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table of contents
Natural fiber products - Swicofil's target products Synthetic fiber products - Swicofil's target products
Polypropylene
polypropylene for netting applications flat
textured
monofilament
spun yarns
fibers
BCF
filler fibers

Introduction
Properties
Applications
Grades
Processability
Background info
Specialities


  Please click here for our shade card for both textile PP yarns as well as medium and high tenacity industrial PP yarns.

Introduction

The most important property of polypropylene is its versatility. It can be tailored to many fabrication methods and applications. Excellent chemical resistance, the lowest density, highest melting point (in the family of olefin fibers), and moderate cost makes it an important fiber in industrial applications. However, the poor dyeability and texturizability have limited polypropylene's applications in conventional textile industry. With the introduction of fiber denier textured yarn its use in apparel sector is becoming inevitable along with its main outlet in the industrial sector.

When polypropylene was first introduced into the market in 1950s, the product is non-crystallizable, which result in low melting point. With the introduction of isotactic commercial polypropylene a considerable increase in the crystallinity and melting point was achieved. Polypropylene has registered continued worldwide market share growth in recent years and it is predicated that consumption will still grow as polypropylene increasingly are used as substitution for other materials such as glass, metal, and some engineering plastics

polypropylene production scheme

 

Properties
  • fairly low physical properties
  • fairly low heat resistance
  • excellent chemical resistance, i.e. resistant to deterioration from chemicals, mildew, insects, perspiration, rot and weather
  • translucent to opaque
  • "living hinge" capability
  • low price
  • easy to process
  • good bulk and cover, 
  • very lightweight (olefin fibers have the lowest specific gravity of all fibers)
  • high strength( wet or dry)
  • abrasion resistant
  • low moisture absorption
  • stain and soil resistant
  • good washability, quick drying, unique wicking
  • resilient, moldable, very comfortable
  • thermally bondable

The main drawbacks of PP fibers are listed below:

  • Low melting temperature which prevents it from being ironed like cotton, wool, nylon etc.
  • Hard to be dyed after manufacturing, except after substantial treatment and modification,
  • High crystallinity and poor thermal conductivity leads to limited texturizability. [Drawn polypropylene requires a contact time of 2 seconds in the heater compared to PET (POY) which requires only 0.4 seconds]
  • Poor UV and thermal stability which requires addition of expensive UV stabilizers and antioxidants to overcome this problem
  • Poor adhesion to glues and latex
  • Flammable which melts and burns like wax.

Heat setting removes the residual strains and produces a defect-free and stable crystalline structure to make fiber/fabrics dimensionally stable. It also improves the percentage of overall crystallinity. The smectic structure changes to more perfect monoclinic structure during the process of heat setting if the temperature is above 70oC . At 145oC the conversion is almost complete. In comparison to predominantly smectic form, the monoclinic form does not experience any major change in crystalline structure during the course of drawing and heat setting.

Mechanical properties
The general physical properties of PP fibers are shown in Table 1. Polypropylene fibers are produced in a variety of types with different tenacities designed to suit varying market requirement. Fibers for general textile uses have tenacities in the range of 4.5-6.0 g/den. High tenacity yarns up to 9.0 g/den are produced for the use in ropes, nets and other similar applications. High performance PP fibers have been made with high strength and high modulus. The techniques include ultra-drawing, solid state extrusion and crystal surface growth. The filaments with tenacities over 13.0 g/den can be made.

Physical Properties of Polypropylene
Moisture regain <0.1%
Refractive indexNnD23 1.49
Thermal conductivity 0.95 Btu-in/ft2.hr.oF
Coefficient of linear thermal expansion 4.0 x 10-5/oF
Heat of fusion 21 cal/g
Specific heat 0.46 cal/g.C
Density of melt at 180oC 0.769 g/cc
Heat of combustion 19,400 Btu/lb
Oxygen index 17.4
Decomposition temperature range 328-410oC
Dielectric constant (0.1 M Hz) 2.25
Dissipation factor (0.1 M Hz) <0.0002
Specific volume resistivity >1016.cm

 

Resistance at 20C Concentration % Residual Tenacity %
(after 4 days)
Hydrochloric Acid 34 100
Nitric Acid 65 90
Sulphuric Acid 95 100
Formic Acid 75 100
Glacial Acetis Acid - 100
Potassium Hydrate 40 95
Sodium Hydrate

40

100
Trichloroethylene   80
Perchloroethylene  

80

Toluene   98
Benzene   80
Sodium Hypochlorite
(5% active chlorine)
  85
Hydrogen Peroxide (12 Parts)   90

Resistance at 70C

  Residual tenacity %
6 hrs 21 hrs
Sulphuric Acid 94 100 95
Glacial Acetic Acid   100 95
Sodium Hydrate 40 100 95

The degree of orientation achieved by drawing influences the mechanical properties of PP filaments. The greater the degree of stretch, the higher the tensile strength and the lower the elongation. Commercial PP monofilaments have an elongation at break in the region of 12-25%. Multifilaments and staple fibers are in the range of 20-30% and 20-35%, respectively.

