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Modal

Modal is a processed bio-based textile made from reconstituted cellulose from the beech tree. It is very soft and popular for both clothing and household textiles such as bedding, upholstery, and towels. Modal may be used on its own or in a blend with cotton, spandex, or other textiles. In many ways, modal acts like cotton, but it also has some significant advantages over cotton. Modal is considered a type of rayon. While rayon may be made of the wood pulp of a number of different trees, modal uses only beechwood. Modal is considered bio-based rather than natural because, though the raw materials used to make it are natural, they are heavily processed using a number of chemicals. Like other types of rayon, originally marketed as "artificial silk," modal is soft, smooth and breathes well. Its texture is similar to that of cotton or silk. It is cool to the touch and very absorbent. Like cotton, modal dyes easily and becomes color-fast after submersion in warm water. One of the advantages of modal over cotton is its resistance to shrinkage, a notorious problem with cotton. Modal is also less likely to fade or to form pills as a result of friction. Its smoothness also makes hard water deposits less likely to adhere to the surface, so the fabric stays soft through repeated washings. Modal drapes well and keeps its shape, even when wet. In order to keep them looking best, pure modal products should be ironed after washing. This may not be necessary for modal fabric blends, however. Modal was first developed by the Austria Lenzing company, who trademarked the fabric's name, but now many manufacturers make their own versions. The textile has particularly taken off in Indian companies. In the United States, modal is most often seen in bed sheets, towels, and robes, popularized in part by Bed, Bath & Beyond. However, it is slowly gaining ground as a clothing material as well. In Europe, where the fabric originated, it is already widely used in clothing as a replacement for cotton. DYEING AND FINISHING OF MODAL FABRICS Field of the Invention This invention relates to a process for the dyeing and finishing of certain regenerated cellulose fabrics, specifically modal fabrics. In this specification, the term"modal fabric"means a fabric woven or knitted from staple fibre yarns comprising regenerated cellulose fibres of the modal type. Modal fibres are defined in International Standard ISO 2076: 1999 (E) and are high wet-modulus, high breaking- strength regenerated cellulose fibres produced using particular viscose and regeneration bath compositions which allow greater molecular orientation during stretch coagulation of the fibres. Another regenerated cellulose fibre of the modal type, again with high wet modulus and high breaking strength, is known as a polynosic fibre and was developed in Japan by the Tachikawa Company. Both modal and polynosic fibres are often referred to as high wet- modulus (HWM) fibres because that is their significant characteristic compared with ordinary viscose fibres. The staple fibre yarns used may comprise just modal-type fibres or a blend of modal-type fibres with one or more other fibre types such as cotton, linen, polyester and nylon. Furthermore, the fabrics may additionally include yarns which do not incorporate modal-type fibres, for example yarns of the other fibre types referred to and blends thereof.

