The Next Frontier: Smart Fabric Technology

Technological advancements, especially in the field of electronics, are occurring on an increasingly rapid scale. Models of televisions, phones, and computers are constantly being reimagined and released to an always-eager public. Improvements to these items have drastic, positive impacts throughout our daily lives, and they make necessary tasks easier to perform. Just like the world of technology, the world of fashion, outerwear, and materials are changing at a swift pace as well. The combination of these fields is what is creating the next frontier, and it is headed by the development of “smart textiles.”
Similar to electronic devices, these materials serve special functions – sensing and reacting to environmental conditions or stimuli. Their effects can be seen throughout fitness, biomedical, and aerospace industries, offering engineered solutions to meet the needs of society in an increasingly effective manner. From the moment we’re born, these different textile and manufactured options can be utilized to enhance our quality of life. Below are a few examples of the possibilities.
Smart Textiles and Apparel
Different sensors or microprocessors can now be woven into clothing products. The benefits of each product depends on which materials are used in its creation. For example, phase changing materials (PCMs) can be used to form protective garments applicable in all types of weather conditions. Through fiber spinning or other finishing methods, these materials can be applied to anything from underwear and socks to anti-ballistic vests and blood pressure monitors.
Other physical benefits can be uncovered through built-in haptic feedback or vibrations. Incorporated into different workout materials and apparel, these additions can improve daily workouts, performance and progression, and movements altogether. The goal is to ultimately “add comfort, safety, and confidence to the human experience,” says Madison Maxey, founder of a startup designing fabric-based technology. Other combinations of smart textiles and apparel include embedding LEDs and e-Ink screens in clothing and accessories. The idea is to make it possible for users to control color changes and patterns on the fabric using an app or their smartphone.
Smart Textiles and Devices
Startups aren’t the only ones incorporating smart textiles into their business models. Larger corporations like Apple are jumping on the train as well. Though clothing isn’t the product line they’ll likely choose to expand on, they are looking to enhance their lines of technology even further by utilizing fiberoptics, nanoelectronics, and thermochromic dyes. Embedded into threads or yarns, this variation of textile could be used in devices like the iPhone, Apple Watch, Mac, and more. These objects are considered “smart,” and the vision for companies like Apple is to incorporate similar technologies and abilities into fabrics. Much like we’re able to talk into our phones or television remotes to complete tasks, we may someday be able to do the same with our clothing.
Smart Textiles and Medical
According to T3, an organization dedicated to discovering and showcasing items that lead to a better life, sensors in textiles can now access and store different medical information. In doing so, they help people stay calm, sleep more soundly, and measure vital signs. These types of wearable monitoring systems are a form of “Telemedicine” as defined by the Journal of Textile Science & Engineering, and they can provide a more detailed window into physiological signals and status that clinical visits cannot. Items like life belts and life jackets are byproducts of this sector, and other variations can be used in the military for easing injuries, monitoring environmental hazards, and remote triage or diagnostics.
As technology continuously evolves to meet industry needs, so must the companies that utilize it. Remaining active in manufacturing and textiles for over 165 years, Fletcher Industries knows this first-hand. Finding optimum facilities for production, diversifying our portfolio of offerings, and enhancing our equipment and product development allows us to meet the needs of the present while planning for the future. To learn more about our cutting-edge solutions and abilities, call us today at 910-692-7133

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