National Physical Laboratory

NPL develops new prototype

NPL exhibited at the recent ITMA (International Textile Machinery Exhibition) show held in Milan, Italy, which was attended by over 120,000 people.

NPL develops new prototype - Fig 1

NPL develops new prototype - Fig 2

ITMA is held every four years and has been the world's most established textile and garment machinery exhibition since 1951. There, NPL's Roya Ashayer-Soltani won a competition to present at the 2BFUNTEX consortium conference on the NPL conductive textile. The selection committee judged against three criteria:

  • The innovation assessment of the new technology;
  • The time to market of the innovation; and
  • The potential impact of the technology on the textile sector.

After evaluation of all the technologies submitted in the framework of the competition, our technology 'Conductive Textile' was selected as a winner. Roya presented during the 2BFUNTEX Final Conference at the Research and Innovation Speakers' Platform.

Also during ITMA, NPL launched its first ever prototype, a finished glove that had printed conductive tracks. The patented NPL process entails an initial printing of a nanometal catalyst, shown in the top picture, and then thickening with an electroless metal layer. In the lower picture, the glove is shown after the electroless process and with a silver passivation coating. The additive print process can follow curves in the garment, and the electroless process only deposits on the catalyst, leaving the rest of the glove clear.

This novel platform technology can be added to a wide range of fabrics, both natural and synthetic, including knitted, woven and non-woven. The principle use of the technology is to connect two point across the apparel. However, if stretched, the electrical resistance of the track will change. Hence, with a hand in the glove the resistance for each finger changes as the hand is clenched and unclenched, and individual fingers can also be flexed. The second picture also shows the bespoke adaption of an Arduinoâ„¢ system that is communicating the fingers resistance from the glove via BlueToothâ„¢to a tablet, where the resistance is displayed in real time.

The technology was displayed at the ITMA show, where there was a lot of interest from a wide range of markets: medical and healthcare; sport and fitness; consumer electronics; fashion and entertainment; protection and safety; and transportation.

Find out more about NPL's Smart Textiles research

Last Updated: 27 Jan 2017
Created: 4 Feb 2016


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