National Physical Laboratory

Thermal imaging for Intelligent Textiles

The Problem

Thermal image of a hand

Intelligent Textiles is a UK SME that designs and manufactures polymer-based heating elements and sensors that are integrated into the fabric of products such as gloves, boots, clothing, bandages and heating pads for hospital patients.

As the textile is in close contact with the skin, it is obviously essential that the heating elements incorporate fail-safe mechanisms and are assessed to ensure they do not exceed a given maximum temperature.

'Hot spots' or failed elements in the fabric are currently identified by a time consuming manual process, however if a technique based on thermal imaging could be developed to monitor temperature over the whole area of the fabric it could potentially lead to considerable improvements in the product, online quality control and product assurance.

The Solution

The company approached NPL for advice and a four day consultancy was set up. The practicality of the technique of thermal imaging on textile samples was investigated and the causes of failure of the heating elements examined. The uniformity and stability of a number of the company's products were measured under normal conditions of use. As a result Intelligent Textiles gained a good understanding of the potential capabilities of thermal imaging as applied to their range of products, although further work would be required to develop the technique into an acceptable quality assurance procedure. This will be explored further in tandem with the products themselves as they proceed towards manufacture, with the continuing advice of NPL.

"Our NPL consultancy not only gave us access to the most advanced equipment, but more importantly let us discuss our results with highly capable and erudite experts. In the event, this work has advanced understanding across our entire supply chain, from our clients down to our raw material manufacturers."
Dr Stan Swallow, Director, Intelligent Textiles

For for further information, please contact Rob Simpson

Find out more about NPL's research in Thermal

Last Updated: 11 Dec 2017
Created: 15 Oct 2010

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