I may not live to see this happen—or to see it happen to the extent I anticipate—but I fully expect smart textiles to eventually be a meaningful part of every market in the industrial fabrics industry. The transition is underway. One indicator is a name change for this online magazine and the organization that publishes it. What was a short time ago the Industrial Fabrics Association International, with a division called Advanced Textile Products, is now the Advanced Textiles Association, with the whole association falling under the “advanced” label.
The pivotal word here is, obviously, is “advanced.” What is, or is not, an advanced textile? I’m not going to argue that point, because it’s not a yes or no question. I see the development of ever-more technologically sophisticated materials as on a continuum. As the functionalities become more, well … advanced, the continuum expands, and has the potential to impact more market segments.
As with many breakthrough technologies, our initial perception of what the future holds for high-tech textiles is not necessarily the future we get—or ultimately should endeavor to achieve. The writer for “Tomorrow’s Textiles,” our first feature, is Dr. Jesse Jur, who is a researcher himself with first-hand knowledge of this market’s development and growth.
Dr. Jur has been an integral part of the advanced functional textiles industry, as I have been an enthusiastic observer and reporter. But we’re hardly alone. For example, textile manufacturer Apex Mills published a blog post titled Smart Textiles: The Future of the Fabric Industry in November 2019, which said, “Smart textiles—also referred to as functional fabrics and e-textiles—are changing the way we think about the role of fabrics for industrial purposes and everyday use.”
That’s a good way to look at it … “changing the way we think about the role of fabrics …” Maybe you are looking forward to the day when your smart speakers are incorporated into the textiles covering your living room sofa. The ability to tell your sofa to play Mozart or Beyonce, depending on your musical tastes, would grab some headlines—and I’m not saying that can’t happen—but what should we be developing?
There are some very capable people, working in collaboration with the government, academia and across industries, who are dealing with that question right now. Reading Dr. Jur’s feature will be a great place to start if you’d like to be “in the loop” on this topic.