Tyvek

From house wrap to courier envelopes and insulated coveralls

Tyvek Protecting your employees is made easier with garments made of Tyvek, such as insulated coveralls and lab coats. These products protect workers in dirty or corrosive environments such as clean rooms and paint booths.

Tyvek was born in the early 1970s when the building trades industry was looking for solutions to improve housing efficiency. DuPont invented the Tyvek house wrap, which keeps out liquid moisture while letting vapor moisture pass through, so that a house can "breathe."

House wrap remains Tyvek's largest application, but it's also used for personal protective equipment such as laboratory coats and coveralls, Tyvek wristbands as identification markers, envelopes for computer discs and medical component protection, and as a barrier against fumes or chemicals.

Tyvek is surprisingly strong - it cuts fairly easily, but it's very difficult to tear. (Think of those courier packages you struggle to rip open; they're made of Tyvek!)

Tyvek [PDF] is made from high-density polyethylene fibers and classed as a spun bonded olefin. (Spun bonding is a process used to orient the material on a molecular level, leading to greater strength.)

The three structures of Tyvek are:

  • type 10, a hard structure as it is paper-like and is somewhat rigid.
  • type 14 and 16, soft-structured and much more fabric-like than paper and quite flexible
  • type 14, predominantly a barrier product
  • type 16 - softer, more pliable and excellent for producing garments

All three structures can be sewn, glued, heat sealed and even ultrasonically seamed.

Pros

  • Very lightweight; for example, Tyvek envelopes weigh half as much as paper envelopes.
  • Inert to most bases, salts, and acids.
  • Economical; for example, coveralls cost about $5 each.
  • FDA-recognized as suitable for use with human food products
  • Permeability allows for moisture to pass through but keeps liquid out.

Cons

  • The building industry has not decided whether it lets in too much moisture or not. Mold has been discovered in many homes after using Tyvek.
  • Tyvek is easily cut.
  • Not easily recycled like paper or cotton. (Dupont has a program in the U.S. to gather and recycle Tyvek garments.)
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