Regenerated cellulose fibres are produced by forming cellulose into a soluble chemical derivative and then extruding a solution of this derivative through a spinning jet into a bath which regenerates the extrudate as cellulose fibres. Viscose fibres are produced in this way. Particular spinning conditions and formulations are used to produce the high wet-modulus regenerated cellulose fibres known as modal and polynosic fibres and referred to herein as modal-type fibres. Background Lyocell fibres, which are solvent-spun cellulose fibres, not regenerated cellulose fibres (see ISO 2076: 1999 (E)), were introduced commercially relatively recently. Lyocell fibres have a tendency to fibrillate during vigorous dyeing and finishing processes, and much effort has been put into controlling this phenomenon. In particular, treatments have been developed to remove the relatively long protruding fibre ends which are formed in the first stage of the fibrillation process (socalled"primary fibrillation") and which otherwise produce a hairy effect, often matted, on the surface of the fabric and thus disfigure its appearance. On the other hand, the development of the shorter fibrils which are formed in the fibrillation process (so-called"secondary fibrillation") is encouraged. These shorter fibrils create a surface finish which is characterised as being"clean", in the sense of being substantially free from a hairy effect, and as having a soft touch imparted by the shorter fibrils on the fabric surface and which is referred to as a"soft-touch finish". When the shorter fibrils are sufficiently developed, the soft touch of the fabric surface is more pronounced and the soft-touch finish is referred to as a"peach-touch finish". Examples of such treatments for lyocell fabrics are described in WO 95/30043, WO 97/30204, and GB 2314568. Of the modal-type regenerated cellulose fibres, modal fibres themselves are less susceptible to fibrillation than lyocell fibres. Although fibrillation can be induced in such modal fibres by vigorous processing, controlling the fibrillation to produce the desired clean, soft-touch finish to a commercially acceptable standard has proved difficult. Polynosic fibres fibrillate more easily than modal fibres but, again, controlling the fibrillation to produce the desired surface finish is difficult. The present invention aims to provide modal fabrics as defined with a clean, soft-touch finish which is consistently reproducible to a commercial standard. Disclosure of the Invention The present invention provides a process for producing a dyed and finished modal fabric having a clean, soft-touch surface finish by carrying out the steps of dyeing, washing and drying the fabric using vigorous action on the fabric in at least one of the steps, characterised in that, before the dyeing step is carried out, the fabric is evenly impregnated with an aqueous solution of an acid or acid donor and is then heat treated in a gaseous atmosphere to activate the action of the acid or acid donor, whereby the dyed and finished fabric has a clean, soft-touch surface finish. In particular, the soft-touch finish achieved may be a peach-touch finish. The vigorous action required to cause fibrillation in modal fabrics is known to fabric processors; it involves flexing and abrading forces acting on the fabric during processing, usually through the combined action on the fabric of turbulent fluid flows and equipment surfaces moving at differential speed to the fabric. Turbulent liquid flows, such as are encountered in fabric jet dyeing machines and in rotary tumbling machines, are more effective in producing such fibrillation in a shorter processing time. The ability of the process of the invention to deliver dyed modal fabrics having a clean, soft-touch finish after a vigorous processing step such as jet dyeing or rotary tumbling is of commercial importance. It means that the fabric can be processed on existing equipment using normal process routines without the need for extended processing times. For example, a dyeing cycle of six hours or less may be used in a jet dyeing machine. Suitable jet dyeing machines include machines known as Thies Ecosoft, Thies Soft TRD, Gaston County Futura, and Hisaka Circular CUT-SL.

