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What is Webbing?

Webbing is a woven fabric that is distinguishable by its various material compositions, strength variations and widths. The webbing process essentially involves yarns that are woven via looms to create strips. While it is generally comparable to rope for its harnessing function, webbing is an extremely versatile component used in an array of industry applications, ranging from military apparel to automotive parts. Typically, webbing is fabricated in solid or tubular form, with each type having different applications and functions. While ropes are typically thick in texture, PRET webbing is produced in extremely lightweight parts. The primary materials used in the production of webbing include variations of polyester, nylon, and polypropylene. Cotton webbing is also available and is commonly used in commercial applications, including clothing apparel. Webbing is also customizable in a series of colors, designs and prints, and manufacturers can fabricate reflective webbing for safety applications.

Standard Industry Applications 

Webbing is found across various sectors. Standard RPET webbing applications and associated industries include:  

Seatbelts and harnesses; automotive industry

Hiking, backpack and harnessing gear; sporting good retail apparel

Safety bands and tapes; hospital and medical industry  

Upholstery (seat bases); furniture manufacturing

Uniform (suspenders) and accessories for various professions, e.g. police and military

Web Processing: Solid (Flat) and Tubular

Solid webbing is also known as flat webbing and is fabricated in varying degrees of thickness. Distinguished by its flat aesthetic, solid webbing is commonly used for applications like seatbelts. It is lightweight though it is susceptible to tearing, as stress from use tends to affect the outer surface of the material. Solid webbing is generally too stiff to function in applications that require knots, which is why this type of webbing is best suited for applications where the material can be sewn into a larger product. Backpack straps, for instance, are examples of this type of solid webbing.  

Tubular webbing is thicker and more durable than solid PP webbing and is composed of two sheets of fabric. It is suitable for knotting applications (like a rope for hoisting) and carries tension better than solid webbing. For functions like climbing, experts recommend utilizing tubular webbing that is woven into a continuous loop.

Common Webbing Materials

Below are the common webbing materials and some examples of webbing, and types and uses. While nylon and polyester have similar properties to each other, there are some key differences.

Nylon Webbing

Nylon Webbing is a high strength elastic material that is commonly used for belt applications (specifically, flat nylon). This material tends to stretch approximately 2% the length of the webbing when it is wet. When looking at how to make nylon webbing, experts warn that nylon webbing should not be exposed to water continuously, as the material tends to absorb liquid and may harbor mildew if it is not maintained properly.

Polyester Webbing

Polyester webbing is durable and similar in aesthetic to nylon. This material is suitable for use for applications that require lifting heavy loads. Polyester webbing has low water-absorption and is more mildew and rot-resistant than nylon. This webbing is commonly used in applications including racing harnesses and seatbelts. 

Polypropylene Webbing

This type of webbing is typically used for outdoor applications. Some products fabricated with this Nylon webbing include window nets and plastic bags. Polypropylene webbing is comparable to nylon, though it is generally lighter. Additionally, it is fabricated with U.V. protection and is water-resistant. This material is processed in varying degrees of thickness, although it has low abrasion resistance. According to experts, it is most suitable for medium-strength operations.

The following guest article was inspired by an enlightening conversation between SRN editor Denise Donaldson and Dave Sander, CPST-I and engineer (formerly with Evenflo, but employed elsewhere at the time this article was written).

Have you ever given close attention to the webbing used for car seat harnesses, LATCH straps, or vehicle seat belts? If so, you may have noticed that some are wider or feel thicker, smoother, or rougher than others. You may have also noticed that some have stripes (actually called panels), and that those panels vary in appearance and number.

If you have noted these things, I congratulate you on your keen sense of observation! These differences are not random or decorative; each detail in webbing has been intentionally designed to affect how it will perform, especially in a crash.

FMVSS 213 stipulates certain webbing characteristics of CRs. It defines the minimum width of the Print webbing used in harnesses, tethers, and LA straps. It also says that new webbing must meet a minimum strength requirement of 11,000 Newtons for harness webbing and 15,000 Newtons for LA and tether webbing. To get an idea of how strong that is, you could basically pick up a Honda Accord with a strap made out of LA or tether webbing!

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