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E-textile are fabrics that enable digital components. A battery, a light, and electronics are embedded in them. In 1968, the Museum of Contemporary Craft in New York City held a ground-breaking exhibition. The ‘Body Covering’ focused on the relationship between technology and apparel. E-textile is a revolutionary and highly promising industry of the future.
Electronic textiles combine traditional fabrics and fibers with electronics. There is a distinction between “e-textile” and “smart textile.” The smart textile or smart fabric reacts to outside stimuli such as heat, chemicals, magnetism or mechanical stimuli but doesn’t necessarily have an electronic component. Electronic textile is extensively used but not limited to the following major application areas:
- Fashion and Entertainment
Electronic textile is at the forefront to bring the best for its customers. The Global Electronic Textiles Market is estimated to be USD 2.17 billion in 2020 and is growing at a CAGR of 20.50% during the forecast period of 2020-2025 to reach USD 5.51 billion by 2025.
Game-Changing Technologies in Electronic Textile
- Ralph Lauren: They are producing jackets with an updated heating component. It can be controlled wirelessly through Bluetooth on a new RL Heat application. It offers adjustable warming levels. And the heat will last up to three hours at its highest level. The jacket can be charged with the Mophie power bank or any USB power source. The battery can also be used to charge phones.
- The Commuter x Jacquard: It is a part of a collaboration between Levi’s and Google. This non-stretch denim jacket connects to the smartphone via Bluetooth. It can screen phone calls, control music volume, and even get you directions. All you need is to tap or roll the sleeves.
- Adidas: Its body monitoring tops have sewn-in sensors. They measure heart and respiratory activity. A snap-in transmitting device sends data to your smartphone, watch, or gym equipment. The sensors use body sweat or water to maintain a connection and are designed to replace uncomfortable, chaffing heart-monitoring straps. Adidas Textronics sees applications for its products in health monitoring, preventative care, exercise physiology, and weight loss.
Innovations in E-Textile
- XENOMA: E-skin Sleep & Lounge is smart apparel. It is for the wellbeing and health monitoring of elderly people.
- SCHOEFFEL: An integrated nano-carbon heating system is used. It is super light, extremely thin, and imperceptible. Therefore, increases skiing performance. It can offer protection against injuries by keeping muscles and joints warm. It is capable of controlling the heat individually.
- Athos: It is based on EMG (Electromyography) technology. It measures muscle activity. This is combined with powerful AI and a mobile application. It gives you insights into your body’s activity.
- Nyokas Technologies: They made a jacket named, ZEAL with a small device attached to it. The device weighs just 60 gm. It sends SOS/GPS signals to people you trust and even the police patrolling nearby, during an attack.
The technology used here is a combination of conductive textile, printed electronics, hardware, and software that can be used to sense and respond to the human body.
Emerging Technologies in Electronic Textile
- Textile Electrocardiogram (ECG) Electrodes for Wearable Health Monitoring: A wearable ECG monitoring system is used to monitor cardiac health. Other biopotential signals are detected at the surface of the skin. The electrodermal activity (EDA), electromyography (EMG), and electroencephalography (EEG) are monitored.
- Rehabilitation using Double Aid (DAid) Smart Textile Shirt: Most of the time it is difficult to visually detect inappropriate movement of the shoulder in the mirror. It helps reduce dislocation during an extensive workout. The smart garment system detects undesirable movements of the shoulder. Thus, allowing the user to adjust movements during the training. The DAid smart shirt system consists of a textile strain sensor and a data acquisition unit.
- Light-Emitting electronic Textiles with Changeable Display Patterns: The open framework structure of an ultra-sheer knitted textile is coated with a conformal gold film. Gold-coated ultra-sheer electrodes are produced by chemical reactions. These are highly conductive and retain conductivity to 200% strain. The ultra-sheer electrodes produce wearable, highly stretchable, and light-emitting electronic textiles that can function to 200% strain. Incorporating soft-contact lamination produces light-emitting textiles that exhibit readily changeable patterns of illumination.
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Challenges To E-Textile
To understand the industry challenges relating to smart textile, we went through thousands of journals, articles, and patent literature to search the problem areas.
- E-textiles or smart fabrics will degrade with each washing cycle.
- Combining electronics with textile make it uncomfortable.
After a comprehensive analysis of electronic textile, we came across the following viable, innovative, and possibly the best solutions:
- Anchoring carbon nanotubes (CNTs) into the non-woven fabric (NWF). It is done with the help of nano soldering and reduced graphene oxide (rGO) to remove the washing problem.
- Electrical properties are “dyed” into the fabric. It helps to convert textiles and garments into e-textiles, without affecting their original properties. The textiles remain thin, stretchable, and supple.
