Researchers Eye Embroidery As Low-Cost Solution For Making Wearable Electronics

Researchers Eye Embroidery As Low-Cost Solution For Making Wearable ElectronicsTW Special Report

Embroidering power-generating yarns onto fabric allowed researchers to embed a self-powered, numerical touch-pad and movement sensors into clothing. The technique offers a low-cost, scalable potential method for making wearable devices.

“Our technique uses embroidery, which is pretty simple — you can stitch our yarns directly on the fabric,” said the study’s lead author Rong Yin, assistant professor of textile engineering, chemistry and science at North Carolina State University. “During fabric production, you don’t need to consider anything about the wearable devices. You can integrate the power-generating yarns after the clothing item has been made.”

In the study published in Nano Energy, researchers tested multiple designs for power-generating yarns. To make them durable enough to withstand the tension and bending of the embroidery stitching process, they ultimately used five commercially available copper wires, which had a thin polyurethane coating, together. Then, they stitched them onto cotton fabric with another material called PTFE.

Researchers Eye Embroidery As Low-Cost Solution For Making Wearable Electronics“This is a low-cost method for making wearable electronics using commercially available products,” Yin said. “The electrical properties of our prototypes were comparable to other designs that relied on the same power generation mechanism.”

The researchers relied on a method of generating electricity called the “triboelectric effect,” which involves harnessing electrons exchanged by two different materials, like static electricity. They found the PTFE fabric had the best performance in terms of voltage and current when in contact with the polyurethane-coated copper wires, as compared to other types of fabric that they tested, including cotton and silk. They also tested coating the embroidery samples in plasma to increase the effect.

“In our design, you have two layers – one is your conductive, polyurethane-coated copper wires, and the other is PTFE, and they have a gap between them,” Yin said. “When the two non-conductive materials come into contact with each other, one material will lose some electrons, and some will get some electrons. When you link them together, there will be a current.”

Researchers tested their yarns as motion sensors by embroidering them with the PTFE fabric on denim. They placed the embroidery patches on the palm, under the arm, at the elbow and at the knee to track electrical signals generated as a person moves. They also attached fabric with their embroidery on the insole of a shoe to test its use as a pedometer, finding their electrical signals varied depending on whether the person was walking, running or jumping.

Lastly, they tested their yarns in a textile-based numeric keypad on the arm, which they made by embroidering numbers on a piece of cotton fabric, and attaching them to a piece of PTFE fabric. Depending on the number that the person pushed on the keypad, they saw different electrical signals generated for each number.

“You can embroider our yarns onto clothes, and when you move, it generates an electrical signal, and those signals can be used as a sensor,” Yin said. “When we put the embroidery in a shoe, if you are running, it generates a higher voltage than if you were just walking. When we stitched numbers onto fabric, and press them, it generates a different voltage for each number. It could be used as an interface.”

Researchers Eye Embroidery As Low-Cost Solution For Making Wearable ElectronicsSince textile products will inevitably be washed, they tested the durability of their embroidery design in a series of washing and rubbing tests. After hand washing and rinsing the embroidery with detergent, and drying it in an oven, they found no difference or a slight increase in voltage. For the prototype coated in plasma, they found weakened but still superior performance compared with the original sample. After an abrasion test, they found that there was no significant change in electrical output performance of their designs after 10,000 rubbing cycles.

In future work, they plan to integrate their sensors with other devices to add more functions.

“The next step is to integrate these sensors into a wearable system,” Yin said.

The study, “Flexible, durable and washable triboelectric yarn and embroidery for self-powered sensing and human-machine interaction,” was published online in Nano Energy. Co-authors included Yu Chen, Erdong Chen, Zihao Wang, Yali Ling, Rosie Fisher, Mengjiao Li, Jacob Hart, Weilei Mu, Wei Gao, Xiaoming Tao and Bao Yang. Funding was provided by North Carolina State University through the NC State Faculty Research & Professional Development Fund and the NC State Summer REU program.

November 22, 2022

Sustainability And Circularity In Dye-Sub Printing

TW Special Report

Nowadays Textile Printing industry faces a huge challenge: to carry out a sustainable production chain, thus ensuring a cost-effective printing output. Textile industry consists of an extremely complex and lengthy supply chain, which involves many different processes and various partners. Manufacturers and retailers have been focusing in reducing the environmental impact of the textile industry, still sustainability and circularity require a lot of shared commitment of the players involved in every single stage of the process.

This positive evolution of the full production chain requires time. We find ourselves to be at a turning point as different technologies rise such as  textile printing with pigment inks. In the meantime, there are some immediate and effective actions to do, one of them is to consider dye-sub printing.

Dye-sub is an opportunity for digital textile printing and numbers confirm this statement. Dye-sub enables around 40-percent gas saving and around 20-percent electricity saving1 thanks to: a short process, no-padding, dry heat, no-washing and no-steaming. That’s why dye-sub formulas will continue to be extremely popular. In 2026 this ink type is forecast to be the dominant one with more than 6,000 metric tonnes2.

