Highly conductive thread is set to push the boundaries in the functionality of smart textiles. Natalie Greetham and Danielle Park of Madeira UK report on this new technology.
So what are smart textiles? Andy Boxall, of Digital Trends magazine, explains: “Before fashion existed, humans wore clothes to prevent themselves from freezing to death on cold winter nights, burning to death in the hot sun, or being slashed to death as they crawled through the undergrowth in search of the next meal.
“Even when fashion, branding, and commercialism spawned the first wave of trendy high-tech fabrics like Gore-Tex and Spandex thousands of years later, nothing much changed: They were still designed to keep us drier, warmer, cooler, or safer, and still a far cry from what most of us would consider smart, tech-infused clothing.”
With increasingly sedentary lifestyle, fitness and its importance is something that fills our minds and sports brands have understood this, striving to produce increasingly ‘live’ or functional garments, which in turn has triggered a revolution in nanotechnology. For example, Google’s Project Jacquard has incredible capacity and can make your clothes touch sensitive, essentially turning them into something that could be described as a phone accessory.
This revolution in nanotech: engineering on a microscopic scale (sometimes as small as 3-5 atoms) has allowed fabrics to be of use to us in new ways, providing added value to the wearer. Such advancements will revolutionise many industries, such as, athletics, extreme sports, military, fashion and medical.
What part will highly conductive threads play in this?
Exactly as they sound, HC threads are used to make a circuit through stitching to conduct electricity from one part of the fabric to another. This facilitates technological advancement by integrating the functionality to become inherent within the garment, not just an add-on, thus making the garment more flexible, resilient and easy to process.
Successful attempts have been made using HC threads to transform functioning outdoor wear to thermo-capable garments at the push of a button. HC threads enable digital aspects i.e. lights, batteries or small computers to be embedded within the garment.
Jacky Puzey, digital embroiderer of new fabrics, says: “I use the thread because it’s washable and runs really well in the industrial embroidery machines, so I can now develop ideas for new products incorporating sensor and lighting elements within the textiles.”
Big brands such as, Samsung, Ralph Lauren and Flex have all embraced this new technology and produced products with embedded sensors. These HC threads can be sewn into all types of fabric and provide functionality across a wide range of industries or mixed with standard embroidery thread in high fashion, the possibilities are endless.
Rebeccah Pailes-Freidman, an author and researcher on smart textiles and wearable technologies, adds: ‘’What makes smart fabrics revolutionary is that they have the ability to do many things that traditional fabrics cannot, including communicate, transform, conduct energy and even grow.”