Difference Between Man-Made Fibers and Natural Fibers

Fiber is a slender material that can be natural or man-made and is widely used in textiles, clothing, ropes and other products. These fibers can be derived from plant, animal or chemical synthesis and have a variety of forms and properties. The choice of fiber directly affects the performance, comfort and durability of the final product. Fiber has always played an important role in the development of human civilization, evolving through various technologies and innovations to meet the changing needs of people for clothing and everyday items.


Man-made fibers and natural fibers are the two main types of fibers, and there are significant differences in their source, preparation and properties. Natural fibers mainly include plant fibers (such as cotton, flax) and animal fibers (such as wool, silk), which are derived from nature and can be obtained through relatively simple extraction and processing processes. Man-made fibers include synthetic fibers (such as nylon and polyester) and recycled fibers (such as rayon and Modal), which are usually prepared by chemical treatment, synthesis or regeneration. Introducing these two types of fiber concepts helps us gain a deeper understanding of the diversity of fibers and their applications in different uses.


Structure and composition

The molecular structure of natural fibers is unique in that it can be derived from animals or plants. In animal fibers, such as wool or silk, protein is the main component. These protein molecules form a uniform fiber structure through special arrangements, giving the fiber strength and elasticity. Plant fibers, such as cotton or flax, are primarily made of cellulose, which is also a polysaccharide that provides the fibers with natural elasticity and breathability. This natural molecular structure makes the natural fiber more skin-friendly to the touch and at the same time has unique antibacterial properties.


The physical properties of natural fibers make them popular in the textile industry. First, permeability is a prominent feature of natural fibers. Because there are gaps in the fabric structure, air and water vapor can easily pass through, making clothing made of natural fibers more comfortable in hot weather. Secondly, the strong hygroscopicity is determined by the hydrophilicity of the polysaccharide or protein group in the molecular structure. This hygroscopic ability allows natural fibers to quickly absorb and release moisture, keeping the wearer comfortable.


Synthetic fibers are made by artificially synthesizing chemicals. Nylon and polyester are two common synthetic fibers. Nylon is a strong synthetic fiber that is widely used to make hard-wearing, strong textiles, such as sportswear and socks. Polyester is a synthetic fiber with excellent durability and anti-wrinkle properties, which is widely used in clothing and household goods. The synthetic synthesis of these fibers gives them some properties that natural fibers do not have, such as wear resistance and wrinkle resistance.


The manufacturing process of artificial fibers usually involves chemical treatment or synthesis. For synthetic fibers, raw materials are obtained through chemical synthesis and have controllable properties. Recycled fibers, such as rayon and Modal, are produced by chemical treatment and regeneration of natural materials. This production method can not only regulate the properties of the fiber, but also help reduce the dependence on natural resources. However, this also raises some questions about environmental protection and sustainability, which need to be carefully considered in production.


Physical properties

The strength and wear resistance of natural fibers vary depending on their source. For example, wool is relatively weak in fibers because of its natural elasticity and softness, but wool fabrics are usually more elastic and suitable for winter clothing. On the contrary, although cotton fiber is soft, its strength and wear resistance are higher, making cotton products more durable in daily wear. Therefore, when considering natural fibers, different types of fibers differ in terms of strength and wear resistance, and choosing the appropriate fiber depends on the desired clothing characteristics.


Natural fibers are generally less elastic, especially compared to some synthetic fibers. For example, wool fibers lack a high degree of elasticity due to their natural fiber structure. This makes it easier for wool products to hold their shape and not easily deform. However, the relatively low elasticity can also cause some natural fibers to appear less flexible in some applications. This property of natural fibers needs to be considered when designing and selecting clothing to ensure that it fits the desired wear and use scenario.


Man-made fibers usually have high strength and wear resistance. For example, synthetic fibers such as polyester and nylon exhibit excellent strength in fabrics, making them ideal for making highly wear-resistant clothing and outdoor items. This superior physical properties make artificial fibers perform well in some specific application fields, such as sporting goods, overalls and so on.


