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Using Textiles for Insulation

19 Jan 2024  |
Industrial insulation is vital in many manufacturing applications such as continuous processing.

Industrial insulation material

Industrial insulation is vital in many manufacturing applications such as continuous processing. Industrial insulation systems can provide several functions on piping and equipment in industrial facilities. The reasons for insulating can be:

  • Reduction in energy loss
  • Process control
  • Personnel protection
  • Emissions reduction
  • Condensation
  • Freeze protection
  • Noise reduction

To provide the desired functions while being exposed to these environments over a long time period, the insulation materials should be carefully selected and the installation details specified to assure that the design goals are met. In industrial facilities, this can be challenging. The reasons for insulating pipes and equipment can vary from system to system and from facility to facility.

Textile fabrics as thermal insulators

A wide range of textile materials is used as thermal insulators in a variety of industrial applications. The thermal insulating properties of textile fabrics depend on their thermal thickness, conductivity, density, and thermal emission characteristics. Many development applications for the new materials such as textile fabrics used as thermal insulators require a full study of their thermal insulating properties at different operating conditions. One of the most important of these studies is the effect of temperature with thermal conductivity and material density on the response of the textile fabrics as insulators.

Industrial thermal textile insulation

Industrial textile insulation reduces the rate of thermal transfer between two temperatures, typically to moderate temperature fluctuations.

Textile insulation allows machines to be cool to the touch and provides protection from heat-related injuries.

Staff also benefit from a reduction in working temperatures throughout the facility, as industrial textile insulating keeps the heat inside of the manufacturing machines.

Thermal insulation materials

There are various things that need to be considered before deciding which insulation material is best suited for a particular application, such as:

  • R-value
  • Price
  • Environmental impact
  • Flammability
  • Sound insulation

Common types of thermal insulation materials include:

Fiberglass – Fiberglass is the most common insulation used. Because of how it’s made, by effectively weaving fine strands of glass into an insulation material, fiberglass can minimize heat transfer.

Mineral Wool – Mineral wool may refer to different types of insulation. First, it may refer to glass wool which is fiberglass manufactured from recycled glass. Second, it may refer to rock wool which is a type of insulation made from basalt. Finally, it may refer to slag wool which is produced from the slag from steel mills. Most mineral wool does not have additives to make it fire resistant, making it poor for use in situations where extreme heat is present.

Cellulose – Cellulose is one of the most eco-friendly forms of insulation. It is composed of 75-85% recycled paper or cardboard fibers. The other 15% is a fire retardant such as boric acid or ammonium sulfate.

Polyurethane Foam – Spray polyurethane foam (SPF) is an excellent form of insulation, and is made by mixing and reacting chemicals to create a foam. The mixing and reacting materials react very quickly, expanding on contact to create foam that insulates, air seals, and provides a moisture barrier. They are relatively light, weighing approximately two pounds per cubic foot, and have an R-value of approximately R-6.3 per inch of thickness.

Polystyrene – Polystyrene is a waterproof thermoplastic foam that is an excellent sound and temperature insulation material. It comes in two types, expanded (EPS) and extruded (XEPS) also known as Styrofoam. The two types differ in performance ratings and cost.

Natural fibers – Natural fibers are usually more sustainable than other types of insulation, but also more expensive.

Cotton – Cotton insulation is produced in batts and workers do not require PPE for installation. Cotton insulation is comprised of 85% recycled cotton and 15% plastic fiber.

Sheep’s wool – Sheep’s wool holds large quantities of water without compromising thermal resistance. It must be treated to resist fire, mold, and pests.

Straw – Straw is fused into insulative panels with heavyweight paper on both sides. It must also be treated to resist fire, mold, and pests.

Hemp – Hemp fibers are naturally resistant to milder, pests, and weathering. Hemp can also absorb 20% of its weight in water but must be treated for fire resistance.

Ceramic – Ceramic fibers are highly efficient, non-flammable, and are an effective radiant heat insulator. It is expensive and can be difficult to install. Fibers from fused silica or quartz, alumina, aluminum oxide, zirconia, or zirconium oxide comprise ceramic insulation

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