Uses of Technical Fabric in Welding Protective Clothing and Equipment
There are different technical fabrics that are used in the development and design of clothing for welders. All of this fabric is known as flame-resistant fabric because welding exposes the wearer to so many sparks and flame possibilities.
The flame retardant material must be capable of maintaining its integrity because it is exposed to high heat, intense sparks, molten materials, and industrial-strength cleaners on a daily basis. The fabric must be able to resist flames and to maintain that resistance through a lot of washings and dryings.
To choose the appropriate technical fabric the welder must consider how durable the fabric is, and how comfortable the fabric will be. They must also consider whether or not the garment can be laundered or if it will require special cleaning.
Flame Resistant Cotton
Flame resistant cotton is one of the most popular of the technical fabrics used to manufacturer clothing for welders, and people who work in plants and refineries.
This material is relatively inexpensive, especially when compared to the other flame-resistant fabrics. It is also a lightweight fabric that weighs only about nine ounces per square yard. Being cotton it is a breathable fabric that is not overly hot on the wearer.
To make the cotton flame-resistant it is treated with a chemical that creates a process known as off-gassing. In the off-gassing process, the material is deprived of the oxygen molecules that it would need to erupt into flames. By undergoing this process the material is left where it will not simply burst into flames.
The material will char when it is exposed to flames, sparks, or molten materials. Hot metals can burn a hole through the fabric and come in contact with the wearer’s skin. This material also loses some of its flame resistance if it starts to become worn or tattered.
Not all flame-resistant cotton is the same. You want a garment that is made from thicker cotton fabric to get the most flame resistance. You also want a garment that is treated and guaranteed to retain its flame resistance for the life of the fabric. Some fabric only guarantees that it will be flame resistant until it has been washed for a specific number of times.
Leather is a technical fabric used to make clothing and protective gear for welders, and refinery workers who require flame-resistant fabric.
Leather is considerably heavier than the cotton fabric. Leather weighs about thirty ounces per square yard and does not breathe very well. That makes leather garments hotter and more uncomfortable to wear.
Leather protects the person from heat exposure and it resists punctures. It also takes a lot longer for a piece of molten material to burn through the leather.
The leather that is used to make welding garments is called split leather. Split leather is made from the under sections of the hide. Split leather is heavier, thicker, and more likely to absorb oils and dirt than other leathers.
Over time leather garments will become stiff and uncomfortable due to their exposure to heat, and the repeated launderings they require.
This material was originally designed for the military. It is a non-flammable material that is more comfortable and breathable than split leather. It is made from a patented blend of oxidized acrylic fibers and other fibers.
This material has the ability to shed off molten pieces of metal or sparks that may land on it. It is up to sixty percent lighter than most leather and does not have a tendency to become stiff due to heat exposure.
You can wash and dry this fabric without compromising its flame-resistant abilities. This is due to the fact that the fibers are embedded into the fabric rather than just being topically coated with a chemical to help is resist flames.
The method of making the fabric also makes the fabric more flexible, and more comfortable to wear. It can be made into shirts, jackets, pants, gloves, and other garments for anyone who works in a high heat environment where flames are a direct result of the work they do or the chemicals they are exposed to.
The fire-resistant materials should be considered according to the type of welding that you do and the amount of exposure you have to sparks, flames, and molten materials. If a piece of splatter hits your shirt and burns through to your skin while you are on a scaffold, or while you are sitting on a piece of steel then you can be assured that your life will be in danger. The pain of being burned may cause you to let go and fall.
Consider your flame-resistant garments as life-preserving equipment. Welder’s lives matter too, stay safe.