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Characterization of Roughness–Friction: Example with Nonwovens
Ecole Nationale Superieure des Industries Textiles de Mulhouse, University of Mulhouse, France

Ecole Superieure des Sciences Appliquees pour l’Ingenieur, University of Mulhouse, France

In several technical applications, it is necessary to accurately determine the surface state
of materials. In order to do so, a new method to evaluate the surface state of materials has
been developed. This method gives roughness–friction criteria, based on the principle of
a “blade-disc” type tribometer, where the analyzed surface is the disc. In this study we
have demonstrated the effectiveness of the method in a study of two types of nonwovens.
The first type of nonwoven is intended for use for female or baby hygiene and the second
type for baby skincare wipes. The nonwovens compared have surfaces with different
structures and different compositions. In addition it is shown that the method is able to
distinguish fine modifications of the surface state.

The baby wipes industry needs to compare and control images and represent the rate at which intensity transi-
softness parameters along the production process. One of tion occurs in a given direction.
the problems is to provide a measurement method, which Subsequently, the FFT enables the ODF to be evaluated
is efficient and sensitive enough to control quality. This on a nonwoven. Moreover, the “equivalent Pore concept”
quality must be evaluated on nonwovens with very com- was used by Salvado [9] in order to quantify the ODF on
plex random surfaces. spunbonded nonwovens designed for the baby diaper in-
The surface measurement of nonwovens and random dustry. This method computes the cumulative length of
structures is not a new idea. Pourdeyhimi et al. [4, 5, 7] straight segments (fibers) in all the directions of the non-
proposed a large study on fiber orientation measurements woven (two-dimensional analysis only). When “reorganiz-
in nonwovens, using different optical methods and image ing the obtained lengths according to their orientation and
analysis to track fibers in real and artificially produced putting them end to end, the cumulative length draw a curve
images. First, the authors reported a “direct fiber track- in the plane” [9]. This curve is a semicircle in the case of an
ing method that allows each fiber segment to be isotropic distribution of the segments and a semi-ellipse in
tracked ”. Images were analyzed, detecting the presence the case of most nonwovens.
or the absence of a fiber. They have computed the ori- Other studies have been made to evaluate random
entation distribution function (ODF) that evaluates the surfaces. Pourdeyimi and Sobus [6, 8] have studied the
frequency appearance of different orientation angles. surface intensity and roughness of carpet in order to
A second evaluation method has been elaborated using quantify the appearance changes on carpet surfaces due
“the power spectrum from a two dimensional Fourier to mechanical wear. Assuming that there are three cate-
analysis image” [4, 5, 7]. In this method, the structure is gories of carpet structures, namely strongly ordered
considered as a composition of “spatial details in the structures, weakly ordered structures and disordered
form of brightness transitions cycling from light to dark structures, the authors have proposed that carpet surfaces
and from dark to light. The rate at which these transi- can be characterized according to global and local pa-
tions occur is the spatial frequency linked to the fiber rameters from image analysis. Global parameters are
orientation”. A Fourier transform (FFT) decomposes an one-dimensional statistical parameters which quantify
image from its spatial domain of intensities into a fre- pile compression or overall fiber disorder and local pa-
quency domain. Magnitudes of the various frequencies rameters enable the pile direction to be quantified in
are evaluated by gray scale levels on the transformed terms of overall pile disorder, tuft density and tuft shape.
These studies show that the characterization of ran-
To whom correspondence should be addressed: e-mail: s.fontaine dom surface state is a very complex problem. Even if image analysis provides the opportunity to quantify fiber

Textile Res. J. 75(12), 826 – 832 (2005) DOI: 10.1177/0040517505057634 © 2005 SAGE Publications
DECEMBER 2005 827

