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Journal of Fiber Bioengineering and Informatics

Regular Article

Analysis of Molding Process Parameters of Bra Cup

Han-Yan Wu1,*, Xin Zhang1, Bo-An Ying1, Quan Pan2, Jing Han1

Apparel & Art Design College, Xian Polytechnic University, Xian, Shaanxi,710048, China 2 China National Heavy Machinery Research Institute, Xian, Shaanxi, 710048, China

Abstract: Polyurethane foam is the material most widely used in bra cup production. From the main factors affecting the molding process of molded cup, this article analyzed the properties of polyurethane foam, and elaborated the principle of molding from the molecular structure of polyurethane foam. Then, a set of molding experiments has been done for three different parameters of materials. The results of the experiment analyzed the molding process parameters of the polyurethane foam, and summarized the main factors affecting the same. The work aims to develop a quantitative control method for bra cup modelling process. Keywords: polyurethane foam, molding principle, molding processing parameters

1. Introduction
With the increased awareness and requirements to clothing, people have gradually shifted their focus from the coat to the underwear. As a typical representative of underwear, bra has been an essential thing in womens life. In recent years, molded-bras are booming as they can conform the breast contours for gap-free custom fit and mimic the breast shapes. Bra cup molding poses various technical problems for the manufacturers. The response of complex polymer molecules to the tension, temperature, and time variables used in the molding processes is not well understood. At present, there is no objective way of specifying these three-dimensional products .The industry uses trial and error methods to determine the most appropriate molding conditions for each type of foam material. When manufacturers experience some problems concerning material quality or processing conditions, there is no common language to communicate with each other in the absence of objective measurement date. Now Bra-related research is almost focused on the whole processing line and the use of fabrics and accessories of the underwear. And a few studies regard molded cup as an independent entity to analyze the material and generalize the molding

process. To the materials applied in molded cup, as a result of the processing conditions, in the intimate apparel industry, polyurethane (PU) foam is mostly used in making bra cups because of its soft and flexible nature, which suits well for intimate apparel applications [1, 4].In recent years, some researchers have researched on the spacer fabrics, analyzed the properties and the molding processing parameters of it, trying to find materials instead of polyurethane foam. [6, 8]However, the spacer fabric cant be cut into any thickness according to different requirements, and dislocation easily happens in the internal spacer yarn, which will impact the shape of the molded cup. All these confined that, at present, the spacer fabric cant replace the most widely used polyurethane (PU) foam in molded cup. This paper took polyurethane foam as the research object, from the characteristics of the molecular structure of polyurethane, analyzed the molding principle of polyurethane foam; and from the performance of the molding processing of molded cup, designed a set of experiments of different polyurethane foams, then analyzed the processing parameters of the polyurethane foam, summarized the main factors affecting the molding process parameters of molded material.

* Corresponding author's email: JFBI Vol.1 No. 4 2009 doi:10.3993/jfbi03200904


Analysis of Molding Process Parameters of Bra Cup Han-Yan Wu et al.

2. The Polyurethane Foam and Molding Principle

2.1 The Polyurethane Foam
Due to processing conditions, the application materials of molded-cup must have the following characteristics: performance of resistance to yellowing, excellent thermoplastic nature, good shape maintenance, softness when felt and a certain thickness. All above conditions indicate that there are a few materials that can be applied for a molded-cup; the most commonly used is polyurethane foam. The chemical composition of sponge is polyurethane. Polyurethane (PU) resin is a urethane containing repeated chain segment of carbamate reflected by isocyanate monomer and polyols. Because of its opening structure, flexible polyurethane foam has properties such as low density, good elastic recovery, heat retention, favorable stereotype. Besides these, it can be cut into any thickness. These features make polyurethane foam cups widely used in the molded-cup production. According to the kinds of materials of oligomer polyol, flexible polyurethane foam can be divided into two sorts, polyester-based and polyether-based. Normally, as a result of rotation of the ether group in soft segment, polyether-based polyurethane foam has a good flexibility. Since there is no ester group with favorable hydrolysis performance, the polyetherbased polyurethane foam has a better hydrolysis resistance than the polyester-based. In addition, it is lower in price and richer in species. As material of molded-cup, it is necessary to test sponges density, tensile strength, bursting strength, tear strength, and whether it is resistant to yellowing, to achieve the requirements of the standard.

