Man-made fibres are classified into three classes, those made from natural polymers, those made from synthetic polymers and those made from inorganic materials.
Fibres from Natural Polymers
The most common natural polymer fibre is viscose, which is made from the polymer cellulose obtained mostly from farmed trees. Other cellulose-based fibres are Lyocell, Modal, Acetate and Triacetate.
Less common natural polymer fibres are made from rubber, alginic acid and regenerated protein.
Fibres from Synthetic Polymers
There are very many synthetic fibres i.e. organic fibres based on petrochemicals. The most common are polyester, polyamide (often called nylon), acrylic and modacrylic, polypropylene, the segmented polyurethanes which are elastic fibres known as elastanes (or spandex in the USA), and speciality high-tenacity fibres such as the high performance aramids and UHMwPE (Ultra High Molecular weight PolyEthylene).
Fibres from Inorganic Materials
The inorganic man-made fibres are fibres made from materials such as glass, metal, carbon or ceramic. These fibres are very often used to reinforce plastics to form composites.
Learn more about the different man-made fibres, the terminology of fibres and their testing methods on the BISFA website. BISFA is the International Bureau for the Standardisation of Man-made Fibres and Terminology of Fibres.