Tag Archives: Electronic Textiles

This conductive ink can make your clothes smarter


University of Tokyo researchers have created a new ink that can be printed on textiles in a single step.


As the dream of a world with everyone wearing smart clothing continues to become a reality, University of Tokyo researchers have developed a new conductive ink that will enable electronics to be printed on stretchable fabrics.

(Source: Someya Laboratory/University of Tokyo)

(Source: Someya Laboratory/University of Tokyo)

“Current printed electronics, such as transistors, light-emitted diodes, and solar panels, can be printed on plastic or paper substrates, but these substrates tend to be rigid or hard. The use of soft, stretchable material would enable a new generation of wearable devices that fit themselves to the human body,” the team led by Professor Takao Someya explains.

The ink can be easily printed on textiles and patterned in a single step. This is made possible through the combination of fluorine, an organic solvent and silver flakes, which when mixed, maintains its electricity even if stretched to more than three times its original length. As you can imagine, this makes it ideal for smart athletic apparel that monitors things like heart rate and movement.

Using their new ink, the researchers have developed their first prototype — a wristband muscle activity sensor — by printing an elastic conductor on a sportswear material and blending it with an organic transistor amplifier circuit. While it may not replace your fitness tracker just yet, the sensor can measure muscle activity by detecting muscle electrical potentials over an area of 4×4 square centimeters with nine electrodes placed 2 centimeters apart in a 3×3 grid.

Report: Smart garments are set to explode in 2016


50% of those considering buying a smart wristband will choose a smartwatch instead, says Gartner.


According to Gartner’s most recent report, smart wristbands will decrease in popularity over the next year as consumers will migrate to more all-purpose smartwatch devices. However, the market for smart wristbands and other fitness monitors will experience a resurgence come 2016 because of versatile designs with lower-cost displays, as well as the arrival of smart garments.

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While smart wristbands are expected to dip a bit from 70 million units in 2014 to 68.1 million devices in 2015, Gartner suggests this temporary decline in sales will be a result of an overlap in functionality between the bands, fitness monitors and smartwatches. 

“Smartwatches having retail prices of $149 or more will typically have the capability to track activity and have accelerometers and gyroscopes similar to their smart wristband cousins. The smartwatches differ from smart wristbands in that smartwatches need to display the time and have a user interface oriented around communication. However, some smart wristbands have the ability to display and send text messages,” explained Angela McIntyre, Gartner Research Director.

While these wrist-adorned devices will carry on, Gartner believes the emergence of less invasive devices, particularly smart garments, will potentially disrupt the wearables space. So much so that embedded clothing shipments are projected to rise from a mere 0.1 million units in 2014 to 26 million units in 2016.

For those unfamiliar with the territory, smart garments typically refer to items ranging from t-shirts with bio-sensing circuitry woven into its fibers — which may be able to monitor vital signs more accurately given its larger body surface area — to sensor-laden athletic shoes.

The research firm believes that this product category has the greatest potential for growth going forward because “the category is emerging from the testing phase and smart shirts are available to athletes and coaches of professional teams.” Take for instance, Ralph Lauren’s Polo Tech smart apparel collection which made quite the ‘racket’ at this year’s U.S. Open. In collaboration with OMSignal, the shirt was equipped with embedded sensors, including an accelerometer, a gyroscope and a heart rate monitor.

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Aside from Polo’s latest breakthrough, Adidas miCoach and Under Armour’s E39 compression shirts, e-textiles have the ability to revolutionize the manner in which data is tracked and measured in healthcare, fitness, military and industrial settings. Writing for Forbes, Robert J. Szczerba recently highlighted an array of smart garment products that are either already or will soon be available:

1)  AiQ Smart Clothing Company produces a line of smart apparel, including conductive gloves for smudge-free touchscreen use, clothes that light up, clothes that give off evenly distributed heat, and even metal mesh clothing that shields the wearer from radiation.

2)  Designer Pauline Van Dongen offers a wearable solar clothing collection. Her coats and dresses integrate solar cells that can charge your smartphone, but be obscured with fabric when not in use.

3)  SmartSox help prevent amputations in diabetes patients who have lost sensation in their feet. They incorporate fiber optics and sensors to monitor temperature, pressure, and the angles of joints in the feet, and alert the wearer or caregiver of any developing problems.

4)  Exmobaby is smart clothing designed for newborn and infants. Sensors monitor vital signs and movement, and send this information to 3G and Bluetooth components that can issue appropriate alerts.

5)  Researchers at Universidad Carlos III in Madrid, Spain have developed an intelligent hospital gown that wirelessly measures body temperature, heart rate, patient location, and whether the patient is sitting, standing, lying down, walking, or running.

“Smart garments is the newest market out there. In 2014 there really are very few of these on the market. They’re more like betas, the few that are actually being sold. But that’s why we see such large growth,” McIntyre added.

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This doesn’t take into account the countless number of soft electronics DIY projects either. Inspired to create their very own smart textiles, Makers have embraced various Atmel powered platforms specifically designed for wearable applications, including the Arduino Lilypad (ATmega328) and Adafruit’s FLORA (ATmega32U4), which can be easily daisy chained with various sensors for GPS, motion and light.

Interested in reading more? Check out the latest Gartner report in its entirety here.

Color-changing Chromosonic textiles react to heat and sound

Judit Eszter Karpati, a Budapest-based textile designer, wanted to further blur the fading boundaries between the digital realm and physical world.

Karpati was specifically interested in exploring the relationship between technology and textile arts, which is how Chromosonic was born. The avant-garde fabric uses Karpati’s out-of-the-box technology dubbed “Electronic Programmable Textile Interface,” which enables it to become more sensitive to heat and sound, and to react by producing colorful shifting patterns.

chromosonic

Like a chameleon, the textile alters its patterns based on its surroundings, which is made possible by an [Atmel basedArduino board, a 12V power supply and nearly 20 custom PCBs. These components control four industrial 24V DC power supplies that are responsible for heating the two moving textile displays — each of which are woven with nichrome wires, screenprinted with thermochromatic dye, and pre-programmed with Karpati’s patterns.

When the power supplies are activated, the wires quickly heat up and the the thermochromatic dyes react to the change in color, ranging from black and blue to white and red. Aside from heat, the textile will also respond to pressure.

Learn more about Chromosonic by checking out the project’s official page here. Interested in chameleon-like clothing? You’ll want to read this, too.