Metallic fibers are manufactured fibers composed of metal, plastic-coated metal, metal-coated plastic, or a core completely covered by metal. Gold and silver have been used since ancient times as yarns for fabric decoration. More recently, aluminum yarns, aluminized plastic yarns, and aluminized nylon yarns have replaced gold and silver. Metallic filaments can be coated with transparent films to minimize tarnishing.
Metal fiber may also be shaved from wire (steel wool), bundle drawn from larger diameter wire, cast from molten metal, or grown around a seed (often carbon).
Gold and silver have been used since ancient times as decoration in the clothing and textiles of kings, leaders, nobility and people of status. Many of these elegant textiles can be found in museums around the world. Historically, the metallic thread was constructed by wrapping a metal strip around a fiber core (cotton or silk), often in such a way as to reveal the color of the fiber core to enhance visual quality of the decoration. Ancient textiles and clothing woven from wholly or partly gold threads is sometimes referred to as cloth of gold. They have been woven on Byzantine looms from the 7th to 9th Centuries, and after that in Sicily, Cyprus, Lucca, and Venice. Weaving also flourished in the 12th Century during the legacy of Genghis Khan when art and trade flourished under Mongol rule in China and some Middle Eastern areas. The Dobeckmum Company produced the first modern metallic fiber in 1946. In the past, aluminum was usually the base in a metallic fiber. More recently stainless steel has become a base as well. It is more difficult to work with but provides properties to the yarn that allows it to be used in more high tech applications .
Coated metallic filaments helps to minimize tarnishing. When suitable adhesives and films are used, they are not affected by salt water, chlorinated water in swimming pools or climatic conditions. If possible anything made with metallic fibers should be dry-cleaned, if there is no care label. Ironing can be problematic because the heat from the iron, especially at high temperatures, can melt the fibers.
There are two basic processes that are used in manufacturing metallic fibers. The most common is the laminating process, which seals a layer of aluminum between two layers of acetate or polyester film. These fibers are then cut into lengthwise strips for yarns and wound onto bobbins. The metal can be colored and sealed in a clear film, the adhesive can be colored, or the film can be colored before laminating. There are many different variations of color and effect that can be made in metallic fibers, producing a wide range of looks.
Metallic fibers can also be made by using the metalizing process. This process involves heating the metal until it vaporizes then depositing it at a high pressure onto the polyester film . This process produces thinner, more flexible, more durable, and more comfortable fibers.
Metal fiber may also be shaved from wire (steel wool), bundle drawn from larger diameter wire (smallest fiber is produced by this method), cast from molten metal, or grown around a seed (often carbon). Bundle drawn metal fiber can be produced to sizes smaller than one micrometre in diameter.
Currently metallic fibers are manufactured primarily in Europe with only three manufacturers still producing metallic yarn in the United States. Metlon Corporation is one of the remaining manufacturers in the U.S. that stocks a wide variety of laminated and non-laminated metallic yarns & Brightex Corporation, Japan and South Korea, such as Hwa Young, is also manufacturing Metallic fibers. China also produces metallic yarns; the city Dongyang contains more than 100 factories, though some of these are home based production sites rather than conventional factories. Two of the more popular factories are Salu Metallic Yarn and Aoqi Textile.
The Lurex Company has manufactured metallic fibers in Europe for over fifty years. They produce a wide variety of metallic fiber products including fibers used in apparel fabric, embroidery, braids, knitting, military regalia, trimmings, ropes, cords, and lace surface decoration. The majority of Lurex fibers have a polyamide film covering the metal strand but polyester and viscose are also used. The fibers are also treated with a lubricant called P.W., a mineral-based oil, which helps provide ease of use.
Metlon Corporation is a trademark of Metallic Yarns in the United States and has been producing metallic yarns for over sixty years. Metlon produces their metallic yarn by wrapping single slit yarns with two ends of nylon. One end of nylon is wrapped clockwise and the other end is wrapped counterclockwise around the metallic yarn. The most commonly used nylon is either 15 denier or 20 denier, but heavier deniers are used for special purposes.
The most common uses for metallic fibers is upholstery fabric and textiles such as lamé and brocade. Many people also use metallic fibers in weaving and needlepoint. Increasingly common today are metallic fibers in clothing, anything from party and evening wear to club clothing, cold weather and survival clothing, and everyday wear. Metallic yarns are woven, braided, and knit into many fashionable fabrics and trims. For additional variety, metallic yarns are twisted with other fibers such as wool, nylon, cotton, and synthetic blends to produce yarns which add novelty effects to the end cloth or trim. Stainless steel and other metal fibers are used in communication lines such as phone lines and cable television lines. Stainless steel fibers are also used in carpets. They are dispersed throughout the carpet with other fibers so they are not detected. The presence of the fibers helps to conduct electricity so that the static shock is reduced. These types of carpets are often used in computer-use areas where the chance of producing static is much greater. Other uses include tire cord, missile nose cones, work clothing such as protective suits, space suits, and cut resistant gloves for butchers and other people working near bladed or dangerous machinery.
- Federal Trade Commission Definition
- Textile Reference Manual: Metallic Fibers: Spinning Straw into Gold? Archived 2006-03-13 at Archive.is
- Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
- AllRefer.com - Cloth of Gold Archived 2006-09-02 at the Wayback Machine.
- Kim, Caroline "Humanities" The Treasures of Genghis Khan: Sept - Oct 2002 Vol. 23 #5
- Kadolph, Sara J. and Langford, Anna L. "Textiles Ninth Edition" pg. 129-130.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-05-17. Retrieved 2008-03-27.