Before automobiles, there was no reason to put up a stop sign on a country gravel road. Before there were enough children to fill a one-room school, there was no need for compulsory education. With no food processing and packaging industry, nobody needed a label to identify a sack of potatoes.
So it is with innovations. A clever inventor comes up with a great idea, tests it out, finds the funding to ramp up production, and takes it into the commercial realm. (It’s more complicated than that, I know, but just wait for The Point.)
Today, assuming said inventor did his or her due diligence in adhering to known guidelines and regulations, if there are any, the product may be launched and on the shelves in your favorite big box store (or online marketplace) in no time. However, in time, potential problems may surface with this product, particularly if “knock-offs” appear with little or no oversight to restrict their proliferation.
“What’s the standard?” concerned industry participants and consumers alike begin to ask. Where are the regulations governing the materials and manufacture of this product? The answer could be, “There aren’t any. It’s just too, well … new.” This is pretty much what happened with e-textiles—those “shiny objects” that some brands (and startups), anxious to be in the forefront of commercializing e-textile innovations, have found so irresistible.
This happens, and it’s not all bad, by any means. Thankfully, there are many in the e-textile industries’ market segments who have recognized the need to have standards that hold up to the demands placed on these high-tech innovations.
I certainly wouldn’t have guessed that e-textiles would not just fuel a swath of new collaborations among diverse experts, but it would quickly involve an organization I’d never heard of, since it’s not a textile organization, per se. Nevertheless IPC International Inc., an electronics organization, has emerged to coordinate the effort in building a properly standardized future for e-textiles.
The work underway in IPC’s volunteer committees will assure that e-textile products will be far more likely to offer end consumers reliable information about the products’ response to “acid, microbes, saltwater, perspiration, alkali, abrasion, stretch, torsion, flex endurance and washability.” That quote is lifted right out of our feature by Chris Jorgenson, IPC director, Technology Transfer, “What to know about e-textile standards.” This article will give you the the latest information on the progress made by a dedicated group of volunteers, representing a variety of industries and markets, who are collaborating on making sure solid standards are in place for an industry that’s going nowhere but up.
Janet Preus is senior editor of Advanced Textiles Source. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.