During the 1900’s the thought was “Better living through Chemistry” or something like that. Artificial sweeteners, I can’t Believe it’s not Butter® and the Pacemaker. Sure seems like we’re on the right path. Along the way a few of the big chemical companies were monkeying around with making a man-made material better than leather. In the patent information for an early version of the material it was stated, “as a task, eliminating such defects as found in a natural leather, to improve such advantages as in a natural leather without any depression in the other properties and, thereby, to improve the combined properties”. When the conversation turns to materials and use, the word “best” is subject to its use. Some of the largest consumers of micro-fiber materials or synthetic leather are the companies that manufacture shoes, furniture, car interiors and gloves and each product has a need for a special micro-fiber.
How many times have you heard “we made this especially for you” only to see another just like it sometime later? That’s a bummer. So when sourcing a micro-fiber, Mechanix Wear® did its research. 20 years worth, and counting. And just like everything man made, the choices only get better. The first material considered to be the state of the art was the Clarino-branded Nash. Nash was used with outstanding results and feedback. This “data” was compiled and used in the always-ongoing search for something better. Using this real world data and feedback, there were several other micro-fiber alternatives secured and optimized uniquely for Mechanix Wear glove use.
Ultrasuede, Alcantara, Durasoft, Presstoff, Chicron, Material 4X, Tongda, Parity, Durafit, AX Suede and Maxkin are a few of the alternatives considered for inclusion in the palm side materials of a glove. Each material has a somewhat unique manner of manufacturing, combination of ingredients, finishing and more importantly wear and tear test results. Fabric contents range from 80% polyester non-woven and 20% non-fibrous polyurethane (PU) to 65% polyester and 35% polyurethane depending on the product line. Several materials feel like natural suede but are resistant to stains and discoloration and can be machine-washed. Several versions of micro-fiber have a woven fabric surface, but resist pilling or fraying because it is combined with polyurethane foam in a non-woven structure. Select micro-fiber grades meet tested specifications for flammability requirements while others are anti-bacterial and even vegan in construction.
Just as with everything there are many factors to consider when finalizing a material for the palm or working side of the glove. Generally speaking, cost, availability, color variations and physical properties need to be in check as well as the all important empirical test results. The testing of gloves previously consisted of sewing up a pair of gloves and throwing them on as many hands as possible and then letting them loose in the wild for real world wear and tear. This was awesome when all you needed was personal input but offered little in the way of back-to-back or duplicative testing figures. Standardization and accredited numeric testing results is an invaluable asset when comparing one material to another. Many agencies, organizations and testing centers such as ANSI, CE, FIA, SFI and OSHA can subject the material to abrasion, puncture, cut, heat/flame resistance, UV resistance, water-proofing, elongation or shrinking, composition and almost anything else you can think to test a material for, expect for being Gluten free we suppose.
Lab tests can be used as a certified result that classifies a material category or product and are many times mandatory before a glove can even be sold. One such test is performed on a machine called a “TABER Abraser”. It is used to test a materials’ resistance to produce a “snag” or wear through hole and is capable of performing over 47 accredited tests. The computer controlled TABER is quite a bit more sophisticated than a bench grinder and a brick for a weight. There are quite a few reasons why Mechanix Wear conducts internal and (outsourced) certified material testing, including using the results as a Competitive Tool. Through testing, we can explore several methods to differentiate the product to gain a specific material advantage. Cost vs. benefit. As part of a quality and process control, regular testing ensures that the products’ expectations of use are met. Research & Development. This aspect of testing is self-explanatory. Mechanix Wear has always pushed for better, stronger and safer materials. Just as the teams we support test various parts and engine combinations, we test materials and finished construction. Many times a material will Taber high in performance, but fall short in the field. Then there is the requirement for doing business. Many industries mandate that products meet minimum acceptable standards. Standards and specifications are a necessary tool to perform testing on a uniform and consistent basis. They represent written directions of the criteria needed for a specific product, process, test, or procedure. When adhered to, standards allow for test results to be repeatable and reproducible. Thus enabling you to make useful comparisons of test data. While Mechanix Wear has the ability to base line test in-house it’s the hard certified numbers that all production materials receive, separating them from the sometimes subjective figures offered by other non-accredited test results of competitive glove manufactures. Be sure you see a CE or ANSI logo when making comparative searches.
With over 100 different styles and types of gloves available from Mechanix Wear, the variations and combinations of materials used in the construction is quite varied. Several specific use categories benefit from the use of natural leathers while the bulk of the performance work gloves features a unique version and type of micro-fiber in its design. Thinner, more grip, increased nap, harder and slicker and thicker to resist extreme temperature fluctuations. Just a few of the variations found in the materials arsenal offered by today’s micro-fibers and found in any number of Mechanix Wear gloves.
The rotary platform Taber test machine sits in a climate-controlled clean room to remove all variations other than the materials being tested. The worn Taber test disc does not lie. Many times, without a verified document, a manufacturer will state their material performs to certain levels while independent and certified testing tells another story.