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Smart Textiles

New research centre to realise serial production of smart textiles

The Institute of Textile Technology at RWTH Aachen University opened a Dream2Lab2Fab research centre in cooperation with its Korean partners.

17th November 2016

Innovation in Textiles
 |  Aachen

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

The Institute of Textile Technology at RWTH Aachen University (ITA) has opened a Dream2Lab2Fab research centre in cooperation with its Korean partners, the Korea Institute of Industrial Technology (KITECH) and the Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU). The goal of this partnership is to realise the serial production of intelligent textiles in cooperation with small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) from both countries.

ITA, as part of RWTH Aachen University, stands for the automated textile production technology, which is being advanced at the Aachen research centre. The Korean partners bring in their knowhow in textile materials, consumer electronics and digitalization and are setting up a new centre in Korea in the first half of 2017.

Why smart textiles?

Smart textiles adopt a wide range of functions in human everyday life, e.g. medical monitoring of body functions, sensors in working and protective clothing and or energy recovery by textile photovoltaics.

Tape-cutting ceremony (from left to right): Mr Chang Rok Keum, Consul General of the Embassy of South-Korea; Prof Dr Thomas Gries, Head of ITA, Germany; Prof Dr Aloys Krieg, Prorector RWTH Aachen University, Germany; Mr Kyu Sang Chung, PhD, President of the Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU), South-Korea; Mr Kyung-pil Nam, Governor of the Gyeonggi Province from South Korea; Dr Thomas Grünewald, State Secretary of the Ministry for Innovation, Higher Education and Research of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany; Prof Dr Matthias Jarke, Head of Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Information Technology FIT, Germany; Mr Marcel Philipp, Lord Mayor of the city of Aachen, Germany; Mr Youngsoo Lee, PhD, President of the Korea Institute of Industrial Technology (KITECH), South-Korea; Mr Adjunct-Prof (Clemson-Univ.) Dr Yves-Simon Gloy, Head of Department Textile Machine Engineering of ITA, Germany. © ITA

According to the market forecasts, this fabric segment is expected to be on the order of about US$ 12 billion in 2020, with a growth rate of about 20%. This is a huge potential for medium-sized companies from both countries to develop new business models and create new jobs. For this purpose, approximately EUR 20 million will be invested in research centres in both Germany and Korea.

The cooperation will be expanded by further bilateral research projects and industrial cooperation. Therefore, the cooperation with other RWTH departments is supported to promote interdisciplinary research. Within the next three years, the construction of a new building is planned in both countries.


Dream2Lab2Fab is based on Industry 4.0, the interconnection of industrial production with modern information and communication technology. Intelligent, cross-linked systems enable a widely self-organised production and allow a direct communication and cooperation between people, machines, facilities, logistics and products. Thereby, the manufacturing processes become more flexible and it is possible to produce goods customised as well as in series.

Embroidery technology for smart textiles. © ITA

At the opening of the Aachen Research Center the following constructions and machines were presented, which underlined the possibility of a flexible mass production:

  • automatic placement of textiles with electronic components
  • the unification of digital and functional print
  • embroidery technology for smart textiles (applying electronic features by using embroidery technology with conductive yarns)

Interactive light pillow. © ITA

In addition, a range of smart textile solutions was on display, including an interactive light-pillow – a light-pillow with programmable LED chips, which can display any colour, text or pattern on the pillow via WLAN. Also presented was an interactive curtain that opens by contact; and heating textiles, which can be heated by electrically conductive fibres and current supply.

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