Screen Printing - April/May 2018 - 18
C LOT H I N G :
Some of the initial buzz has waned, but large
companies are investing heavily in the technology
and giving us a glimpse of what may be ahead.
n the February/March 2016 edition of Screen Printing,
we took a big picture view of potential new applications and
markets for "smart clothing." At that time, clothing that
incorporated functional circuitry was part of a wave of hype
about all the types of wearables that could be developed for
the emerging Internet of Things (IoT).
Since then, much of the hype about smart clothing has
quieted down. In a webinar titled "Is It Time to Move on from
Wearables?" technology analysts at IDTechEx noted that the
markets for wearable devices are actually quite fragmented,
ranging from medical, military, virtual reality, and fashion. It's
unrealistic to project that the markets for wearable devices in
all of theses segments would advance at the same rate.
But that doesn't mean that research on e-textiles and smart
clothing has abated. According to a report entitled "E-Textiles
2017-2027: Technologies, Markets, Players" by James Hayward
of IDTechEx, "We are in contact with textiles for about 90
percent of our lives, and they are starting to become intelligent." Textiles are being integrated with electronics for
clothing, bandages, bed linens, and industrial fabrics. Hayward
observes that the e-textiles "market has been slow to start due
to many challenges," but large companies are investing heavily
and beginning to bring products to market. He believes the
"industry is poised to change very quickly as soon as the right
conditions are achieved."
Much of the research and development is focused on making smart clothing more comfortable to wear, more functional,
and easier to make. And we have started seeing test launches
of the types of smart garments that could someday become
mainstream. For example, Ralph Lauren and Levi's have both
introduced outerwear that incorporates electronics for different types of functions. Other large players that are reportedly
entering the market include Under Armour, Samsung, Vanity
Fair, Adidas, L Brands, Nike, DuPont, Jabil, and Welspun.
Analysts at the market-intelligence firm Tractica agree that
smart clothing has been developing a wider ecosystem with more
players entering the market. Tractica analysts note that "For
smart clothing to grow beyond sports and high-end fashion, one
needs an Apple or GoPro type device that can make smart clothing cool and desirable. At the same time, it also must be affordable, and not just for affluent users. For example, imagine what
type of smart clothing would be sold by H&M, Zara, or Gap."
In this article, we will highlight specific smart-clothing
and e-textile projects that companies have announced and
recap some research efforts that show different options being
explored. On pg. 20, Ray Greenwood, high-precision screen
Above, the award-winning heated e-soft-shell fabric by Schoeller Textil AG can be cut to size without affecting the embedded technology.
The heating technology uses metallic yarns in a diamond-shaped pattern to provide even distribution of heat. (Courtesy of Schoeller Textil AG.)