What Is Nylon Fabric: History, Properties, How It Is Made, and Uses
From wedding gowns to bridal veils, jackets, athletic shoes, umbrellas, book bags, camera cases, socks, swimsuits, and the like, nylon fabric has become the most prevalent material used for such items, including cookware and electronics. With such versatility, let's get to know what is nylon fabric, its history, properties, how it's made, and its uses.
What is nylon fabric?
Nylon is a moniker of a family of synthetic polymers. It is widely used for making various clothing and consumer goods. Compared to other fabrics, nylon is entirely synthetic.
During World War II, synthetic polymers like nylon were used as alternatives to silk and hemp for parachutes. By 1945, they constituted about 25% of the textile market share, leading manufacturers to seek new post-war applications for these fabrics.
A shortage of cotton and silk post-war led to the use of repurposed nylon parachutes for making dresses, popularizing nylon in women's clothing. This, in turn, led to a surge in the production of nylon stockings and lingerie.
Developed by the DuPont Corporation in the early 1920s and officially introduced at the 1939 World's Fair, nylon gained popularity in various consumer and military markets. It was initially meant to be used for textiles. DuPont didn't anticipate nylon's scientific and industrial applications.
Initially, DuPont intended to name the polymer "no-run" due to its perceived resistance to fabric damage. However, it was later changed to "nylon" after a series of naming iterations, replacing the "i" with a "y" for pronunciation clarity.
In the early days of nylon fabric, consumers discovered issues, including susceptibility to runs, tears, and a lack of moisture-wicking properties, with some cases of nylon stockings melting when exposed to extreme conditions.
Nylon's success was achieved by blending it with other textiles like polyester, spandex, or cotton, retaining its desirable attributes while eliminating many of its undesirable aspects, resulting in most nylon garments being fabric blends.
While popular in the 1940s and 1950s, nylon and other synthetics have seen declining popularity since the 1970s due to consumer concerns about their environmental impact, as nylon's main ingredient is non-biodegradable petroleum oil.
As of 2008, approximately 12 percent of global synthetic fiber production is nylon.
While consumer garment use has waned, nylon's popularity has risen in industrial and scientific applications, used for various durable and versatile products like hair combs, machine screws, gun parts, food packaging, toothbrushes, and more.
How is nylon fabric made?
Nylon, a polymer, comes from polyamide monomers obtained from crude oil (petroleum). Diamine acid reacts with adipic acid to form PA 6,6, the first nylon type, crystallizing as nylon salt before melting. It's then extruded through a spinneret, hardening into fibers for bobbins.
Nylon can be spun alone or combined with other textiles and dyed for the desired color.
How is nylon fabric used?
Nylon fabric has come a long way since its inception. As a fabric for women's stockings in the past, it's used nowadays to extend to electronics and cookware, among others.
Nylon was introduced as a silk stocking alternative to address silk's cost and durability issues. Nylon remained a popular stocking material throughout the latter half of the 20th century and continues to be used in women's stockings.
Nylon is used in sportswear, but it's less effective than other fibers due to its moisture-wicking limitations. Yet, its elasticity is valued, and some sportswear includes nylon in blends for added stretch and lightness. It is usually blended with other fabrics in creating activewear.
Nylon is used for fishing nets due to its lightweight, strong, and high tensile strength properties.
Nylon is widely used in construction, including sheets, tubes, pipes, and various fittings. It's also versatile, serving purposes like 3D printing, fabric fibers, packaging films, and molding.
Plastic Material for Machine Parts
Nylon's durability and resistance to heat and chemicals make it suitable for machine parts like screws, nuts, and bolts. It's also utilized in the electronics industry for items like circuit boards and electrical cords while its low coefficient of friction makes it ideal for rotating or sliding mechanisms and bearings in appliances due to its abrasion resistance.
What are the advantages of the nylon fabric?
The nylon fabric has endured the test of time. It will likely remain a prevalent fabric or material choice because it serves diverse purposes with the following advantages:
Nylon's excellent tensile strength and abrasion resistance make it ideal for ropes, gears, machinery parts, and applications prone to wear and tear.
Nylon comes in various forms like fibers, films, and moldings. Because it's easy to add color to it, it makes it suitable for products requiring consistent colorings, such as clothing and textiles.
Moisture and Chemical Resistant
Nylon's moisture resistance makes it suitable for manufacturing products exposed to water, like outdoor gear, and clothing, as well as applications with hygiene concerns, such as medical devices and packaging.
Nylon's resistance to various chemicals, including acids and bases, makes it an ideal material to use for laboratory equipment and industrial products.
Due to nylon's lightweight properties, nylon is an ideal material for ropes and backpacks. It's also used in weight-critical applications, such as aircraft and automotive parts.
Ease of Processing
Nylon's ease of processing and capability for molding into complex shapes make it cost-effective by minimizing the need for secondary machining or assembly processes.
Can nylon fabric be recycled?
Recycled nylon, like recycled polyester, reduces landfill waste and requires fewer resources in its production. Much of it comes from old fishing nets, nylon carpets, and tights, helping address ocean pollution.
Recycled nylon is created by breaking down nylon waste, such as fishing nets and plastic scraps, into its chemical components, which are then recombined into nylon sheets. The manufacturing process is similar to virgin nylon, involving heating sheets and spinning fibers to weave fabric.
Baleaf Stands for Sustainability
#wemovetogether with you for a more sustainable future. We are for decluttering and maximizing the use of each piece of clothing so that we lessen landfills filled with unused clothes made of low-grade fabrics.
This is why 70% of our recycled nylon comes from fishing nets, and 90% of our recycled polyester comes from plastic bottles. Rest easy also in knowing that each package your order comes with is made from biodegradable and eco-friendly materials.
We want you to look good and feel good knowing that you're promoting a more sustainable future for the environment.