The elasticity of man-made fibers can usually be adjusted according to the needs of the production process. By adjusting the spinning and processing conditions of synthetic fibers, fibers with different elasticity can be obtained. This makes the artificial fibers more flexible in design, allowing different levels of elasticity to be achieved depending on the specific requirements of the garment. This property makes artificial fibers useful for a variety of fashion and functional needs.


Price and availability

The price of natural fibers is affected by many factors, the most significant of which are origin and quality. The climate, soil and growing conditions of different regions directly affect the quality of plant fibers (such as cotton and flax) or animal fibers (such as wool). Fibers produced in certain climates may be finer and of higher quality, driving up prices. In addition, the process of producing natural fibers usually requires more time and resources, such as the growing season of plants or the feeding cycle of animals, which is also directly reflected in the cost.


In the market, high quality natural fiber products, such as Egyptian long staple cotton or Australian Merino wool, tend to be sold at a higher price. Not only do these products perform well in texture, they are also unique because of their relatively limited production, and therefore more expensive. In addition, organic and sustainably produced natural fiber products also tend to be more expensive due to the particularity of production methods.


The availability of natural fibers is mainly affected by season and geographic location. The growth of plant fibers is usually seasonally limited, for example, cotton is usually grown in warm seasons, while flax is better suited to cooler climates. This results in some natural fibers being in abundant supply during certain seasons and more limited supply during other seasons. At the same time, geographical location can also affect the production of fibers, and the climate and soil conditions in different regions are suitable for the growth of different types of plant or animal fibers.


Compared to natural fibers, man-made fibers usually have a more affordable price. The production process of artificial fibers is usually able to achieve large-scale production, reducing the manufacturing cost per unit of product. In addition, raw materials for the production of artificial fibers are often more readily available, making the entire production process more cost-effective.


The mass production of synthetic fibers (such as nylon, polyester) and recycled fibers (such as rayon, Modal) allows them to be offered to the market at a lower price. This relatively economical characteristic makes man-made fibers become the main raw materials in popular clothing and other textile products, and adapt to the needs of large-scale production and consumption.


The availability of man-made fibers is generally stable and can be obtained throughout the year. Compared to natural fibers, the production of man-made fibers is not subject to seasonal restrictions, as they are usually produced by chemical synthesis or regeneration and can be produced at any time according to market demand. This also helps keep the price of man-made fibers relatively stable.


However, the availability of man-made fibers is also limited by production capacity. In some cases, due to technical or resource limitations, the production capacity of artificial fibers may not be able to meet the surging demand of the market, which may lead to supply shortages in some periods. In this case, the price of man-made fibers may rise.

You Might Also Find These Topics Interesting

Quality Counts: Choosing the Perfect Knitted Sweater Supplier

Quality Counts: Choosing the Perfect Knitted Sweater Supplier

Introduction   Picture this: your brand launches a custom sweater line. Customers are hooked on the unique designs and eager to wear them everywhere. But after a few washes, things go south. The sweaters lose shape, pill uncontrollably, and the seams begin to unravel. Ouch. Not exactly the brand image you envisioned, is it?   […]

The Cost of Custom Knit Sweaters: A Breakdown of Pricing Factors and How to Get the Best Value

The Cost of Custom Knit Sweaters: A Breakdown of Pricing Factors and How to Get the Best Value

Custom knit sweaters are no longer confined to exclusive school uniforms or high-end boutiques. Today, they’ve become a symbol of personalized style and branding, adorning everything from corporate teams to social media influencers.   Now, consumers are increasingly seeking unique items that reflect their individuality. Custom knit sweaters allow for complete design control, letting you […]

Choosing Between UK and Chinese Knitwear Manufacturers: What European Buyers Need to Know

Choosing Between UK and Chinese Knitwear Manufacturers: What European Buyers Need to Know

Knitwear holds a prominent position in the global apparel industry, becoming a leader through a combination of practicality and broad appeal. There are two key countries in production and innovation in this industry: the United Kingdom and China. Both countries play a key role in the knitwear market, albeit in very different ways.   The […]