Screen Printing - April/May 2018 - 23
have published a paper about new graphene printing technology that can produce electronic circuits that are low-cost,
flexible, highly conductive, and water-repellant. The paper,
published in Nanoscale, notes that the nanotechnology
"would lend enormous value to self-cleaning, wearable/
washable electronics that are resistant to stains, or ice and
"We're taking low-cost, inkjet-printed graphene and tuning
it with a laser to make functional materials," explains Jonathan Claussen, an Iowa State University assistant professor of
mechanical engineering, an associate of the US Department
of Energy's Ames Laboratory, and the author of the paper in
Nanoscale. Claussen describes how the nanoengineers in his
research group use inkjet printing to create electric circuits
on flexible materials from ink made with flakes of graphene.
The printed flakes aren't highly conductive. To make them
useful for electronics or sensors, the nonconductive binders
must be removed and the flakes must be welded together.
Claussen and his research group have developed a rapidpulse laser process that treats the printed graphene flakes
without damaging the surface. The laser processing technology can also convert graphene-printed circuits that hold
water droplets into circuits that repel water droplets, opening
up all kinds of possibilities for new electronics and sensors.
The Iowa State University Research Foundation is working to
patent the technology.
Researchers at the University of Bayreuth in Germany,
Donghua University in Shanghai, and Nanjing Forestry University in Nanjing, China have developed nonwoven nanocomposite textiles that are electrically conductive, flexible,
and breathable. Instead of inserting metal wires into finished
textiles, the scientists modified classical electro-spinning.
These materials could be used to produce comfortable,
high-tech clothes that convert sunlight to warmth, supply
wearable electronic devices, or contain sensors for fitness
training. Dr. Andreas Greiner, professor and chair of Macronuclear Chemistry II at the University of Bayreuth, believes
nonwoven textiles could be used in the upholstery of cars
or airplanes. The scientists published their findings in the
journal npj Flexible Electronics.
Smart LabeLS Can CommuniCate, too!
The fabric isn't the only part of a garment that can connect to
the IoT. For example, brands can incorporate RFID (radiofrequency identification) and NFC (near field communication)
technology into their tags and labels to give each piece of
clothing a unique digital identity. The NFC capabilities can
help apparel buyers find lost products, order replacement
garments, access garment-care instructions, or learn whether
the garment was manufactured in an ethically responsible way.
Avery Dennison has teamed up with the smart products
platform Evrythng to make more than 10 billion items of
clothing and accessories connected to the IoT. Avery Dennison's Janela Smart Products enable apparel and footwear
brands to have a unique, serialized label. The Evrythng platform manages the digital identity and data.
Nike's NBA-Connected jerseys have authentication NFC
tags embedded in a woven label near the hem of the garments. Users of the NikeConnect app can tap the label with
their smartphone to access premium content about their
favorite teams and players.
Slowly but surely, e-textiles are moving out of R&D labs and
into public forums such as expositions and commercialization conferences.
For example, the Wear 2018 Conference (June 11-13) in
New York is an event that brings together people from the
textile and electronics industries to discuss the business of
wearable technology, material innovations, smart clothing,
and consumer experience. Session presenters will discuss
how smart fabrics can be used in medical, military, occupational safety, athletics, consumer fashion, automotive, and
architectural interior applications.
Printed Electronics USA (November 14-15) in Santa Clara,
California runs concurrently with other IDTechEX conferences
that can help you understand what's happening in e-textiles,
wearable sensors, graphene, the IoT, energy harvesting and
storage, and 3D printing. Exhibitors at the 2017 show not
only included textile manufacturers, but also makers of inks,
equipment, and coatings for producing printed electronics.
Many observers agree that a lot of the R&D surrounding
smart clothing is less about gimmicks and more about practical functions that improve the quality of life or save time,
money, or lives.
According to a 2018-2022 forecast published by Technavio,
the global e-textile market is expected to grow at a CAGR of
around 25 percent. In 2017, the global e-textile market was
dominated by the military and defense segment, which is
exploring ways to reduce the weight of batteries and other
equipment carried by solders. Revenues from the military
segment accounted for over 26 percent of the overall market.
ABI Research forecasts that the smart clothing market will
top 31 million device shipments annually by 2022, up from
just under 5 million in 2017. Their analysts note that "While
smart clothing has yet to reach mass market appeal, the
industry is continuing to grow within the sports, fitness, and
"Vendors need to ensure that their products have rocksolid use cases and their device's features target specific
verticals and applications," says Ryan Harbison, research
analyst at ABI. "For instance, the Google and Levi's Commuter Trucker jacket is one of the most exciting new products
within this market, but it is targeted at a very specific niche
market - the urban bike commuter. Vendors should focus on
continuing to create targeted, consumer-centric applications
while also developing enterprise applications to give this market wider appeal."
april / may 2018