2.2 The Molding Principle of Polyurethane Foam

Molding means to form a lasting, three-dimensional shape out of a two-dimensional pliable, easily shapeable material by stretching and compressing the latter through cycles of heat and pressure [4]. The required shape will be obtained according

to the shape of molding mould, while the volume and appearance are gradually changed as well as a certain depth emerges. This is to say, a cup formed. However, the above plasticity is mainly decided by the molecular structure of polyurethane foam. Polyurethane foam is polyester, which is produced in the chemical reaction, between the long-chain polyol such as polyether and polyester, and isocyanate, chain extender or crosslinking. And the soft segment is generally constituted by the long chain diols, while the hard segment is mostly consitituted by the isocyanate or a chain extender. There is a physical attraction between the macromolecules which constitute the polyurethane, much weaker than chemical bonds. The physical attractive force is called as vander Waals force. The force between molecules determines the large influence caused by temperature and stress. The higher the temperature imposed in molding process of polyurethane foam lesser the gravitational force between molecules, so that molecules got close to each other, the distance between them also shortened. To the macro performance is that the volume of sponge was compressed, which resulted in lesser thickness .At the same time, based groups and links changed in regularity, high-temperature forced the group and links to rearrange so as to change its shape. If the molding temperature is too high, it would lead to the formation of a small amount of branching and cross linking of linear molecular chain. And degree of crosslinking determines the hardness and flexibility of polyurethane materials, so the increase in degree of crosslinking will increase the hardness of polyurethane foam, which is the main factor which give a hard feeling to the hand when held, caused by improper choice of temperature in the molding process. On the other hand, very high temperature also will result in continuous oxidation, which leads to change in colour (it inevitably becomes yellow).There will be a shrinkage when the molded cup is molded after a day. The shrinkage of polyurethane foam is related to the degree of crosslinking. The higher the cross linking points are, better the compressing resilience is. High-resilience polyurethane foam is the produced by adding crosslinking agent to the reactants, producing more crosslinked points in molecules. As a result, the resilience of polyurethane foam is significantly increased.


JFBI Vol.1 No. 4 2009 doi:10.3993/jfbi03200904

Analysis of Molding Process Parameters of Bra Cup Han-Yan Wu et al.

3. Experiment
3.1 Experimental Procedure
(1) Experiment purpose To summarize the main factors of the molding material in molding process, and analyze the processing parameters of the polyurethane foam, by the method of molding different polyurethane materials. Since pressure plays a minor role during the molding course, this study focuses on two processing parameters, molding time and molding temperature. (2) Experiment preparations Take three types of polyurethane foam as experimental materials: Sample1 polyurethane foam with thickness of 1cm, density of 35kg/m3; Sample2 polyurethane foam with thickness of 1.5cm, density of 35kg/m3; Sample3 polyurethane foam with thickness of 1cm, density of 38kg/m3. The polyurethane foam was molded by a pneumatic-typed molding machine as shown in Figure1. All the materials are molded to a desirable bra cup shape with 5.7cm cup depth (equivalent to a size 38Bs bra). 0

Table 1 Experimental scheme

(4) Experimental procedure First, preheat the molding machine to make sure the temperature of the mould reached the required criteria. Then, set the shaping time; finally, put the tailored polyurethane foam onto the female mould, press the close button, and begin pressing the male mould . After five seconds, female mould and the male mould are completely closed, sponge has been stereotyped. Meeting the set time, the male mould raised automatically. Then remove the sponge that was pressed, and the molding process completed. Reset the two parameters temperature and time before the next test. (5) Measurement of molded cup depth The molded cup depth was measured two times with a vernier calliper. The first time was measured immediately after the molding process, and the second time was measured 1day after the molding process.

