the companys Spartanburg plant. A special urethane coating is applied at another Spartanburg facility.The escape slides are manufactured to very exacting specifications, Layton said. They must meet certain deployment standards that is, they must deploy in the same fashion every time, maintaining specific distance from parts of the aircrafts structure. Additionally, the fabric must have strength and elongation properties, and the coating must be able to maintain specific pressure for a given time.Special attention is given as well to abrasion resistance and non-conductive properties. Obviously, the most likely use of an evacuation slide is in an emergency, and it cannot be the source of sparks that could ignite fuel, Layton said.Reeves is the leading supplier of urethane-coated fabrics for the aerospace industry, according to Layton. The company supplies both Boeing, the worlds largest manufacturer of commercial aircraft, and Airbus Industrie, the European consortium that is the worlds other major manufacturer of jetliners.Reeves urethane-coated fabrics are also used for other aviation applications including life rafts, life vests, fuel cells, deicers and acoustical insulation. Automotive Airbags
In addition to being the largest supplier of fabrics for certain aviation applications, Reeves Brothers is also among the worlds largest suppliers of automotive airbag fabrics.Reeves pioneered engineered, coated airbag fabrics and is the leading supplier in the North American market, Layton said. As in aviation, quality and reliability are critical in the deployment of airbags, he said. Reeves vertically integrated weaving and coating operations give the company the ability to meticulously control all quality standards and ensure that all products are manufactured to the most rigorous standards, he said.The company offers products used for driver-side airbags, passenger-side airbags and side-impact airbags, and is working on a new, one-piece, woven side-curtain airbag that would protect during a rollover event.In the event of a side impact, the rollover curtain would deploy and remain inflated for the duration of the roll. The curtain covers from the A-pillar to the C-pillar, meaning that both windows are covered during a roll. The product has been designed initially for vans and sport utility vehicles, but, Layton said, it will eventually be available for all cars.No doubt, automotive and aerospace applications are associated with the glamour side of technical and industrial fabrics. But there is a more basic side one that involves interaction with the day-to-day lives of nearly everyone.Frank Hannas, director of sales and business development for the Engineered Fabrics group, said the company is a market leader in the mechanical rubber-parts industry and supplies fabrics for gas meters, gaskets, diaphragms and seals.For example, we make a rubber-coated nylon fabric that measures gas in gas meters. It used to be that leather was used in the bellows in these meters, but we developed a fabric specifically designed to replace the leather. It is now used in 98 percent of the meters in place today. Gas meters are guaranteed for 30 years and, to this point, there has never been a failure of Reeves fabric in one, said Hannas.A coated silk fabric from Reeves goes into the diaphragm of two-stroke gasoline engines, such as those used in chain saws and weed eaters. And for military applications, Reeves has developed a rubber-coated fabric for hovercraft skirts. This is a heavy-weight nylon fabric coated with rubber that can be used as a replacement for skirts on Navy craft, Hannas said. Military ApplicationsAdditionally, the company at the request of the military is developing a fabric for flexible fuel tanks. These tanks are bladders that have capacities from 10,000 to 50,000 gallons. The objective is for the military to be able to drop the fuel tanks from an airplane and enable helicopters in the field to land and refuel.Previously, fabrics tended to disintegrate in the desert heat. Reeves is working on a rubber-coated fabric that withstands both the impact of being dropped from an airplane and the heat inherent in a desert operation. This same material must also be able to withstand extreme cold environments.Yet another military application from the company is a rapid air decelerator product that would slow down missiles fired from helicopters and enable the craft to get clear of the damage area. The fabric is earmarked for anti-personnel/tank missiles and those that would be used to destroy runways.Other fabrics by Reeves include those for dock seals, oil booms, truck tarps and rafts. Polyproylene From LINQWhile companies such as Reeves concentrate on developing coated fabrics for technical applications in automotives, aerospace and material handling, other companies, such as LINQ Industrial Fabrics Inc., Summerville, S.C., focus efforts on polypropylene fabrics for geotextiles and flexible bulk containers.Formerly a division of Exxon Chemical Co., LINQ is a global supplier of woven and nonwoven polypropylene-based fabrics for a wide variety of textile applications.The companys woven geotextiles feature a combination of high tensile strength and water flow. The fabrics have been used in projects ranging from parking lot stabilization to retaining walls. LINQ also offers a line of nonwoven geotextiles that provide high tensile strength and superior hydraulic properties. StabilizationThe company used its GTF 200 woven geotextile, for example, to stabilize the Miami Dolphins football stadium parking lot. Improvement was needed to meet the increased demand for parking at the stadium. A field was selected to serve as an additional parking area near the stadium. The original field consisted of unstable muck soils, from 6 to 20 feet deep, which had to be stabilized to support suitable fill material. The expensive alternative, said Jay Wilson, Technical Services Engineer at LINQ Industrial Fabrics Inc., was to excavate all of the unstable soil and replace it with suitable fill. 
