Most of us know what fibers are and how they are used, mostly in textile industry. However, when it comes to different types of fiber, questions are often raised, and one of the most common ones is: what is the difference between staple and filament fibers?
What Are Fibers and What Can We Do With Them: Properties and Classification
A fiber or fibre (from Latin: fibra) can be described as any substance, natural or man-made, which has significantly greater length than width, and is suitable for being processed into other materials. In order to create a fabric, fibers are spun into yarns and then woven into a fabric. Physical classification of fibers is based on their physical structure.
Fibers have multiple properties that affect their end use, some of which are:
- length (staple or filament fiber)
- surface contour
Performance and how the fabric feels can also be affected by fiber diameter. Larger diameter fibers are rough and stiff, while fine fibers are soft and flexible.
Another important characteristic is fiber length to fiber breadth (diameter) ratio, which affects the suitability of a fiber for spinning into yarn, if it meets the fiber length and thickness requirements. Fineness of manufactured fibers is measured as denier or tex. For example, textile fibers range from 1 to 7 denier. Carpet fibers range from 15 to 24 denier. Industrial fibers show the broad range from 5 to several thousand, depending on the end use.
What is a Filament Fiber and How Can It Be Used?
All fibers that have a practically unlimited length are considered filaments. In other words, filament fibers are continuous fiber. Natural filament fibers are rare, but the silk is a good example: as a material in filament form, silk is reeled from cocoons. Much more common are the man-made, synthetic materials like nylon. Artificial fibers of a chemical composition, liquid nature are forced through spinnerets, hardened and produced into continuous filament strands of a determined length. Usually with dozens of single filament woven together, the fabric surface is smooth and strong, commonly used for summer fabrics. Other common uses are BCF yarn, which is often used in textile floor industry and the production of packaging fabrics, and CF yarn, mostly used in rope industry and trimmings.
Staple Fibers and Their Main Characteristics
Any fiber with a practical, limited or finite length is considered a staple fiber. Contrary to filament fibers, these are small length fibers like cotton, wool, jute etc. They can also be natural or man-made (viscose rayon, polyester…).
The length of the fiber varies within a fiber of the same source and also between varieties from different sources. Staple fibers include almost all natural fibers except silk (but silk can also be cut up to form short staple fibers). Staple fibers must be spun or twisted together to make a long continuous strand of yarn. They may also be used in their staple form to produce non-woven or felted fabrics.
When filament fibers are planned to be cut into staple fibers, a large spinneret with many openings are used. The filament fibers are grouped into a bundle referred to as a tow and then cut into the desired staple length. Line or low artificial fibers are manufactured in continuous strands of any desired length. The tows may be cut into staple lengths or flocks based on the specific end use. For example, polypropylene staple fiber is used in the manufacturing of needle carpets, sanitary and household articles, geotextile, agro-technical files, filters and isolation materials.
What Does The Difference Between Filament and Staple Fiber Mean in Practice?
Most common usage for both filament and staple fibers is for creating yarn, and all fabrics – woven, knitted or crocheted – are made from yarn. The size of yarn is usually related to the weight of the fabric, for example, heavy fabrics use thick yarns and for light fabrics a fine yarn is used.
A good example for specific use of stable fibers vs filament fibers that can be found in almost every home, are carpets. Sometimes, when you vacuum the carpet you may notice tiny fibers in your canister. Or you can sit on the floor and notice the same fuzzy fibers on your clothing when you get up. That is something we refer as shedding. And the main reason why some carpets shed and others do not is that some carpets are made from staple or spun fibers, and others are made from continuous filament fibers.
For example, when a carpet is made of staple fiber, some fibers shed during the first several weeks, but that does not affect the overall quality or appearance of the carpet. Despite the shedding, carpets made with staple fibers are preferred because of their more uniform appearance and solid color.
On the other hand, carpets made of filament fibers are usually more expensive. They are less uniform in appearance, as with twisted shag carpets, but they are more resistant to pulling. They also appear thicker and lustrous, while staple fiber carpets have dull or matte finish.
These are only some of the main characteristics of staple and filament fibers and their end uses, however, there are many other options, especially for textile fiber, whether it is mixed or pure.
Filament and Staple Fibers
So, as we have seen, one of the most common questions when it comes to fibers is about the difference between filament fiber and staple fiber. To conclude:
- Filament fibers have a practically unlimited length.
- A fiber with a limited finite length is considered a staple fiber.
- Both types of fiber are mainly used in textile industry, but some sorts of polymers can also be used in the production in medicine, pharmacy and food industry.
We hope we have answered most of your questions, but if you have any inquiries or need more details regarding staple fiber and filament fiber difference, or any other related subject, please do not hesitate to contact us, and we will be glad to help.