Metallic Fabrics Demystified: Types and Uses

Metallic fiber is a general term for synthetic fiber used in textiles, comprising metal-coated plastic and fibers produced with a metal core or coating, usually aluminum. 

Many types of clothing, including sweatshirts, cocktail dresses, and outfits, employ metallic textiles in their applications. While certain textiles have an inherently metallic sheen, some textiles have metallic threads, which are mainly made of polyester and aluminum.

Sometimes the metallic yarn takes center stage in the cloth, giving it a consistent look. Other fabrics emphasize the nonmetallic yarn with a bit of metallic yarn woven into the cloth.

What Are Metallic Fabrics?

Metallic fabrics are thin and non-tarnishable fabric types with metallic looks. The most durable, significantly stretchable, elastic, and robust are those that use polyester films.

Metallic fibers are a class of fibers for composite applications because of their remarkable mechanical properties. Their higher density makes them less effective than high-performance carbon, polymer, or ceramic fibers regarding specific strength or strength-to-weight ratio.

Gold and silver have been used to embellish textiles since prehistoric times. Recently, aluminum yarns and aluminized plastic nylon strands have taken over from gold. Aluminum and cellulose acetate butyrate or mylar are the most common metal and plastic used in the metallic fabric.

The fabric’s exceptional quality is renowned in both the modern consumer market and the technical side of commercial processes.

Currently, the majority of producers of metallic textiles are located in Europe, with a small number also operating in the US.

How Is Metallic Fabric Made?

Metallic Fabric

Clothing manufacturers employ many methods to create metallic fabric. One way involves “Bundle drawing.”  

Bundle drawing used most often to create metallic fabric is a “composite wire” made of multitudes of filaments packed together and dragged through a die to shrink its diameter. 

The bundle drawing technique allows the manufacturing of intact metal fiber bundles with lengths of up to many kilometers. The covering tube is split into individual, intact metal fibers after being diluted in acid.

Until the separate filaments in the bundle have the necessary diameter, this composite wire is stretched further. 

The cross-section of the fibers is octagonal because of the nature of the manufacturing procedure. “Bundle drawing” enables homogenous, fragile strands to distribute a narrow equivalent diameter, producing high-quality fibers.

Exceptional advancements made over the last several years have made it possible to employ this technique to produce fibers with diameters as little as 200 nm.

The fibers are then “laminated.” “Laminating involves sandwiching a layer of aluminum between two layers of the film made of either polyester or acetate. They are then slit down the middle lengthwise and threaded onto bobbins to use as yarn.

After coloring and encapsulating the metal in a film, the film itself is colored in a subsequent step before being laminated.

Another method for creating metallic fabric is the Metalizing process. In this technique, the metal is heated to the point when it transforms into a vapor. After that, it is pressed down under intense pressure into the polyester film.

The metallic fiber produced in this manner is much more flexible, long-lasting, and thinner than the previous one. 

Brief History Of Metallic Fabric 

From earlier civilizations, Royalty, aristocrats, and noble individuals have had their clothing embellished with precious metals like gold and silver. There are several examples of these beautiful fabrics in museums all around the globe.

In the past, the metallic thread was created by winding a metal strip around a fiber core, often showing the color of the fiber core to enhance the décor’s aesthetic appeal. Gold cloth is often used as an example of this. 

From the 7th through the 9th century, Metallic fabric was made using Byzantine weaving techniques. Subsequently, they were made in Sicily, Cyprus, Lucca, and Venice.

Trade and manufacturing of metallic fabric grew in China and some of the Middle East under Genghis Khan’s control in the 12th century. Then metallic fabric weaving saw a golden age.

However, the first contemporary metallic fabric was created in 1946 by the Dobeckmum Company.

Types Of Metallic Fabric 

white and gold Metallic fabric

Metallic fabric exists in different types and forms. Such forms may vary depending on the number of metallic threads infused into the fabric threads or the methods used to produce them. 

So, what types of metallic fabric are there? Let’s see. 

  • Lamé Fabric

Metallic and synthetic fibers, including nylon, are used to weave lamé fabric. Because of the substantial percentage of metallic fibers, the fabric is glossy and comes in various hues, such as gold, silver, pink, and red.

