The Search for Softer T-shirts: Researchers Use 3-D Imaging to Measure Garment Friction
Have you ever bought an article of clothing online, thinking everything would be perfect once it arrives, only to find that it’s a little itchier than you had hoped? Or, maybe you bought a shirt that feels great when you’re lounging, but feels a little rough when you work out?
Researchers at NC State University have developed a way to analyze and quantify a garment’s friction using 3-D imaging.
“We need ways to definitively measure friction to help the textile industry tune fabrics to be suitable for specific applications,” the study’s corresponding author Kavita Mathur, associate professor of textile and apparel, technology and management at NC State. “We have textiles for apparel, for athletes, that are worn by patients, and that go into furnishings. Friction can be anywhere—not just against the skin. Ultimately, we envision using this method to ensure fabrics are not too abrasive for their end-users, whether they are destined to end up on a hospital bed where irritation can lead to bed sores, or an athlete or into furnishings.”
The researchers used a computer to take an image of a garment’s cross section, depicting a layer-by-layer image of the fabric. From there, they “sandwiched” the fabric with artificial skin at varying pressures and take another image. That pressure affects the fabric’s surface geometry, which is recorded.
The team also incorporated different variables from the “human’s” point of view, such as skin moisture and varying degrees of humidity and pressure.
“Just by changing the fabric structure alone, we can change the frictional interaction with the skin,” Mathur said. “Why? Because different fabric surfaces create different interactions with our skin. Since we can’t see it with bare eyes, we used a CT scan to capture fabric images in a non-destructive way so we can see how the fabrics are contacting the skin, and investigate why the contact is different.”
This could have an impact across multiple textile industries, such as athletic wear, uniforms, health care, and even non-apparel textile categories like towels.
Knowing exactly how rough an item is without having to guess based on the material could be a game changer. And you never have to worry about a sandpaper T-shirt ever again.