Meso-scale deformation and damage in thermally bonded nonwovens

Thermal bonding is the fastest and the cheapest technique for manufacturing nonwovens. Understanding mechanical behaviour of these materials, especially related to damage, can aid in design of products containing nonwoven parts. A finite element (FE) model incorporating mechanical properties related to damage such as maximum stress and strain at failure of fabric’s fibres would be a powerful design and optimisation tool. In this study, polypropylene-based thermally bonded nonwovens manufactured at optimal processing conditions were used as a model system. A damage behaviour of the nonwoven fabric is governed by its single-fibre properties, which are obtained by conducting tensile tests over a wide range of strain rates. The fibres for the tests were extracted from the nonwoven fabric in a way that a single bond point was attached at both ends of each fibre. Additionally, similar tests were performed on unprocessed fibres, which form the nonwoven. Those experiments not only provided insight into damage mechanisms of fibres in thermally bonded nonwovens but also demonstrated a significant drop in magnitudes of failure stress and respective strain in fibres due to the bonding process. A novel technique was introduced in this study to develop damage criteria based on the deformation and fracture behaviour of a single fibre in a thermally bonded nonwoven fabric. The damage behaviour of a fibrous network within the thermally bonded fabric was simulated with a FE model consisting of a number of fibres attached to two neighbouring bond points. Additionally, various arrangements of fibres’ orientation and material properties were implemented in the model to analyse the respective effects.