New laser printing method creates smart fabrics in minutes

RMIT University had just developed a new, easy-to-scale, and cost-efficient way to manufacture smart fabrics, specifically textiles that can be directly embedded with energy storage media for use with current mobile devices.

The smart fabrics industry, though relatively new in terms of widescale application, has been growing significantly over the past few decades. E-textiles, as they are officially categorized, range from simple fashionable accessories with added technological flair, to practical ones that can be integrated with the user’s set of electronic gadgets and devices. Health-monitoring sensors, for example, are of particular importance in the e-textile industry, as prevention is often the better option in medical care, especially if the medium is easy to put on the body in a non-invasive, almost natural way.

One challenge in making e-textiles more widespread a practical standard is cost, and the rate at which they are being produced. RMIT University researchers demonstrated how to potentially circumvent these issues, by developing a production method that could quickly produce a 10×10 centimeter e-textile patch in as short as three minutes.

As the official report stated, the developed e-textile patch is ” waterproof, stretchable and readily integrated with energy harvesting technologies “. This makes its potential introduction into an official product easier, since it possesses all the basic qualities of regular fabrics, with the (relative) industrial production speed of one, even if it is technically a smart fabric patch.

Currently available e-textiles built for the same purpose are usually not as finely designed. More often, microelectronics are simply directly embedded onto real fabric. The form factor is merely reduced enough, so that the batteries won’t feel as cumbersome or as obstructive to the overall wearability of the clothing designed with such smart fabrics.

Understandably, even though it was announced as a “laser printing tech” the specifics of the production method were not revealed. That being said, the report indicates that it was rigorously tested prior to its announcement.

At the moment, there are no specific plans to mass-produce the technology. However, the researchers did apply for a patent, which also indicates the level of completion that technology is already in.

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