Making clothing more practical, communicative, functional, and protective is a fundamental idea when developing so-called intelligent textiles, Groz-Beckert, a leading provider of industrial machine needles, reports.
Integrating sensors, electrically conductive yarns, or other unusual materials when manufacturing smart textiles creates great challenges for stitch-creating components. Groz-Beckert provides needles and system parts for a number of ambitious technologies and collaborations to develop and implement new ideas.
Research into wearable technology began to draw interest over 30 years ago. Certain smart textiles have come into the market over the years, particularly in the areas of medicine and sport. Nevertheless, these smart textiles are not yet as widespread or have come into our everyday lives as one would assume under such conditions. In an attempt to change this situation, Germany’s Federal Ministry for Education and Research began an initiative in May 2018 to promote “materials for intelligent (smart) textiles”.
Smart textiles are trend-setting in a number of ways. Their functionality means they can make a significant contribution to sustainability, for example in medicine by treating wounds in a manner that saves resources, or in everyday life when the power needed for various devices and functions can be carried directly on the body or created via solar energy.
Researchers from the University of Washington were recently successful in developing an intelligent textile that works without any external power source, meaning it can be washed and ironed: a standard shirt that functions as data storage. A conductive yarn was used for this purpose, which is already used in gloves to operate touchscreens, for instance.
By magnetising the yarn in the shirt sleeve, the researchers were able to integrate an access code used to access security zones. Doors can be opened by moving the sleeve in front of the control panel. Data saved in the textile by polarising the conductive yarn can be read with a magnetometer. With this technology, people will be able to carry large amounts of data directly on their bodies.