Neoprene-Product-Construction

Neoprene Product Construction

From the Madfast Manufacturing Blog,  June 24, 2017,  by Randy Rainey 

Excerpt

“Fabric Grain effects the way fabric will hang or drape, and often times the way it will stretch.”

Fabric Diagram showing warp, weft, bias, and selvage

At Madfast, we’ve been building neoprene products since the 1990’s.   We’ve patented production processes and materials later made famous by our partner brands, and we’ve done just about every type of wetsuit, wader, sauna belt, sports-support, swim suit, glove, boot, and neoprene accessory you can imagine.  We’ve learned a whole lot about the processes and the materials.   Here’s a general primer on neoprene product construction as done in our China factory.

Neoprene Sewn and Glued Product Process Outline

photo of process flow through our China neoprene factory

In the above process flow, you can see the department to department flow of product.  This is what most people think of when they think of neoprene product production.  The step by step after the design and engineering is done, and the raw materials hit the factory line. If that’s all you’re looking for, you’re done already!  If you’re looking for the most often mis-understood parts of neoprene product and quality, please read on.

One of the most, if not the most absolute critical point of quality in neoprene product, is the quality of the neoprene sheet.  The sheet is the neoprene core which has been, sliced to desired thickness, and then laminated with whichever laminate fabric on both / either side(s).

The key components in determining the quality (and cost) of a neoprene sheet are…

  • The type of neoprene rubber core being used, and the quality of the formulation and build (or baking) of that core.
  • The type of laminate fabric used on either side, or both sides if a laminate fabric is used.  Different combinations are used mainly to reach the desired combination of stretch, durability, and cost.
  • The quality of the adhesive used in the laminate process, AND the quality of the mixing job done by the factory.    This one, this one, this one…..this simple but critical fix  is overlooked by way too many factories.  (sorry,  I’m a little bitter from  being burned here in the past ) 
  • Another too often overlooked major contributing factor –  Pre-stretching the laminate during the lamination phase.  Buyer – you must watch other factories here!  Time for a sidebar.

       Sidebar:  So you’ve specified the stretchiest and gooiest neoprene,  the absolute best fabrics for stretch on both sides of your sheets. You’re obviously paying a premium price.  Why did it come out feeling like cardboard?   There are a few possibilities.  #1.  The factory cheated you.  They used something that looks similar but is a lot cheaper. This happens with competitor factories a lot, and it makes my ears turn a dark shade of red just thinking about it.  #2. The adhesive mix or formula mentioned above.  #3.  Most often, it’s another more subtle “cheat” and sometimes just plane ignorance on the part of the factory.  The competitor factory stretched the fabric while laminating it.  Why would they do that?  Because they get much more yield out of the expensive laminate fabric.   So why shouldn’t they do that?  If you pre-stretch the fabric before lamination, you’ve drastically reduced the stretch of the finished product. Also, the nice fabric is stretched out to fiber thickness, and adhesive is now easy to feel through the fabric.  Adhesive feels like cardboard compared to fabric;   Especially junk adhesive. 

Now we’ll step back a bit to the process and materials in making the neoprene itself (the core of the sheet).

Neoprene Core Process

Rendering of how neoprene is made

So those are the basics of the core formation.  Let’s get a little more technical though.  What about neoprene density?  What about those little mesh patterns on the neoprene with no fabric?   One of the many uses of the mesh pattern on skin is the chest of surf wetsuit. You don’t want to slide all over your board like  a buttered up sea monkey, so, we use fine mesh on that part of that particular suit.   Here’s a that demonstrates the basics of density and mesh patterns.


Neoprene mesh and density in production process

Here’s a classification of our most widely used types of neoprene rubber.  This is the formulation of the pellets that go into the machine in the first step of the previous picture.

  • SBR (Styrene Butadiene Rubber)
  • CR (Chloroprene Rubber)
  • SCR (Styrene Butadiene Rubber / Chloroprene Rubber)
  • Yamamoto 38
  • Yamamoto 39

SBR

Properties

SBR is 100% Styrene Butadiene Rubber. SBR has good abrasion resistance and good stability. An excellent cell structure that shows properties of buffer and heat preservation and has an excellent price point.

Use

Used in the sporting goods market. This material is great for products like fitness supports and various neoprene accessories.

CR

Properties

100% Chloroprene Rubber with a soft feel, warm and great flexibility.

Use

Used for water sports products such as high quality dive suits, surf wetsuits, drysuit, gloves, and waders.

SCR

Properties

SCR is combination of CR and SBR with good flexibility.

Use

Used mostly for middle quality sporting goods. Surfing and water-ski wetsuits, boots and gloves and Non-certified PFD’s.

