Rayon is a man-made fiber created from regenerated cellulose fiber, that comes primarily from wood pulp. The wood pulp is chemically converted into a soluble compound, which is then chemically solidified, resulting in fibers made of nearly pure cellulose.
There are many different variations of Rayon which can imitate the feel, texture and properties of natural fibers such as silk, wool, cotton and linen. Some of these variations go under different names depending on both the technique and process under which the fibers are developed as well as what properties the fibers will have. The name Rayon (Viscose) isn’t the name for just one fiber but the name of a group of fibers. Such as Modal, Cupro, Lyocell, Tencel, acetate and triacetate.
Modal and Cupro were some of the first sub types of Rayon that was created. The fibers were initially designed to mimic silk and was called artificial silk. Modal is stronger and more stable when wet than other rayon fibers, yet it has a soft touch very similar to cotton. The difference between Modal and Cupro is that Cupro was made to imitate silk where as Modal was made to imitate cotton. Cupro has the shimmering look of silk as well as the fine delicate structure of silk.
Lyocell and Tencel was developed later on as a more eco-friendly version of Rayon. It is made from wood pulp, usually eucalyptus trees because of their fast growth. Some of the environmentally benefits are that it is a renewable raw material, it is fully biodegradable. Similar to the rest of the Rayon fibers these fibers have a good absorbency, is soft, drapes well, has a great durability and is crease resistant. Although in their wet state, the material changes properties and become much more crisp and delicate. The fibers have low elasticity in their wet state and if stretched to far they might break, but when the fabric dries up it returns to its original state.
Due to the high demand of more environmentally friendly processes from renewable sources other fibers has have been developed. These materials are often named by the source of the raw material, such as soya and bamboo.