he challenges faced by the U.S. textile industry today are well known to the readers of
ATI. These challenges are causing many companies to consider new strategies to
maintain a competitive edge in the world marketplace.
Faced with the incursion of inexpensive synthetic fibers from Asia, Wellman Inc., Charlotte,
N.C., producers of Fortrel® polyester and Fortrel Ecospun®, recognized the necessity of choosing
between two strategies for success — either to become a purely commodity-driven enterprise offering
no distinguishing attributes to set its products apart from others in the marketplace, or, as Tom
Duff, chairman, stated, “to be creative, innovative and unique enough to allow us to make a profit
and give our customers differentiated products that they could make money on as well.”
Spurred on by an additional challenge from Andy Warlick, president of Parkdale, the
Gastonia, N.C., producer of cotton and cotton-blend yarns and a winner of
ATI’s Award for Innovation, Wellman embarked on the latter path.
Warlick was looking for a new synthetic fiber that combined cotton-like aesthetics with the
performance of the most technologically advanced fibers on the market.
Over two years, the companies collaborated, combining Wellman’s chemical expertise and
Parkdale’s understanding of cotton to produce Sensura™, “a fiber that we think will revolutionize
the industry in the 21st century,” Warlick said.
Sensura Type 870 staple fiber has a molecular structure with a rounded edge rather than the
hard edge of a cotton molecule. It is low-pilling, semidull, optically brightened and
disperse-dyeable. Wellman’s proprietary technology has produced a fiber that, according to various
tests, is superior to cotton in relation to perceived comfort, shrinkage, moisture-vapor
transmission, wicking, drying time and pilling.
The fiber is also environmentally and economically superior because it dyes at lower
temperatures than other fibers, therefore requiring less energy. It also uses no dye carriers and
requires less dyestuff than other synthetics, further lessening its environmental impact.
Furthermore, it dyes in a range like most natural fibers. And, because lower dye temperatures are
required, it is compatible with other synthetic fibers, such as spandex.
Sensura feels like the finest long-staple cotton — better than cotton, some would say. When
combined with such fibers as spandex, it can even feel sensuous, almost like silk. It is resilient,
colorfast, shrink- and wrinkle-resistant, durable and breathable. Because of its
moisture-management properties — it dries 100 percent faster than cotton and moves perspiration
from the skin through the fabric’s microclimate to evaporate on the surface — it keeps the wearer
cool or provides insulation, according to the demands of the moment.
Sensura For Casual Lifestyles
With its ease of care and comfortable feel, Sensura is well-suited for activewear, casual
sportswear and lingerie. It is also suitable for home fashions, such as knitted and woven sheets.
Warlick is optimistic about Sensura’s prospects for success, stating, “By working together
with innovative mills and fabric designers, we believe Sensura has unlimited potential.” Fabrics
currently in production include knits from Dyersburg Corp.’s Alamac Knits, Dyersburg Fabrics and
United Knitting; Kronfli Spundale Knitting; and Dolphin Trimming Inc. Other companies developing
fabrics include Intex Corp., VF Knitwear, Nike, Patagonia, Pillowtex (Fieldcrest-Cannon), M.J.
Soffee Co., Galey & Lord, Guilford Mills and Swift Denim.
For more information about Sensura, contact Joyce Basden, Wellman Inc., (704) 357-2066;