An exploratory analysis of the relationships between cotton fiber properties and needlepunched nonwoven characteristics
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Nonwovens represent one of the booming sectors in the textile industry today with a significant projected growth both domestically and globally. At present, cotton is supplanted by synthetic fibers in nonwovens, thereby limiting its utilization in an important market sector. One of the major challenges for cotton is the high variability and lack of uniformity associated with fiber properties. Currently, manufacturers do not take this variability into account while selecting cotton for nonwovens. Therefore, it is essential to understand the effect of fiber properties on the nonwoven fabric characteristics in order to address this problem of variability. Bridging this knowledge gap can help increase cotton’s market share in the nonwoven sector and maintain its competitiveness in the fiber market. This project was an exploratory study to investigate the effect of cotton fiber properties on nonwoven fabric properties. Twenty different samples of Upland cotton with various combinations of fiber length and maturity parameters were used for this research. The fabric mechanical properties – tensile and burst strength, pore structure characteristics and permeability were measured and investigated in this study. The relationships between various raw fiber properties and the measured fabric characteristics were analyzed. The breaking strength of the fabric showed significant relations with fiber length and maturity. Using multiple regression analysis, an equation was derived to predict the specific breaking strength of the fabric from the mean fiber length and maturity ratio values of its constituent fibers. Though bursting strength and permeability showed significant single relations with several fiber properties, the multiple regression analysis returned a single significant predictor in each case – fiber length and fabric density respectively. Results observed from this study show that the constituent fiber attributes have significant relationships with the nonwoven fabric characteristics. Taking these fiber properties into account during raw material selection for cotton nonwovens would be advantageous as manufacturers can optimize quality, and also predict final product characteristics. Future studies focusing on the inter-fiber interactions in cotton nonwovens, comparisons between 100% cotton and synthetic blended nonwovens etc. will help gain better understanding, and contribute towards improving cottons marketability and utilization in the nonwoven industry.