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Way outside the box

November 8th, 2021 / By: / My Take

by Janet Preus

“My mind is blown,” said one attendee. I’m sure others might have said the same thing, but as she is already a force in the advanced textiles industry, just her saying it blew my mind, too. It followed a presentation that may have been the most novel I’ve seen at Expo since I first heard about biomedical textiles for drug delivery – a totally different topic, but another example of a mind-blowing textile technology. 

The new technology is a means of using a liquid polymer to design and 3D print products for specific use. I discuss it in a bit more detail in the feature, “New problems, new solutions,” but I willingly admit that I do not fully understand the science. I do understand, however, what I saw in terms of potential applications, and it was not just out-of-the-box thinking, it was getting rid of the box altogether.

It’s been my opinion for some time now that advanced textiles will be ubiquitous someday in all industrial textile market areas. This includes smart textiles, which have already cropped up in shade products, geosynthetic infrastructure, medical health applications and, of course, consumer wearables. 

There is, and always will be, a place for mechanical solutions, such as in flexible robotics (see “Deployable inflatable robotics have multiple applications”), a perfectly engineered flexible material for a specific use, and novel uses for existing materials and devices. What’s fascinating is where all the various textile technologies could (and sometimes do) intersect. 

Part of this is because of the relatively new intersection of people from various areas of expertise. I spoke with attendees at Expo who come from fashion design, electronics, product design, and, of course, textile and end product manufacturing. If I had made the effort, I have no doubt I could have identified people from many other work backgrounds. 

This is a good thing. The coming together at Expo and elsewhere in the industry is putting textiles in front of more entrepreneurs and more potential customers. What they will do with textiles in the future will undoubtedly blow my mind again some day.

Janet Preus is senior editor of Advanced Textiles Source. She can be reached at jlpreus@ifai.com