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Hydraulics in the Textile Industry

The Textile Industry as a category ranges from delicate lace and embroidery, woven fabric for clothing and bedding, knitted fabric for clothing and stockings, woven bags for transportation, webbing for belts and straps, nets and netting, ropes and cordage, and industrial fabrics for specialized applications.  Materials processed range from natural fibers such as cotton and wool, synthetic fibers such as nylon and polyesters, extruded fibers such as PVC, tapes slit from sheets of synthetic material such as Polypropylene, not to mention materials such as fiberglass and carbon fiber. Hydraulic Power applications in the textile industry fall into two main categories: material handling and thread manipulation.

Early in the fabric production process, especially natural fibers such as cotton, wool and coir (palm fiber), the fibers are extracted, washed, fluffed and dried.  Transportation requires this loose material to be compacted into bales. Hydraulic presses of various types are employed, sometimes in the field with portable power packs running on petrol or diesel. These bales are loaded onto lorries or railway cars using hydraulic lifts or jib cranes.

Modern industrial looms process fabric in widths up to 300cm (10ft.) and lengths up to 1000 meters in one loading of the warp beam.  The warp is the threads running the length of the fabric, whereas the threads that go across the fabric are called the weft. As the weaving progresses, the woven fabric is wound onto a similar beam, or onto shorter length rolls. The warp starts out at the winder where threads from hundreds of bobbins are wound side by side onto the beam.  When full, the beam can weigh up to 2500kg. (2.75 ton.)  Beams are loaded onto looms at various heights, depending on the style of loom; this calls for some heavy lifting. Motorized or manual hydraulic trolleys or trucks are used to move these loads around the mill floor and lift them into place, from winder to loom and on to later stages in the process. 

During the weaving process, alternate threads of the warp are lifted or lowered to form a gap, or ‘shed’ across the front of the loom. The weft or cross-thread is passed through this gap and trapped as the warp threads change places.  In early looms, the weft was carried across on a bobbin inside a bullet-shaped projectile called a shuttle, whacked with a trip arm.  The noise of all these impacts from all the looms in the mill was deafening. Modern looms are much quieter using jets of air or water to blow the thread across. An alternate method on ‘rapier looms’ is for the weft thread to be picked up with the tip of a thin arm and passed half-way across the warp and transferred to another arm coming from the other side. Hydraulic cylinders are used to move these arms, rapidly and predictably, to insure faultless hand-off and completion of the cycle.

After the fabric is woven the full beams or rolls are moved again on hydraulic trolleys to successive processing stations where the fabric is washed, dyed, shrunk, coated or printed as required.  In these processes, Hydraulic power is used to drive feed rollers that insure an even flow through the chemical processing tanks and driers.  Also hydraulic tensioners are used insure smooth and even fabric.