Thermal properties
Polypropylene fibers have a softening point in the region of 150oC and a melting point at 160-170oC. At low temperatures of -70oC or lower, PP fibers remain their excellent flexibility. At high temperature (below 120oC) PP fibers nearly remain their normal mechanical properties. PP fibers have the lowest thermal conductivity of all commercial fibers. In this respect, it is the warmest fiber of all. The thermal conductivity of common textile fibers is shown in the table below:

Thermal conductivity of textile fibers.
Material Thermal conductivity relative to air
Air 1.0
PP 6.0
Wool 6.4
Acetate 8.6
Viscose 11
Cotton 17.0

Dyeability
The dyeability of fibers is controlled by both chemical and physical properties. Fibers that have polar functional groups in their molecular repeat units are easier to be dyed. These polar groups may serve as active sites for the combination with dye molecules by chemical bonds. Since PP molecular chains have no polar functional groups, the dye molecules can not be chemically attracted to the fibers. The dye molecules can not even be strongly adsorbed by the fiber surfaces because of their hydrophobic properties. Therefore, these adsorbed molecules, which interact with the fiber surface by weak Van Der Waale's force, are easily washed away. In addition, PP fiber has relatively high crystallinity (50-65%) which partially attributes to its very low dyeability.

Fiber modifications have been investigated to make polypropylene dyeable, which include copolymerization to provide dye sites along the macromolecular chain and blend with dyeable polymers. Baumann [7] reviewed the attempts by several researchers to improve polypropylene dyeability. The method of grafting chloromethylstyrene was introduced. In addition, the method of blending a polyethyleneimine compound with polypropylene was described briefly. Bromination of polypropylene fibers was reported to give PP fibers an affinity for basic dyes [8]. These methods leaded the significant decrease of the desirable physical properties of polypropylene fibers.

In recent years, surface modification of hydrophobic fibers by plasma treatment opens up new possibilities in this field. Functional groups can be introduced onto the surface of PP fibers by special gas plasma treatment or plasma polymerization [9]. The polar layer on the fiber surface improves the wetability and the affinity of the fiber surface for water and water-soluble dye molecules. After reaction with the functional groups, which are introduced by plasma treatment, dye molecules are fixed on the fiber surface. Because plasmas do not interact with the inner part of the fiber, this technique may not greatly influence the mechanical properties of the treated fiber [10]. Great progress in improving dyeability of PP non-woven webs had been made in Textiles and Non-wovens development Center (TANDEC), University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

Other properties
In general, PP fiber has excellent chemical resistance to acids and alkalis, high abrasion resistance and resistance to insects and pests. PP fiber is also easy to process and inexpensive compared to other synthetic fibers. Its low moisture absorption helps quick transporting of moisture.

The main drawbacks of PP fibers are:

  1. Low melting temperature which prevents it from being ironed like cotton, wool, nylon etc
  2. Hard to be dyed after manufacturing except being modified
  3. High crystallinity and poor thermal conductivity leads to limited texturizability. [Drawn polypropylene requires a contact time of 2 seconds in the heater compared to PET (POY) which requires only 0.4 seconds]
  4. Poor UV and thermal stability which requires addition of expensive UV stabilizers and antioxidants to overcome this problem,
  5. Poor resilience compared to PET and Nylon,
  6. Creeping due to its low Tg(-15 to -20oC),
  7. Poor adhesion to glues and latex
  8. Flammable which melts and burns like wax.

 

Applications

Because of its superior performance characteristics and comparatively low-cost, PP fiber finds extensive use in the nonwoven industry. The main application areas include: nonwoven fabrics, particularly absorbent product coverstock markets, home furnishings and automotive markets.

