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Measuring Fiber

Natural animal fiber can be broadly classed into two categories - carpet or apparel. Carpet is coarse, and apparel is fine. As a rule, apparel grade natural fibers are relatively more scarce, and carry a much higher commercial value.

Fine fibers produce soft garments, which can comfortably be worn next to the skin.

Proper measurement of fiber is important both for breeding decisions and its processing into yarns and finished goods.

Tools and Methods

Measuring tools and methods used with natural fibers are largely derived from the wool industry, since the most common animal fiber in use is sheep wool.  Given the multitude of sheep breeds it should not be a surprise that wool is produced in many ranges. This has led to a number of methods of assessing the quality of the wool, and these methods have in turn been extended to other types of natural fibers.

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Air Flow

The Air Flow method of fiber analysis was, and for certain fibres still is, the mainstay of routine diameter measurement of fiber. It is relatively is quick, simple, inexpensive and accurate on most types of wool. It is perhaps the first braodly used laboratory based testing regiment for wool.

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OFDA 100

The OFDA 100 is an image analysis system recognized with a Test Method from the IWTO (International Wool Textile Organization). Developed with research support from several international organizations, and debuting in 1991, the OFDA has become a common way of automatically measuring fiber diameter distribution.
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OFDA 2000

The OFDA 2000 is a portable computerised fibre measurement instrument using similar technology to the OFDA 100. It allows the measurement of fiber diameter profile along the length of the staple.

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The Sirolan Laserscan™ instrument, which measures individual fiber snippets by laser was developed by CSIRO, an Australian company. It accurately measures a number of fiber traits, including:

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Not to be outdone by the development of the OFDA 2000, CSIRO has brought the Sirolan Fleecescan(tm) to the market. The Fleecescan brings the benefits of the Laserscan into the shearing shed.

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Follicle Density Analysis

An increasing number of breeders are including results of follicle density testing in their promotional materials.  Do these refelect an objective assessment of an animal's quality?

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Understanding the limitations of technology in assessing and measuring fiber, there is still validity in obtaining some measure of objectivity, particularly in one's own herd.  With that in mind, the following resources are offered without any endorsement.

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