Following a successful Product and Process Review, TWI carried out a Feasibility Study for a company in the North East to assess the potential of using a novel laser welding process for garment manufacture.
Nigel Cabourn, a company in Newcastle which produces designer clothing, asked TWI to weld together a shirt, replacing the more conventional method of stitching, which included putting in buttonholes, pleats in the seams, and a collar.
The shirt in the photograph was produced at TWI using a low power diode laser welding process called ClearWeld TM. It uses an almost colourless infra-red absorbing material developed by the GENTEX Corp.
Results of the study found these areas especially successful:
- Seams were made with very little marking to the fabric.
- Joints can be made through an upper layer, without visibly affecting that layer.
- Seam designs very similar to stitched seams may be used in many cases.
- The appearance of many of the seams is subtly rather than radically different to stitched ones.
A major advantage is the waterproofing properties of the completed seam. As no holes have been stitched there is potential benefit in using this joining method to manufacture waterproof garments.
'The results of the study were very encouraging and we now plan further research to test this new concept.' Nick Sellars of Nigel Cabourn told Connect, 'It opens up a whole range of possibilities in garment design.'
ClearWeld is a joint development by TWI and GENTEX Corp.
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