3.2 Evaluation Indicators of Molding

The evaluation indicators of molded-cup shapeability are as follows: 1) The immediate depth of the cup, 2) the depth of the cup after a day, 3) hand feel, colour, 4) Emergence of mirror effect [6]. Molded-cup is primarily used to support the breast and give it beautiful curves, so the shape of cup is an important indicator to evaluate the suitability of molding process parameters. On the other hand, the immediate cup depth and the depth after a day are also important indicators to evaluate the shapeability of molded-cup. Since bra is one kind of underwear, where the hand feel and colour are also necessary to be taken into consideration. The emergence of mirror effect is due to the high temperature in molding

Figure 1 Pneumatic-typed molding machine. (3) Experimental scheme Control the pressure between 32 and 33Mpa, while maintaining a constant temperature, changing the time. The molding temperature was set from 155 o C to 185 o C, and adjustment was set at 5 o C interval. The molding time was set from 120s to 150s with 10s interval for every adjustment. The actual temperature of the mould head was calibrated by a digital thermometer. Each sort of materials tested in 3 groups, 28 times in each group, as shown in Table 1.

JFBI Vol.1 No. 4 2009 doi:10.3993/jfbi03200904


Analysis of Molding Process Parameters of Bra Cup Han-Yan Wu et al.

process, fabric will melt and a smooth surface like mirror will be formed on the molded-cup with a stubby hand feeling. As it will affect the visual effects and wearing comfort of bra, we should try best to avoid it in the experiment. Restricted by the specifications of the mould used in this experiment, ideal molded-cup means the immediate depth not less than 5.7 cm, the shrinkage of the cup depth after a day not more than 2mm, a soft hand feel, no yellowing, no mirror surface.

depth and the final shape of the whole molded-cup. In the process of stereotyping, higher the temperature and longer the time, the better the cup depth is. The cup depth can not reach the requirement when temperature is between 155oCand 165oC.When temperatures reached 170 oCand time reached 130s, the cup depth becomes standard.

3.3 Experimental Result Analysis

Table 2 Shape of samples after moulding Figure 3 Relationship between cup depth, time and temperature after a day. 3.3.2 Evaluation of The Molded-cup Different shapes of molded-cup are formed by molding the polyurethane foam at different conditions of temperature and time. When temperature is between 155oC and165oC, the hand feel of moldedcup is soft, no yellowing and no mirror effect emerges. However, the shape ability of the cup is not so good or even not the basic shape is attained. When temperature was between 170oC and 185oC, the cup depth is up to standard 5.7mm, and the shrinkage of the cup depth after a day is not more than 2mm. When the temperature was set to 180oC, the colour of cup began yellowing and mirror-like surface appeared. As shown in Table 3, when molding temperature was set to 170oC, the molding time was between 130s and 140s, the molded-cup was soft and there was no yellowing and no mirror effect.

From Table 2, it can be found that: Polyurethane foam with thickness of 1.5cm, density of 35kg/m3 has a good shaping under 175oC, 150s and the depth of the cup reaches 5.7cm.But restricted by the specifications of the mould, the surface of the molded-cup was not so trim, and a package phenomenon emerged in internal cup. Explained by the density and thickness, the softness of polyurethane foam with thickness of 1cm, density of 38kg/m3 decreased and rigidity increased. As we can see in the experiment, the molded cup of this polyurethane foam deformed with the edge portion of the cup torned, because its fragile nature and hardness. Therefore, thickness, density of material and shape of mould will affect the molding effect. The result analysis of polyurethane foam with thickness of 1cm, density of 35kg/m3 is as follows: 3.3.1 Cup depth Analysis
As shown in Figure 2, temperature and time are two important factors to the molding performance of polyurethane foam during the molding process. Any change in temperature and time can lead to changes in cup

4. The Main Factors of Molding Process Parameters

From the above tests, it can be concluded that the polyurethane foam with density of 35kg/m3 and thickness of 1cm, at a molding temperature of 170oC, molding time between 130s and 140s, gives the best shape to the cup obtained. However, pre-processing will be done to


JFBI Vol.1 No. 4 2009 doi:10.3993/jfbi03200904

Analysis of Molding Process Parameters of Bra Cup Han-Yan Wu et al.

