Geometric form of a 3-layer spacer fabric with different layer thickness and pole yarn density ©FRA-UAS

Air-conditioned comfort without poles

Expanded foam spacer textiles are incredibly robust. A tent made from these three-dimensional textiles is not just strong and stable, but also has good insulation properties and is easy and quick to erect. With such a tent Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences (FRA-UAS) has won an award.

“The contact with Engineering Professor, Claudia Lüling, goes back a long time,” says Dr Hans-Jürgen Bauder, head of Weaving Technologies, Filament Yarn Processing at the DIFT (German Institute for Textile & Fibre Research) in Denkendorf. “A student group was visiting here in the institute and we hit upon the idea of being able to use 3D-shapes physically for lightweight construction, since up until now this type of tex-tile has only been used for strengthening in reinforced concrete, for example.”

The research partners investigated different methods of filling spacer textiles. It was also possible to fill curved textile shells that were developed at the DITF. “We are always learning from nature’s ‘bionic’ phenomena”, says Bauder. In this case inspiration came from the skeleton of the sea urchin and the concept of using stiffened yarns to achieve greater compression strength.”

In a project of the ‘Building the Future’ research initiative, project-managed by the FRA-UAS, three-layered spacer fabric was developed, for example, whose lower, foamed, spacer layer takes on the load bearing and insulating function. The second unexpanded layer is stretched over it to form a layer of ventilation and so protect the foamed areas from damp and UV radiation. In the foamed part there are so-called pole yarns, extending from one layer to another. These are high strength yarns, that normally buckle at some point when subjected to pressure, in the way a carpet does. The foam reinforces these yarns. When used for lightweight construction as a compo-site material, the fibres resist the tensional force, while the foam absorbs the compression forces.

Tent house made from insulated and folded spacer textiles, ©FRA-UAS

Tent house made from insulated and folded spacer textiles, ©FRA-UAS

Such three-dimensional textiles can be manufactured in a single integrated industrial process. In future the idea is to create the textile structure and simultaneously fill it with foam. For every application the choice of material is critical. “As part of the research project we are looking for a material that can be used for both the foam and the yarn, such as basalt or glass,” explains Bauder. The result would be a product that has material homogeneity and different properties depending on its distinct structure. In addition, such materials would be easy to recycle.

This would be ideal, particularly for temporary buildings such as emergency shelters. They could be delivered still in a non-foamed state to save space and only foamed on site. Unlike a tent, the resulting robust building structure provides protection from both heat and cold. What is more, no tent poles are required. The students, Marius Mersinger and Johann Ivan Litwitschenko of the FRA-UAS in Frankfurt have created such a tent they call the ‘SpacerFabric_HOME’ and recently received the aed Neuland Award 2017 for young designers. This SpacerFabric_HOME carries utility model protection.

Kirsten Rein

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