Conventional dyes and dye recipes for modal fabrics may be used in the process of the invention, including those based on direct dyes, vat dyes, sulphur dyes and reactive dyes. In addition to its application to woven and knitted modal fabrics in the length, the process of the invention can also be used in respect of the dyeing and finishing of piece goods or garments made from modal fabrics. Garments made from modal fabrics can benefit by acquiring a desirable clean, soft-touch finish on the surface of the garment. The application of the solution of the acid or acid donor and the subsequent heat treatment step may be applied to the modal fabric prior to its being converted into piece goods or garments. However, it may also be applied to the piece goods or garments after conversion. It has been found that the clean, soft-touch finish produced on the modal fabric is protected against deterioration in subsequent processing. In particular, articles comprising the dyed fabric, such as garments or other piece goods, retain their clean, soft-touch finish through repeated laundering cycles. The solution of the acid or acid donor is preferably an aqueous solution. The fabric may be evenly impregnated with this solution using any of the conventional techniques for applying liquids to fabric. Fabric in the length may be passed in open width through a pad bath of the aqueous solution, usually with a wet pick-up of the solution in the range 65 to'80 per cent by weight on weight of fabric. Piece goods such as garments may be immersed in the solution in a vessel such as a drum washing machine. The acid or acid donor is preferably a weak acid of the type used as a catalyst for resins used in textile finishing processes. Usually, these have a pH of greater than about 3. Suitable acids or acid donors include organic acids such as citric acid and tartaric acid, and Lewis acids. Magnesium chloride, ammonium chloride, zinc chloride, zinc fluoroborate and zinc nitrate are suitable weak acids or acid donors. Mixtures of two or more of these compounds may also be used and, indeed, manufacturers of acid catalysts for resin finishing sometimes use mixtures in their catalyst formulations. An example of a commercial product which can be used in the process of the invention is Condensol FB (trade mark of BASF AG), an acid catalyst comprising a mixture of magnesium chloride and zinc fluoroborate. Preferred solution concentrations of the acid or acid donor depend upon the particular acid or acid donor used, lower concentrations with highly active materials to avoid unwanted acid damage to the fabric and higher concentrations with less active materials. For commercial products, the manufacturers recommend concentrations for resin-finishing processes and, in general, such concentrations may be used in the process of the invention. Organic acids can be used in the concentration range of about 2 to 20 g/l, for example about 4 to 6 g/l in the case of citric acid. Citric acid applied at a concentration of 4 g/1 has a pH of 3.2. Less active acids or acid donors may use greater concentrations, for example up to about 40 g/1. Magnesium chloride applied at a concentration of 20 g/1 has a pH of 7.5. Unnecessarily large concentrations are preferably to be avoided in all cases to prevent unwanted acid damage to the fabric and to minimise chemical usage. The impregnated fabric is then heat-treated in a gaseous atmosphere, for example in a hot air oven. It may previously be dried in a separate step but preferably the drying is just the initial stage of the heating step. The modal fabric preferably is treated in open width, for example on a stenter passing through a heating oven or chamber. The temperature of the gaseous atmosphere used in the heat treatment is chosen to be effective in initiating the action of the particular acid or acid donor used. In general, a range of 120C to 220C is suitable, more preferably a range of 140C to 200C. Again, preferred processing times depend upon the particular acid or acid donor used

but are usually in the range 30 seconds to 5 minutes. Any residual acid may be removed by washing or scouring the heat-treated fabric and then re-drying it. If yarns of the modal fabric have been sized or lubricated to facilitate weaving or knitting, then the fabric preferably is subjected to a desizing or scouring operation, usually carried out prior to the impregnation with the acid or acid donor. This may be a conventional operation in which the fabric is passed through a scouring bath to remove the size or lubricant. If pre-bleaching of the fabric is required, then it is preferred that this is carried out prior to the impregnation with the acid or acid donor. Another possible treatment of the fabric is a so-called causticising treatment with an aqueous sodium hydroxide solution. This should be carried out after the impregnation with the acid or acid donor and the subsequent heat treatment but before the dyeing step. Causticising is carried out to improve the flexibility of the fabric in the wet state. Causticising also enhances dyeability of the fabric, which may be depressed by the acid treatment, and has the further effect that the fabric is tightened in structure, which helps to reduce any propensity for shrinkage in later wet processing. After causticising, the fabric should be thoroughly rinsed with hot and then cold water to remove residual caustic soda. After being washed to remove any unfixed dye, the dyed fabric may be given one or more conventional finishing treatments, including application of a soft-finish by a conventional padding operation. This may be carried out after the dyeing and washing processes without the need for any intermediate drying of the fabric. If a wet tumbling treatment is required to develop a soft-touch finish, this may be carried out in a rotary tumbling machine after dyeing, either together with or after any soft finish treatment. The finished fabric may then be given a final drying, for example in a tumble-drying machine. The invention is illustrated by the following Examples:- Example 1 A modal fabric comprised a woven fabric of basis weight 180 gsm (grams per square metre) constructed in a 2 by 1 twill weave from yarns of count 1/20s Ne comprising 100 per cent high wet-modulus modal fibres of 1.3 dtex (HWM Modal fibres ex Lenzing AG). The fabric was scoured in open width using an aqueous scour bath containing a non-ionic detergent and sodium carbonate and at a temperature of 90C, and it was then dried on a stenter at a temperature of 100C. Half of the scoured fabric was reserved as a control and the other half was impregnated by padding with an aqueous solution of 14 g/1 of magnesium chloride hexahydrate and 1.0 g/1 of a wetting agent, Kieralon JET (Kieralon is a trademark of BASF AG), at 80 per cent wet pick-up. The impregnated fabric was stentered and dried at a temperature of 110 C and then heat treated in air at a temperature of 190 C for 50 seconds. The treated fabric and the control fabric were then each dyed and finished using the same regime. Dyeing was carried out on a Gaston County Futura jet dyeing machine over a period of 6 hours using an aqueous dyebath containing:- Procion H-EXL dye at 4.0 per cent owf (on weight of fabric) (Procion is a trademark of Dystar AG), Sodium sulphate at 60g/1, Soda ash at 20 g/1. The dyed fabrics were rinsed with water to remove unfixed dye, softened using Edunine CSA (Edunine is a trademark of Uniqema) at 2.0 per cent owf applied from an aqueous bath at a temperature of 40C, and then tumble-dried in a Thies Rototumbler fabric tumbling machine. The control fabric was unfibrillated and had a normal smooth surface. The treated fabric had developed a clean, soft-touch finish. Example 2 A modal fabric comprised a woven fabric of basis weight 180 gsm constructed in a 2 by 1 twill weave from yarns of count 1/20s Ne comprising 100 per cent high wet-modulus fibres of the modal type of 1.3 dtex (HWM Modal fibres ex Lenzing AG) The fabric was scoured in open width

