Flock technology

What is flock?

Technology

The word flock actually refers to the short-cut fibres that build the basis for the electrostatic flocking technology. Millions of these fibres are charged in an electric field and shot into a substrate coated with an adhesive. The electric field ensures that all fibres align vertically, creating a smooth textile surface.

Due to the use of high quality adhesives flocked surfaces are very durable and resistant to abrasion. Varying the fibre thickness and length results in different surface structures, ranging from velvety smooth to abrasively stiff.

Basically, flock can be made from any textile fibre. Depending on the field of application, however, certain materials have been established as a standard. Thus, for example, polyester is ideal for outdoor use, but it has a limited resistance to kinking. Because of its positive properties polyamide (PA) today is the most commonly used material.

Effect

Flock fibres are available in various thicknesses, colors and lengths. This enables us to create surfaces that go from a velvety smooth feel to a hard and scratchy feel. The haptics and optics of the surface are determined by the ratio of fibre length(measured in mm) and fibre thickness (measured in dtex). The thinner the fibres are in relation to their length, the softer feels the flocked surface. Very thin and long fibers however are more difficult to process.

In any case, flocking results in an exceptional tactile and visual experience. Touching a flocked surface feels pleasantly warm compared to the feel of the substrate. The three-dimensional effect mainly shows to advantage when the substrate is only partially flocked (design flocking). Surfaces finished with this technology gain a higher quality; they have a good grip and are therefore highly memorable.

Uses

Taken its positive impact, it is hardly surprising that flocking often is used when products have to emanate high quality and exclusivity. For example, in high-class packaging, book covers, brochures, advertising and Christmas cards.

Another advantage of the flocking technology: the surfaces of various materials can either be entirely (full surface application) or partially flocked (design flocking). This opens up almost limitless uses. From stamps to cigarette packs flock-in has already finished innumerable products with help of the flocking technology.

Limitations

Like any technology, flocking too has a few limitations. Very thin lines and contours are difficult to execute with flocking technology. Especially long flock fibres tend to swell and complicate the production of sharp edges. Therefore small sized letters and very delicate motifs should be avoided. If they are needed for reasons of the design, then the motif should be flocked using short fibres.

Generally flock fibres are available in a variety of colours, but during the electrostatic flocking only one colour can be processed per pass. Therefore multi-colored motifs are possible, but due to the high workload and the associated costs they are rarely applied. Colour gradients on the contrary can hardly be achieved with the flocking technology.

Subsequently flocked surfaces can be further finished, for example by printing or embossing. Here it is to consider, however, that flocked surfaces can affect the machine processing of paper sheets. The alignment of the stacks may become difficult due to the flocked surface, the paper sheets start “swimming”. Therefore the paper can only be punched in small batches. Sometimes the sheets even have to be cut individually.

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