Fiber is a class of materials that are continuous filaments or are in discrete elongated pieces, similar to lengths of thread. They are very important in the biology of both plants and animals, for holding tissues together.Human uses for fibers are diverse. They can be spun into filaments, string, or rope, or matted into sheets to make paper.
Further upward pressure on manufactured fiber prices has resulted from governmental limitations placed on chemical usage and exposure and on amounts of chemicals that can be discharged into the air and water. To meet these limitations, the manufactured fiber industry has had to supply large infusion of capital. In some instances, such expenditures could not be justified, and plant capacity was shut down permanently.
The U.S. fiber industry is in the middle of massive structural change. Part of the current situation is caused by the technological maturity of the whole fiber-textile-apparel industry complex Part is due to the shift from natural to manmade fibers. And part is caused by an erosion of the competitive base of the United States as a place for production, even for capital-intensive industries.
The origin of the man-made fiber industry probably goes back to 1855 when the first known patent for the manufacture of rayon was issued in Europe to one George Audremars, a chemist. In his process cellulose was obtained from the bark of mulberry trees by nitration and then dissolved in a mixture of ether and alcohol, and the resulting chemical compound was then combined with a rubber solution to form a mixture from which a crude type of filament was spun. In 1905, after years of further research, the first commercial production of rayon began, using what is known today as the viscose process.
Only export demand offset the pressures for decreased cotton output. Cotton production fell from 7.7 million bales in 1972 to 6.5 million bales in 1982, because man-made fiber lowered both domestic and intermediate demand. Textile imports' indirect effect lowers cotton's domestic supply ratio and possibly its intermediate
demand as well by replacing domestic apparel production.
All fibers are “poly-something” — long strings of repeating chemical units. Some fibers come from ground plants that synthesize connected units of cellulose — like ramie, sisal, cotton, and others are protein chains found on animals — wool, alpaca — or — the hair on your head; still other fibers are spewed from insects and worms — like spider webs and silk. The modern age of fibers started just over a century ago in France when rayon was produced from reconstituted wood pulp, and more new fibers followed when chemists learned how to make them in the laboratory.
The American Fiber Manufacturers Association, Inc. (AFMA) is the trade association for U.S. companies that manufacture synthetic and cellulosic fibers. The industry employs 27 thousand people and produces over 6 billion pounds of fiber in the U.S. Annual domestic sales exceed $8 billion. The membership is limited to U.S. producers that sell manufactured fiber in the open market, and The Association maintains close ties to other manufactured fiber trade associations worldwide.
The US is second only to China for the production of cotton, which is the greatest revenue crop in the US. Growing cotton also uses more chemicals than any other crop. In fact, 25 percent of all pesticides used in American agriculture is applied to cotton. Farmers apply one pound of chemicals for every three pounds of cotton.
Closely linked to the wood and paper industries, the global fiber market is showing strong growth, with production up almost 9%, surpassing the 73 million ton mark, according to textile and fiber industry producer Lenzing AG. Manmade cellulose fiber production grew almost 13% in 2010 from 2009. In 2010, synthetics represented more than 58% of overall fiber demand; cotton accounted for almost 34% of fiber demand, followed by metal matrix composite fibers at under 6% and wool at just over 1.5%.
Our global fiber production systems have demonstrated the capability to meet these demands on the aggregate. In other words, in spite of tremendous pressures for fiber resources, there is no global fiber shortage or crisis. Yet at the same time, we do have some very serious local/regional fiber shortages and resource management conflicts that will play a critical role in our immediate and long-term future.
Fibers offered from the Midwestern United States are finding favor all over the world. For some just entering the business, fiber production is an entry into new markets, new methods of production and processing and a set of new challenges. For others, producing world-class fiber from specialty breed of animals has been a consistent way of life and livelihood.