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Monday, 14 August 2017

Textiles the “hidden gems” in motor manufacturing

UNEXPECTED USES: Motor vehicle manufacturing is at the cutting edge of Clothing and Textile innovations UNEXPECTED USES: Motor vehicle manufacturing is at the cutting edge of Clothing and Textile innovations Wikimedia Commons

The motor vehicle manufacturing industry is one of the largest consumers of innovative textile materials.  

Cars contain enough textiles to cover the floor of a small apartment and textiles are in everything from car seats, seat belts, carpets, airbags and roof liners.

In total an average car may contain in the region of 40 m2 of textiles while other components like door panels, brakes and dashboards are made from composites which is a combination of textile fibre and resins (glue). The use of textiles continues to the car’s engine, the air and oil filters and even tyres.

Textiles are perfect for these components because they are versatile, cost effective, light weight and promote fuel efficiency. Natural fibres like cotton, hemp, flax, silk and wool are more readily available and a lot easier to process than the metals used in car manufacturing, thus making them essential in keeping manufacturing costs low.

“Textiles can be manipulated into various shapes with ease and the fibres used in them are light weight which makes for a lighter, more fuel-efficient vehicle. Also, by reducing emissions these textiles contribute to a healthier environment,” says Dr Asis Patnaik from CPUT’s Clothing and Textile Department.

Many of the innovations in car manufacturing can be traced to Formula One racing, where the more conventional use for textiles, in clothing, is also incorporated. The door panels in luxury vehicle are made from carbon fibre composites, which were first used in Formula One cars. The suits worn the by the drivers are also made from material that protects them from the high temperatures and pressures they are subjected to when racing.

“Textiles have a diverse range of applications in automotive, aerospace, manufacturing, building, medical, hygiene, packaging, civil engineering, protective clothing, agriculture and sports. It is a unique and exciting area, where many inter-disciplinary fields are working together in developing a better world,” adds Patnaik.


Written by Abigail Calata