distribution on nonwoven structures or appearance loss thick) rubs the tested surface. During the contact, the
on carpets, these “non-contact” techniques cannot be blade vibrates according to eigenvalues of frequencies
sufficient to quantify the touch of such products. (vibration modes). Strain gauges are fixed on this blade
Moreover, for several years, textile products have be- and measure its vibrations (eigenvalues). A Fourier anal-
come more and more complex and more research has ysis of the temporal signal from the sensor entails the
been directed towards the study of the tactile properties computing of the power spectrum relative to frequency
of these structures. with the help of a spectrum analyzer. The power spec-
In order to simplify the problem, we propose to sep- trum is PS( f ):
arate the characterization of textile handle in two differ-
ent ways: first, it is possible to consider the touch when
fingers are just moving on a simply laid surface. During
this motion the hand is sensitive to friction, surface
roughness, transversal compression and cool/warm feel-
ing. The second aspect of handle is by touching the
textile surfaces with full hand. During this action, fabric-
bending properties are interacting with the physical prop-
erties previously described. Textile products are made up
of different levels of structures issuing from various pro-
cesses and are composed of fibers made of different mate-
rials. The fabrication process induces the presence of hair-
iness on the studied surface. These hairs are surface fibers
which escape from the cohesion steps during the manufac-
turing processes. Hairiness and structure are strongly linked
since some structures are naturally more hairy than others.
In 1995, Bueno et al [1, 3] proposed a method to FIGURE 1. Measurement method.
measure the surface state of textiles. This method mea-
sures the friction and the roughness of a fabric. The PS共 f 兲 ⫽ 兩X共 f 兲兩 2 (1)
sample is fixed on a rotating plate and a 0.5-mm-diam-
eter cylindrical probe is rubbed on the fabric surface. An where f is the frequency (Hz), X( f ) is the Fourier trans-
accelerometer is fixed to this probe and measures the form of the temporal signal x(t), which corresponds to
vibrations due to its penetration into the fabric structure. the signal from the sensor (volts).
A FFT of the temporal signal provides a spectrum know- The power spectrum relative to frequency gives a
ing that an average of several spectra gives an autospec- spectrum as well as an average of several spectra com-
trum. In the autospectrum, the energy of the peaks de- puted during one or more rotations of the sample carrier
pends on the magnitude of the structure relief. (Figure 2). This is an autospectrum in which the magni-
This tribometer was multi-directional and able to mea- tude of the peaks of each mode depends on the surface
sure fine modifications of surface states using the peri- state of the tested samples. The frequencies of the vibra-
odicity properties of the tested structure. However, two tion modes are experimentally determined owing to this
major disadvantages persisted: first, it was only possible autospectrum (center of the peak). Moreover, to extract
to measure variations of treatments on the same surface the energy of these peaks (equation (2)), it is necessary to
and second, random structures could not be measured. integrate PS( f ) between two frequencies f1 and f2 (gray
The present study therefore introduces a measurement zone in Figure 2).
method which provides solutions to the two previous In order to simplify the problem, only the modes 1 and
problems and obtains “roughness–friction” [2] criteria of 3 were studied. The reason why mode 2 has been elim-
the tested surface. inated will be explained later.

Experimental Energy关 f 1 ;f 2 兴 ⫽ 冕
兩X共 f 兲兩 2 (2)

The authors have developed a patented measurement When rubbing on the tested surface, the sensor is excited
method [2] to obtain “roughness–friction” criteria for a by surface events such as friction and roughness where
tested surface (Figure 1). The sample is clamped on a friction is linked to (micro-) asperities and adhesion
rotating carrier and a very thin metallic blade (50 ␮m which depend on thin contaminant films that pollute

The sensor was studied by means of modal analysis
using the finite element method. The code used was
CASTEM 2004. This code has been developed by the
Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique – CEA – DEN/
jsp). This code has been chosen because of its great
flexibility and because of its international recognition.
This code is presented as a standard one with a pre-
processor, where a program in Gibiane Language must
be written. This program includes geometry, limit con-
ditions, materials definitions and the analysis type that is
required (thermic, dynamic and static mechanics. . .).
FIGURE 2. Autospectrum analysis. The model was the simulation of a clamped-supported
pre-loaded blade with the size of our sensor. The aim of
this study was to compute the eigenvalues of frequencies
surfaces. Moreover, the roughness Ra of a profile can be of the sensor and the mode shapes for each studied
defined as: frequency. Only the modes 1, 2 and 3 were studied

because of the limited signal/noise ratio for modes of
1 frequencies higher than 300 Hz.
Ra ⫽ 兩y共 x兲 ⫺ y៮ 兩 䡠 dx (3) Table I shows the measured frequencies on the auto-
0 spectrum coming from a standard measurement and the
computed frequencies coming from the previous calcu-
where L is the considered length for the integration, y៮ is
lated model.
the average line of the profile and y(x) the altitude of a
point positioned at an abscissa x (Figure 3).
TABLE I. Measured and simulated frequencies.

