3D printing is an innovative manufacturing technique that offers the European industry opportunities to create and customize novel, high-value products.
Whereas 3D printing is already an accepted and implemented process in many industries, this is not yet the case in the textile industry, a sector largely composed of SMEs, for which it is very difficult to start up new technologies.
The preceding F³Dprint Cornet project has already made a first step in this direction: customer-specific profiles modeled from scanned data were provided to print 3D applications directly on textiles, resulting in comfort-optimized clothing.
This led to the identification of other high-added value applications for which 3D printing can be a useful technology: the integration of electronic functionalities in clothing, referred to as smart textiles.
Smart textiles are able to sense and respond to changes in their environment, providing the wearer with increased functionality.
The main application fields of smart textiles include safety and protection (e.g. personal protective equipment, PPE), medical assistive devices (e.g. monitoring and assistance for the elderly) and performance enhancing wearables (e.g. fitness and sports).
Basically, a smart textile product exists of four components: sensors, communication paths, a data processor and a power source.
The challenge is to integrate these components into the textile. For many applications the current state-of-the-art solutions do not fully capture all the needs yet.
3D printing can offer an alternative approach to deal with many of the existing challenges.
The Smart³D project wants to realize smart textile applications by use of 3D printing technologies. This will be done by focusing on three different routes of electric module development:
- 3D-printed connector pieces
- conductive paths 3D-printed directly on textile
- 3D-printing of customised moulds for encapsulation of electronic compounds
Smart³D is a CORNET project (HBC.2019.2673), funded by the national agencies members VLAIO Flanders and AIF Germany.
Smart³D is coordinated by Centexbel (Belgium), and performed in collaboration with its German research partners Forschungskuratorium Textil and FTB (Forschungsinstitut für Textil und Bekleidung).