Yamamoto 38

Properties

Flexibility, excellent all-round characteristics, high thermal insulation, suppleness and a good compression resistance for general diving.

Use

Our most popular and widely used rubber compound, used for diving, and all surface water-sports, sport & orthopedic supports, and of course many other uses.

Yamamoto 39

Properties

Three key features of this amazing rubber compound, super-LIGHT, super-SOFT and super-STRETCH.

Use

Used for water sports products such as high quality dive suits, surf wetsuits, drysuit, gloves, and waders.

Skin and Cell Textures of Neoprene

Skin Cell

photo of skin neoprene with no laminates

Properties

No fabric laminated, no mesh texture applied

Smooth Skin

photo of smooth skin neoprene

Properties

Slippery smooth skin surface

Mesh Skin

photo of mesh skin neoprene

Properties

Mesh texture on skin surface.

Now let's take a quick look at fabric and some options.

Fabric Grain

Fabric Grain effects they way fabric will hang and drape. There are 3 types of fabric grain :

 Lengthwise grain refers to the threads in fabric which run the length of the fabric, parallel to the selvedge of the fabric.

 Crosswise grain are the threads that run perpendicular to the selvedge of the fabric or the cut edge of the fabric as it comes off the bolt.

 Bias grain is the thread line that is at a forty five degree angle to the lengthwise and crosswise grain of the fabric as it is on the bolt. The bias has stretch in woven fabric and will hang differently than a garment that has been cut on the straight or crosswise grain.

Fabric Diagram showing warp, weft, bias, and selvage

Another all-too-important consideration in the stretch, feel, and performance of a finished product lies in the grain of the fabric.  Different materials will stretch more when “turned” different ways.  The bias, a 45 degree angle across the fabric, is always more stretchy than the warp or weft.  That’s simply because the bias runs across fibers.    In performance applications, the position of the piece in relation to the grain must be taken into consideration when designing patterns, and this info must be provided to production (marker making ) and quality  control.

Nylon

Durability

Exceptionally strong, abrasion resistant, resistant to damage from oil and many chemicals.

Characteristics

Light-weight, warm, smooth, soft, quick drying.

Uses (including apparel)

swimwear, activewear, intimate apparel, foundation garments, hosiery, blouses, dresses, sportswear, pants, jackets, skirts, raincoats, ski and snow apparel, windbreakers, childrens wear.

Polyester

Durability

Strong, resistant to stretching and shrinking, resistant to most chemicals, crisp and resilient wet or dry, abrasion resistant.

Characteristics

Quick drying, light- weight, soft hand, smooth.

Uses (apparel)

Essential every form of clothing, dresses,blouses, jackets, separates, sportswear, suits, shirts, pants, rainwear, lingerie, childrenswear.

Lycra / Spandex

Durability

Lycra is resistant to detergents, lotions and sweat. Lycra has the ability to stretch several times its size and return back to its original.

Characteristics

Lightweight, comfortable, breathable and stretchable fabric.

Uses (apparel)

Performance undergarments, rashguards, swimwear, exercise clothing, socks, and much more.

Velcro Plush

Durability

Suitable for high-end sporting pads, advanced medical care equipment, and band applications requiring high strength fastening effect.

Characteristics

Comfortable and soft

Uses

Neoprene materials for wetsuit, PFD, immersion suit, waders, gloves, shoes, laptop sleeve, mouse pad, sports supports, and advanced medical protection equipment

PU

Durability

Wind resistant, chlorine resistant.

Characteristics

Water Drainage,
Inner side of material is comfortable and soft

Uses (apparel)

Swimsuits, PFD’s.

Well, now we have the makings of a quality neoprene based product. We have the right core and laminate for our application and cost.  It was all mixed correctly, handled correctly, and combined with the right materials and processes. Now we’re ready to put our other components together, and get started on assembly of a fantastic product.   The process and additional components and materials vary dramatically from here forward by product category and specific product.    I’m going to show you the most common components here in a second before wrapping this up.   First, I’d like to invite you to give me a call, or drop me an email with any questions for your application.   We really are industry experts, and there honestly aren’t many people on the planet that have more neoprene product experience than we do.  I’d love to help however I can, and I love talking with new, or potential new customers, however big or small your company.  Thank you. Hope to talk to you soon  –  Randy Rainey – Madfast Mfg llc. Here’s a link to email me with.  My phone number is 602-577-zero 47 seven.

Some of the most common trim components in neoprene products

Cord Lock

Cord lock for wetsuit and lycra products

Zipper

Zipper for wetsuit

Velcro

velcro (loop part shown)

Melco Tape

melco tape, for watertight seams

Webbing

a roll of webbing used in sewing

Binding

Bias tape from China factory

Thread

Picture of Thread For Neoprene