Functional Fabrics for Scalable Textile Tech Integration

Recently, the functional fabrics research and development department at Drexel University, received a financial injection of 75 million dollars from the Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA)- an Institute to support American textile researchers and manufacturers. Boosting universities working with fibres and fabrics that can make us see, sense, hear and communicate, the aim of this injection was to help develop new fibres and textiles that would enable several industries and offer great advantages to apparel, health and even aerospace. Their end goal is to create functional fabrics for scalable textile tech integration.

Functional Fabrics
The centre for functional fabrics research will develop advanced textiles, including touch-sensitive fabrics

If we were to take a closer look, there is one industry that has had a lot of ground to gain when it comes to how our clothes could add value to our lives and it’s the fashion industry. With hurdles such as manufacturing challenges and the creation of feasible solutions, Drexel has created the Center for Functional Fabrics (CFF). It is a new centralized home for its trans-disciplinary research, accompanying intellectual capital, were CFF seed projects support research that encourages new collaborations for expressive projects.

 

 Functional Fabrics
Drexel will contribute expertise in digital modelling, structural testing and prototyping to AFFOA

On their projects, Dr. Aleister Saunders, Drexel’s senior vice provost for research explained:“Our initial involvement will be to support research, product development and tech transfer, but we’re also looking at building academic programming that will support the affiliation.” Saunders continues: “AFFOA is a tremendous opportunity for researchers, technologists and entrepreneurs in the region. We will be using this support to build a network of resources so that any company or startup, could come to Drexel with an idea, a prototype, or even a product that’s already on the market, and, by working with our team, help mould that concept or product into the technology they’re envisioning — or maybe something even better.”

“Functional fabrics like these can do things like monitor vital signs, store energy from movement and help regulate the body temperature of the user, just to name a few.” Dr. Aleister Saunders

The greatest thing about the AFFOA initiative is that all areas are taken into consideration. Since the Internet of Things could soon turn the industrial manufacturing process upside down, the biggest challenge for #TheMerge of fashion with technology lies in making sure that technology is invisible and seamlessly integrated into the clothes that we wear. With consumers not wanting to adapt their behavior according to the clothes they wear, this kind of development might just empower the fashion industry to innovate the manufacturing process of our future fashion .

Tech Lab Drexel University
Tech Lab Drexel University

That all being said, we first have to solve the abundance of a real supply chain. Especially when it comes to creating a thorough industry standard. On this, Genevieve Dion, an associate professor in the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design and director of the Shima Seiki Haute Technology Lab in the Expressive and Creative Interaction Technologies (ExCITe) Center stated, “Currently there are no industry standards for introducing new materials into textile manufacturing, and this is one of the main obstacles blocking manufacturing from making a big leap forward, if we can bridge that gap by offering the research and testing necessary to establish standards and develop processes for using new materials in manufacturing, this institute can remove that roadblock so our nation’s economy can move forward.”

What about sustainability?

Lastly, when it comes to the development of new fibers and textiles for various industries, on one hand, it is great that AFFOA has put forward its support, but on the other hand, there has been no mention of the role that sustainability can and should play in the process. Yes, this is an investment that could bring about great advantages when it comes to the industry moving forward, but we must acknowledge the fact that it seems that currently their plans do not take the responsibility of any sustainability into account. So if this is the road to be travelled, then the likelihood is, that future generations might need to start this whole process again from the beginning in order to take sustainability into account.

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