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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 5

I 1788 - State Of The Art In Textile Technology

II Australian Textiles - The Early Days
i Wool Fabric Manufacture
ii Cotton and Flax
iii The 19th Century - Automation Accelerated in Textile Technology

III Australian Textiles - The 20th Century

IV Australian Textiles - To Date

V Acknowledgements



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The 19th Century - Automation Accelerated in Textile Technology

As we have seen, the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th Century -the time of foundation -saw startling advances in textile technology, with machines being developed for practically all processes previously done by hand. Through the 19th Century, these developments were gradually adopted and improved upon throughout the then developed world (Europe and the U.S.A.). Essentially, the growth of the factory system stimulated competition further, and this competition led to further technical development, assisted by improvements in engineering in general and engines, in particular, first driven by steam and then, towards the end of the Century, by other fuels.

There were many very significant advances in improved textile manufacture over this period, but description of all of them -even briefly -is beyond the remit of this book, for none emanated from Australia. However, a few are very important in the context of subsequent Australian development so brief mention of them is made here.

The main gap in mechanisation of hand processing was in fibre combing, which is perhaps not so surprising, because of the complexity. As already mentioned, Cartwright had attempted the design of a wool-combing machine. Although these attempts proved impractical, they did highlight the main problems then to be overcome, and eventually the breakthroughs came. The great period of development occurred between 1840 and 1860, in both England and France. In 1850 Lister of Bradford patented a machine that was best suited for long wools, alpaca and mohair. This was followed in 1853 by a horizontal, circular comb devised by James Noble of Leicester which was suitable for intermediate and short wools. Noble's comb was the basis of a machine that came to dominate the 'English' system of wool processing until the 1960s or thereabouts. The large circle (Fig 10) of the Noble comb had from eight to eleven concentric rows of upright pins, and it revolved clockwise. Two small circles were inside it, almost touching its inner edge at opposite sides. They carried from five to eight rows of smaller pins, and ran in the same direction at the same speed. All the pins were heated, like the teeth of the old hand combs, for easier working. Around the outer rim of the comb were 18 racks, each carrying four rolled-up slivers sprinkled with oil.

Figure 10

10 Noble combing -separates noil from top. Wool from punch balls A is drawn from the boxes by knife B, lifted from the pins at C and then pressed onto the pin by brush F where the large D and small E circles are closest. As the pins separate by the rotation of the circles, two fringes are formed. The fringe on the large circle is combed by the pins of the small circle and conversely. At G and H the fringes are drawn from the pins which comb the trailing ends of the fibres. The Fibres from G and H are combined to form the 'top' sliver. Short fibres or noil remaining in the small circle at H, are removed from the pins by knives at J and are sucked away at K. Short fibres remaining in the large circle are fed into the small circle at the next cycle of operations.

The slivers were fed forward by conductor boxes to bring their tips over the inner-side pins of the small circles, and a rising and falling brush pressed the fibres among the pins. As the large circle revolved, the separation of the teeth in the respective circles drew the fibres into two divisions, with a combing action. One division was laid outwards from the small circle and one inwards from the big circle, from each sliver as it came opposite a small circle. Vertical rollers driving horizontal belts carried off the long fibres, which were formed into a sliver and coiled in cans, while the noils (short fibre) were sent down a chute.

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 268 - 269, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher