This project developed a platform system for producing electronic textiles that is unique in that functionality is embedded within the core of yarns in a way that protects the components from subsequent processing. The system is novel in that electronic functionality is fully embedded within fabrics without compromising the required textile characteristics of flexibility, conformability and comfort. Unless required for functionality, the electronic components are invisible to the naked eye on either face of the resultant fabrics. However, production was craft based and an advanced manufacturing technology had to be developed to reap industrial benefits. The method developed by Professor Dias involves soldering minute semi-conductor chips onto fine copper wires and protecting the active components using an ultra-violet (UV) curable resin. The assembly is then inserted into the core of a textile yarn.
The aim of the research was to develop a method of manufacturing smart and interactive textiles using printed electronics. Printed electronics offer the potential for very low cost production compared to conventional components, particularly as organic electronics enter the market. By way of a demonstrator, the goal was to develop a smart fabric incorporating printed electronics that responded to temperature changes. The proposed technique was to produce printed electronic fibres (PEF), where circuitry was printed onto polymer strips, and embedded into yarns.
The Advanced Textiles Research Group at Nottingham Trent University is led by Professor Dias and is a world leader in the development of electronic textiles. The group teamed up with a group led by Professor Steve Beeby, of the Department of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton. Professor Beeby’s team is at the forefront of research into printed electronics. The group at Southampton produced the printed electronic fibres, and the team at NTU incorporated the PEFs into yarns and into fabrics to test for functionality.
This research received funding from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory through the Centre for Defence Enterprise under contract number CDE31938. This was the precursor to the EPSRC funded FETT project.