Gentle textiles for high skin compatibility

“The trousers are rough!” or “The shirt’s collar is so scratchy!” Kids are hyper sensitive and thus sometimes refuse to wear certain things. But not only kids and people with special diseases have sensitive skins. Nobody likes scratchy clothing and sore skin. Researchers at the Hohenstein Institute work on the problem. They have developed a digital method for three-dimensional analysis of the surface of textiles that come into direct contact with people’s skin.

3D Analysis of the micro- and macro texture (profilometrie) ©Hohenstein Institute

3D Analysis of the micro- and macro texture (profilometrie) ©Hohenstein Institute

For the topographical analysis, the researchers use a state-of-the-art 3D digital microscope that consists of two components, an optical and a digital device with a camera and a personal computer. This type of microscope is usually applied in the quality control in the electronics and metal industry. “In the textile industry, the 3D microscope allows us to analyse the structure of the textile surface in detail, from the micro to the macro structure. Furthermore, this kind of analysis makes it possible to predict where and how a fabric will contact and rub against human skin, especially when the textile is pressed down vertically on the surface of the skin”, explains Sandra Reich, project leader from Hohenstein Institute. It can therefore be calculated exactly which textile structure (fibres/yarns) will touch the skin when contact increases, and the proportion it.

“The 3D profilometry enables a fast 3D surface analysis of textiles. The results are pivotal especially for the development of surface-optimized textiles” says Reich. Why certain textile structures have different properties – why some of them are scratchy and others are not – depends on multiple reasons: Is it a knitted (T-Shirt) or a woven fabric (blouse)? What kind of material has been used for the fibres or yarns? Furthermore, the type of fibre is decisive (stapled fibres, filaments or textures). What type of structure is being used? What about the finishing?

Height profile oft he whole textile ©Hohenstein Institute

Height profile oft he whole textile ©Hohenstein Institute

This kind of analysis can be adapted to all textiles directly worn on the skin, causing a constant mechanical strain on the wearer’s skin for instance in sports, work safety or when wearing orthoses, prosthesis or support stockings. “According to studies, the importance of skin sensitive clothing becomes more and more important because the number of human beings with super sensitive skins is constantly increasing”, adds Reich.

The 3D analysis is currently in the framework of a research project. “Many companies have already expressed their interest in the technology”, says Reich. In the near future, it might be possible to conduct studies on the interaction between skin and textiles as well as on the capillary effects of textiles regarding fluids and smell.

Kirsten Rein

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