In a presentation Oct. 6 at IFAI’’s Advanced Textiles Conference in Anaheim, Calif., DuPont’s Dr. Michael Burrows posed the question: “Where’s the smart clothing? Where did it go?” His point was that e-textiles couldn’t progress more rapidly without stretchable electronics. “We believe this has been the missing element,” he said.
DuPont has developed a new line of stretchable inks that use the common manufacturing processes of screen printing and heat transfer. The company says the stretchable inks for wearable electronics will make smart clothing more functional and comfortable. Embedded electronics using DuPont inks result in a thin, form-fitting circuit that can be bonded with standard substrates.
The advantage of printed stretchable circuitry is that it provides the thinnest option for exceptional comfort, it’s rugged and washable and it can be manufactured in high volume.
The circuitry is screen printed first, and then the layers are laminated: fabric, elastomer film, stretchable conductor, stretchable sensor and encapsulant overprint to create “a stretchable package,” he says.
“The need is real,” Burrows stressed. “There is a belief that there isn’t a need—hasn’t been one—so that’s why the market hasn’t gone bigger, but it’s not that.” He believes it’s because e-textiles need to be comfortable and functional. “All of this can be done now with a comfortable wearable,” he says.
Expectations are high for the impact of this technology. “Clothes will always outsell phones,” he said. Interest in the session was also high; Dr. Burrows responded to many questions from the audience following his presentation.