Closer Look at Film Choices

Since Mylar was first introduced into sailmaking there has been a search to improve upon it, but without much success, especially when compared with the gains made in other areas of sailmaking like design and yarn technology. New films include those made of Vectra, Tedlar, and PEN, all of which have significant drawbacks in terms of sail construction. Vectra, for example, is extruded using a process similar to that of Mylar and has the same high-modulus qualities as the sailcloth. But tests have shown that while Vectra has the strength to carry the loads on a sail without fiber reinforcement, it has a low impact resistance and shatters easily when used in sails. There have been some attempts to double Vectra up with Mylar to minimize its negative qualities, but the added weight and expense are unacceptable.

Tedlar has also been used in some sailcloth applications where it exhibited excellent abrasion and UV resistance. But it is heavier than Mylar, absorbs slight amounts of water and tends to creep over time. The most important breakthrough in film was when Pentex was used to make PEN film. PEN film, which is an extruded version of the Pentex fiber, is actually stronger than Mylar, but tends to be brittle, less resistant to abuse, and prone to shrinkage, which distorts the aerodynamic shape of the sails in which it is used.

Figure 3.6

A scrim is where the warp and fill fibers are arranged in a loose grid pattern held together by Mylar (photo of scrim below).

Figure 3.6

A scrim is where the warp and fill fibers are arranged in a loose grid pattern held together by Mylar (photo of scrim below).

Ultimately, the biggest breakthroughs in film have not been in strength or stretch resistance but in the ability to combine it with UV inhibitors. These UV inhibitors protect light sensitive yarns that are paired up with the Mylar from the sun's harmful rays, thereby extending the overall life of the fabric. They use the same titanium dioxide in the film as they use to coat the fibers.

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