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Fiber World

Dyeable Polypropylene Fiber

The ability to dye polypropylene fibers using conventional disperse dyes makes the fibers more attractive for apparel end-uses.

TW Special Report

P olypropylene fibers possess a number of attractive properties when compared to other fibers (See Table 1). Despite desirable properties, polypropylene fibers traditionally have suffered from a major drawback that has limited their adoption in textile apparel applications: In contrast to other fibers, conventional polypropylene fibers cannot be dyed. Instead, the color has to be imparted at the fiber extrusion step through mass coloration or solution dyeing. The process involves adding a relatively thermally stable pigment color during the melt spinning of the fiber. The pigments used are not usually miscible with polypropylene. Thus, the pigments are present as discrete particles in the fiber, and the color imparted becomes permanent in the fiber. While this has the benefit of very good colorfastness, there are two significant disadvantages. The first is that introducing new colors involves a relatively complex color-matching step. The second is the absence of greige goods to be dyed. This means that relatively large lots of fiber are made for every new color, and the time required to go from a new color concept to the final fabric or garment can be long.

There has been a long-standing interest in commercializing a dyeable polypropylene fiber. Ideally, it should have a dyeing profile similar to or compatible with large-volume fibers such as polyester, nylon or cotton, so that it is compatible with the dyeing and related processes that are already well-established. Furthermore, it should not change the essential benefits of polypropylene fibers presented in Table 1, especially its low density and its low surface energy. There have been several attempts to make dyeable polypropylene fibers, but they have not been successful because the resulting product did not meet these criteria.

FiberVisions has developed a revolutionary new polypropylene fiber, CoolVisions™ dyeable polypropylene fiber, that meets the needs of facile dyeing and polypropylene fiber characteristics by incorporating an additive within the polypropylene fiber. The fiber can be dyed using conventional disperse dyes in a manner similar to that used for polyester fibers. The fibers feature a wide array of inherent benefits and properties including:
• light weight and comfort;
• cottony softness;
• easy care, easy wear;
• moisture management;
• durability;
• breathability;
• thermal insulation; and
• stain resistance.

FWfeaturechart

Lightweight And Comfortable

Polypropylene fibers are among the lightest in weight of all commercial fibers. The increased number of polypropylene fibers per kilogram of fabric offers added value compared to many other fibers, resulting in improved coverage for the same weight range or equal coverage in lighter-weight fabrics for comfortable garments. In addition, CoolVisions fibers are inherently softer than traditional polypropylene fibers, resulting in greater comfort, according to FiberVisions. This combination of attributes makes garments made from these new fibers inherently easy care, easy wear.

Moisture Management

According to FiberVisions, CoolVisions polypropylene fibers outperform all other dyeable fibers in low-moisture-absorption tests. In addition, garments made from polypropylene tend to have a high moisture-vapor-transmission rate. This is important in comfort, especially when one wants the skin to stay cool and dry. The mechanical properties of polypropylene fibers are not affected when the fabric is wet an inherent advantage compared to fibers like rayon, which can lose strength substantially.

As with traditional polypropylene, CoolVisions offers excellent chemical resistance and aqueous stain resistance. Bleach and other household cleaning chemicals do not affect the fibers, which also are not attacked by microbial organisms such as mold, mildew and bacteria.

windsurfers
Dyeable polypropylene fibers are suitable for apparel end-uses including sports applications.
 
Dyeing Characteristics

CoolVisions dyeable polypropylene fibers can be dyed using commonly available polyester high-energy disperse dyes and in standard high-pressure dyeing processes used for polyester fibers, but with lower dyeing temperatures possible. The color range and color-matching process are similar to those for polyester fibers.

The ability to dye fabrics results in many benefits over the use of fabrics made with traditional solution-dyed fibers, including value chain and styling benefits. Some of the value-chain benefits include the ability to store greige goods, match colors quickly, produce smaller lot volumes and serve niche or fashion-related color lines, respond rapidly to market demand, and offer a wider range of colors without greatly increasing inventory costs. There are added financial benefits from reduced working capital needs and shortened production times. Styling benefits include reduction in barré found in solution-dyed garments and the ability to print with dye inks rather than pigment inks. Dye-printed fabrics exhibit a softer hand and better colorfastness than pigment-printed fabrics. CoolVisions fibers also have been engineered to have an inherently soft hand and cotton touch not found in traditional polypropylene fibers.

As noted previously, CoolVisions fibers contain an additive that acts as a dye receptor. The additive is present in the fibers as small domains into which the disperse dyes dissolve during the dyeing process. At dyeing temperatures greater than the boiling point of water, the disperse dyes diffuse readily through the polypropylene fiber into the encapsulated domains of the additive. Under actual garment use conditions — which include much lower temperatures — the diffusion of the disperse dyes back out of the fiber is greatly diminished, resulting in good colorfastness. As with polyester fibers, high-energy disperse dyes should be used to obtain optimum colorfastness.

The approach of encapsulating the additive within the polypropylene fiber has many benefits. The surface of the fiber is essentially unchanged, resulting in excellent aqueous stain resistance and low water absorption. The polypropylene fiber also serves to protect the dyes from chemicals such as chlorine, resulting in excellent bleach fastness.

Since the ability to dye the polypropylene fiber is imparted by the incorporation of an additive, the level of the additive affects the depth of shade. This has a couple of benefits, according to FiberVisions: The additive level can be controlled quite well, resulting in reduced shade sensitivity to processing conditions. In addition, the level can be intentionally changed to produce fibers that dye to different depths, thereby offering an additional styling tool.

FiberVisions officially launched CoolVisions dyeable polypropylene fibers at the recent Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City. A number of partner companies are currently working with these fibers to develop new fabrics and apparel styles. Activities are underway to develop air-jet spun and filament-type products to broaden the range of styling tools.

September/October 2006




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