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Quality Fabric Of The Month

Sleeping Comfort

Phi-ton's 3-D mattresses, made with thick, warp-knit spacer fabrics, give total support in a comfortable, hygienic environment.

By Janet Bealer Rodie, Associate Editor

S ince the early 1990s, spacer fabrics — developed in the ‘70s — increasingly have found uses in products that traditionally have incorporated foam. The inner mesh of monofilaments crisscrossing between the fabric’s two surface layers provides lightweight structural integrity, resilience and flexibility. Spacer fabrics also exhibit superior air and moisture permeability and temperature regulation.

The quest to create an optimal sleep environment has led several European mattress makers to integrate spacer fabrics into their products, often in combination with foam and/or springs. But perhaps the most innovative mattresses to date are the Netherlands-based Phi-ton BV’s award-winning 3D-mattresses, designed by company Director Fried-Jan Unger, and the first in the market made solely of spacer fabrics. In addition to offering the properties noted above, the mattresses, for both adults and children, as well as Phi-ton’s 3D pillows and mattress overlays, provide total support and a hygienic environment, relieve pressure, and are easily washed and quick-drying.

Phi-ton's 3-D mattresses allow air and moisture to pass through, are easily washed and dry quickly.
Photograph ©Phi-ton BV

Unger's interest in using spacer fabrics in mattresses was spurred when a representative from Essedea GmbH & Co. KG, a Germany-based textile manufacturer, showed him a 40-millimeter (mm)-thick warp-knit spacer fabric sample made on Germany-based Karl Mayer Textilmaschinenfabrik GmbH's new HighDistance® (HDR 6 EL) double-bar raschel machine, designed to produce 25- to 65-mm-thick spacer fabrics. Essedea had just installed one of the machines and now produces Phi-ton's proprietary fabrics. For the mattresses, Phi-ton stacks and binds three 40-mm-thick polyester monofilament layers together, and covers them with a soft 5-mm-thick polypropylene spacer fabric, also made on Karl Mayer machinery. Each layer has different properties in terms of pressure, indentation values and comfort zones, and all work together to create the overall comfort, Unger said.

Unger also noted the mattress's hygienic qualities: "Nothing is absorbed. There's no environment that allows microorganisms to remain in the mattress, like you have in the cellular structure of foam."

The spacer yarns cross between the surface layers in an IXI construction in which the monofilaments are either perpendicular or at oblique angles to the surface layers. The combination provides good recovery and stability, according to Jörg Bredemeyer, manager, Warp Knits & Specials, Karl Mayer.

Phi-ton currently markets its 3D product line in Europe, Asia and Australia. Unger hopes to find a partner in the United States to bring the products to American consumers, who he feels will pay a premium for comfortable sleep; hygiene; and allergy-free, cleanable products. "It hits the nail on the head on at least four counts," he said. "Anybody can make that work as a marketing machine."

Spacer mattresses also are being developed for medical applications. "The main considerations are price points and managing the material," Unger said. "You can't put a polyvinyl cover on it — this is a mattress where everything should be able to get in and out, as opposed to sealing it. If you can sanitize or sterilize or high-pressure-clean it, you can actually ensure nothing will stay in the mattress."

For more information about Phi-ton products, contact Fried-Jan Unger 31-65-1228944, fju@phi-ton.com. For more information about Karl Mayer's spacer technology, contact Jörg Bredemeyer 49-6104-402-212, jbredemeyer@karlmayer.de.
January/February 2007