Putting our materials to the test
The “Martindale” test for abraison resistance
Hope you've had a great week.
To our new subscribers - Storyhorse, Stanislav and Kat - welcome, and thank you for joining us.
As many of you will be aware, our products are made from a selection of the most innovative “leather alternatives" available on the market: materials made from apple waste, pineapple leaves, bits of cactus, and recycled nylon.
One of the most frequent questions that we're asked (scrap that: THE most frequent question) about our products is: “how well does it last?”.
We've just embarked on a journey to obtain those answers and we'll be sharing our progress and insights as they come in. I don't know how long this series will be, but today is Part One!
Technical Data Sheets (TDSs)
Science offers us robust testing processes, the results of which are published in documents called Technical Data Sheets (TDSs). You may well have seen one of these tests in action for yourself if you've ever been to IKEA:
Any serious material on the market should have a TDS and these documents are gold mines for companies like LUXTRA that are working with - and championing - next-generation materials. Through a barrage of tests performed in a lab under controlled conditions, we can measure things like:
- a leather-alternative's resistance to being rubbed on rough surfaces for a certain length of time ("rub test" or “Martindale abrasion test” - conducted with both wet and dry material swatches)
- how much pressure it can take before the material tears ("tear strength" - conducted in multiple directions)
- at what point the stitching holding seams together will break ("seam rupture")
- what happens when material comes into contact with water ("water spotting")
- Whether - and how much - a material fades when exposed to light over long periods of time ("light fastness")
This list covers the most common tests but there are of course more tests that can be conducted for specific applications.
How do you interpret the results?
Like most everything in life, if we're not vigilant, bias can creep in. Science is no different. You know how it goes: test results can be skewed because of different humidity or temperature levels, or - more nefariously - by bad actors wanting to make something look better than it really is.
That's where ISO testing standards come into play. ISO is the International Organisation for Standardization and it creates standards for which testing must be conducted. For example, when we're talking about the Martindale abrasion test, the parameters are outlined in BS EN ISO 12947-2:2016.
Tear testing… this is one s-t-r-e-t-c-h-y material. Look at it go!
Publicly available Technical Data Sheets
As I mentioned, any serious materials company should have conducted their own tests and they should offer - whether publicly, or by request - a Technical Data Sheet.
Ananas Anam, for example (the company that makes Piñatex) has published their TDSs publicly, here. At LUXTRA we use the metallic Silver material, the results for which are visible on page 5.
Mabel, the company that makes AppleSkin, has TDSs available on their website, but it is password protected.
Desserto, the company that makes the cactus leather, has their TDS available upon request.
What's taken us so long?
As customers of the above-mentioned companies, we have received each material's TDS, and if I'm honest, I've trusted those results. As a small business, we're ultra cost conscious. Conducting our own independent tests just seemed like overkill and surely a waste of money.
For our next collection however, we'll start working with a leather-like material called MIRUM from American company Natural Fiber Welding. Mirum is one of the first commercially available materials that is 100% natural; free from any fossil fuel derived materials. It's really new, definitely NOT cheap, and so we want to do our own tests to make sure we won't encounter issues.
I'm also really keen to have - once and for all - a solid answer to the question of “how well does it last?".
So, yes, it's taken us some time to take matters into our own hands, but this feels like a great next step for us at LUXTRA.
Would love to hear any comments or questions you may have on this topic. Simply hit reply and your email will land directly in my inbox.
Voilà, voilà! I hope you've enjoyed this initial dalliance with the world of material testing and not found it too dry. We're sending off our first material samples this week and we're excited to share the results very soon.
Have a great week ahead,
Founder | Testing Enthusiast | Plant Parent