Techtextil 2017 Yarns Foto: Neckarfreunde for Messe Frankfurt

The ‘Threaded Revolution’ has begun

Revolutionary ideas are just what we need – above all in science and technology. Air taxis are just as revolutionary as artificial intelligence, self-drive cars or Elon Musk’s pneumatic ‘tube post’ – that he calls the Hyperloop – for transporting people and goods. No less needed are ideas for ways of fishing plastics from the sea, ditto, too, reflections on colonising the moon, Mars etc. It is now clear, that the materials that are not just simply innovative, but are definitely ‘revolutionary’, include yarns and threads.

In the run up to Techtextil and Texprocess, yarn manufacturers, AMANN have drawn attention to their newly developed ‘smart yarns’, under the heading of ‘Threaded Revolution’. Intelligent yarns that can carry data and conduct electricity are said to be capable of measuring the stresses on building components, of monitoring temperature or moisture content and of being employed in medical technology. So, what can we expect from fibres? Two experts, one opinion – when it comes to smart textiles used at the highest levels of integration in fibres and textile surfaces.

Dr. Thomas Stegmaier (Dr.-Ing), Director Technical Textiles at the German Institutes for Textile and Fibre Research (Deutsche Institute für Textil und Faserforschung – DITF), emphasises that we are just at the beginning with this kind of functional integration. “A huge amount is going to happen in this high-tech field over the next ten years.” The number of relevant projects is set to increase rapidly, including those looking at actuator technology, active components that provide ‘power assistance’ to the wearer of the garment.

Andreas Lanyi, Vice President of Lunative Industries GmbH, points to a Google study, according to which, ten percent of the world’s population will be wearing textiles with integral smart sensors by 2025. “Because functional control mechanisms in textiles have now arrived, in just a few years’ time, touch-sensitive yarns will increasingly come to be used for such processes instead of smartphones.” Technology is set to get so much smaller; electronic components will be worked into textiles – or even into the yarn itself – and thus become a single homogeneous product.

Modern workwear, often with five or six integral functions / Source: Lunative Industries GmbH

Modern workwear, often with five or six integral functions / Source: Lunative Industries GmbH

Particularly, too, in that most interdisciplinary of areas, Protech – protective wear for personal and material protection – there is an increasing demand for complex, ‘intelligent’ solutions. The ‘smart-textile’ components that are now coming to be used in this area must not only function as independently as possible, they must also be as invisible as possible, i.e. integrated into the textile.

Touch-sensitive switch: Eschler Textil GmbH, who specialise in technical textiles with heating, light-emitting and sensing properties, are now developing further textile sensors that recognise moisture and pressure. One innovative component here is a textile switch that recognises when someone touches the fabric. That means that procedures such as turning on the light can be triggered in this way.

Textile bus system: when a ship catches fire in port, it is the land-based fire-brigade that is called. Their crews face particular dangers with respect to unfamiliar spaces, access through hatches and pollution hazards from the burning of unfamiliar substances. ATS Elektronik GmbH, together with specialists from the German Institutes for Textile and Fibre Research (DITF), are seeking to solve the problem of these unknowns through the use of sensors and actuators on a textile bus system, to enable real-time monitoring. A key feature of their innovation is the integration of alarm actuators in the arm of the crew’s uniform, with a directional status monitor for the internal and external temperatures of the personal protective equipment.

New types of functional workwear: from the interdisciplinary technology pioneers and textile-sector-based engineers at Lunative, who are currently developing completely new workwear functions relating to light and sensor technology for B2B business. They are intended for use in areas, such as the port and ship-handling industry, on construction sites and in the world of haulage and logistics. In this field, it very often involves about five or six different functions going on at the same time in the fabric, or arising out of the fabric, whereby the workwear and protective clothing (as and when necessary) illuminates, measures, provides climate control or sends information, enables communication and the transfer of parameters – from one employee to another, from the member of staff on site to the person in charge or the control centre, from the specialist to the (work) environment, etc.

Self-actuating disconnection provides laser protection if necessary / Source: Protect Laserschutz GmbH

Self-actuating disconnection provides laser protection if necessary / Source: Protect Laserschutz GmbH

Laser protection with pro-active functionality: laser-protection specialists PROTECT-Laserschutz GmbH have developed a protective apron with self-activating and, hence, proactive functionality. If, when using a laser on a piece of work, a high-energy beam is misdirected by, say, an unfortunate reflection and falls on the protective clothing, which is equipped with a solar-sensitive layer, then the system either sends an automatic warning or automatically switches off. The project was sponsored by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, as part of their ZIM programme for supporting innovation at SME level, and partnered by the Leibnitz IPHT Institute in Jena.

Text: Hans-Werner Oertel

Title image: Neckarfreunde for Messe Frankfurt

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