by Janet Preus
Not that many years ago, the phrase “flexible hybrid electronics” didn’t exist. One can say this about a variety of textile-related phrases. Some might argue that FHEs, as they’re abbreviated, are not really a textile product at all, and technically they may be right in many cases. But FHEs are, in fact, making conductive textiles far more, well … flexible, and in more than one sense of the word.
Flexibility, stretchability, sewability, launderability and more “abilities,” when paired with conductivity, open up a much bigger variety of possible applications than earlier iterations of “e-textiles.” The goal has always been to create “wearables” and other e-textiles that still have the look, feel and functionality of ordinary textiles (nonwoven, knit or woven).
In our feature, “Electronics and materials: an integrated approach,” Marie O’Mahony writes that FHEs “bring together capabilities from electronics, printing and material sectors,” which offers more alternatives in terms of creating a product that will either be a component in an e-textile, or the e-textile itself. This, in and of itself, is nothing short of amazing, given where we were a decade ago, when we first started putting quotation marks around “smart,” or “e-textile,” which was a shortened version of electronic textile.
So, a word about all these quotation marks. We still occasionally put them around “smart” when referring to a textile, and “wearable,” which is the shortened version of a “smart” textile that can be worn. But they’re quickly going by the wayside, as these words take their place in our common vernacular. I guess the dropped quote marks are the signal that, “Ok, everybody knows what that is now, so you can quit using them.”
In fact there’s a list of acronyms that probably no longer need our written-out version in parentheses, as well: PPE, certainly, and probably PET, given the number of products now made out of recycled plastic water bottles. I’m guessing it won’t be long before our list of commonly understood acronyms includes “FHE,” maybe even without the quotation marks.
Janet Preus is senior editor of Advanced Textiles Source. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.