The comprehensive tutorial on textile testing delivered at an Oct. 18 session by Dr. Jan Pegram Ballard of NCSU’s College of Textiles to attendees at IFAI’s Advanced Textiles Conference should be a required refresher course for anyone in the business. By highlighting the “little things” that can affect test results, the three-hour class exposed many of the difficulties the textile industry experiences in testing fiber, yarn, and fabrics for performance, comfort and aesthetics.
Standardization in textile testing requires proper calibration of equipment, conditioning of specimens, uniformity in procedures and an agreement on nomenclature, explained Ballard. Yet many tests rely on painstaking preparation of specimens and subjective evaluation by lab technicians, introducing the possibility of human error.
For example, testing fabrics for abrasion on the Martindale equipment requires the technician to stop the machine periodically to gauge when the fabric specimen suffers a hole or broken yarn; and a company’s standard for abrasion resistance may depend on what they think their customers will tolerate. Ballard referred to abrasion testing as “the bane of the testing realm.”
“A test method is useful if it gives reproducible results, which correlate with the parameters of interest to the user,” said Dr. Ballard. She went on to point out that test results are characterized by accuracy, precision and an adequate number of observations.
“The expense of testing is not at all costly when compared to the cost of returned merchandise and dissatisfied customers,” she insisted. Inter-laboratory standards and reproducible results are also vital in the performance of today’s industrial and highly technical textiles.