using an aqueous scour bath containing a non-ionic detergent and sodium carbonate and at a temperature of 90C, and then it was dried on a stenter at a temperature of 100C. The desized fabric was then evenly impregnated with an aqueous solution of citric acid at a concentration of 4.0 g/l by uniformly squeezing the solution into the fabric using a pad mangle at an expression of 75 per cent wet pick-up. The impregnated fabric was dried and heat- treated on a stenter frame in air at a temperature of 160C for 5.0 minutes. After thorough rinsing with water and drying, the treated fabric was ready for dyeing. Dyeing was carried out in a Thies Ecosoft Plus jet dyeing machine. In addition to the treated fabric, an untreated but desized control fabric of the same specification was also dyed and finished as hereinafter set out. The dyeing method used was a hot-exhaust migration dyeing method carried out over a period of 6 hours using an aqueous dyebath containing:- Procion Navy H-EXL dye at 4.0 per cent owf, Sodium sulphate at 60g/l, Soda ash at 20g/l. After rinsing with water, the dyed fabrics were treated with a soft finish, Edunine CSA, at 20 per cent owf applied from an aqueous bath at a temperature of 40C, before being tumble-dried in a fabric rope tumbler (Biancalani Aero 1000). The dyed control fabric was unfibrillated and had a normal smooth surface. The treated fabric had developed a degree of fibrillation of the short, secondary fibrillation type, which gave it a clean, soft-touch surface having the characteristic of a peach-touch finish. Example 3 A modal fabric comprised a double jersey interlock fabric knitted from yarn of count 1/20s Ne. The yarn comprised a 70: 30 blend by weight of polynosic fibres and polyester fibres of which the polynosic fibres were of 1.7 dtex and 38mm staple length (Junalon fibres ex Fujibo) and the polyester fibres were of 1.5 dtex and 38mm staple length (Trevira type 140 fibres ex Hoechst AG). The fabric was slit to open width and divided, with part being kept as an untreated control and part being impregnated in a pad bath at 80 per cent wet pick-up with an aqueous solution containing 14 g/1 magnesium chloride and 1.0 per cent Kieralon JET. The impregnated fabric was then placed on a stenter and dried in air at a temperature of 110C before being heat treated in air at a temperature of 190C for 45 seconds. The treated fabric and the control fabric were then individually subjected to the following scouring, dyeing, softening and drying regime. Scouring was carried out using an aqueous solution of a nonionic detergent and sodium carbonate at a temperature of 90C for 30 minutes. The fabrics were then rinsed in water before being dyed over a period of 6 hours in a jet dyeing machine as described in Example 1 using the same dyebath recipe but with the dye at 3.0 per cent owf. After rinsing with water, the dyed fabrics were treated with a soft finish, Sandoperm MEJ (Sandoperm is a trademark of Clariant AG), at 2.0 per cent owf from an aqueous bath at a temperature of 40C and were then tumble- dried in a Biancalani Aero 1000 fabric rope tumbler. The dyed control fabric had a somewhat matted surface appearance created by uncontrolled fibrillation. The fabric treated according to the invention had a soft peach-touch finish and a uniform, clean appearance free from long fibrils and visible crease marks.