Lamé fabric is flexible and available in a range of weights. Another of the thinnest varieties of lamé is tissue or liquid, which drapes well. That’s why the fabric is often used as an accessory or for costumes or formal dresses. 

  • Brocade Fabric

Brocade fabric is a stunningly gorgeous patterned fabric that features metallic threads intertwined with other threads to make unique designs on the fabric.

Fabrics made of brocade are often stiff and heavy, with little flexibility or ventilation. It has an average ability to retain heat and wick away moisture, and it usually is quite durable. You’ll find brocade in many dresses, jackets, and upholstery. 

  • Sequin metallic fabric

Fabric with sequins, woven or sewn onto it, is called “metallic sequin fabric,” which resembles glitter fabric. These sequins embroid the upper layer of fabric. 

Metallic sequin fabric is produced with either a grey or shiny fabric underneath.

You’ll commonly see metallic sequin fabric in special occasion wear or theatrical costumes. Sequin fabrics with sequins woven in are sturdier than sequin fabrics with the sequins sewed on top of it, which can quickly come loose.

  • Metallic Knit Sweater

Nonmetallic yarn from rayon, wool, or other fibers is woven with metallic yarn to create metallic sweater knit fabric. We see two distinct tones in the yarn as an outcome.

The fabric might, for instance, be produced from matte black and metallic gold. Many sweaters, cardigans, and dresses also feature metallic sweater knit, stretchy fabrics.

The average cost of metallic fabric per yard

Several variables affect how much cloth costs. In most cases, it depends on the fabric’s quality and the type of fabric used.

Fabric prices are affected by demand and supply and factors such as fabric weight, kind of dye, fiber content, pattern complexity, and shipping costs.

The metallic fabric’s cost depends on the product size and quality. The average cost of a metallic fabric ranges between $7 and $19 per yard for the different types. 

Metallic fabric usage and applications 

Metallic Fabric Skirt
Metallic Fabric Skirt

Metallic fabrics are used chiefly for cosmetic reasons. Because of their brightness and attraction in apparel, dresses, blouses, and skirts are typical applications of this fabric. 

Some of their applications include:

  • Clothing materials

Clothing manufacturers may utilize metallic fabrics to create garments that have both practical and adorning qualities. Knitwear, evening dresses, swimwear, and neckties, among other clothing items, and home décor fabrics frequently use this fabric. 

  • Upholstery

These fibers are often used to create upholstery textiles like lame and brocade and produce lovely home furnishings like drapes and couch coverings. 

  • Non-shielding products

Non-shielding products from these fabrics include filter media, abradable seals, airplane soundproofing, airbag screens, and anti-static fabrics. Still, hybrids for EMI shielding and structural purposes widely employ these fabrics in their applications. 

  • Used in workspaces

Metallic fabric blended with carpets and other fabric types facilitates electrical conductivity and lessens static shock. As a result, they are utilized in locations with computers, where static shock risks are higher.

  • Space suits

In space, there is a higher risk of receiving static shocks. Because of this, space suits for astronauts use this fabric. 

Experts also use metallic fabrics for creating safety gear, butchers’ cut-resistant gloves, and apparel for those who operate close to machines with blades. 

  • Other applications

Metallic fabrics are found in other goods like purses, belts, and even footwear stilettos. You’ll also find them in towels, bathing suits, hosiery, hat bands, and other automobile fabrics.

Metallic fabric Care and Maintenance Tips 

Metallic fabric

Metallic fabric is different from conventional fabric types and requires different maintenance methods. Such methods include: 

  • Before washing or ironing metallic fabric clothing, you should check its clothing label. Doing this would ensure that you do not use improper maintenance methods for the fabric as metallic fabrics are quite different from normal fabric types. 
  • Metal threads used in clothing construction are not washable and require special dry cleaning treatment. Still, opting for a cleaner with experience with clothing produced from metallic fabrics is advisable as some chemicals may damage the fabric.
  • It would help if you used perchloroethylene for expert dry cleaning. The cloth should never be bleached. However, you may only hand-wash with Woolite and cold water. 
  • You should iron metallic fabrics at the lowest heat without using a steam iron because doing so can melt the metallic threads in the fabric.
  • Metallic fabrics will tarnish when stored in damp areas. However, one can avoid this by storing it someplace dry. Due to their loose weave, they are easily snagged and frayed.

Leave a comment