Understanding intelligent textiles

Published On: November 4, 2020

The Advanced Textiles Conference of ATA’s Virtual Expo 2020 continued Nov. 4 with a detailed presentation by Justine Decaens on “Smart Textiles: From Lab Prototypes to Commercial Products.” Decaens is R&D director with CTT Group, a testing laboratory and R&D facility specialized in technical textiles, headquartered in Quebec, Canada. 

Decaens first offered to define “smart textiles” for her purposes, as there is no one definition used consistently in the industry and chose to use “intelligent textile.” In any case, the world market for them is projected by marketsandmarkets.com to reach $9.3 billion by 2024. That’s a 35 percent increase since 2015. 

In the past, sports applications led the market, but that has changed, with medical and wellness products now taking 40 percent of the total share. That said, wearable accessories that are not e-textiles own 70 percent of the “wearables” market. 

There are three main technologies used. Decaens divided them into conductive textiles, such as for power transmission or heating; textile sensors, used in biomonitoring and monitoring environmental conditions or physical activity; and textile actuators, such as phase change materials, shape memory polymers and energy harvesters. 

The expense of producing these products is still a challenge, she said. “Eighty percent of the cost is from labor, and 20 percent of cost is material, so the goal is to reduce the manual labor,” she said. She also shared that the number one reason startups fail is that they have a created an innovative new product, but there’s no market for it. 

Better to use a “market back” approach, she said. “This means is that you look at what the need is and then build your product for that need, which means a much higher success rate.”

Registration for ATA Virtual Expo 2020 is open through Nov. 12. All Expo sessions will be posted on the Virtual Expo platform for viewing during Expo and for 30 days after Expo has concluded.