Technology Scouting in field of Electronic Textile
- Electronic textiles with high strain sensitivity and high thermal conduction: The e-textiles are prepared by anchoring carbon nanotubes (CNTs) into the non-woven fabric (NWF). The nano soldering is followed by depositing reduced graphene oxide (rGO) through the chemical reduction of graphene oxide (GO). The e-textiles are highly machine washable and can be operated in water for a long time
- Saarland University team makes e-textiles by dyeing: The method makes it possible to convert textiles and garments into electronic textiles, without affecting their original properties. The textiles remain thin, stretchable, and supple. The electrical properties are “dyed” into the fabric.
COVID-19 Impact on E-Textile
- Long working hours, hectic schedules, and growing risk of virus, all together have popularized electronic textile.
- As Covid19 impacts mostly on the respiratory system. Therefore, it is important to track one’s respiratory symptoms.
- Due to the overburden in hospitals because of the Covid19 second wave, remote monitoring is of utmost importance.
Future Trends in E-Textile
- Myant’s biometric sensing mask could collect data on emissions from the respiratory system via volatile organic compound (VOC) sensing, providing new ways to assess health and performance for the user.
- Hexoskin’s smart shirt senses how the fabric stretches as the wearer’s chest expands and contracts. Such measurements are then used to determine the volume of aspirated air. Likewise, the shirt records the wearer’s heart rate and movements.
- Siren, a technology company that developed smart textiles with remote patient monitoring (RPM) applications, today announced an additional raise of $9 million for the company’s Series B financing. Siren’s rapid growth was further fueled by the increased demand for RPM and the decrease in in-person office visits due to COVID-19.
- PIECLEX uses kinetic energy produced by the expansion and contraction of the fabric produced by the human movement to generate electricity that helps to zap bacteria and viruses.
Global Electronic Textiles Market
The Global E-Textiles Market is estimated to be USD 2.17 billion in 2020 and is growing at a CAGR of 20.50% during the forecast period of 2020-2025 to reach USD 5.51 billion by 2025.
Drivers of E-Textile Market
- Health-monitoring wearables will offer immense growth opportunities.
- Textiles integrated with electronic components such as sensors for communication, sensing, etc. would further drive the growth.
- The ever-increasing need for nanotech. based advanced military uniforms and materials will boost the growth.
Electronic Textile Start-Up Companies
- Adetex provides smart garments and wearable electronics solutions. Adetexs uses the novel process of integration of electronics into textile. Its headquarters is in Nottingham, United Kingdom.
- Xenoma specializes in system integration using smart apparel. Its stretchable electronics technology includes sensor calibration and magnetometer-free motion. Its headquarters is in Tokyo, Japan.
- Conductive Transfer has developed a new technology for printing stretchable electronics. The patented process results in circuits that are stretchable, washable, durable, and effective. Its headquarters are in York, United Kingdom.
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Key Players in E-Textile
- Gentherm: Formerly called Amerigon, is a developer and a marketer of thermal management technologies. It diversifies into heating- cooling and temperature control devices for a variety of industries.
- Schoeller Textile AG: It is a globally operating company that specializes in sustainable development. And in the production of innovative textiles and textile technologies, which are leaders in niche markets worldwide.
- Camira Fabrics: The company designs and manufactures commercial, contract textiles. Camira Fabric acquired Luna Textiles, a US-based company that manufactures fabric for healthcare, hospitality, and other lounge seating purposes. It has its HQ in Mirfield, United Kingdom.
- Hexoskin: The Hexoskin Smart Garments include textile sensors embedded into comfortable garments for precise and continuous cardiac, respiratory, and activity monitoring. It has its HQ in Quebec, Canada.
Mergers and Acquisitions in Electronic Textile
Camira Fabrics and Luna Textiles
In July 2019, Camira Fabric acquired Luna Textiles, a US-based company that manufactures fabric for healthcare, hospitality, and other lounge seating purposes. This acquisition helped Camira Fabric to increase its revenue.
Adidas and Textronics Inc.
In December 2008, Physic Ventures announced that Adidas International, Inc. has acquired Textronics, Inc. a developer of wearable sensors for use in fitness and healthcare monitoring.
Partnership Agreement and Product Process Development
- Gentherm and ThermoAnalytics, Inc.
In February 2019, Gentherm signed a partnership agreement with ThermoAnalytics, Inc. A leading thermal modeling software development firm for the advancement of human thermal comfort predictions.
In June 2019, Pireta developed a unique process that adds conductive metallic patterns directly into textile clothing without changing the fabric feel. These wearable smart garments and e-textiles enabled physicians to diagnose diseases in their early stages.