There is a plethora of factors that we need to consider when looking to engineer a new absorbent fabric. These can range from the simple physical size and weight of the fabric and how much of a given material the fabric needs to absorb, to the more complex challenges such as the type of environment the fabric will be used in, its intended lifetime, how quickly the fabric will absorb and, in some cases, how long it will take to dry.
Our development team needs to understand as many of the functional parameters as early in the design process as possible, which is why we ask our customers so many questions upfront.
Often, our first question is ‘what type of material does the fabric needs to absorb?’ Is it an aqueous liquid, dissolved water in a hydrocarbon or even water vapour in a gas stream? In addition, how much of this material does the fabric need to absorb and what physical space does it need to fit into, both in the dry state and when saturated? The common answers we get are normally ‘as much material as possible, in as small a space as possible.’ However, there are often practical and physical limitations to this, which must be considered during the early design phase.
The environment in which the material will be employed is also an important consideration. Is the fabric going to be exposed to extremes of temperature, corrosive gasses or even submerged in a hydrocarbon for extended periods of time? Is it to be used in a sole-use product or to be regenerated? Does it need to function for a brief period, or is it left for years and so needs to remain intact and stable for potential future use?
Given the type of applications in which our technology is used, regulatory and safety requirements also need to be understood. This is particularly important if a fabric is to be used in close contact with the skin or food. In some cases, a fabric, or a product in which it is to be used will need to be sterilised.
This second layer of additional information allows us to select the most appropriate fibres and components. It also heavily influences the final design and physical structure of the fabric to ensure it is fit for purpose.
Aesthetics might not seem as important as the above functionality parameters, but in certain product applications, this can be high on the list of customer requirements, especially if the fabric is to be visible in both dry and saturated forms. A saturated fabric can have a quite different appearance from a dry fabric. In certain situations, we may need to design a fabric in a way where the changes are small and not notable.
Finally, the final supply format of the fabric is also important. This information also needs to be discussed in the initial stages of fabric development to ensure that we can supply a product to the required specification. While a customer may want as much fabric on a core as possible, safe manual handling is crucial and so it is important for us to note if handling equipment will be used.
In addition, the physical requirements, such as width or maximum roll sizes may influence the proposed fabric. Some conversion routes lend themselves to narrow, thinner materials. Others are more suited to wider, bulkier fabrics.
Even once an initial design specification is finalised, there are likely to be further modifications made as testing is completed by the end user, limitations are identified, and feedback is provided.
In summary, designing an absorbent fabric is a lengthy process with a wide range of parameters to consider along the development journey. While certain considerations may not apply to all situations, they can be relevant to different fabrics depending on the final application.
In conclusion, it is worth noting that here at Technical Absorbents we have been down this journey many times and have a vast array of fabrics. Your ideal fabric might already be sitting on our online shop shop.techabsorbents.com or deep in our fabric library archive. So, if you have an absorbent fabric need reach out and we can start the journey to meeting all your absorbent needs.