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Coated Fabrics- The High Value Specialty Fabrics


Submitted by : By TE Online on April 30, 2009 4:12 PM
Coated Fabrics.jpgIn this age of specialty based environment, everything connected to highly technical man needs to be special. Fabrics are no exception. Many types of specialty fabrics go to serve the cause of consumer, industrial, medical, and military applications. Coated fabric is one such specialty fabric which has been there for a long time and is being refined with the time.

Coated Fabric

Any woven or a non-woven fabric, when coated with something like plastic resin, rubber, elastomers, fluoropolymer such as PTFE or Teflon, can be called a coated fabric. As common a thing as canvas- wax coated cotton fabrics - is in fact a coated fabric. We may realize or not, coated fabrics are everywhere nowadays- from projection screens to window shade fabrics, from artist’s canvas to custom laminated fabric, from ground sheets to truck tarpaulins-all of them are coated fabrics.


Materials Used for Coating Fabrics

There are many coating formulations that are used for coating a fabric to make it suitable for a specific purpose.

  • PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)- PVC bags, rubber bath mat are made of them
  • PE and other Poly olefins,
  • PU (Polyurethane), such as PU coated leather
  • Acrylics
  • Rubber (natural or synthetic)
  • Waxes
Coated fabric manufacturing.jpg


Coating is done to give specialized characteristics to a fabric such as to make them water repellent fabrics. A wide range of properties like water resistance, fire retardance, UV resistance, flexibility, surface gloss, surface texture, etc. can be given to a coated fabric through proper application of specific chemical and additive mix and compounds on the fabric substrate.




Types of Coated Fabrics

Coated fabrics are mainly used for making protective clothing.

PVC coated fabrics: The PVC (Polyvinyl chloride) or polymer-coated fabrics are mainly used to make waterproof garments such as PVC rainwear. They are also used for making chemical protective clothing as well as industrial clothing that is oil and grease resistant.

PVC Rainwear.JPG

Teflon coated fabrics: These coated fabrics are very strong and are used to make gaskets and seals in the automotive industry as well as conveyor belts for use in various industries.

Rubber coated fabric: They are used to make water resistant items such as bags and luggage bags. It is also used for heat curtains.

Vinyl coated fabrics: They are used to make water and mildew proof fabrics required for outdoor applications, such as for tents and tarpaulins.

TPO coated fabrics: Thermoplastic Polyolefin (TPO) is usually coated on polypropylene fabric (PP). These fabrics are used to make ground sheets, field covers, roofing membranes, sporting tents, light weight sport field covers, agriculture coverings, truck tarpaulins etc.



A Word of Concern- The Environmental Factor

Along with many advantages, the coated fabric also have some disadvantages, the main being its threat to environmental cause. The problem lies with the disposal of waste, which is generated after the use of coated fabrics. They cannot be recycled even by applying high temperature or pressure. Dissolving them in solvents also doesn't seem to be working as these solvents too can't dissolve the whole of the coated fabric for recycling purpose. The waste of coated fabrics can only be burnt safely with all the precautions taken from environmental point of view.


What's the solution then? From among all the coated fabrics including the most popular ones made from polyester fabrics, /fabrics/polyester-fabrics.html and polyamide, the TPO coated polypropylene fabric is the only one that appears with labels such as “PVC free”, “halide free”, “Green product” etc. They are lighter than PU or PVC or rubber coated fabrics since polyolefin are lower in density than PU, PVC or rubber formulations. The coating and the fabric, both are homologous polymers and therefore, are melt recyclable.



Applications of TPO Coated Fabrics

Coated_Fabrics_cover.jpg

TPO Coated fabrics are now projected as the future of coated fabrics. They are widely used for consumer as well as industrial along with military applications.


Ground Sheet: They are used by soldiers as sleeping mats, temporary shelters, for collecting water or as hammocks. The ground sheets made of natural fabrics, like cotton, are susceptible to degradation and have risk of microbial contamination when wet. The sheets made of coated fabrics of polypropylene works well for the purpose.


Auto Interiors: Coated fabrics, mainly PVC coated fabric is dominantly used in many automotive interior applications such as for door panels, roofing upholstery etc. However, as PVC's lead and cadmium containing additives and growi



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