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TT4370: Textile Design Project

3D Fabric used in Bra cup manufacturing

M.T.P.M Abhayarathne


Fabrics used in Bra cup manufacturing

80 % in bra cup industry is used weft knitted-double jersey-interlock fabric. In the molding process fabric is stretched and it is required to have high covering factor. To meet those two characteristics, weft knitted-double jersey-interlock fabric is capable. That is why high percentage in bra cup industry is used particular fabric.

In Industry, they use polyester fabric mostly. Because polyester has stretch ability, good covering

factor, less yellowing effect, relatively low cost.

Main requirements of a fabric used for bra cup

Mold ability

High cover factor at stretch

Color fastness to molding conditions

Low cost

Spacer Fabric

A special structure is called knitted spacer fabric or 3D spacer mesh. This material is produced

via special knitting technique and has specific 3 dimensional properties. Spacer fabric can be

produced by woven technique as well but the properties of the woven spacer totally differ from knitted spacer. It has some other special properties than single jersey and interlock.

Good stretch ability

Good distribution of pressure peaks

Dispersion of air and moisture

Easy washable and dryable

Recyclable and non-poisonous

When making bra cups by using knitted interlock fabrics we need another foam piece to take the required thickness for the cup. But when we use 3D spacer fabric instead of that, no need of a foam piece. Also it has some special properties than single jersey and interlock which I have mentioned above.

Spacer fabric is a three-dimensional knitted fabric consisting of two separate knitted substrates which are joined together or kept apart by spacer yarns. There are two types of spacer fabrics:

warp-knitted spacer fabric and weft-knitted spacer fabric. The first type is knitted on a rib raschel machine having two needle bars, while the second is knitted on a double jersey circular machine having a rotatable needle cylinder and needle dial.

Spacer fabrics are widely used in different products such as mobile textiles (car seat covers, dashboard cover), industrial textiles (composites), medical textiles (anti-decubitus blankets), sports textiles and foundation garments (bra cups, pads for swimwear). Spacer fabric as a component material is highly breathable, thus creating a moisture free environment, which in turn reduces the chances of skin maceration. These lead to an increased level of comfort when compared to materials such as foam, neoprene and laminate fabrics. Spacer fabrics are regarded as environmentally friendly textile materials (unlike polyurethane foam), since they can be recycled

Construction of Knitted - 3D Spacer fabric

Fabric is knitted on a double jersey circular machine having a rotatable needle cylinder and needle dial. 3D Spacer structures are much like a sandwich the constructions comprising two separate fabric webs which are joined together by spacer threads of varying rigidity.

Where the face and back of the fabric are knitted separately, at the same time, it is interconnected by monofilament yarns .Three layer of this fabric is constructed at the same time, so the cost of laminating or combining is reduced.

yarns . Three layer of this fabric is constructed at the same time, so the cost

Circular knitting machines with two sets of needles have the ability to create two individual layers of fabric that are held together by tucks. Such a fabric was referred to as a double -faced fabric also be called as spacer fabric. It is produced by flat, v-bed and purl machines. All techniques require the use of at least three different yarns for each course of visual fabric. The degree of space or height between the two fabric faces is determined in the circular knitting machine by the setting of the dial height relative to the machine cylinder. Spacer fabric heights preset in this way can vary between 1.5 and 5.5 mm.

heights preset in this way can vary between 1.5 and 5.5 mm. With the uses of

With the uses of high and low butt needles, spacer fabrics are produced in weft knitting by tucking on dial and cylinder needles at the same feeder and knitting/plating on the dial needles .At feeders 1&3 spacer yarn knitted on dial needle and tucked on cylinder needles.

