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Smart textiles: an interview with Sabine Gimpel from the titv Greiz


Smart Textiles

© titv Greiz

Smart textiles are expanding the possibilities in furniture construction and automotive engineering. The Institute for Special Textiles and Flexible Materials (titv) is a think tank for these kinds of new textile applications. We spoke with Sabine Gimpel, Head of Research Marketing, on the latest developments and future prospects in smart textiles.

Ms Gimpel, the titv Greiz conducts research with interdisciplinary teams on textile innovations. What key new developments are you seeing?

Textile companies in Germany are increasingly concentrating on technical textiles. There’s also now a stronger focus on smart textiles. At the titv Greiz, we mainly work on the development of electrically conductive textiles and special surface treatments and their applications – such as luminous, sensory or heating textiles. In our research fields smart textiles, functional surfaces and flexible materials, innovations are being developed for applications at all textile processing stages and for sectors such as automotive engineering and wellness.

Smart textiles is one of your research fields. What developments are you seeing on the market in relation to these products?

Research on smart textiles has been ongoing for more than 15 years, but only small numbers of products are available commercially. A large breakthrough is on the horizon in the field of sensory clothing for the health and wellness sector. Smart textiles – whether they are sensory, have an actuator function, are heating, luminous or interactive when combined with mobile devices and user-friendly apps – are set to conquer the market. The prerequisites for this are reliable products, market-ready technological solutions and cost-effective automated production.

What opportunities are new production methods such as 3D printing opening up for textile production and processing?

3D printing is almost something of an all-rounder already. Whenever individuality and samples or tiny quantities are required, 3D printing can be used in the idea generation process. For smart e-textiles, component housing or encapsulation are relevant areas.

What do the new developments in textiles mean for furniture production?

As with almost all products, function integration is also relevant to furniture construction. Textiles with sensory, luminous or heating functions can contribute to this.

And what opportunities do these kinds of textiles offer for automotive engineering?

The key issues in vehicle development today are new drive concepts and conserving resources. Closely related to them are electromobility and lightweight construction, and textiles will be an interesting material in these fields. Diverse activities in fibre-reinforced plastics are contributing towards this. The integration of sensor technology and actuator elements in textile structures can also contribute to further weight reduction through system integration. Touchless sensor systems offer further opportunities for use in cars. With various textile technologies, capacitive sensors can be constructed in such a way that EMG signals can be captured and evaluated without direct contact with the body. This opens up interesting approaches for driver assistance systems, in particular for avoiding accidents such as those caused by tiredness.