Tablet keyboard with textile conductors

For some people, jewellery comes to mind when they think about silver. Others think “It’s great for warding off werewolves!” However, textiles can also be coated with silver. And used, for example, to make a flexible tablet keyboard.

“Click, click, clack, click” – the sound of a conventional keyboard could soon be an audible part of an exhibition called ‘Primitive Input Devices’ where people crease up with laughter at the sight of such out-dated gadgets. Today, keyboards are already flat, smart and quiet – or are virtual devices ‘made of light’. However, because mobility is becoming more and more important, electronic companies are now rolling out flexible and foldable rubber keyboards. The classic printed circuit boards used for power and signal transmission in conventional keyboards are not suitable for this because they can only be rolled up once – until they break.

Buckles sometimes: specimens of different silver coatings on a textile support (Source: Statex)

Buckles sometimes: specimens of different silver coatings on a textile support (Source: Statex)

In view of this, Bremen-based Statex, one of the leading manufacturers of silver-coated textiles, has developed a textile conductor for a rubber tablet keyboard on behalf of one of America’s biggest IT corporations. “The demand for light and flexible materials is growing, especially in technological markets”, says the company’s research and development director, Sven Böhmer.

But how is fabric transformed into flexible, er, hardware? “We coat, for instance, polyamide yarns, fabrics and nonwovens with 99 percent pure silver”, explains Sven Böhmer. To this end, the precious metal, which is the best transmitter of heat and electricity of all elements, is literally anchored into the fabric using a wet-chemical process. The resulting textile material is then used as the basis for fibre products with conducting, sensory or heating functions. The advantage: the products remain flexible despite the silver coating.

The fibre-based conductor is already in circulation as a preliminary product and the final version is scheduled to be launched onto the market in 2018.

Ronny Eckert

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