Within the bra cup manufacturing industry they use different kind of spacer fabrics. Among them I choose the spacer fabric with the following characteristics

Fabric Type

Weft Knitted Spacer


91% Polyester

9% Spandex

Density(kg/m 3 )




Spacer yarn Composition

100% Polyester

Spacer yarn type


Spacer yarn diameter


Fabric count

30 CPI

Spacer yarn arrangement(θ)

θ = tan -1 t/w

θ = 61.08 o

θ = 61.08 o

Knitting Machine settings

Fabric can produced on a 20 gauge and 38” diameter circular knitting machine (E.g.: Mayer & Cie) with constant machine settings. To take fabric thickness and compression property, dial height value (3.5, 4 mm) is suitable. The closed structures were knitted on both surfaces of the fabrics Samples were kept under the standard atmospheric condition for 24 hours for the relaxation. Spandex and polyester yarns are given to the feeders as the required composition.

yarns are given to the feeders as the required composition. Table given below summarizes the optimal

Table given below summarizes the optimal molding conditions that should be used to mold a desirable cup shape for selected spacer fabric. The most important criteria we selected here that are the cup depth should achieve 6 cm (equivalent to a size 38B’s bra), and that the shrinkage should not exceed 2mm after cooling for 1 day. In addition, the cup should maintain its softness to touch and should undergo no yellowing in colour. Acquiring a mirror surface due to too high temperatures should also be avoided.

Upper Mold Temperature( o C)


Lower Mold Temperature( o C)


Molding Time(s)


Cup Depth(cm)


Cup Depth after 1 day(cm)


Hand feel


Mirror Surface


Colour change

No yellowing

Tests for the fabric

Yellowing tests

Burn gas fume test

This test method is intended for assessing the resistance of the color of textiles of all kinds and in all forms when exposed to atmospheric oxides of nitrogen as derived from the combustion of natural gas.

When control sample indicates a change in color, the specimen should be taken out and test for color change using gray scales. The report indicates,

Required detail for identify the sample

Gray scale ratings for color change

Heat aging test

Put the specimen in convection oven and set temperature for a certain value. Keep the specimen for 48 hours and evaluate for change of color.


The weight of a fabric can be expressed in two ways, either as the ‘weight per unit area’ or the ‘weight per unit length’; the former is self-explanatory but the latter requires a little explanation because the weight of a unit length of fabric will obviously be affected by its width.

For measuring GSM, a GSM cutter is used to cut the fabric and weight is taken in balance.

Power and Recovery Test

Instraon CRT tester is suitable for this test. While molding the fabric stretch ability is one of the factor that should consider. It is better to consider ASTM standard when making spacer fabrics for bra cups.

Color fastness to Water

Color fastness to perspiration

Color fastness to washing and rubbing

Dimensional change to washing

Air Permeability

Using ASTM D737, the standard test method for air permeability of textile fabrics, air was drawn through both knit fabrics and Spacer fabrics. While the knit fabrics received only a 10.7 cfm (cubic feet per minute), Spacer Fabrics received a 99.1 cfm, meaning it was almost 10 times more permeable than regular knit fabrics.


Polyester is a synthetic fiber derived from coal, air, water, and petroleum. Polyester fibers are formed from a chemical reaction between an acid and alcohol. In this reaction, two or more molecules combine to make a large molecule whose structure repeats throughout its length. Polyester fibers can form very long molecules that are very stable and strong.

Polyester is a chemical term which can be broken into poly, meaning many, and ester, a basic organic chemical compound. The principle ingredient used in the manufacture of polyester is ethylene, which is derived from petroleum. In this process, ethylene is the polymer, the chemical building block of polyester, and the chemical process that produces the finished polyester is called polymerization

Manufacturing Staple fibre

. 280 o c 150 o c-210 o c 260-270°C
280 o c
150 o c-210 o c

Polymerization Drying (After the polyester emerges from polymerization, the long molten ribbons are allowed to cool until they become brittle. The material is cut into tiny chips and completely dried to prevent irregularities in consistency.) Melt spinning (At the spinning stage, other chemicals may be added to the solution to make the resulting material flame retardant, antistatic, or easier to dye.) Drawing tow (The spinneret has many more holes when the product is staple fiber. The rope-like bundles of polyester that emerge are called tow.) Crimping (Drawn tow is then fed into compression boxes, which force the fibers to fold like an accordion, at a rate of 9-15 crimps per inch (3-6 per cm). This process helps the fiber hold together during the later manufacturing stages.) Setting (After the tow is crimped, it is heated at (100-150°C) to completely dry the fibers and set the crimp. Some of the crimp will unavoidably be pulled out of the fibers during the following processes.) Cutting (following heat setting, tow is cut into shorter lengths.)

