Textiles hold the key to for a sporting chance in wearables: Weaving electronics into textiles and clothing has been progressing recently, moving from the jokey light-up jumper, to useful examples of clothing that can measure heart rate, or other rhythms, or provide hearing and cooling or a current to muscles. From slim fitting gym apparel, or to cover gamers’ extremities, the market for so-called e-textiles is growing. 

A report from IDTechEx, E-Textiles 2017-2027: Technologies, Markets, Players, charts progress from “an academic curiosity to an important technology platform generating revenue for companies globally”, over the last 20 years. It estimates that the e-textile product market is worth around $100million in annual wholesale revenue today and is expected to grow to be worth $5billlion by 2027.

E-textiles bridge both commercial, work-wear, fashion and sportswear, and military, medical, industrial uses. Typically, e-textiles feature in compression apparel, used to introduce sensing functions, such as heart rate, respiration or motion, for example). They can be used to provide heating or cooling, apply current to muscles in either transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) or electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) systems.

Sportswear was in evidence at CES 2017, with gaming and health apparel to the fore and continues to develop a lead in terms of developing textiles, based on established production methods and processes.

The main materials used in e-textiles are conductive polymers, conductive inks, conductive yarn, textile or fabric, or combinations of these (i.e. textile and polymer, ink and polymer, textile and ink).

Last month, at IPSO Health & Fitness in Munich, five textile companies launched a moisture management technology, Hydro-Bot. It is designed to keep wearers of sports, work and protective clothing cool in various climates, conditions and activity levels.

Osmotex, a Swiss-Norwegian company specialising in technology around electrokinetic movement of liquids in capillaries and porous bodies, has partnered with Swiss textile company, Schoeller Textil to make panels, which will be integrated into selected ski-wear by KJUS.

The partnership also includes Belginova, which provides operating systems and switches for moisture management. The wearable technology company created Novaheat, the first safe, durable, washable heating system used in car seat heating systems, and will offer Hydro-Bot products through its 30Seven sportswear brand range.

Materials and technology research was conducted by Empa, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for materials, science and technology. All five partners are taking part in the final development phase to ensure durability, washability and performance of Hydro-Bot under different conditions.

Nico Serena, CEO, KJUS, wants to “to create an industry changing ski jacket. Hydro-Bot opens up new levels of skiwear comfort for our product development, and we are excited about the new alpine layering system in the pipeline,” he says. Initial products will be offered for the 2018/2019 ski season.

Textiles hold the key to for a sporting chance in wearables
Picture credit: KJUS – the company will introduce Hydro-Bot products in its 2018/2019 collection.

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