Modal data sheet.


Property summary for Modal

End of life Opportunity summary for Modal

Characteristics / options defined by the above graphs are proportionally represented and approximate, and are only intended as a guide. As such they do not represent any industry standards. Among other things, fabric construction and weight will influence the perceived ranking.

Data Sheet for Modal Regenerated Cellulose fibre. Modal fibres are a form of viscose fibres and manufactured through a complex chemical process. Converted into a series of intermediate cellulose compounds, the final spinning process regenerates cellulose from a cellulose xanthate dope. Involving strong sodium hydroxide and sulphuric acids as well as carbon disulphide, there are environmentally concerns surrounding the process. Modal fibres have improved wet strength over standard viscose fibres and is abrasion resistant yet soft to handle and has good drape properties. It is extremely adsorbent and breathable which combine to make garments made from the fibre comfortable.

General

Available as: Knitted and woven in 100% and blended. Modal is supplied as 100% or more frequently in blends. In this latter application it is used to improve the underlying properties of the other

fibres. Modal yarns can be knitted or woven and come in a range of yarn/fabric weights. Treat to remove sulphur and use cellulose dyes. Modal fibres will have similar requirements to viscose as they will contain a significant concentration of residual sulphur based chemicals from their processing. It is therefore essential that a suitable bleaching/scouring is carried out prior to any dyeing process. Colouration Dyeing modal fibres is totally compatible with cotton systems and as such can be carried out with reactive dyes or in some cases direct dyes. It is also possible to get pigment dyed fibres that have been spun from coloured dope. If garments must be suitable for the heavier duty applications in work wear then reactive dyes, vat dyes or sulphur dyes would be recommended. Excellent dimensional stability. Resistant to pilling. The abrasion resistance and pilling resistance of Modal is good Better than cotton 12-15%. Modal has a high level of moisture regain, typically 12-15% at 65% RH 20C Cool wash. Easy care, suitable for cool washing. Knitwear, leisurewear. ladies knitwear, leisurewear

Dimensional Stability Resistance to pilling Moisture regain Care information Applications

Can be disposed of using all end of life opportunities. Modal is a variant of viscose fibre, being produced using the same process but under modified conditions. It can be treated as viscose fibre. It is 100% cellulose and as such it is biodegradable. The fibre has also the End of life potential for re-use and remanufacture. Where used as 100% there is the possibility of using Possibilities the fabrics as a raw material for regenerated cellulose fibre production. When present in blends, the end of life options are reduced. However if blended with other cellulose fibres then the blend can be treated as cellulose feed stock for a regenerated cellulose process. The re-use of the non-woven viscose fabrics will depend on the way they have been manufactured. Eco aspects Cost scope (economic impact) Common trade names Alternatives Lenzing Fibers Limited 1 Pride Point Drive Pride Park Derby Derbyshire UK DE24 8BX Phone: +44 (0)1332 546 740 Fax: +44 (0)1332 546 741 Lenzing Modal

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