(following heat setting, tow is cut into shorter lengths.) Monofilament yarn After the fiber itself is
(following heat setting, tow is cut into shorter lengths.) Monofilament yarn After the fiber itself is
(following heat setting, tow is cut into shorter lengths.) Monofilament yarn After the fiber itself is
(following heat setting, tow is cut into shorter lengths.) Monofilament yarn After the fiber itself is
(following heat setting, tow is cut into shorter lengths.) Monofilament yarn After the fiber itself is
(following heat setting, tow is cut into shorter lengths.) Monofilament yarn After the fiber itself is

Monofilament yarn

After the fiber itself is created, it is made into a yarn. There are two types of polyester yarns:

filament and spun. Filament yarns are made by taking the long polyester filaments, grouping them together, and then twisting them to make them thicker and stronger. A monofilament yarn has just one, long polyester fiber that is not twisted.

Diameter: 0.058mm


Spandex is a lightweight, synthetic fiber that is used to make stretchable clothing such as sportswear. It is made up of a long chain polymer called polyurethane, which is produced by reacting a polyester with a di-isocyanate. The polymer is converted into a fiber using a dry spinning technique. Spandex is a synthetic polymer. Chemically, it is made up of a long-chain poly glycol combined with a short di-isocyanate, and contains at least 85% polyurethane. It is an elastomer, which means it can be stretched to a certain degree and it recoils when released. These fibers are superior to rubber because they are stronger, lighter, and more versatile. In fact, spandex fibers can be stretched to almost 500% of their length.

A variety of raw materials are used to produce stretchable spandex fibers. This includes pre

polymers which produce the backbone of the fiber, stabilizers which protect the integrity of the

polymer, and colorants.

Producing the fibers

Spandex fibers are produced in four different ways including melt extrusion, reaction spinning, solution dry spinning, and solution wet spinning. Each of these methods involve the initial step of reacting monomers to produce a pre polymer. Then the pre polymer is reacted further, in various ways, and drawn out to produce a long fiber. Since solution dry spinning is used to produce over 90% of the world's spandex fibers, it is described.

Polymer reaction

The first step in the production of spandex is the production of the pre polymer. This is done by mixing a macro glycol with a di-isocyanate monomer. The compounds are mixed in a reaction vessel and under the right conditions they react to form a pre polymer. Since the ratio of the component materials produces fibers with varying characteristics, it is strictly controlled. A typical ratio of glycol to di-isocyanate may be 1:2.

In dry spinning fiber production, the pre polymer is further reacted with an equal amount of di-

amine. This is known as a chain extension reaction. The resulting solution is diluted with a solvent

to produce the spinning solution. The solvent helps make the solution thinner and more easily

handled. It can then be pumped into the fiber production cell.

Producing the fibre

The spinning solution is pumped into a cylindrical spinning cell where it is cured and converted into fibers. In this cell, the polymer solution is forced through a metal plate, called a spinneret, which has small holes throughout. This causes the solution to be aligned in strands of liquid polymer. As the strands pass through the cell, they are heated in the presence of a nitrogen and solvent gas. These conditions cause the liquid polymer to chemically react and form solid strands.

As the fibers exit the cell, a specific amount of the solid strands are bundled together to produce the desired thickness. This is done with a compressed air device that twists the fibers together. In

reality, each fiber of spandex is made up of many smaller individual fibers that adhere to one another due to the natural stickiness of their surface.

Final Processing

The fibers are then treated with a finishing agent. This may be magnesium stearate or another polymer such as poly (dimethyl-siloxane). These finishing materials prevent the fibers from sticking together and aid in textile manufacture.

For spacer fabric production spandex core spun yarn are used. So According to the required count it can be made by using a spinning system.

required count it can be made by using a spinning system. Basic requirements to produce core-spun

Basic requirements to produce core-spun yarn containing spandex:

Uniform, high quality roving.

Spinning draft below 30.

Accurately adjusted rings and travelers and plumbed (aligned) spindles.

Maintained spinning aprons, drafting rollers and cost strictly.

Replaced slipping or worn gears and sprockets.

