September 2005 - As part of its continued efforts to develop additional uses for and new products from American wool, the American Sheep Industry Association?s (ASI) Wool Council has been instrumental in adapting the encapsulation process for use on wool and wool-blend fabrics.
Encapsulation is the process developed by Nextec, which uses a polymer resin applied to fabrics under extreme tension and pressure. The resin completely bonds with the fibers within the treated fabric to produce new, desirable characteristics. For example, water repellency is greatly enhanced without completely eliminating breath-ability.
"Wool products, which have undergone the encapsulation process, are most appropriately used in the outerwear and outdoor-sports markets; markets such as hiking, fishing, hunting and skiing," comments Parvez Mehta, Ph.D., ASI product development consultant. "The product offers protection against rain and wind, dust and dirt, and hazardous liquid spills while continuing to allow body moisture to pass through, providing comfort to the wearer."
ASI has selected and supplied the first wool and wool-blend fabrics to be treated with encapsulation, all with complete success.
As with the other products and processes, encapsulated-wool fabrics have come to the attention of the U.S. Army. Combat uniform designers are always looking for fabrics or finishes that can help keep the soldier dry and warm, while being quiet. The rustle of a crisp fabric is a very dangerous noise in many combat situations.
?Silence, mobility, moisture permeability and comfort are some of the added characteristics applied to wool fabrics that have been introduced to the encapsulation process,? states Mehta.
Presently, the army is beginning a large-scale test of a variety of encapsulated-wool fabrics, all ASI designed and supplied by contract to the Army. Initial, limited testing of encapsulated-wool fabrics suggests another successful product.