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Functional textiles & apparels

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By: Prof. (Dr.) M. D. Teli

Among the diverse field of application of Technical Textiles, which is poised for tremendous growth in fast developing economies like that of India and China, non implantable healthcare and hygiene products are gaining significant importance because of specificity of their end uses. Protective textiles offer protection from hazardous chemicals, heat, extreme cold, radiation and have special application potential in today's technologically advanced world. In addition to this, advent of nanotechnology has opened innumerable avenues giving rise to high performance textiles and apparels. This paper discusses overall status of this field and its scope for growth in near future.

The demography of India has been totally shifted towards young population and the purchasing potential of this young population has been increasing. For this reason most of the developing countries are looking at India as a global market. India and China constitute over 40% population of the globe and application of technical textiles in this region will increase with a very high rate. The developed countries are much ahead of India with respect to manufacture and consumption of Technical Textile. They are now finding a great potential to exploit the Asian market and hence, as per the industrial analysis, the field of technical textiles is considered to be quite promising for the growth. Hence, those involved in textile business dealing with apparels and also thinking of diversification or adding new line to their business should look at this segment of Technical Textile with a great promise.

The experience and the background of production as well as supply of conventional textiles as a whole will enable them to triumph in the segment of Technical Textile. It does not however mean that the new comers in this business cannot succeed.

As far as developed countries such as US & Japan are concerned, more than 35% of the textile industrial production is in terms of Technical Textile. For China it is over 19% and in India it is just 5% and thus there is a very high growth prospect in Asia creating entirely a new market. Considering the fast growing (8%) economy of India and the significant size of over 1 billion population, the presence of raw material, and well trained manpower, the technical textile field is surely going to develop at a significant rate and so also its various segments such as Medical and Health Care Textiles, Functional Textiles, Protective Textiles, etc.

Medical Textiles

The application of textile in the medical field requires a number of properties for the fibre, depending upon where exactly this material is used. The important aspects include non toxic nature of the material, ability to sterilize and to conform to the requirements of the mechanical properties as well as the bio-compatibility etc. All these properties are important since the material is expected to be free from contamination with bacteria and it is not supposed to be causing temperature rise of the person or chronic tissue inflammation or allergic reactions. Hence, it should be non-toxic. The bio compatibility is also equally important property.

Depending upon the end use application, the proper selection of the fibre could be made.

In case of Protective health care textiles and apparels, the main purpose is to protect the health care professionals from getting contaminated by blood and other infectious material while dealing with the patients. Many a times the surgeons, nurses as well as the attendants in the operation theatre or emergency rooms are expected to wear the health care textiles and apparels so that, they will get required protection. The products under this include operating and emergency room textiles, breathable membranes, caps for surgeon and nurses, masks, footwear's, coats etc. The need for protecting the medical personnel is ever growing and thus increasingly effective health care garments and various barrier products are required to be manufactured.

The biological protective garments are defined by occupational safety and health administrative (OSHA) as follows: "Personnel protective equipment will be considered appropriate only if it does not permit blood or other potentially infectious materials to pass through to or reach the employees work clothes, street clothes, undergarments, skin, eyes, mouth or other mucous membranes under the normal conditions 01 use and for the duration of time which the protective equipment will be used.'

The surgical drapes are used in the operation theatre to cover patients or cover clothes. Many times, a nonwoven type is used having the backing material on one or both the sides of the film. While the film is permeable to bacteria, non woven backing is highly absorbent to both body perspiration and secretions from the wound. Surgical masks are made of 3 layers. Middle layer of extra glass fibre or synthetic micro fibre is covered on both sides by acrylic. The performance requirement for surgical face mask is high bacteria filtration capacity, high air permeability, light weight and non allergic nature. The surgical caps are made of non woven cellulosic fibres using spunlaid process or parallel process and now-a-days hydroentaglement is gaining popularity in producing disposable products and garments to be used in operation room. The properties for the surgical drapes include stiffness barrier performance for gowns as stiffness may affect the perspiration and movement. There should not be any linting which otherwise may carry particles to the wounds.


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