Excellent cleaning devices to prevent fly deposits

Sufficient light to easily detect any breaks of the extremely fine spandex yarn

The drafts in core-spinning depend on the type, the decitex and the pre-stretch of spandex.

on the type, the decitex and the pre-stretch of spandex. Tests for Yarns Yarn Count: Yarn

Tests for Yarns

Yarn Count: Yarn count is important when preparing spacer fabric. Because it describe the fineness of the yarn.

Yarn Evenness: The surface irregularity of yarn is of particular importance in relation to processing properties, as even with a well maintained mean count, the appearance of the fabric can sometimes be affected considerably. Yarn evenness is assessed basically by deriving either the variation along the length of a yarn in the mass per unit length (or number of fibers per cross-section) or the variation in diameter. Visual evaluation and electronic methods are used for this purpose.

Abrasion Resistance: Abrasion resistance is the ability of a fiber to withstand the rubbing or abrasion it gets in everyday use. This property of yarn plays an important part in its processing e.g.

it determines the friction occurring on thread guides. A measurement of abrasion resistance is the

number of cycles required to break the test specimen at a given initial tension.

Tensile Strength Testing: Particular importance is often attached to the tensile strength attained in

a single or folded yarn of particular type and composition. Yarn extension also plays a considerable

role in the processing of the yarn and in the end-use properties of the fabric produced. The range of instruments which are available for testing the strength of yarns is quite wide e.g. Single -thread testers operating on the principles of pendulum lever, inclined plane, Strained gauge, and Constant- tension hank testers of the pendulum lever or Ballistic type. Some of these instruments are relatively simple, some complicated, some have recording devices, and some are automatic. The choice of the best type to use is often difficult. Strength testing deals with the finding of load- elongation curve or stress-strain curve and breaking point or stress etc.

Required Yarn Properties

Monofilament polyester yarns were used as spacer yarn. Back and face surfaces of the fabrics were knitted using polyester and spandex yarns. The physical properties of yarns and yarn arrangements in fabric structure are presented in table below.



Monofilament Polyester

Production method



Yarn Count

150 denier

100 denier




Elasticity (%)



No. of filaments



Fabric Finishing Stage

Fabrics may be dyed after they are manufactured into virtually any color or they may be left in their natural state. In some cases, solution dyed yarns can be used instead of fabric finishing to achieve extremely consistent color matching from lot to lot or very high color fastness.

A dyeing method for polyester/spandex elastic fabric includes dyeing and reduction rinsing processes; the dyeing process involving a chemical bath in a solution containing dispersing dye, ammonium acetate, and dyeing auxiliary at a given bath ratio and temperature; and the reduction rinsing process involving another chemical bath in solution containing sodium dithionite, sodium hydroxide, and rinse auxiliary at a given bath-ratio for the polyester to have better dyeing color under the low temperature dyeing conditions while allowing lighter dye absorption on the spandex; or better dye absorption for the spandex while delivering better color fastness to improve and upgrade color fastness, dyeing results, and quality.

Both of the polyester and the spandex are of hydrophobia fibers and both can take dispersing dyes, but different in affinity to the dispersing dye since internal chemical composition and microstructure in both fibers are different, meaning each has its specific characteristics in taking the dyes. In the phase of low temperature, the dispersing dye is essentially absorbed by the composition of spandex; and one the temperature rises up to 110°C the dye absorption rate of the spandex starts to descend and the dye absorption is transferred to the composition of polyester so

that the dye absorption rate of the polyester composition gradually increases; and when the temperature further rises up to 130°C the conversion of dye absorption from spandex to polyester continues until finally a balanced status is achieved.

For the dyeing process, the ratio of the dispersing dye used in the bath is 0.15% of the weight of the fabric.

0.12g/L ammonium acetate for regulating pH, and 0.11g/L dyeing auxiliary at a bath ratio of 5:150:1 and a given temperature of 100130°C.

The solution used in the reduction rinsing process is comprised of 0.14g/L sodium dithionite, 0.13g/L sodium hydroxide, and 0.13g/L rinse auxiliary at a bath ratio of


The rinse auxiliary used in the reduction rinsing process is essentially related to a rinse auxiliary of surface active agent, e.g., soaping agent, pro-grill cleaner, or chemical reducing agent.