Mode 1 Mode 2 Mode 3

Measured frequencies (Hz) 35 127 258
Calculated frequencies (Hz) 36 128 260

Moreover, Figure 4 presents the mode shapes for the
first three modes. We observe that the first mode (36 Hz)
moves according to an interesting horizontal oscillation
on the surface of the tested fabric. This phenomenon is
largely attenuated for the modes 2 (128 Hz) and (260
FIGURE 3. Definition of the roughness Ra. Hz). This means that mode 1 is probably more sensitive
to friction than the other two.

It is then clear that for a given mode, the higher is the
excitation, the higher will be the energy of vibration in
this mode. The prototype allows us to modify precisely
the measuring conditions. All the tests were provided
under a sliding speed of 89 mm s⫺1 and the autospectrum
were computed with 200 spectra.
The challenge was then to link data coming from the
different vibration modes to the characteristics of the
tested surface. First, the pertinent modes have been cho-
sen for our measurement from more than 10 visible
peaks. Second, a representation of the results is proposed
in order to classify clearly the different tested surfaces. FIGURE 4. Mode shapes.
DECEMBER 2005 829

Mode 2 (128 Hz) was eliminated because of the low tron microscopy (SEM) photographs was not possible.
signal/noise ratio in the autospectrum (Figure 2). First, Spunbonded and Spunlace products were sepa-
rately investigated in the present study and then, for the
SURFACE STATE REPRESENTATION Spun and Sofspan products, the effects of grammage
(areal density g m⫺2) variation and process modification
When several surfaces need to be compared, the results
on the surface state were observed. The Spunlace prod-
can become difficult to analyze. To solve this problem, a
ucts (J1 to J4) were compared two by two, noticing the
two-dimensional representation of the results was proposed
effect on the surface state, of a variation of grammage for
in which the energy of mode 3 (260 Hz) was plotted as a
the nonwovens J1 and J2 and of the composition of
function of the energy of mode 1 (36 Hz). Values are
nonwovens J3 and J4 with similar grammages.
standardized with relation to the maximum value.
This representation is a type of map and is described in
Figure 5. This map allows us to obtain a very clear analysis Results and Discussion
of the observed difference between the tested samples. To have a better understanding of the measurement
data, a “time–frequency analysis” of the signal was used.
TESTED SURFACES This treatment was carried out by the spectral analyzer.
The tested surfaces were nonwovens meant for baby This three-dimensional analysis allows us to observe the
hygiene. These nonwovens were dry tested (without lo- evolution of the spectra relative to the rubbing time.
tion). The technical characteristics of these nonwovens Figure 8 shows an example of the evolution of the signal
are shown in Table II. Samples Spun and Sofspan are for the sample J4. It can be observed that the mode 1
spunbonded nonwovens (Figure 6) and samples J1 to J4 vibrates the whole time, whereas mode 3 vibrates only
are Spunlace products (Figure 7). These last samples are twice per cycle on the carrier (white surrounded events).
designed to be impregnated with different kinds of lo- When observing the blade rubbing on the surface, these
tions. As they are of the same structure, the samples were events occur when the sensor is parallel to the fiber bundles
all produced using the same manufacturing line. on the structure. These bundles arise from the manufactur-
Due to their large structure heterogeneity, the compar- ing process and are oriented along the production line. This
ison of these different nonwovens using scanning elec- phenomenon is visible on all the nonwovens J1 to J4.
On the surface of these nonwovens the bundles are
assumed to constitute a macro factor of roughness. Their
presence induces periodic shocks that excite the sensor at
each frequency of the spectrum.
Moreover, as shown previously, mode 1 vibrates with
a horizontal oscillation on the “blade–nonwoven” con-
tact area; it is then natural to observe a continuous
vibration for the whole time. However, as shocks excite
the sensor at each frequency of the spectrum, macro
roughness will also excite mode 1. It is thus possible to
conclude from these results that the energy of mode 1 is
dependent on a combination of friction and roughness,
whereas the energy of mode 3 seems to be preferentially
excited by the roughness of the tested nonwovens.
The results (Figures 9 and 10) illustrate clearly these con-
FIGURE 5. Cross representation map. clusions. In fact, when the grammage decreased for the same

TABLE II. Nonwoven characteristics.

