Addressing the heat-and chemical-related limitations of traditional elastic fibers, Dow Fiber Solutions, a new business of The Dow Chemical Co., has introduced DOW XLA elastic fiber, which offers improved processing and end-use performance to the marketplace. Antonio Torres, global business director, reports that the fiber's soft comfort stretch and easy-care characteristics, combined with its heat- and chemical-resistant properties and its ability to withstand the rigors of traditional fiber processing, make it ideal for the fashion denim, men's and women's shirting and industrial clothing markets.
DOW XLA differs fundamentally from other elastomeric fibers in its basic chemistry, which is based on polyolefin chemistry rather than the urethane or polyester chemistries typical of other commercial elastic fibers, Torres tells Apparel.
The fiber's unique polyolefin chemistry allows it to be combined with various natural or synthetic fibers and processed at a broad range of temperatures, using a wide variety of chemicals - which can potentially save processors time and money, says Torres. "We feel the largest opportunity for DOW XLA fiber is in combination with cotton and polyester," he notes. "In the past, traditional high-heat processing for cotton and polyester limited the ability to include 'stretch' fibers."
As for its target customers, the company is initially looking to producers of top-weight and bottom-weight wovens, specifically men's and women's shirting and fashion denims, says Torres. A snapshot of typical target end consumers for fabrics made with the fiber would include men and women seeking casual business wear and "comfort but not figure-revealing control," he adds.
Professional apparel or industrial clothing, such as that for nurses, doctors, restaurant workers, firefighters and police officers, also offers good sales potential for stretch fabrics made with DOW XLA, says Torres. "The issue with professional apparel is that it often needs to stand up to the thermosol dyeing process during manufacturing and repeated high-temperature launderings - a laboratory-proven strength of DOW XLA fiber," he notes.
During its development-to-commercialization process, the company identified select yarn spinners and weavers to produce yarns and fabrics using DOW XLA, says Torres. The company's two premier yarn spinners are Drescafil, for the European market, and R.L. Stowe Mills Inc., for the United States. Weavers of fabrics made with DOW XLA fiber include Dan River Inc., Arco Texteis and Emanuel Lang, based in the United States, Portugal and France, respectively.