Abrasion resistance is a major factor in determining the lifespan of many textile products. It is influenced by all parts of a fabric’s hierarchy: by the fibre, by the yarn structure, and by the webbing construction type.
Abrasion is a wear process. Wear is erosion or movement that occurs on a solid surface when it comes into contact with another surface and includes adhesive wear, abrasion, surface fatigue, erosion and fretting wear. Tribology is the umbrella term that describes wear, friction and the interaction of surfaces.
Abrasion occurs during all aspects of a textile’s life-cycle: during manufacture, use, and during cleaning. It affects the appearance of a textile, but may also influence its strength and functionality.
Abrasion testing must replicate the real-life conditions that a textile will encounter during its lifespan. There are many different options for abrasion testing, though they are all based on similar principles.
Relevant Market Sectors
Abrasion resistance is important in all market sectors, save for that of disposable products. In transport textiles, industrial products and construction it is essential that fittings and upholstery last a sufficiently long time, for aesthetic, performance and safety reasons.
Abrasion is the main reason that clothing wears out, and is a major threat to textiles used for safety purposes, such as ropes, seat belts, and PPE?.
Terms and Definitions
‘Abrasion resistance’ is not described by the Textile Institute, but is defined by ASTM as the resistance to abrasion, usually stated in terms of a number of abrasion cycles. Academics at Leeds University have described abrasion as “the physical destruction of fibres, yarns, and fabrics, resulting from the rubbing of a textile surface over another surface”.
Durability is the ability of a textile material to perform its required function until an agreed limiting state is reached, or is alternatively the ability to withstand deterioration or wear, including the effects of abrasion.
There are various factors that determine abrasion resistance, and academic studies that have attempted to determine their influence have often produced contradictory or conflicting results. This is because the tests have been carried out under different circumstances and conditions. Despite this, each study agrees that the factors described below influence abrasion resistance.
Abrasion usually follows three distinctive stages, described below:
In stage 1 the textile is slightly worn and microfibers begin to protrude from the surface. In stage 2 the wear has increased and the broken fibres begin to fray and split. The protruding fibres are called fuzz. In stage three the fabric has worn so the ends of the frayed fibres entangle. At this point the abrasion will likely be quite obvious.
It is important to remember that increasing abrasion resistance may affect other properties, including breathability, drape, touch comfort, recyclability, cost, thickness, weight, air permeability and compressibility. It is a difficult balancing act to maintain high performance in each of these areas.
Many different abrasion tests exist, though the correlation between them is often poor. They differ in the following characteristics:
• Type of abrasion – in plane, flexible, or edge abrasion
• Type of abradant – different severities and types of action
• Applied pressure – from very high to very low. There is a complex relationship between pressure and abrasion as doubling pressure does not necessarily double the rate of abrasion
• Speed - from very high to very low. There is also a complex relationship between speed and abrasion as doubling speed does not necessarily double the rate of abrasion
• Tension – tension must be reproducible
• Direction of abrasion – whether in warp or weft direction, or machine and cross directions
It is essential that the abrasion reflects the end-use of the material and that the abrasion test used across samples is consistent.
Tests assess the impact of abrasion by measuring a change in mass, by measuring the decrease in fabric strength, or by a change in appearance.
Common Abrasion Tests
There are many machines for abrasion testing. Each tries to replicate a different type of abrasion that might be encountered in use.
The Martindale Abrasion Tester gives controlled abrasion over a surface and abrasion is determined by eye or by the number of cycles undergone before a predetermined state of abrasion occurs. See a video of a Martindale machine in action at:
The abradant and pressure can both be changed easily. The Martindale forms part of many international standards, despite initially being designed for testing wool samples.
Another often-used abrasion testing apparatus is the Accelerotor. The test sample is put in a drum with an abrasive material and rolled around the apparatus. The results generated from it correlate well with slow-moving forces encountered in wearing, laundering, or dry cleaning or textile garments. Also, it causes relatively uniform abrasion.
The other major abrasion testing apparatus is the Taber abraser , which wears a sample between two wheels. It is somewhat similar in action to the Martindale tester, though initially gives very severe abrasion
Areas for future development
Nylon’s abrasion resistance is extremely impressive, but it can be improved by coatings such as polyurethane, and the incorporation of high performance fibres such as Dyneema or Kevlar can increase its performance. Abrasion might not be improved, but puncture resistance, a related property, can certainly be improved. Cordura, a market leader in abrasion resistant fabrics, continues to blend nylon 6 and nylon 66 with great success.
The appropriately named Superfabric is a composite fabric of different fibres with overlaid armour plates. This means its penetration resistance and abrasion resistance are both significantly increased. There is much research that could be carried out into composite fabrics that would provide increased abrasion resistance.
There are very many standards regarding abrasion.
One ASTM standard is http://www.astm.org/Standards/D3884.htm, which is the standard guide for abrasion resistance of textiles. There are, however, few regulations regarding abrasion resistance.