Gone are the days where you had to wrap yourself in several layers of clothing to protect yourself from extreme weather. Innovators have taken other factors like appeal and comfort into consideration. With the fourth industrial revolution and the birth of artificial intelligence, new generation apparel has been launched — smart fabrics. These clothes are made of woven or non-woven materials that can interact with the consumer or the environment. These fabrics act as an added significance for the wearer and can adapt themselves to the environmental conditions the wearer is subjected to.
Types of Smart Fabric
There are four major classifications of smart fabric;
Passive smart materials
These materials are only capable of sensing external environmental conditions. The sensors are receptive toward stimuli as well. They detect variations in color, thermal temperature, shape, and electricity. For instance, a t-shirt with in-built sensors to track body temperature all the time.
Active smart material
These materials sense and react to the external stimulus and surroundings. These are built by adapting actuators into passive smart materials. For instance, the t-shirt can respond to hot weather conditions by rolling up the sleeves.
Very smart materials
These materials sense, act and adapt as per the external conditions. The in-built sensors get the signals, and they work accordingly. Also, if needed, they change the shape, color, or size of the material.
Materials with an even greater level of knowledge
This technology is still a work in progress for human bodies. They incorporate artificial intelligence such as robots or computers into clothing. Experts are still researching and studying this area of textile and electronics.
Novel fabric is another attempt of fashion designers to move towards sustainability. As studies suggest, eco-leather does not constitute a sustainable alternative. Hence, many startups like modern meadow experiments on lab-produced leather without hurting animals. Companies also began innovating super-effective spider silk. Researchers are building customizable color-changing rings by blending 3D printing with objects. Google is making conductive threads as a part of its advanced technology project. These threads will be woven into touch-responsive fabrics like rugs and tablecloths. Researchers are also succeeding in generating color-changing fabric technology. In the future, fabrics would change colors as per consumers’ moods and situations.
From Textiles to Nextiles
Nextiles is a textile production startup founded in 2018. The organization focuses on innovating conventional sewing methods with high-level sensor technology. The smart thread innovation will empower consumers to trace their data through their apparel. These outfits would prove to be extraordinary for sports as well as fitness-driven industries. The blend of yarn with printed circuit boards will appear similar to everyday sportswear. There would be no visible straps, ugly attachments, or wraps, as the sensors would be sewn inside the fabric. The threads used by the company comprise regularly produced yarns, like spandex and nylon. Consumers can streamline their data into real-time by connecting to Bluetooth. This innovation will allow the yarn industry to maximize its efficiency once again.
Designers highlighted the utility of flat knitting and the richness of embroidery. This happened due to the formulation and commercialization of innovative smart fabrics. With the help of flat knitting technology, endlessly creative, smart fabric patterns are conceivable. This technology can interlay methods for accurately combining refined stainless steel or useful silver-coated polyamide or copper fibers to form resilient channels for heating components, actuators, and sensors.
Fabric Strain Sensors
Fabric strain monitoring is essential in fitness and sports. The innovation of smart fabrics has made it easier to track motile and everyday bodily movement constantly. Using strain sensors within textiles uncovers unique applications. For instance, attaching the sensors in the elbow or knee cap region. This application can estimate the bending angle of the joints. These measurements are helpful for fitness enthusiasts. This technique will allow medical practitioners to suggest the number of steps consumers should take when injured. The feedback can also be based on regulating the walking or jogging speed. Consumers can also track their full-body postures. Estimating the pose utilizing strain sensors allows inconspicuous assimilation into textiles.
Smart Textiles Available Today
A myriad of brands began to incorporate smart fabrics into their clothing line. One example is the stone island jacket. It is capable of providing information and changing color as per the outside temperature. The fabric begins changing from the darker shade to a lighter one as the temperature crosses 27-degree Celsius. Another innovative example is polar seal sports garments. These outfits are perfect for cold climatic conditions as they provide instant heat with the click of a button. The apparel is water-resistant and lightweight. Moreover, it is ideal to even wear under gloves and a shirt. They can work up to 8 hrs with one charge. One of the most exciting discoveries for music lovers is the Zerol cap. It comes with built-in bone conduction speakers. With this exceptional technology, consumers no longer have to put on earphones for calls or music. Additionally, they do not block the ears and are water-resistant as well.