Flax fiber must be mechanically prepared to improve fineness and homogeneity of the sliver before chemical processing and wet-spinning. The changes in fiber characteristics are monitored by an airflow method, which is labor intensive and requires 90 minutes to process one sample. This investigation was carried out to develop robust visible and near-infrared calibrations that can be used as a rapid tool for quality assessment of input fibers and changes in fineness at the doubling (blending), first, second, third, and fourth drawing frames, and at the roving stage. The partial least squares (PLS) and principal component regression (PCR) methods were employed to generate models from different segments of the spectra (400–1100, 1100–1700, 1100–2498, 1700–2498, and 400–2498 nm) and a calibration set consisting of 462 samples obtained from the six processing stages. The calibrations were successfully validated with an independent set of 97 samples, and standard errors of prediction of 2.32 and 2.62 dtex were achieved with the best PLS (400–2498 nm) and PCR (1100–2498 nm) models, respectively. An optimized PLS model of the visible–near-infrared (vis-NIR) spectra explained 97% of the variation (R2 = 0.97) in the sample set with a standard error of calibration (SEC) of 2.45 dtex and a standard error of cross-validation (SECV) of 2.51 dtex R2 = 0.96). The mean error of the reference airflow method was 1.56 dtex, which is more accurate than the NIR calibration. The improvement in fiber fineness of the validation set obtained from the six production lines was predicted with an error range of -6.47 to +7.19 dtex for input fibers, -1.44 to +5.77 dtex for blended fibers at the doubling, and -4.72 to +3.59 dtex at the drawing frame stages. This level of precision is adequate for wet-spinners to monitor fiber fineness of input fibers and during the preparation of fibers. The advantage of visNIR spectroscopy is the potential capability of the technique to assess fineness and other important quality characteristics of a fiber sample simultaneously in less than 30 minutes; the disadvantages are the expensive instrumentation and the expertise required for operating the instrument compared to the reference method. These factors need to be considered by the industry before installing an off-line NIR system for predicting quality parameters of input materials and changes in fiber characteristics during mechanical processing.
H.S.S. Sharma and N. Reinard, "Evaluation of Visible and Near-Infrared Spectroscopy as a Tool for Assessing Fiber Fineness During Mechanical Preparation of Dew-Retted Flax," Appl. Spectrosc. 58, 1431-1438 (2004)