Name of the sample Structure Components Grammage

SPUN 18 GSM Spunbonded Process 1 100% Polypropylene 18gm⫺2
SOFSPAN 20GSM Spunbonded Process 2 100% Polypropylene 20gm⫺2
SPUN 20 GSM Spunbonded Process 1 100% Polypropylene 20gm⫺2
J1 Spunlace 100% Polyester 75gm⫺2
J2 Spunlace 100% Polyester 38gm⫺2
J3 Spunlace 65% Rayon, 35% Polyester 50gm⫺2
J4 Spunlace 100% Rayon 45gm⫺2

FIGURE 6. SEM photographs of Spun 18 GSM, Sofspan 20 GSM
and Spun 20GSM.

nonwoven raw material (Spun 18 GSM and 20 GSM or and also a modification of roughness [which is a combi-
Spunlace J1 and J2), only the energy of mode 3 de- nation of the hairiness properties and density and com-
creased. This result is related to a decrease in surface pressibility of detected macro asperities (bundles)].
roughness. In the case of the Sofspan 20 GSM products, a mod-
However, when the composition of the nonwoven ification of the manufacturing process has an effect on
changes (i.e. case of the Spunlace J3 and J4), the energies the surface state of the tested products. This surface state
of both modes 1 and 3 are modified. For example, the depends on the calendering intensity of the process, the
addition of rayon to polyester drastically increases the fiber fineness and the type of polymer used. All these
energies of modes 1 and 3. Such a modification of factors determine roughness, friction and hairiness prop-
composition induces a modification of friction behavior erties on the surface of the tested specimens.
DECEMBER 2005 831

FIGURE 7. SEM photographs of Spunlace J4.

FIGURE 9. Measurement results: Spun and Sofspan nonwovens.

FIGURE 8. Time–frequency analysis.

Moreover, it is important to notice the high sensitivity of comes very useful in order to obtain a “quality map” of
the sensor since it can detect a surface modification due to different products. [Note: the values of Spunbonded prod-
a grammage variation of 2 g m⫺2 only, in the case of Spun uct move to a new quadrant in Figure 11 because they have
18 GSM and 20 GSM products. When standardizing all the been standardized in relation to the maximum value J4].
data, it is interesting to enlarge the presentation scale of our This enlarged representation makes it possible to dif-
results in order to compare the Spun products with the ferentiate the two types of nonwovens and confirms firsty
Spunlace products (Figure 11). This representation be- that the differences between Spun products and Sofspan

face. The frequency analysis of this vibration allows us
to compute the energies of each mode. Only the energies
of mode 1 and 3 were studied herein. It has been shown
that the energy of the first mode is sensitive to both
friction and roughness whereas the energy of mode 3 is
sensitive to roughness only. Several nonwovens, des-
tined for use for hygiene products, were tested. These
fibrous structures are characterized by complex surfaces.
The results have clearly shown that the present test
method is able to detect the effect of a small grammage
variation, the effect of manufacturing processes and the
effect of component modification. These modifications have
been discussed in terms of “friction roughness” criteria.
A modal analysis of the sensor provides a better un-
derstanding of the mechanical behavior of the plate in
each frequency mode. As other work has shown that this
test method is reproducible, we therefore, wish to focus
on the industrial application of the present study.

FIGURE 10. Measurement results on Spunlace products.
Thanks to the Fiberweb and Jacob-Holm companies
for the nonwovens, and to the Agence Française de
l’Innovation (OSEO-ANVAR) for the financial support.

Literature Cited
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This study has presented a patented method capable of 9. Salvado, R., “Relationship between spunbond process,
evaluating all kind of surface states. The developed sen- structure and properties of nonwovens for hygiène appli-
sor is a preloaded thin blade that vibrates according to cations”, PhD Thesis, University of Mulhouse (France) and
the eigenvalues of frequencies, when rubbing on a sur- of Beira Interior (Portugal), 2002