Specialty Fabrics Review July 2020 - 39

ADVANCED TEXTILES

FOCUS

The 2020 Smart
Fabrics Summit
The industry meets virtually to discuss innovations,
cybersecurity and collaboration.
BY JANET PREUS

T

he Smart Fabrics Summit, presented by the U.S. Department of Commerce in
collaboration with Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI), was held
virtually this year. Its speakers covered a range of topics, with special emphasis on
cybersecurity and collaborative partnerships.
FROM INNOVATION TO COMMERCIAL SUCCESS
Two sessions, including the Summit's closing keynote address, focused on collaborations
among industry, academic or government partners. Dr. Alexander Stolyarov, CEO of Advanced
Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA), provided an overview of recent technological
breakthroughs in advanced functional fibers and fabrics. AFFOA, headquartered near the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is a National Network for Manufacturing
Innovation (NNMI) Institute, a network founded in 2016 and funded in part by the U.S.
Department of Defense (DoD).
AFFOA had a range of successful projects to report. Stolyarov made note of several
innovations in process, including multi-material fiber microsystems-fabrics and fibers with
the technology embedded inside, so there are several materials in one fiber, as opposed to a
traditional single polyester, for example.
"Innovation on the fiber level is the next frontier in smart textiles," Stolyarov said. However,
he also wondered, "Why haven't we seen more products with high-tech fiber technologies?"
Stolyarov said AFFOA is working on the issues that prevent innovative technologies from
getting to the commercial product stage. Innovative products demand innovative business
models, he noted, the technology (or product) needs to solve "real and important problems,"
and there has to be a scalable manufacturing process in place.
Stolyarov cited several project examples that illustrate the institute's ability to address
the process, using an "application-driven approach to technology development," he said.
"We have capabilities all across the U.S.," he said, including the Fabric Innovation Network
(FIN), which enables rapid fabric prototyping, including integrating smart technologies into
yarns and ropes; wovens, nonwovens and knits; and composites.
Applications being developed by AFFOA member participants include shape-shifting
climate adaptive garments; electronically controlled color-changing fabrics; smart textile
interfaces for physical controls; pressure-sensing fabrics with swipe-sensing capabilities; touch
sensitive car consoles and passive cooling fabrics. Flexible hybrid electronics and robotics
assembly (cut and sew) were cited as emerging capabilities.
Stolyarov also offered a vision for smart fabrics of the future where fabrics are engineered
to provide sophisticated services. He sees a "Moore's law for fibers" kicking in, where the
capabilities of a single fiber strand advance rapidly, just as computer speed and power have
grown exponentially, according to the original Moore's law. This could make fabric computers
and artificially intelligent fabrics possible. As these technologies continue to advance, fabrics
could transition from goods to a platform for services, he said.

Cybersecurity resources
The NIST Manufacturing Extension
Partnership (MEP) is a non-regulatory agency in the U.S. Department
of Commerce that provides technical
assistance to manufacturers, including cybersecurity resources. Pat Toth,
MEP cybersecurity program manager,
advised Smart Fabrics Summit attendees that to do business with the DoD, a
new program concerning cybersecurity
requires "reaching a certain level of
maturity." Visit www.nist.gov/mep for
information about this program and
other MEP resources.

ACADEMICS AND INDUSTRY
Dr. Jesse Jur, North Carolina State University (NC State), also discussed academic and
industry partnerships. Jur's Nano-EXtended Textiles (NEXT) group is working on giving
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Specialty Fabrics Review July 2020

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