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Synthetic Fiber Innovations

By Dr. Kim Anderson, Writer/Reporter for [TC] In today's volatile global market, every sector of the textile industry is scrambling to stay afloat. With the mass exodus of fabric and apparel manufacturers, U.S. fiber producers appear to have gotten the worst of it. Those who have weathered the storm have buoyed themselves by offering innovative products. U.S. synthetic fiber manufacturers are honing in on new and improved fibers with enhanced performance and aesthetic properties. U.S. synthetic fiber manufacturers are utilizing innovation and perspicacity to develop exciting new products. Meadowbrook Inventions, Inc. has been the leading manufacturer and supplier of glitter? Hardly the seminal beginning you might associate with a traditional fiber manufacturer. After seventy years of supplying brilliantly colored particles of precision cut plastic films and metallic foils' to a broad spectrum of industries - including cosmetic suppliers and boat manufacturers - Meadowbrook has bravely and successfully ventured into the textile sector. Roberta Ruschmann, Vice president of Meadowbrook Inventions, said she had always liked textiles and after achieving longer lengths for Christmas trees, they decided to engineer fibers appropriate for a wide variety of textile applications. Since the early 90's, Meadowbrook Inventions has been producing the incredibly beautiful line of Angelina fibers. Depending on the starting material and the manufacturing process the fibers can produce a number of extraordinary effects - including luminescent, iridescent, holographic and much more. Offered in a wide range of colors, deniers and staple lengths, these aesthetically beautiful and high-performing fibers are being used in everything from apparel to automobile upholstery.

Examples of Angelina fibers Courtesy Meadowbrook Inventions, Inc.

Ruschmann points out that the fiber produces a very different looking yarn from that of its close counterpart continuous filament Lurex. Ruschmann says the Angelina fibers can be blended with almost any other fiber to produce a gamut of effects - from soft and subtle to radiant and bold.

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Fabric - Soft and Subtle

Yarn - Soft and Subtle

Courtesy Meadowbrook Inventions, Inc.

Angelina Fibers - Radiant and Bold

Courtesy Meadowbrook Inventions, Inc.

Angelina Fibers are also incredibly soft.' Ruschmann explains that the fiber's softness is how the name originated, all the employees kept calling it angel hair because it was so soft. Angel hair was soon coined Angelina, and the name was quickly registered. In the last five years the business has really taken off Ruschmann says. Through diligent research and development, Meadowbrook Innovations continues to introduce unique exciting fibers. In 1998 when many fiber producers were downsizing or completely throwing in the towel, Palmetto Synthetic's was breaking ground on a brand new manufacturing facility. Palmetto Synthetics continually seeks out new innovative fibers. Nik Casstevens, Director, Sales and Product Development, explains that their versatile equipment allows them to process low melt, high melt and anything in between. Palmetto Synthetics has been offering recycled' fibers since their inception in 1998. This is not a new process but one which is taking on increasing importance. Recycled fibers are produced from plastic bottle containers. Although more expensive than polyester, Casstevens explains, the environmental story is a good one, and not just in theory. Consumption of bottled water alone is growing exponentially. Bottled water is the single largest growth area among all beverages, including alcohol, juices and soft drinks. The number of water bottles sold jumped from 3.3 billion in 1997 to 15 billion in 2002 (Llanos). Palmetto Synthetics is doing their share to help reduce the stockpile of plastic bottle containers. NatureSpun is made from either 100% bottle flake' or bottle flake' rich recycled fibers. Yarn made from NatureSpun fibers is widely used in contract upholstery, carpet and wall coverings - applications in which customers are willing to pay a little more for a quality product and to pitch-in to help the environment.
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Palmetto Synthetics is continually seeking out new innovations. Recent research includes fibers which incorporate silver and copper to produce antimicrobial properties and control odor; the addition of add-ons' that impart insect repellent and flame retardant properties; and combining PTFE (tetrafluoroethylene, a fluorocarbon resin) with PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) to impart soil release and stain resistance properties and a soft hand. It would be an irresponsible oversight to exclude INVISTA in a review on synthetic fiber innovations. INVISTA has a manufacturing or marketing presence in every major market and garment region worldwide.' Research at INVISTA is customer-driven. Robert Kirkwood, Technical Director, explains that fiber research and development is based on consumer research. Kirkwood also points out that it is of utmost importance to adhere to the company's history, heritage and stewardshipto make sure products deliver benefits with no negative consequences. INVISTA fibers are engineered to maximize the positive attributes we associate with synthetic fibers and at the same time, mimic the desirable characteristics of natural fibers. Kirkwood explains that today fiber innovation focuses on a lot more integration combining performance and functionality with aesthetics. Coolmax, Supplex, Tactel, and Thermolite are just some of INVISTA's newest introductions. From this heavy-hitting lineup we can definitely say INVISTA is prolific. Like cotton, Coolmax, Supplex and Tactel are soft, have an excellent hand and are breathable. Coolmax provides the wearer with a unique moisture management system that keeps them cool and comfortable. For those who really want a heavy duty fiber, INVISTA has come out with a new version of Coolmax, featuring even better performance and moisture management. INVISTA is pursuing a number of interesting trends. Kirkwood describes the mega-trend of well-beinghow can I make myself feel better? Although the trend has been around for a while, Kirkwood explains that it has not come to apparel. The customers' need to feel good' can be seen in the explosion of stores offering feel good' products such as bath salts, body lotions and scents. Kirkwood points out that apparel being close to the skin is ideal for the delivery of well-being benefits. INVISTA is designing fibers microencapsulated with nurturing ingredients such as vitamin E and aloe. The garments constructed with these fibers can deliver benefits to the wearer in excess of 25 washings. Kirkwood says the products have been in the retail market for about 3 months and are doing great. Linda Kearns, Communications and Marketing Research Director, says INVISTA is releasing a new fabric branded Xtra Life LYCRA. After finding women were disgruntled over sagging swimwear INVISTA introduced Xtra Life LYCRA, a high performing fabric that helps swimwear keep its shape and is chlorine resistant as well. According to Kearns, the fiber research focus at INVISTA has four main parts: to look better and last longer, embrace the wellbeing trend by engineering fibers that entice the senses, and to engineer high performance fibers for the apparel sports market and fibers with easy care instructions. No doubt, we can expect some interesting developments from INVISTA. Continued research and development and a can-do attitude have enabled U.S. synthetic fiber manufacturers to maintain ground. Nik Casstevens says with a customer base contractingthere is no choice but to innovate. Successful fiber manufacturers are adhering to the thoughts of one of America 's most renowned innovators A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business. Henry Ford.

Acknowledgments Linda Kearns, Communications and Marketing Research Director, INVISTA, Wilmington, DE. Nik Casstevens, Director, Sales and Product Development, Palmetto Synthetics, Kingstree, SC. Robert Kirkwood, Technical Director, INVISTA, Wilmington, DE. Roberta M. Ruschmann, Vice President, Meadowbrook Inventions, Inc., Bernardsville, NJ. Tara Pruden, Meadowbrook Inventions, Inc., Bernardsville, NJ. References Miguel Llanos, Reporter MSNBC, Plastic Bottles Pile up as Mountains of Waste: Americans' Thirst for Portable Water
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is Behind Drop in Recycling Rate. March 3, 2005.

August 2005

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