Apex Mills

TEXTILE 101

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Textiles are far more sophisticated than sweaters and cotton cloth. With applications in fields as wide ranging as aerospace, automotive, biodiversity and health care, the broad range of qualities and characteristics that textiles offer, make them a perfect solution for challenges from simple to complex. Some are tough, some are soft, some are stretchy, some are all of these. Some help clean polluted water. Some prevent burns. Some hold airplane parts together. Others camouflage soldiers in combat. How does Apex Mills design products for such a wide range of customer needs?

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YARNS

Yarns are the building blocks of textiles. At Apex Mills, we work with yarn makers to create yarns specific to each customer's needs. Apex Mills uses only synthetic yarns, which are created by heating and softening polyester chips, then spinning and extruding them in long continuous filaments.

A yarn might be monofilament-like fishing line, or it can use combinations of multiple filaments spun together forming yarns with various properties. These multifilament yarns create fabrics with unique structure, such as increased stretchiness, greater porosity, or varying degrees of softness, toughness, luster or pliability. Some yarns may consist of over a hundred filaments spun together, making the end fabric softer and more plush. In essence, the higher the filament count, measured in deniers, the softer the fabric will be. [+]

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WARP KNITTING

Yarn choice is critical in a fabric, but, in the U.S., most major textile mills buy materials from the same yarn makers. When yarns come through Apex Mills' doors, that's where the magic begins. That's where spools of yarn become something more than what our competitors offer. Apex Mills does not weave its textiles. We use only warp knitting because of the advantages it provides over other techniques.

Woven fabrics are made from threads running vertically and horizontally (think a broadcloth shirt) which leaves little room for variation in porosity and almost no room for stretch. Warp knitting, the linking of stitches and loops (think of a quality golf shirt), frees designers to vary the fabric's architecture in ways that affect elasticity, porosity, durability, coarseness or smoothness. Warp knitting allows for the production of much wider sheets of fabric than circular knitting or weaving. It creates fabrics much less likely to sag, shrink or ravel. And, warp knitting allows Apex Mills to create three different kinds of fabric: solid knit, mesh/netting and 3D spacer fabrics. [+]

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FINISHING

The fabric that rolls off the warp knitting machine is called greige (pronounced "gray"). Some greige fabrics are used as is but a considerable number of Apex Mills textiles require finishing. When customers want colored fabrics, the greige is placed in a jet-dye tank and subjected to heat and pressure so that the injected dyes take evenly and are colorfast.

A mesh knit fabric will naturally want to compress like an accordion. These fabrics require tenting, a process whereby the fabric edges are pinned to parallel rails which can be widened or narrowed to provide the preferred elongation, stretch and smoothness of the fabric. It is then run through heating ovens precisely regulated at pre-determined temperatures that Apex Mills engineers know will set the fabric's stretch memory. We're able to create various textiles with the precise elongation and elasticity our customers want them to have. [+]

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