When working in an industry and environment where FR protection is vital, it is of utmost importance to choose the best fabric for the job. Inherent FR fabrics offer users increased durability and long-lasting protection.
Inherent FR fibers hold intrinsic fire-resistant properties, which ensures that the FR properties of the garment will not wash or wear out. While many polymeric fibers are inherently fire-resistant, modacrylic and aramid fibers are the most popular choices for FR fabrics.
Modacrylic fibers in inherent FR fabrics
Many high-performance PPE products are made with modacrylic fibers, a flame-resistant synthetic copolymer that is inherently flame-resistant. Because modacrylics provide FR protection at a relatively low density, inherent fabrics made from these fibers offer a lightweight solution without losing their durability.
The Uses of Modacrylic Fiber
Modacrylics are chosen by garment manufacturers for their high comfort levels and protective blend possibilities in the production of PPE equipment. Modacrylics are primarily used where flame resistance is required or desired. Beyond heat and flame and heat protection, modacrylics also offer high chemical and solvent resistance. As an added benefit, modacrylics are non-allergenic and resistant to mildew and moths.
Benefits of Modacrylic Fibers
- Highly flame resistant
- Can be blended with non-FR fibers to enhance strength and comfort
- The lightweight fibers make garments more comfortable
- Increased wash and wear durability
- Best price/quality ratio of inherent FR fibers
Limitations of Modacrylic Fibers
- The fibers are prone to matting and pilling
- They are poor conductors of heat, which is good for protection but not for ventilation
An Overview of Aramid Fibers
Aramids are known as high-performance fibers for a good reason. They are made of aromatic polyamides and offer high flame- and heat resistance, with a melting point of well over 932°F. Aramid fibers also have superior mechanical properties compared to steel and glass fibers, based on the same weight. Due to their excellent performance, these fibers are used in aerospace, automotive, industrial, and construction settings, as well as several military applications.
Like other industries, PPE manufacturers use aramid fibers to provide safety and comfort for workers in various environments. In addition to offering FR protection to a wide range of professionals, aramids are also a key component of military ballistic-rated body armor, bulletproof police vests, and cut-resistant gloves.
What makes aramid fibers so unique?
Aramid fibers’ unique capabilities lie in their molecular composition. The fiber’s molecules are straight, rigid, insoluble, and ideal for spinning into high-performance synthetic fibers. This means that, in addition to transferring mechanical stress efficiently, this high-performance, durable fiber offers a high degree of safety when protecting the human body.
Benefits of Aramid Fibers
- Exceptional heat and flame resistance
- Exceptional strength
Limitations of Aramid Fibers
As aramids are sensitive to bases, acids, and chlorine, it is important to wash them differently than other textiles.
Aramids are susceptible to ultraviolet radiation.
Blended Fiber Families
Over the years, advancements in FR technology have increasingly blurred the lines between inherent FR and FR-treated fabrics. As a result, the most popular FR fabrics today are blends of several fibers. However, because "inherent" and “treated" refer to single fiber types, they fail to accurately represent today's complex blends—which often combine all three engineering levels.
When it comes to blended FR fabrics, non-intrinsic FR fibers are protected by the intrinsic properties of fibers such as modacrylics and aramids, allowing for a cheaper yet durable FR solution.
Inherent FR Clothing: When Should Workers Wear It?
Inherent FR protective clothing provides safety in various hazardous working environments. Electricians, industrial food processing staff, paper processing personnel, and chemical plant employees all rely on FR garments for their safety.
In certain industries, such as firefighting, utility lines, and forestry, FR clothing is an enforced requirement.
According to the OSHA Enforcement Policy, for instance, workers in specific stages of Oil and Gas Drilling. Well Servicing, and Production-Related Operations should all wear FR clothing to protect themselves against flash fires.
For expert advice and recommendations on protective garments and which fabric will provide optimal safety and comfort for your team, schedule an appointment with a TenCate Protective Fabrics expert today.