Welcome to Engineer Academy where we’re exploring an A to Z of Engineering – everything from acoustics to zoos.
In each episode, we spin the wheel to find out what type of engineering we’ll be exploring with the help of Engers, our engineering expert.
You can listen to the full series of the A to Z of Engineering here.
Let’s take a look at Garments Engineering.
What is Garments Engineering?
Now, you might think that garments – that’s the clothes we wear, might not have much to do with engineering, but like anything manufactured, they will have had a designer – someone who will have made choices not only about the way they look but which textiles are used to create them.
And then there’s the looms and other machinery that actually make the garments – but that’s a different type of engineer!
It’s those textiles that we are looking at today – which are created by textile engineers! Every type of textile has different properties and knowing these properties, as well as understanding how to create new textiles with new properties, is part of an exciting branch of engineering.
Put simply, textile engineering uses scientific and engineering principles to produce or improve textile products – not just for clothing, but for upholstery and even materials for medical devices.
Textile engineers research and study fibres, yarn and fabrics, to design quality products and determine new production techniques. They work in many areas of textile manufacturing, including research and development, production and quality control.
As we know, engineering is all about solving problems. So the start of any project is to identify what problems may exist. Clothing for firefighters need a more heat resistant fabric to keep them safe. Whilst an outdoor company might want to develop materials that provide barriers to insects or even repel them.
Once it has been decided what needs to be done, textile engineers might begin by researching existing materials to understand their properties, testing them to see how they stand up to the challenge in hand. It might be that with some small changes, existing materials can be used.
But if existing materials aren’t up to the job, engineers might develop new fibres – using natural and or synthetic ingredients, manipulating them to create something new. When looking at ingredients, it’s important to consider things like are they cost effective and sustainable.
As well as creating fibres to make new textiles, engineers might look at new chemical processes that could be applied to the textiles to give them additional qualities, like being able to resist stains and odours – or to make them waterproof.
If an engineer was looking to make clothing that repels insects, they might treat the textile with a chemical called permethrin – that’s a synthetic form of a bug repellent produced naturally by chrysanthemums. The finished textile will also need careful testing – not only to see if it can stand up to the required purpose but also to meet safety regulations, in particular that it’s fireproof.
Once a textile goes into production, other engineers might be involved to improve the manufacturing process, like to make more out of the material, more quickly and efficiently. Quality control is also very important – especially when materials are used by emergency services or in biomedical applications.
Sometimes, engineers will work with garment designers to figure out which materials work better together to solve particular problems – perhaps to create layered wet weather clothing that wicks moisture away from the body or to create super warm sleeping bags.
Textile engineering requires strong science, engineering and mathematical knowledge, as well as quite a lot of creative thinking to come up with new ways to combine existing fibres and textiles. But when everyone’s talking about clothes made from a textile that you created – well, how cool’s that!
And that’s our take on the letter G – it’s been GREAT.
If you would like to check out some other types of engineering, why not check out Gaming, Gas or Geological engineering!
Join us again next time to spin the wheel and explore another letter in the A to Z of Engineering!