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Algorithms aid researchers with heat-responsive fabric

Swatches | August 31, 2023 | By:

Researchers experimented with various applications using Steam Stretch, including lighting. Photos: Nature Architects Inc. Ltd.

Engineers from Japanese clothing company A-POC Able Issey Miyake and University of Tokyo startup Nature Architects Inc. Ltd. presented their innovative approach to the design process at this year’s Milan Design Week held April 17–23, showcasing how algorithms can be used to automate and streamline the process.

The team used a direct functional monitoring (DFM) system that determines the contraction pattern required to make the product before beginning the heating process where specific threads are targeted, increasing the elasticity of the fabric.

The companies used a direct functional monitoring (DFM) system, which uses algorithms to automatically generate a metamaterial unit structure and to determine where each unit will reside on the product’s outer diameter.

Using this technology, the companies created Steam Stretch, a fabric that transforms into 3D shapes when heat is applied.

Using algorithms, researchers automatically produced a weaving diagram, such as this one.

The algorithm formed by the DFM first calculates the contraction pattern necessary to make the desired product and then generates a weaving diagram. Next, the algorithm targets specific threads for contraction to increase the fabric’s elasticity. 

By applying heat to the cloth, it can transform into any 3D shape, such as the shape of a jacket or other clothing.

The project explores the vast design possibilities outside of the standard method of stitching together 2D fabrics, offering manufacturers a glimpse into what the future of textile production could hold.

This process offers a replacement for the traditional method of stitching together 2D textiles, expanding the possibilities of the future of manufacturing.

According to their research, the technology has the potential to apply to sectors outside of apparel, such as furniture, lighting and architecture, among other uses.

For example, researchers found that it was possible to create shock-absorbing materials that could be used in vehicles to protect passengers during impact.

Researchers are exploring other Steam Stretch applications, including furniture.

Nature Architects specializes in creating products with various functions, such as deformation, sound, vibration and heat, usually using plastics, rubber and metals. The company’s goal is to integrate parts and substitute materials to reduce production costs and increase sustainability within the textile industry.

By applying heat to a single piece of fabric, researchers were able to transform the fabric into a new jacket that required almost no sewing.

Launched in 2021 by fashion designer Issey Miyake, A-POC Able Issey Miyake aims to further explore the possibilities of his 1997 apparel production concept known as A-POC, or A Piece of Cloth.

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