Prototype testing critical for ensuring that new woven fabrics meet application performance requirements
To ensure that a woven webbing fabric meets the performance requirements of an application in particular environmental conditions, it is critical that all are prototyped and tested.
Often developers use an Internet search to match up their application performance requirements to an available solution that meets established fiber performance and chemistry criteria. However, all applications are unique – they rarely fit into a neat box. It is simply not possible to predict the performance of any particular woven material for all applications. In most cases, customers want prototypes to blow apart and model through observation rather than benchtop studies.
At BRM, all projects are prototyped and tested for the application – whether BRM has off the shelf fabrics or develops a new fabric. The process begins with communication between the customer and BRM to understand the application. The customer may show drawings and BRM shares relevant test report information.
Then it is time for the prototype stage. Most customers start off wanting to save time and money by incorporating an existing off the shelf fabric into their development process. BRM might send a customer several materials that are close to one another but different in some way. The customer then tests the prototypes for actual application performance with regard to thickness, tensile strength, and the effects of UV or saltwater.
When the project cannot use an off the shelf item, BRM uses a careful iterative process to come up with new fabric prototypes. When benchtop analysis to eliminate variables has been exhausted, application experts determine which variables have not been eliminated. Then weaving experts go to the loom and weave a new fabric, using the ideas collected on potential changes in the loom. It is not an exact science – customers know that they will not know how the fabric will actually perform until it has been blown apart.
One recent example for the recreational climbing market was development of a stronger yet lighter material for use in structural webbing loops used to fix gear to a climber or the mountain. To increase the strength, BRM substituted a more densely packed yarn. This changed the webbing dynamic and the internal pressure forces caused the webbing to melt on the prototype material. After conducting a forensic analysis, BRM’s application team investigated ways to modify the design to reduce the density and allow the fibers to be efficiently incorporated into the design without such high pressure. In short, iterative prototype production and testing for new applications is critical for ensuring performance of the test material relative to the application and environmental conditions in which it will operate.
By Sarah Islam, Bally Ribbon Mills