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Of all fibers, rayon is probably the most perplexing to the consumers. It can be found in cotton-like end-uses, as well as sumptuous velvets and taffetas. It may function successfully in absorbent hygiene and incontinence pads and equally well providing strength in tire cords…

Rayon is a manufactured regenerated cellulose fiber and was in fact the first manufactured fiber. It is produced from naturally occurring polymers, and therefore is neither a truly synthetic fiber nor a natural fiber; it is a semi-synthetic or artificial fiber and it is known by the names viscose rayon and art silk in the textile industry.

It usually has a high luster quality giving it a bright sheen. The fiber was sold as artificial silk until the name rayon was adopted in 1924. Rayon was produced as a filament until 1932 when machinery was designed to crimp filament tow and cut it into staple fiber.

Its physical properties remained unchanged until 1940 when high tenacity rayon was developed. Continued research and development led to high wet modulus rayon. Rayon is no longer the inexpensive fiber it once was – now it is generally comparable in price to cotton.

Viscose rayon has a silk-like aesthetic with superb drape and feel and retains its rich brilliant colors. Its cellulosic nature contributes many properties similar to those of cotton or other natural cellulosic fibers. Rayon is moisture absorbent (even more than cotton), breathable, comfortable to wear and easily dyed in vivid colors. It does not build up static electricity and it does not pill unless the fabric is made of short, low-twist yarns. It is soft to the skin and has moderate dry strength and abrasion resistance. Like other cellulosic fibers it is not resilient and wrinkles. It withstands ironing temperatures slightly lower than those of cotton and generally resists insect damage. One of its key advantages is its versatility and ability to blend easily with many fibers, sometimes to reduce cost, or to induce luster, softness, absorbency and comfort.

Controlled variations in certain characteristics of viscose rayon are possible. Illustrative of these are:

·        The luster can be regulated from bright to semi-dull or dull depending upon the amount of delustering agent that is added to the viscose solution before extrusion through the spinneret.

·        Dyes may be added to the solution to produce solution-dyed filaments which have a high degree of color permanency.

·        Variations in the chemical composition of the coagulating bath cause different rates of coagulation n the inside and the outside of the fiber; this in turn provides a latent crimp that will emerge when the fiber is immersed in water.

·        A degree of molecular blending may be used to increase absorbency. An alloy of natural and synthetic polymers may be engineered to form the viscose solution for the desired higher absorbency.

The future of rayon is bright. Not only there is a growing demand for rayon worldwide, but there are many new technologies that promise to make rayon even better and cheaper. For a while in the 1970s there was as trend in the clothing industry towards purely synthetic materials. However, since those materials do not breathe like natural materials, these products were not well received by consumers. Thus, today there is a strong trend towards blended fabrics that combine the best characteristics of different fibers.

Uses – Some major rayon fiber uses include apparel (e.g. blouses, dresses, jackets, lingerie, linings, scarves, suits, neckties, hats, socks), furnishings (e.g. bedspreads, bedsheets, blankets, window treatments, upholstery, slipcovers), industrial uses (e.g. medical surgery products, non-woven products, tire cord), and other uses (e.g. yarn, feminine hygiene products, diapers, towels).

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