Conductive fibers occupy their own unique niche in the wire and textile marketplace, but the industry’s identity is not distinctive, with conductive fibers treated as another wire or textile. These manufactures are now joining together to form a trade council, the Conductive Fiber Manufacturers Council.
Conductive fibers have a long history: The filament in Thomas Edison’s light bulb was made of carbonized sewing thread. Of the hundreds he tried, this was the first filament that met his needs for resistance and life span. Conductive fibers consist of two groups:
- intrinsically conductive fibers and conductive polymers, the largest portion of the industry, especially carbon fiber;
- non-conductive or less conductive substrates, which are then either coated or embedded with an electrically conductive element, often carbon, nickel, copper, gold, silver, or titanium. These substrates typically include cotton, polyester, nylon, and stainless steel and high performance fibers such as aramids and PBO.
Uses for conductive fibers and textiles may include static dissipation, EMI shielding, signal and power transfer in low resistance versions, and as a heating element in higher resistance versions. They represent a vast growth market, so far largely untapped.
The Conductive Fiber Manufacturers Council was conceived in 2007 as a result of growth and fragmentation in the industry and too little information being readily available to engineers and designers about conductive fibers and fabrics. “This trade association is a welcome addition to our industry because its inherent fragmentation makes it harder for designers and engineers to find and use our products,” states Chris Kneizys, president of Micro-Coax, a charter member of the council.