LINQs GTF 200, a high-survivability, general-use woven geotextile, was placed directly over the soft subgrade and then covered with sandfill. The muck soil was covered with 25,000 square yards of GTF 200. The geotextile was covered with 3 to 4 feet of fill, which was graded and compacted. Grass was planted to complete the project. After six years, the parking lot is in excellent shape, so plans were delayed to pave the lot.The contractor specified GTF 200 be used for stabilization. This fabric meets the separation specifications in many states, as well as Class 3 separation requirements set by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. Floodwall SolutionsLINQ also supplies fabrics used in floodwalls. In Kentucky, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a concrete structure to protect a waste site from floodwaters up to the 100-year storm elevation. The waste site is 300 feet from a nearby river. The compressible subsoils made this concrete approach unfeasible. A second approach was a compacted clay structure; however, with a maximum wall height of 38 feet and a minimum top width of 14 feet, the required side slopes would make the base so wide that it would encroach on adjacent properties and take up valuable landfill capacity.To overcome these problems, an engineer proposed a geotextile-reinforced wall with near-vertical sides. This wall would also be compliant to accommodate any settlement due to the compressible subsoils. There were some concerns because this was to be a permanent structure, and the EPA had never installed this type of geotextile wall before. Said Wilson: There was a substantial amount of coordination between LINQ and the designing engineer to make sure the right geotextile was used in this application. LINQ has a full-time civil engineer on staff to aid in all design applications and answer any questions concerning installation, as well as helping get the right geotextile for the job.Using acceptable geotextile design methodology, the engineer developed a double-sided structure consisting of layers of permeable backfill reinforced with LINQ geotextiles. Each layer of geotextile was folded over and secured beneath the next layer of backfill. The bottom 12 feet of the wall has 12-inch nominal backfill layers reinforced with LINQ GTF 375N. The upper layers are 18 inches thick, reinforced with LINQ GTF 300.The GTF 375N is a stronger fabric than the GTF 300 and was required to support the weight of the higher layers. The final design called for an impermeable geomembrane and a toe-drain system to be installed on the landfill side. The entire structure would be covered with a puncture-resistant, nonwoven geotextile to protect the reinforcing fabric against physical damage and ultraviolet degradation.The 1,735-foot-long wall, finished more than 10 years ago, is still stable and meets all design objectives.LINQs manufacturing plant in Summerville is capable of manufacturing up to 200 million square yards of fabric per year. Filling A NicheWhat each of these companies Reeves and LINQ share in common is a flair for innovation, of meeting specialized demands in markets in which few other companies have either the desire or the expertise to compete. As evidenced by the developments of fabrics with significantly enhanced properties Reeves fuel tanks, for example, or LINQs GTF 200 this commitment is paying off in enhanced sales and greater market share. Hexcel Schwebel Weaves For PerformanceIn the world of high-performance fabrics, DuPonts Kevlar® brand enjoys perhaps the widest name recognition among the general population no doubt because of its association with lightweight body armor for law enforcement and military applications.Kevlar was developed in 1965 by DuPont research scientists who were looking to create a fiber with exceptional strength, but which was also lightweight and flexible. It is an organic fiber in the aromatic polyamide family, also known as aramid. General features include high tensile strength at low weight; high modulus (structural rigidity); high chemical resistance; high toughness; high cut resistance; low elongation to break; low electrical conductivity; low thermal shrinkage; excellent dimensional stability; and self-extinguishing flame resistance.Kevlar is five times stronger than steel, weight for weight. It provides excellent impact resistance and is one of the lightest structural fibers available. The product is commercially available in a multitude of fiber physical property balances for specific end-use performance benefits. Originally available as either Kevlar 29 for ballistic applications or Kevlar 49 for structural applications, today Kevlar technology is available with physical properties developed to deliver enhanced performance in a myriad of targeted end-uses. Examples of this are stab and puncture resistance, enhanced products for body armor, improved military fragmentation technology, performance increases in cut-resistant and cyclical motion (fatigue) applications, and improved products for structural and aerospace needs.
Despite the fact that Kevlar is used in a host of applications today, there was a point at which DuPont was unsure exactly what it would do with the product. The fiber was originally developed for use in automobile tires, but the emergence of a cheaper polyester alternative waylaid that end-use. DuPont began to look for other applications for the product, and one of the companies DuPont turned to for assistance was Hexcel Schwebel in Anderson, S.C.We were the first weaver in the United States to weave Kevlar fabric for DuPont, said Ken Langford, marketing manager, Hexcel Schwebel. We started weaving fabric specified for use in soft body armor in 1972.Today, Hexcel Schwebel continues to weave Kevlar for a variety of applications, including ballistic protection, safety apparel, recreation and aerospace.The company gets filament and a small amount of spun yarn from DuPont and performs ring twisting and cable twisting in-house. The yarn is woven into fabric on Sulzer rapier looms and is finished at the Anderson plant. We do scouring, water-repellent treatment and some coatings here in Anderson, said John Leatham, North American sales manager, ballistics.Because of Kevlars end-uses, the product must be handled with extreme care during fabrication, Leatham said. Our challenge is to protect the properties of Kevlar as they exist when the yarn comes in. It has to be handled very gently. Tension, abrasion, exposure to thermal cycles all of those can impact the strength and performance of the fiber. We want to limit that impact throughout the process and provide the opportunity to have a product that performs very well.As a result, Hexcel Schwebel has improved each process preparation, weaving and finishing in order to provide delicate handling of the fiber.We measure the properties of the product when it first comes in, Leatham said, and then extract strands throughout the process to measure loss. Because of the applications of Kevlar, our customers need process integrity, so we provide a substantial amount of quality control testing on a lot-to-lot basis.Hexcel Schwebel keeps meticulous records of each process so that traceability is never an issue. We begin with the certification we receive from DuPont and then do our own random testing of incoming product, Leatham said. Then we have traceability throughout our system from the bobbin to the finished roll. We can tell by roll number everything that has happened to the product from the moment it comes in until the moment it leaves the plant.In addition to Kevlar, Hexcel Schwebel produces a number of other high-performance fabrics for various applications. The companys biggest market is fiberglass. Hexcel Schwebel weaves fabrics for electronic, filtration and composites, as well as for general industrial use. November 2001



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