the polyurethane foam in the actual production; especially to the 3Dbra cup some enterprise is developed.3D bra cup is a one-time molded-cup through high temperature treatment. The bra with 3D cup is used to raise breast through the fixed shape of bra cup, not only through the supporting of the steel ring and pulling of the strap. It focuses on the shape of plump breast. Due to the need for modeling of three-dimensional glasses, one layer of material will be difficult to meet molded requirements of 3D molded cup, and multi-layer materials need to be superimposed before molding process. Normally composite materials used in 3D bra cup are composed by the fabric, sponge (one or multi-storey) and hotmelt combination of plastic. If the cup contains filler, such as air bag, water bag, it also needs composite materials to be used as molded cup materials. Pre-processing will affect the processing parameters of bra cup .For example, conglutinate a layer or layers of fabric to the cup surface; superimpose sponge of different thickness before

molding, and so on. All of these pre-processing will influence the molding process parameters. There are many factors important in terms of processing of molded-cup materials: The types of materials, layers of composite material, thickness, finishing, the shape of the mould, whether there is hot-melt adhesive and so on. The process parameters should be adjusted in the practice process according to different situation in actual operation. In the case of hot-melt adhesive, the temperature of mould should be reduced, and the heating time should be extended to prevent seepage of adhesive. If there is cotton fabric conglutinated on the cup surface, the female and male mould should be set up at different temperatures. For example: Conglutinate a layer of polyester fabric on the sponge of 1cm in thickness and 35kg/m3 in density. As the molding temperature of polyester is between 190oC and 210oC in the case of dry-heat, the temperature of the female mould can be adjusted to 190oC, while the male mould temperature should be reduced to around 160oC.

Table 3 Process parameters of polyurethane foam

5. Conclusion
From the above experiment, we can see that: As a result of its fragile property, the polyurethane foam of 38kg/m3 is difficult to shape. Therefore, the performance of material itself has a great impact

on the molding process. In the molding process, the molding temperature, time and pressure decide the molding performance. The types of materials, layers of composite material, thickness, finishing, and the shape of the mould will affect the choice of the three molding parameters. In the "trial and error"

JFBI Vol.1 No. 4 2009 doi:10.3993/jfbi03200904


Analysis of Molding Process Parameters of Bra Cup Han-Yan Wu et al.

method used in enterprises, a lot of work is repetitive, resulting in a lot of waste, so quantitative molding process parameters are of great significance in bra cup production.

[4] Yu WM. Yeung KW, Harlock SC, Leaf GAV. Predicting energy requirements for molding flexible polyurethane foam sheets. Textile Res.J 1998; 4: 289295. [5] Xu Z, Jiang XW, Zhang X, Gu ZH. Comparability on the properties characteristics of several kinds of bracup materials, Proceedings of TBIS2008 International Conference, 2008 [6] Yip J, Ng SP. Study of three-dimensional spacer fabrics: molding properties for intimate apparel application. Journal of Materials Processing Technology 2009; 1:58-62. [7] Liu DB, Bao JJ, Tang D, Ji XS, Xu GW. Research progress and application of functional polyurethane materials, China Adhesives, 2007; 5:51-54. [8] Xu Z, Jiang XW. Zhang X. Study on the properties of warp-knitted spacerfabric used for bra-cup. Master Degree Paper of Xian Polytechnic University, 2009. [9] Li Y. Research and development of polyurethane material. Journal of Beijing Technology and Business University (Natural Science Edition) 2004 ; 5:13-16.

6. Acknowledgements
The authors would like to thank Research Center of Clothing Engineering and technology of Shaanxi province of China for providing experiment conditions.
References: [1] Yu WM. The effects of polyurethane foam properties and moulding condition on the shape characteristics of brassiere cups. Thesis for the degree of Ph.D in the University of Leeds, 1996. [2] Liang SZ, Zhang X, Shi J. Discussion on the application of hi-tech materials to bra from the character of bra structure, Progress in Textile Science & Technology 2007; 4,81-83. [3] Zheng Y, Wang WZ. Polyurethane resin and its usage. Journal of Chemical Education 2003; 4:3-5.


JFBI Vol.1 No. 4 2009 doi:10.3993/jfbi03200904