It was back in 2016 when FashNerd.com managing editor Mano ten Napel had the pleasure of getting to know Madison Maxey over a cup coffee in Amsterdam. The Brooklyn based smart fabric engineer had flown to The Netherlands to speak about intelligent textiles at The Next Web.
A businesswoman on a mission, Maxey found her niche inventing fabrics that conduct electricity in a patterned way that enables the fabric to fuse without the need for the sewing machine. Embodying persuasion and perseverance, Maxey targeted soft goods product manufacturers, especially ones with innovation labs, with materials that function as a circuit board — perfecting her craft of developing materials that could be intertwined with fabrics Maxey has famously built prototypes for the likes of Google x Zac Posen, Flextronics, VF Corporation and North Face. So when Forbes 30 Under 30, Madison Maxey offered to write about her forte, e-textiles, for FashNerd.com we jumped at the chance to have her explain the world of e-textiles.
You’ve Heard of Wearables, but Have you Heard of Electronic Textiles?
(1) What is an E-textile?
Over the past few years, the word “wearables” has become ubiquitous. From Fitbits to Smart shirts, anything electronic that goes on the body ends up in the category. So, how do electronic textiles relate to this? Electronic Textile or (e-textiles, also known as soft circuits) are a foundational technology that allows us to merge together soft goods and electronic function. Anything that’s smart and in a garment, bag, or piece of upholstered furniture needs to mix together electronics and textiles in a way that makes it scalable, robust and reliable.
(2) So, are e-textiles more textile, or more electronic?
It really depends on how the e-textile is made. Some are made by sewing in conductive threads, which are very textile focused. Others are made by screen printing ink onto a film and bonding the film to a textile, making the actual electronic portion not very textile at all.
(3) What would I use an e-textile for?
E-textiles can be engineered to do many things that normal circuits can do. For consumers, that means they can do things like actively heat up a jacket, or light up for construction worker safety, or act as electrodes for data collecting shirts.
(4) Are E-textiles only for clothes?
Not at all! Some of the best use cases for e-textile are in automotive, personal protective equipment and soft goods. Think about the heater in your car seat, or imagine something like a bag that has lighting in the bottom so you can see your camping items when you’re trying to set up camp in the dark. E-textiles can do that
(5) How do I get involved in E-textiles?
Check our the standards groups popping up to standardize e-textiles. Groups like IPC, AATCC and ASTM are all banding together to create standards for this growing industry. Being part of these groups is a great way to contribute to the industry and learn about the state-of-the-art!