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Quality Fabric Of The Month

Soft Stretch, No Latex

VitaFlex™ latex-free elastic nonwoven products provide comfortable, breathable barrier and filtration functions for disposable paint hoods and numerous other applications.

Janet Bealer Rodie, Managing Editor

V itaFlex LLC, an affiliate of Burlington Technologies Inc., Burlington, N.C., has begun manufacturing a latex- and synthetic rubber-free, inherently elastic spunbond material and associated end products using patented technology developed by VitaFlex President and Chief Scientific Officer Dr. De-Sheng Tsai. All manufacturing is done in the United States, with final processing of the raw materials and making them into end products done at VitaFlex's plant in Burlington.

The fabrics are manufactured using a proprietary process by which thermally bonded nonwovens are given cross-directional soft-stretch properties. The fabrics are treated at high speeds and are available in a variety of styles, each featuring a high degree of uniformity and having its own performance attributes. Certain polypropylene (PP) spunbonds offer up to 70-percent recovery and 150-percent elongation, and higher-stretch fabrics can offer up to 400-percent elongation.

The VitaFlex™ facial protection hood is the first commercially available product that features VitaFlex LLC’s proprietary latex- and elastane-free elastic nonwoven technology.

Because end products do not need to be fitted with latex straps, their production process is simplified, so costs are reduced considerably. The company notes the basic fabrics are suitable for limited-use applications, but it also is possible to combine them with other materials to make composites, and to make durable products. A further benefit is that disposal is more environmentally friendly than for traditional elastic disposables because, in addition to their being recyclable when made from a single polymer type, waste incineration of the VitaFlex™ products produces fewer harmful emissions.

Susan Heaton, senior director of sales and marketing, said VitaFlex is the first latex- and elastane-free nonwoven fabric to be offered commercially. The first end product is a lightweight, soft-stretch, triple-layer, disposable, recyclable PP hood that provides form-fitting but comfortable facial protection and replaces the cotton knitted sock traditionally worn by painters, construction workers and others who are involved in similar types of activities.

The triple-layer construction enhances the filtration/barrier function for the applications that VitaFlex is targeting with this first product. "There's a myriad of directions we can go just with the soft-stretch hood," Heaton said. "The market interest we've received has been tremendous. We started out thinking about painting, and we've branched out into construction, demolition -- anywhere there's dust. It's so multifunctional."

The company envisions numerous other applications for VitaFlex materials as well, including medical, clean-room, food-processing and others; and will introduce products for these uses at strategic points in time. These other products might be layered in different ways, using different components and sandwiching them together to provide the desired function.

Heaton said Tsai, a former technical fellow with DuPont and entrepreneur in Taiwan, also has developed an elastic laminate technology that is expected to be introduced sometime in the future.

For more information about VitaFlex™, contact Susan Heaton +336-343-4606, sheaton@vitaflexusa.com.

January/February 2010