Knitted spacer fabrics are increasingly finding applications in protective clothing, sports shoes and footwear for medical applications. T Palanirajan and K Sandhiya review the benefits.
Spacer fabrics are opening up the field of protective and sports clothing. When manufactured using flame-retardant yarns, spacer fabrics are suitable for producing fire-fighting suits and more widely in clothing for the emergency services. The intermediate zone creates a layer of air which provides insulation, improving wearer comfort.
Interlacing of polyester, nylon, aramid, carbon, glass, polyethylene and steel fibres and any hybrid combination with a thickness up to one inch (2.54cm) and width up to 72in (183cm) and the ability to make net shapes, render an almost infinite number of 3-D materials possible with a wide range of performance.
Clothing, footwear and sports gear usually start to smell after a workout. A moisture control system is the perfect breeding ground for odour-causing bacteria. Coating threads, yarns and fabrics with this environmentallyfriendly solution creates a natural shield that prevents odour-causing bacteria from settling into the fabric structure. Finished garments and gear can also be treated to achieve the same effect.
Footwear uppers are partly or completely lined. The main functions of linings are to improve the exterior, to enhance comfort where softness or protection is required and to amplify the durability of the footwear. Textile linings must have softness, damp control, and offer comfort with excellent perspiration, wicking properties and breathability. The knitted fabrics commonly used for linings are: terry fabrics, spacer warp knitted fabrics, fleece, mesh fabrics and plush furs.
Shoe insoles must offer good thermal conductivity, damp recovery, stretch recovery and dimensional steadiness. Fibres such as cotton, polyester, nylon and viscose offer the above properties.
Cotton and viscose have excellent damp recovery while nylon and viscose have good thermal conductivity. Nylon and polyester have good dimensional stability. Nylon is used as a spacer material and can be used for the apex level of the insole. Silver coated nylon offers an inbuilt antibacterial property. Using nylon filaments, spacer fabrics of 6mm thickness can be produced using a raschel warp knitting machine.
Sports and athletics have been increasing worldwide, as has the demand for athletic apparel. Billions of dollars are spent on athletic apparel and footwear.
In order to maximise comfort and performance both moisture and temperature must be managed. To achieve this, the following is necessary:
• Using the right combination of fibres;
• Using the right fabric structure;
• Using the right chemicals or finishes on fabric.
Spacer fabrics are used because the different layers can offer dissimilar attributes. The layer closest to the skin is hydrophobic; the middle can be for diffusion; and the outer layer may be hydrophilic.
This makes absorbing and evaporating heat energy easier. Spacer fabrics offer the ability to knit two entirely different fabrics with different properties and connect them to form a single structure. This offers end users the opportunity to modify the weight, aesthetics, properties and cost of the fabric to meet customer demand.
Quality athletic footwear provides the best overall fit, support and comfort of any type of footwear. No other type of footwear places so much emphasis on the specific needs and requirements of every individual and foot type.
Walking shoes, running shoes and cross trainers have each been developed to provide optimal fit, cushioning, support and performance for specific activities. Some make the mistake of trying to use one pair of shoe for many purposes. When participating in multiple sports and activities, it can be most beneficial to use a specific pair for each activity.
Walking shoes are engineered to aid in forward propulsion while offering excellent heel cushioning. Their soles are usually much more curved than those of cross trainers which can reduce stress on the joints while walking. Walking shoes provide more targeted cushioning and support along the entire walking strike path of the foot. They generally have thinner soles than running shoes and provide more forefoot fl exibility, necessary in the smooth heel to toe rolling motion of walking.
Running shoes have been specifically engineered to provide maximum cushioning and support for people who run longer distances. Featuring uppers made of very breathable mesh, running shoes are generally the lightest and coolest athletic footwear. Running shoes have thicker soles, in particular thicker heels and a greater pitch from heel to toe aids in propelling the body forward. Running shoes offer more forefoot flexibility than most cross trainers and superior shock absorption at impact is important for preventing injury.
Cross trainers are generally described as multi-purpose footwear that is effective for a variety of multidirectional activities. While this is true, it is important to note that each style offers varying levels of stability, support and cushioning, making some styles more effective for specific activities. Others are built with flatter, more rigid soles that provide a broader base of support and increased stability while lifting weights in the gym. There are several things to consider when choosing a cross trainer.
Spacer knit construction creates a built-in air chamber providing air circulation that ventilates and cools the body. It was developed to eliminate the need for foam backing behind lining materials. The innovative odour control solution keeps apparel, shoes and gear odour free and gives wearer’s fresh, all day confidence.
Odour inhibiting properties remain part of the fabric structure itself, do not alter the fabric’s original characteristics and last the lifetime of the product. The antimicrobial solution is also available as a convenient spray and wash-in solution for untreated garments and gear.
Diabetes is a metabolic disorder, which results from the whole or partial absence of the hormone, insulin, which is produced in the pancreas. Three-dimensional spacer fabrics are the base material for shoe-inlays, mainly for diabetic patients. They release pressure on feet, helping to avoid lesions developing. Even when wearers’ weights differ, the fabric maintains stability.
The shoes have the following characteristics:
• Similar to a hospital shoe;
• Easy to wear;
• Help the wearer avoid foot pain while walking and running;
• Provide a cushioning effect;
• Maintain the insole in its original position;
• Provide sweat absorption during walking and running;
• Quickly dry dampness from shoe;
• Offer thermoregulation;
• Maintain comfort during wet conditions;
• Help avoid itchy feet;
• The spacer fabrics have a thickness of 2-6mm.
The shoes feature complex athletic footwear technology, making every shoe feel like the best for wearers seeking additional comfort and security. A variety of potentially harmful scenarios and conditions exist in the environment and knitted spacer fabrics offer a solution through their properties and construction capabilities. Spacer fabrics help to protect from extreme heat and fi re, harmful chemicals and gases, mechanical and electrical hazards, contamination, radiation, vacuum, extreme cold, viruses and bacteria.
The polyester face is connected to the hydrophilic nylon layer by a built-in moisture/air moving chamber. They are engineered to provide superior comfort for next to the skin applications and also make for super laminate packages for medical and athletic applications.
In conclusion, spacer fabrics have two outer textile surfaces with a spacer zone between. This intermediate zone creates a layer of air, which has an insulating and thermoregulatory effect. Because of the three dimensional structure and the proper combination of materials used in the spacer fabrics tested, they are able to transport the moisture next to the skin during intermittent perspiration of the human subject, and also guarantee excellent wear comfort. This makes use of them in insoles particularly relevant to diabetic patients and athletes.
T. Palanirajan is Assistant Professor at the Department of Fashion Technology at the Angel College of Engineering and Technology, Tirupur, India and K. Sandhiya is a student at the same institution.
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