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Lasers and textiles: an exploration into laser dye-fibre interaction and the process of technology transfer
thesisposted on 26.01.2011, 10:22 by Savithri N. Bartlett
To most woven textiles, retail value is added through the twin processes of dyeing and colourprinting for short runs (e. g. 100-150 metres) vat dyeing may add as much as , £5/metre and screen-printing a repeat pattern as much as £2.50 to £5 per metre (Angela Hamilton of Stead McAlpine 2005, pers comm., 20 October). In the current globalised textile and clothing industry, as a result of cheap imports from China and the Far East, the UK's screen and rotary printing industries are facing annihilation, their current printing methods unable to meet market requirements, i.e. short delivery times, quick response to changing design, colour and cloth, elimination of inventory holding, mass customisation, and deferment of coloration to the completed garment stage. The present doctoral research accepts the challenge to the UK's archaic fabric printing technology by suggesting an alternative route of dye uptake and surface design. The study is guided by the following research problem: How might lasers/intense pulsed light radiation be used to increase the uptake of dye at the surface of a fabric weave, while minimising the potential degradation in a particular fibre? The problem is resolved through five main questions and two distinct methodologies. The section comprising Questions 1 to 4 successfully investigates (a) pyrolysis in natural and man-made fibres in the course of laser-marking, (b) surface heating of a fabric weave without impairing fabric strength, (c) computer-aided transfer of artwork to the laser-marking program: specifically, how tonal images may be encoded in a limited palette of grey tones; and (d) the laser-marking process, generating interaction between dye and fibre through selective absorption of a single wavelength of radiation. An experimental scientific method is employed to calibrate all findings. The fifth research question examines how these scientifically monitored findings might be applied in commercial garment production. Collaboration was set up between `haute couture' designers and a laser machinery manufacturer, in which the author's intermediary role put to the test her theoretical and practical experience of design and lasers. The process of collaboration were closely monitored, and raw data in the form of organisational meeting talk, annotated drawings, laser-marked fabric samples, have been analysed using the `Framework' method. Based on this research, future investigations will aim to (a) explore the selective absorption of a single wavelength of radiation by dye, fibre and dye liquor, (b) investigate the tonal marking of a 4-colour design on dyed impregnated fabrics, and (c) explore niche market strategy in a wide spectrum of collaboration between industry and `haute couture'.
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