Definitions for the Clothing & fabric Industry
Acrylic fibers are synthetic fibers made from a polymer (Polyacrylonitrile) with an average molecular weight of ~100,000, about 1900 monomer units. To be called acrylic in the U.S, the polymer must contain at least 85% acrylonitrile monomer. Typical comonomers are vinyl acetate or methyl acrylate.
The polymer is formed by free-radical polymerization in aqueous suspension. The fiber is produced by dissolving the polymer in a solvent such as N,N-dimethylformamide or aqueous sodium thiocyanate, metering it through a multi-hole spinnerette and coagulating the resultant filaments in an aqueous solution of the same solvent (wet spinning) or evaporating the solvent in a stream of heated inert gas (dry spinning). Washing, stretching, drying and crimping complete the processing. Acrylic fibers are produced in a range of deniers, typically from 1 to 15 as cut staple or as a 500,000 to 1 million filament tow. End uses include sweaters, hand-knitting yarns, rugs, awnings, boat covers, and upholstery; the fiber is also used as a precursor for carbon fiber. Production of acrylic fibers is centered in the Far East, declining in Europe and now shut down (except for precursor) in the U.S. Former U.S. brands of acrylic were Acrilan (Monsanto). Creslan (American Cyanamid) and Orlon (DuPont).
Acrylic is lightweight, soft, and warm, with a wool-like feel. It dyes very well and has excellent colorfastness. It is resilient, retains its shape, and resists shrinkage and wrinkles. Acrylic has recently been used in clothing as a less expensive alternative to cashmere, due to the similar feeling of the materials. The disadvantages of acrylic is that it tends to fuzz (or pill) easily and that it does not insulate the wearer as well as cashmere. Many products like fake pashmina or cashmina use this material to create the illusion of cashmere to the consumer.
Acrylic is resistant
moths, oils, and chemicals,
and is very resistant to
deterioration from sunlight
exposure. However, static
and pilling can be a problem.