Polyester Fiber is an Excellent Replacement for Nylon in Carpet
Supplying a beautiful carpet that meets the needs of consumers is the first goal of manufacturers. The raw materials that go into that product not only determine its cost, but also the ultimate consumer experience. Since 2008, there has been an escalation in worldwide raw material costs that has widened the spread between nylon and polyester as a fiber for carpet. Polyester has definitely grown in the carpet market and will continue to affect the industry going forward.
Currently there are ten times as much polyester available as nylon. This is unlikely to change, because there is a limited capacity worldwide for caprolactam. Caprolactam is the petroleum chemical used to make nylon. Fiber statistics clearly show the trend. In 1982, nylon was the dominant face fiber in carpet at 82 percent. However, that had fallen to 55.2 percent in 2010. The 2010 statistics showed that nylon was followed by polyester at 26 percent and polypropylene at 19 percent. Polyester could be on its way to becoming the dominant fiber in the carpet industry. The way that the industry makes yarn from fiber is also part of that change. This change has been in development but was accelerated by the overall recession of the past four years. In 2005, the industry was selling roughly 3 billion pounds of fiber. Just under 1 billion of that was staple fiber. However, advances in extrusion technology have produced products that can take the place of a lot of staple at lower costs. Today the industry sits at something around 2 billion annual pounds and less than 10 percent of that remains as staple.
Today’s polyester has proven to be better than ever. When polyester styles started showing up in ever increasing numbers, many industry watchers waited to see how consumers would react. In the past, polyester carpet had appearance retention problems, particularly fuzzing, but that seems to be ancient history. Given the right kind of twist, density, and face weight, a good manufacturer can make a high quality polyester style. The performance characteristics of polyester have been improved without question. Although it is still not as resilient a fiber as nylon, there are some beautiful, highly styled products on the market that will perform nicely. Nevertheless, if a producer does not put in adequate twist and heat setting, has a poor construction, and too light a weight, regardless of the fiber, the product will not stand up to anyone’s expectations. The ultimate goal for carpet manufacturers should be consumer satisfaction. Long term, polyester cost advantage is true and so far consumers are quite satisfied with the current products.