How is Lycra made?
Lycra is a synthetic elastic fabric. It goes by many names. In Europe it is usually referred to as Lycra, North Americal calls it Spandex which is an Anagram of ‘Expands’ and in Britain it is typically known as Lycra.
Lycra is a Polyurethane-Polyurea copolymer and was invented in 1959, and began and began to revolutionise many areas of the clothing industry.
Lycra fibres are produced in four different ways. These are melt extrusion, reaction spinning, solution wet spinning and solution dry spinning.
Solution dry spinning is used in many manufacturing processes of synthetic fibres, and is the main way of producing Lycra faibres, with over 94.5% of all the Lycra being made in this way. The prepolymer is drawn out to create filaments, with the use of a spinneret. This causes the solution to be made into liquid filaments. Once these are heated and the polymer reacts, solid filament fibres are created.
There are two main ways of processing Lycra into garments. The first one is to wrap the Lycra fibre in a non-elastic thread. This can either be natural or man-made. The resulting yarn has the appearance and properties of the fibre that it is wrapped with. The second method is to incorporate the actual Lycra fibres into the garments during the weaving process. Small amount of Lycra are only required to add the properties of it into the fabrics. Trousers only use around 2% to add to the comfort and fit, with the highest percentages being used in swimwear, corsetry or sportswear reaching 15-40% Lycra. It is never used alone and is always blended with other fibres.
Properties of Lycra
- Exceptionally Elastic
- Stronger and more durable than conventional rubber
- Good tear resistance
- A third of the weight of natural rubber
- Clings to the body
- Always reverts back to its original form after being stretched
- Crease Resistant
- Not sensitive to cosmetics, sun cream or seawater
- Easy Care
End uses of Lycra
- Woven and knitted fabrics
- Garments which need a permanent level of elasticity
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