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Information @ a Glance

General

  • Silk is a natural protein fiber, some forms of which can be woven into textiles. The best-known type of silk is obtained from cocoons made by the larvae of the silkworm Bombyx mori reared in captivity (sericulture). The shimmering appearance for which silk is prized comes from the fibers' triangular prism-like structure which allows silk cloth to refract incoming light at different angles.
  • There are five major types of silk of commercial importance, obtained from different species of silkworms which in turn feed on a number of food plants. These are: Mulberry, Tasar, Muga, Eri

Process

  • Silks are produced by several other insects, but only the silk of moth caterpillars has been used for textile manufacture. There has been some research into other silks, which have differences at the molecular level. Silks are mainly produced by the larvae of insects with complete metamorphosis, but also by some adult insects such as webspinners. Silk production is especially common in the Hymenoptera (bees, wasps, and ants), and is sometimes used in nest construction. Other types of arthropod produce silk, most notably various arachnids such as spiders.
  • The process of drawing silk fibre from the cocoon is called ‘reeling’. The cocoons are cooked in hot water and the silk fibre is unwound from the cocoons. The silk consists of two proteins, the inner core of fibroin and an outer cover of gum sericin. During reeling, the cocoons are processed in hot water at 95-970C for 10-15 minutes. This process is called cooking. This cooking will enable the sericin portion to get softened and make unwinding easy without breaks. The cocoons after cooking are reeled in hot water in different types of machines.

Technology

  • Silk Reeling is simply the unwinding of filaments from a group of cocoons in hot water bath on to a reel. There are two methods of reeling a) Direct Reeling method on standard reels and b) Indirect method which includes preliminary reeling on small sized reels and transferring the reeled silk directly from the reels to standard sized reels on re-reeling machines.

Market

  • The annual production of silk in the world is estimated at 45,000 tonnes of which Japan and China contribute 18,936 and 13,200 tonnes respectively. South Korea, USSR and India are the other leading sericultural countries in the world. The industry has survived the stiff competition with the man-made fibres and it is now estimated by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations that the total requirement of silk by 1980 would be of the order of 80,000 tonnes, leaving a demand of 35,000 tonnes.
  • China leads the world with silk production of 102560 MT or 81.7% of the produce. India ranks second in respect of world raw silk production. It is this position, as one of only two major silk producers in the world, and from its employment potential, that sericulture and silk derive their importance in the Indian textile map.

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