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UK researchers evaluate denim laser etching potential

A research team at Manchester Metropolitan University has conducted an extensive evaluation process to determine the levels of precision and performance that a carbon dioxide laser etching technique can deliver on denim.

Manchester Metropolitan University-CO2 laser on denim
Figure: Dr. Christopher Liauw (left) and Dr. Prabhuraj Venkatraman (right) with denim etched with CO2 laser technology. Courtesy: ecotextile

Carbon dioxide laser method of distressing denim sidesteps old-style bleaching techniques which, have a very poor environmental reputation due to using a range of physical, chemical and mechanical finishing methods that can pose severe risks to both the environment and the wellbeing of those exposed to it.

We are very pleased with the findings using a carbon dioxide laser, which can produce consistent design patterns on denim that meets the consumer’s expectations, influences fashion industry practice, and does not pose health risks.

Prabhuraj Venkatraman, Senior Lecturerin Textile Technology, Manchester Metropolitan University

Manchester Fashion Institute and the School of Healthcare Science study found that light, medium and heavyweight indigo dyed 100% cotton denim fabrics were exposed to a CO2 laser at various power and intensity levels.

The successive color change was examined using a Spectrophotometer, a morphological structural analysis was carried out by Scanning Electron Microscopy, and attenuated total reflectance Fourier transform Infrared spectroscopy (ATR-FTIR) was used to monitor the loss of indigo dye and degradation of cellulose fibers.

In addition, the thermal-oxidative degradation behavior of the fabrics was also studied using differential scanning calorimetry to obtain oxidation onset temperature. A range of fabric performance assessments were also undertaken to evaluate tensile strength, colorfastness, air permeability, and thickness.

The research paper also contrasts laser methods to conventional bleaching methods which it sees as very wasteful in terms of water, electricity and chemical usage.

Prabhuraj Venkatraman of the Manchester Fashion Institute, stated, “We are very pleased with the findings using a carbon dioxide laser, which can produce consistent design patterns on denim that meets the consumer’s expectations, influences fashion industry practice, and does not pose health risks.”

“This method has a huge impact on reducing the consumption of energy, time, pollution, effluents and waste currently produced using traditional techniques,” he also added.

Also Read: Denim industry should follow sustainable supply chain

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