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Smart Textiles

Fraunhofer ISC to present smart printed sensors at IDTechEX Europe

A novel material developed by Fraunhofer ISC enables movement measuring sensors to be printed onto textiles.

25th April 2016

Innovation in Textiles
 |  Würzburg

Sports/​Outdoor, Medical/Hygiene, Clothing/​Footwear

Fraunhofer ISC, a leading European organization for applied research, will present its innovative transparent sensor material at the IDTechEX Europe that takes place from 27-28 April, in Berlin, Germany. A novel material developed by Fraunhofer ISC enables movement measuring sensors to be printed onto textiles.

In cooperation with Fraunhofer ISIT and with support of the project partners from the industry, the new sensor technology will be incorporated into a prototype shirt. This so-called MONI shirt will feature a number of functions but is foremost designed to monitor movement sequences.

The transparent printed sensors. © K. Selsam-Geißler, Fraunhofer ISC

In an initial step, Fraunhofer ISC has developed novel piezoelectric polymer sensor printing pastes free from toxic solvents while Fraunhofer ISIT has provided the evaluation electronics. The next development steps are planned in close dialogue with the industry partners. They will include field tests on several types of textiles and applications, the further optimization of the electronics as well as wear and washability tests.

Sensor-embedded textile solutions

Accessories like smart bracelets or smart watches are trending as personal health coaches, prompting the bearer to provide for sufficient sleep and activity or a healthy diet.

Sensor-embedded textile solutions are a far more challenging and also more expensive approach, the company reports. Often, function will override appearance. The new materials developed by Fraunhofer ISC aim to offer a cost-efficient alternative with the extra benefit of more adjustable appearance options.

Prototype shirt

The sensor materials coming to use in the prototype shirt are flexible, transparent and suitable for various applications, the company reports. They register pressure and deformation and can thus serve as touch or motion sensors. Their sensitivity to temperature deviations further enables monitoring of temperature changes or non-contact interaction, e. g. as proximity sensors.

Fraunhofer ISC printed sensors. © K. Selsam-Geißler, Fraunhofer ISC

A simple screen printing process is all it takes to apply the sensor pastes onto textile fabrics or plastic films, according to the company. Manufacturing encompasses two steps. Firstly, the pattern is printed. Then, the sensors are subjected to an electric field making the piezolectric polymers align to adopt the targeted pressure sensitivity.

Freedom of design and application

Thanks to its transparency and flexibility, the new sensor material offers freedom of design in colour and form for textiles and garments. As the sensors are much thinner than a human hair and applicable in whatever form, the wearer will hardly notice them embedded in a garment, according to the manufacturer.

Smart textiles like this could be employed in health care or assisted living. In eldercare, everyday life movement sequences could be monitored. Additionally, it would be possible to monitor body signals of in-patients, such as temperature or breathing. This could be especially beneficial for bedridden patients or babies.

In addition to printed sensors on textiles, Fraunhofer ISC shows textile integrated pressure sensors made of silicone, for example, to measure pressure in shoes.

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