Posted on May 10 2018
We love neoprene and good neoprene at that. After years of working in the Technical divisions of some of the largest Surf Brands, we feel some basic background on the materials and manufacturing will go a long way in illustrating why and how we have produced and spec’d a wetsuit as we have.
Neoprene is a man-made/synthetic rubber and although new more “ECO” materials are becoming available, the energy demand and price to convert the material into a wetsuit or neoprene like accessory are yet to be justified and warranted to us. We embrace the environmental factor where it is possible and justifiable to do so and do not use any additional or excess packaging for that very reason.
Neoprene in the modern world has come along way from what DuPont founded, but below are a few basics for our surf market.
Double Lined Neoprene:
Often wetsuit neoprene is made from a lamination of a Nylon waived outer fabric and foam inner core. The foam inner can be blown and manufactured from Petroleum or Lime Stone base, or a mixture of the two. Different grades of foam are achieved by adding varying amounts of Air and fillers/stabilizers. The varying cores can therefore be used in differing products or panels on a wetsuit and can be laminated to a verity of outer materials to enhance or manage these fundamental properties. The less air blown into the polychloroprene “foam”, the denser the core will be, making it tougher and less manipulative. Often it is the outer laminated fabric though that is the limiting factor, as RAW neoprene can be taken past its critical point very simply. In wetsuits the most common fabric to be laminated to the polychloroprene core is Nylon with varying amounts of lycra/Eastane.
Smooth Skin, Mesh or Single Lined Neoprene:
Smooth skin or Mesh neoprene (often only one side of a panel/sheet), is created by blowing the polychloroprene against a patterned surface, to seal the outer face and close the porous air holes created by the blown air- this gives a smooth or textured finish depending on preference and one that is very resistant to wind and water retention, although as it is merely a sealed piece of RAW neoprene, it can be prone to tears and snags hence its limited use on a surf wetsuit.
The more air blown into the Neoprene the lighter and to an extent the more flexible the core can become; when this is laminated to a open weaved nylon containing a level of spandex in a bilateral waive you get 4 way stretch, or in a unilateral waive giving a two way stretch. The lesser the spandex level the lesser the stretch. High Stretch and lower weight are great performance attributes, however durability and longevity are often over looked and this form of light weight neoprene can be prone to compression wear or delamination as the air pockets collapse and the material fails. We have carefully selected the most appropriate neoprene and nylon waives for use in all our NEED Essentials products; drawing on our years of experience with the differing grades to give optimum stretch and flexibility, whilst retaining durability and longevity.Double lined seams[/caption]
NEED essentials only use Glued and Blind stitched seams on its wetsuits. A GBS seam is first glued and bonded, giving a completely sealed seam. All seams tend to be tripled/quad glued for a maximum bond and seal. Sometimes bonding laminated neoprene panels of high air content or even heavy woven polypro/fleece can affect this seam adhesion, which is the most critical seal and thus can lead to water ingression. NEED Essentials has carefully chosen the neoprene and fleece on its warmth and ability not to impact on this seam bonding- meaning the best possible seals are achieved whilst the fleece liner enhances the thermal properties of the suit and the neoprene offers optimum flexibility.
A Blind stitch is performed with a curved needle that penetrates to a controlled depth in the neoprene, before returning to the surface to repeat the stitch. Different companies use different numbers, depths and stitches per inch- the more stitches the greater the ability for the suit to stretch, however, the greater the number of holes created, which only weaken the material- so it is a fine line. The stitch does not improve the seal of the seam directly, but assists in making sure that the seam is reinforced, strengthened and not critically stretched.
Seam finishing. So, the Glue seals the seam, the blind stitch enhances the seams strength and durability- further neoprene taping or liquid seam technology only further add to the seal and durability of the seam enhancing its performance over time. By using neoprene tape of the same material as the panels in question, equal performance and a harmonious wear is attained and this type of reinforcement has been used since the early days of wetsuit construction and development- put simply it works, is warm and durable and can be easily repaired or replaced. More modern outer or liquid seal seams offer the same safe guard to the GBS seam as the taping, often being used as an aesthetic feature as well as this final barrier.