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Thursday, 12 May 2016

Textile industry set sights on welding

ULTRASONIC WELDING: Researcher Nommiselo Tyalana and head of the Clothing and Textiles Department, Dr Elspa Hovgaard ULTRASONIC WELDING: Researcher Nommiselo Tyalana and head of the Clothing and Textiles Department, Dr Elspa Hovgaard

Welding is no longer the sole reserve of the engineering industry.

With manufacturers looking at improved production processes and new technology, the textile industry is setting its sights on welding garments together.

This high-tech process uses heat generated by ultrasonic vibrations to seal the cut edge of garments, with the end product featuring smooth, durable and watertight seams.

Researchers in the textile industry are now exploring this technology, including Nommiselo Tyalana, a CPUT lecturer based in the Clothing and Textiles Department.

Although ultrasonic welding has been around since the 1960s, Tyalana says its use in the textile industry has been limited.

“I want to identify what can be achieved when using it,” she says.

With seams being the weakest part of a garment and ultrasound welding limited to synthetic fibres, Tyalana opted to explore the differences between the traditional stitch types used in the manufacture of swimwear against the seams produced using ultrasonic welding.

With a battery of tests completed on the various stitch types and seams, initial results already show the advantages of ultrasonic welding.

Tylana says this technology eliminates the use of thread, needles and other items, and also produces watertight seams.

“A lot of thread is used in the production of swimwear,” she says.

Tyalana says swimwear is also exposed to salt and chlorinated water that has eroding properties. However, with ultrasonic welding, there are no stich threads, thus eliminating the chances of seams being spoilt.

Head of the Clothing and Textiles Department, Dr Elspa Hovgaard, who is supervising the research project says the exploration of ultrasonic welding, which forms part of Tyalana’s Masters thesis, is important not only for the textile industry, but for the training of students enrolled in the university’s Clothing Management programme.

Hovgaard says that while companies are not widely using this technology, students must be skilled in the latest technology.

“Rather than just teach students about what’s available now, we are looking ahead and advancing our students,” says Hovgaard.

Written by Candes Keating

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Provides coverage for the Engineering and Applied Sciences Faculties; the Bellville and Wellington Campuses, and research and innovation news.