  • non-woven fabrics
    The melting point of polypropylene (160-170 oC) is an advantage in many non-wovens. PP fiber can be softened sufficiently to bond to one another without destroying fiber properties. Non-woven fibers made from polypropylene can therefore be fusion-bonded, eliminating the need for chemical binders. The benefits of this technique are from both energy saving and environmentally friendliness. Uses of thermally bonded cover stock in baby diapers and similar products will result in markedly increased use of polypropylene. The fusion characteristics of polypropylene are used not only to bond carded webs but also to improve the dimensional stability of needle bonded fabrics. A large amount of engineered fabrics for road stabilization, dam and lake reinforcement, soil stabilization and roofing are made from polypropylene fibers. Melt-blown fabrics are widely used in filtration media, battery separators, etc.
    The relatively high melting point allows PP non-wovens to be used up to the temperature of 120oC before softening occurring. The soft hand and hydrophobic properties make PP non-wovens particularly suitable for hygiene products, baby diapers and adult incontinence. Spunbond and melt blown are two main processes for polypropylene non-woven fabrication. Both techniques require PP resins with high melting flow rate and relatively very narrow molecular weight distribution. The fibers produced in spun bonded non-wovens are spun filaments, whose diameters are in the range of 10-35 microns, whereas the fibers of melt blown non-wovens are usually discontinuous and much finer, typically less than 10 microns. It might be suggested an important reason to explain why melt blown webs are usually weaker than spun bonded webs.
  • fiber, filament, film, pipe
  • carpeting, 
    Since PP became a commercially available fiber more than 40 years ago, it has historically been a fiber for carpet and upholstery. About 90% of all carpet backing and more than 25% of all carpet face fiber is polypropylene
  • packaging
  • as filler fibers in concrete 
  • as reinforcement fibers in dimensional stable papers
  • as coloring fibers in plastics and paper
  • automotive battery cases
  • automotive 
    principal PP applications for nonwovens in automobiles are interior fabrics used in or on kick panel, package shelf, seat construction, truck liners, load decks, cabin air filters, trim pieces
  • hinged packaging for commodity products, i.e.. soap holder
  • hand knitting yarns
  • upholstery fabrics and bed covers
  • toys, bottle caps, disposables
  • general commodity items
Application of Polypropylene in industrial non-wovens.
Application Fiber Grade Industry
Cigarette Filters Staple fiber
3 denier
Cigarette
Technical Filters Staple fiber
5 denier, needle punched non-woven
Wet filtration, excellent chemical resistance, used in water, milk, beer, prints, coatings, petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, filtration
PP woven socks PP film fiber, with 10-15% LDPE to reduce fibrillation and cost Fertilizers, flour wheat sugar, cement
Ropes and twines PP film and fiber Agriculture
PP bale warp Spun bonded PP Synthetic fibers
PP tapes High modulus PP obtained by increasing draw ratio Backing of woven carpets
PP construction/
industry fabrics
Filling grade and staple fiber Construction materials like asphalt and concrete
Substrate fabrics Non-woven, needle punched 3-4 ozs/sq. yd. of 3-4 denier staple fibers Furniture fabrics as backing material for visual furniture fabrics, it serves as a reinforcement. Also used for wall covering, luggage, table clothes, tarpaulins and automobile
Outdoor applications Heavy deniers containing stabilizers, UV absorber etc. Sports
Non-electric fuses for
initiating explosives, Medical/surgical disposable
fabrics
PP staple fiber non-wovens Hospital
Filler fibers PP staple fiber Concrete constructions
Coloring fibers PP staple fiber Plastic parts for household applications
Special Papers PP staple fiber to add security features to paper (bank notes) or to increase dimensional strength in speciality paper 

 

Grades

 

 
Processability

Processability of a polymer is highly dependent on its rheological properties, which have close relationship with its molecular weight, molecular weight distribution, temperature and shear rate. PP resins are generally categorized according to their melt flow rates ( MFR), which is the amount of material that comes through a standard die hole for ten minutes. Polymers with higher molecular weight have lower MFR and higher viscosity (under a given temperature). Commercial polypropylene has a wide range of MFR from 0.25 to 800. MFR is a very important parameter for both melt-blown and Spunbond processing. PP melts exhibit non-Newtonian viscosity, normal stress in shear flow, excessive entrance and exit pressure drop, die swell, melt fracture and draw resonance. PP melts are more visco elastic than PET and nylon melts. The flow pattern and stability of PP melts are highly dependent on the shear rate. Above the critical shear rate, melt fracture may occur.

Processability of polypropylene fiber is also influenced by the dye geometry. The L/D ratio has to be optimized to reduce instability and the effects of PP's high viscosity. Both melt fracture and draw resonance represent instabilities in flow. Draw resonance is a periodic variation in diameter of a spinning threadline above a critical draw down ratio. Slowing down the drawing operation or a suitable cooling procedure may prevent this.

In addition, processability of polypropylene fiber can also be affected by other factors such as finishing. Finish oil is a mixture of several chemicals that function as anti-static agent and lubricator to protect the filament. The results of the effects of finishing on this area are not available in this report yet.

Background information

Polypropylene is chemically very similar to polyethylene, consisting of only carbon and hydrogen atoms. One of its most important properties is its low price, which is due to a relatively simple synthesis from the low cost petrochemical, propylene.

To be useful in a wider range of applications, polypropylene is often co polymerized with polyethylene, yielding a material with most of the temperature resistance, stiffness and strength of polypropylene, but better impact resistance contributed by the flexible polyethylene linkages. When polypropylene is listed in technical literature, "homopolymer" or "copolymer" is usually specified. Polypropylene is not as resistant to thermal or UV initiated degradation as polyethylene is. Even in stabilized grades it is not widely used in outdoor applications, except in black colors. (Carbon black acts as a good UV stabilizer)

A very popular property of polypropylene is the "living hinge" effect. In thin sections where the molecules are oriented, the material can be flexed almost indefinitely without failure. Molecular orientation is crucial to this function and should be induced in the mold through the part design and gate location.

Polypropylene is used widely in film, fiber, sheet, and molded applications. Most of the film is used in packaging. The fiber is used in carpeting and upholstery due to its wear and chemical resistance. Common molded applications include bottles, pipe, containers, and tanks, where the chemical resistance key. Due to its low cost, PP is used in toys, and disposable house wares. In summary, polypropylene is a versatile polymer, which through new technology is becoming more attractive to many markets including automotive and appliance, due to the low cost of the base polymer.

 

Specialities

PP fibers 

 

 

 

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