Surface treatments – adding value to textiles

A collaborative research partnership between Deakin University’s Institute for Frontier Materials and HeiQ Australia has delivered two commercial products based on the team’s cutting edge, short polymer fibre technology.

The first product is a textile finishing technology, known as ‘HeiQ Real Silk’, which replicates some of the tactile and luxurious properties of silk. By applying short silk fibres to the fabric surface, the silk-like properties can be introduced to textiles such as polyester, cotton or blends. HeiQ Real Silk is being marketed through the Swiss parent company HeiQ Materials AG.

In a second process, known as ‘No Fuzz’ the team has developed a range of surface treatments that reduce pilling and abrasion damage, helping fabrics to look and feel newer for longer.

Pilling is a common problem for woollen and other knitted textiles. It is caused by mechanical friction, as loose fibres in a material rub together and become tangled, forming visible fuzzy ‘pill’ balls. Abrasion damage from wear and tear is one of the biggest problems affecting clothing, especially items made from wool and natural/synthetic blends.

The textile industry has tried to solve this issue for years but most existing fabric-based treatments result in an unpleasant feel to the fabric and reduced comfort.

The key to avoiding pilling is either to remove the fluffy fibres or to stabilise the fabric structure so that it is difficult for fibres to loosen and tangle. The new treatment strengthens loose fibres with adhesive polymer structures, reinforcing fabric yarns and resulting in a significant improvement against pilling and abrasion damage.

The treatment can be applied to fabrics without affecting their feel or appearance. It makes clothing more robust to wear and tear, thereby extending the lifetime of the garment. It can be used on all fibre types but is particularly effective on spun yarns and natural/synthetic blends.

The research team is enabling scaled-up production, helping HeiQ Australia get off the ground by developing new products and new devices to make those products. In 2018, this goal moved a step closer when the company moved into the purpose-built Deakin Manufutures facility at Waurn Ponds.

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