Smartness is the key of success… One may coin this phrase looking at the way things are happening around us. We, human beings, are considered to be one of the smartest species, and with the same smartness we invented the technology that made human life smarter and provided benefits larger than life. Today this technology has become a part and parcel of our life
from Laptops/ Macbooks, smartphones to smartwatches we are surrounded by all smart gadgets. We are reaching new heights of merging devices as lightweight wearables in the form of smart garments. The merger of technology to the garments might be a concept yet to completely sync in, but we have come far ahead with small applications already accepted and being used to a large extent, especially in healthcare monitoring devices. Smart textiles have come a long way from medical assist robotics systems to medicine/ chemical infusing systems, nano monitors & embedded sensors, illuminating advanced functional textiles to embedded electronic systems in automobiles & wearable electronics. The smart textiles market is expected to grow exponentially at a CAGR of 23.2% from US$2.3 billion in 2021 to US$6.5 billion by 2026. (As reported in Markets & Markets International Paper)
Figure 1: Source Markets & Markets International Paper & Suvin Analysis
These smart textiles being such an innovative concept have however found their usefulness primarily limited either to high-performance and technical military gear or in the glamorous side of the globe the high-end fashion industry. Where dazzling & sparkling concepts have reached new heights with the use of illuminating & reflective smart textiles. And as it happens, the followers just copy such fashion and if it clicks, quantity just multiplies. Smart textiles are however not that well-integrated and considered to be one individual piece in actual practice. It is a combination of electronic circuits being an external component to the textiles in use. Need of the hour is to have a single integrated feature coined as smart textiles. However, there are some ground-breaking inventions in this sector, some of which are as follows:
Translating stitch commands with Topo Knit
One such recent development is embedded smart textiles that help in translating the stitch commands. A team of researchers from Drexel University is translating the loops and twists of knitting into a digital architecture, for merging new technologies such as electronic circuits into textiles. One of the greatest barriers to having complete integration is the current software being used for the industrial design and production of textiles says Dr. David Breen, a professor at Drexel’s College of Computing and Informatics. This software is lacking the thread-level detailing essential in the digital sampling and precision manufacturing of fabric devices.
A large 46 inch woven display
A team of scientists led by the UK’s University of Cambridge has developed one of a kind products that overcomes the imitations of manufacturing truly integrated smart textiles. They have produced a fully woven smart textile display that integrates active electronic, sensing, energy, and photonic functions. The functions are embedded directly into the fibres and yarns, which are manufactured using textile-based industrial processes into the fabric of the 46-inch woven display. With the success of this system, the researchers are amazed by the endless applications that can be commercialized. They claim it is possible to convert this woven fabric into high-end curtains, TVs, energy-harvesting carpets, and interactive, self-powered clothing and fabrics. This is the first time that a scalable large-area complex system has been integrated into textiles using an entirely fiber-based manufacturing approach. The results are reported in the journal Nature Communications. Merging Technology with Fashion Recently we have seen innovation in smart textiles that are a combination of both the Fashion & tech need. These innovations take care of fashion, comfort & environmental care. We all know today’s gen is the one that believes in having everything customized to their personality and their current mood and style. The need for personalized merchandise & garments is the one that has synced in the world across, what’s developing or trending is having merchandise that can adapt & change to reflect the current mood & secondly gives the feel of something new every time.
Colour Changing Automotive
The recent development by BMW is in line with today’s gen needs, it showed a merger of technology that brings different colour pigments to the surface skin of a vehicle. It showcased an extraordinary new technology at CES 2022 in Las Vegas, during January 5-8. It specially developed a digitally-activated body wrap for vehicles that enables the driver to adapt the exterior shades of a vehicle to different situations. This development apart from aesthetic pleasure to the user comes from delivering the best temperature feel to the users. In summers strong sunlight heats the vehicle motor and causes discomfort
to the passenger compartment making it difficult to maintain the temperature set inside the car. This can be reduced by changing the exterior to a light colour. In cooler weather, the dark outer skin will help the vehicle to absorb noticeably more warmth from the sun.
Advance Portable Exoskeleton
Though exoskeleton developments have come a long way there are new developments taking place in this space every day. All thanks to the ease and assistance it provides to the user. Recently a Hong Kong start up in Enhanced Robotics has proposed a model that weighs just 2.5kg which is said to be 85% lighter than traditional exoskeletons. It can provide walking assistance for 10.46 km on a single charge and is also equipped with an AIbased algorithm that rapidly learns the wearer’s gait and walking behaviour to adjust accordingly. Thus, preventing injuries and also amplifying the stamina of the wearer by manipulating the assistance force. The Sportsmate 5 is based on multiple high-strength composites. Using quasi-soft robotic architecture, the waist belt adjusts to any and as well as all body types via an electric inflatable airbag that fills the gap between the exoskeleton and the body to ensure comfort and stability.
Flexible Fibre Battery
MIT researchers have developed a rechargeable lithium- ion battery in the form of an ultra-long fibre that could be woven into fabrics. This battery could enable a wide variety of wearable electronic devices to be made without the monotonous shapes of the electronic devices or as we all associate a cylindrical-shaped battery hanging around. The long fibre makes it possible to make 3D-printed batteries in virtually any shape. To demonstrate the concept, MIT researchers have produced the world’s longest flexible fibre battery – 140 meters long.
So steadily smart textiles are becoming a part of our day-to-day life. The new generation is very much attracted to smart application. They like to wear clothing with their moods nicely decorated on the apparels. The concept of smart t-shirts, hoods as well as trousers portraits that ones can truly reflect the design as per their custom needs and secondly gives them the freedom to change the design as & when their mood change. So, a t-shirt that will help them portray what their like is the
buzz that will catch up just the way Instagram filters and effects are dominating & used widely by all ages across. Moreover, latest developments in various other applications related to science, sports, automobiles and other technical textiles are very much in demand and exploring new heights. Smart textiles will be growing exponentially in coming days and they will set a new record of demands due to their innovative concepts