In 2020 the annual production of around 57 million metric tons3 of polyester had a market share of approximately 52 percent of the global fiber production. Recycled polyester is a fast-growing trend, with an increase of around 500 percent from 2019 to 20224. Dye-sub printing enables around 99 percent water savings, because around 98 percent of the water used in paper production is recycled after being used. Recycled polyester is an almost closed virtuous circle, whose effectiveness is demonstrated by the public commitments of Textile Exchange members. Various globally known brands are already committed to recycled polyester, many more are on a path leading to the use of recycled polyester or polyester coming from more sustainable sources, accordingly to the data provided by Textile Exchange Preferred Fiber & Materials Market Report 20215.

Paper is an almost completely virtuous circle. Paper can be 100 percent recycled after the use and this alone is a huge advantage. In addition, using low weight paper reduces the carbon footprint of 40g/m2. In order to produce paper, you need 3.7L/kg, but around 98 percent of the water used in the process is re-used6. It’s a circular process inside another circular process. So, in dye-sub printing: two of the main raw materials involved have a relatively low environmental impact and they have an almost ideal circularity in their processes.

But this is not all that is necessary. To carry out a sustainable production chain it is important to manage and track the suppliers and the chemicals by partnering with suppliers and by removing hazardous substances from the manufacturing process, and the increase in talks about traceability seems to confirm this tendency.

This is exactly what J.K. Group does for its inks, which are environmentally friendly, since we put a lot of effort in research and development to innovate more and more and reach top-tier certified quality, complying with regulatories (such as GHS), ZDHC MRSL PARAMETERS L3, brand owners’ standard MRSL lists, ECO PASSPORT by OEKO-TEX®, together with constantly updating already existing inks’ formulas to always be aligned with regulatories.

MS Printing Solutions also puts a lot of effort in carrying out a sustainable production chain, choosing a supplier that understands the importance of sustainable machinery certification is essential to achieve an energetical and environmental performance, an eco-efficient value of the machine and a lower carbon footprint in working condition. MS Printing Solutions is perfectly aware of this, that’s why it joined the “Sustainable Technologies” project launched by ACIMIT, the Association of Italian Textile Machinery Manufacturers. The gold standard of this project is the Green Label: a voluntary declaration by Italian textile machinery manufacturers designed to highlight the energy and/or environmental performance of a given machine, calculated in reference to a production cycle defined by the manufacturer for labelled machinery. Without internationally recognized standards for classifying energy and/or environmental performance for textile machinery, Italian manufacturers highlight some machinery performance data.

New times call for new strategies and today, more than ever before, a sustainable approach must be adopted in every stage of the entire supply chain. We find ourselves at a tipping point and we must act for our industry’s green future.


References:

1 Data source www.sublitex.com
2 J. Link, Ink market review forecasts modest contractions, WTiN, 2 September 2022, on www.wtin.com
3 Textile Exchange, Preferred Fiber & Materials Market Report 2021 on www.textileexchange.org
4 Data Source LARIOTEX
5 Data accessible on www.textileexchange.org
6 Data source www.beaverpaper.com


This sponsored content was provided by JK Group


November 22, 2022

Zero-Tolerance Contamination Control

Uster solution gives nonwovens producers total confidence in demanding applications

TW Special Report

Drylaid nonwovens producers operate to the most stringent quality levels – with zero-tolerance standards for defects bigger than 1 millimeter. In this nonwovens segment, end-product quality depends absolutely on the efficiency of contamination sorting, early in the process. Uster’s exclusive solution ensures best-possible initial inspection and removal of contamination.

Nonwovens applications such as medical, hygiene and cosmetics demand two non-negotiable rules: zero-tolerance and reliability. Contamination control is the supreme discipline in producing nonwovens for sensitive applications. The Uster contamination sorter masters this essential job with ease and security. It ensures customer satisfaction and a perfect experience for the final consumer – whether the end-product is made of natural or synthetic fibers.

Natural and pure                          

Bio-cotton is a trend growing from the sustainability movement. Customers are willing to pay higher prices for ‘all natural’ products. It’s a promising business scenario, but a tricky one! Bales of cotton typically contain various kinds of contamination — none of which should get into the final product, and ideally should be removed at the earliest stage of production.

Eliminating contamination during fiber preparation — and before the contaminants are shredded into smaller particles by the further processes — absolutely improves the quality of the raw material and reduces waste. The Uster Jossi Vision Shield N contamination sorter ensures the best possible detection and removal of contamination, right after the fiber opener.

Conventional camera-based systems cannot match the performance of the top-level spectroscope technology from Uster. The high-end Imaging Spectroscopes in Jossi Vision Shield N are backed by over 20 years’ experience. These spectroscopes can find contamination even within the ‘invisible’ range of IR and UV light.

The same expertise also works with bleached cotton. Fragments of contamination in light pastel colors and white are also no problem. The ‘Quick Teach’ feature automatically learns the correct color of each new raw material, to prevent false ejections when material lots are changed.

Synthetic and clean

Nonwovens producers expect high quality and no contamination when purchasing synthetic fibers. Control is the only secure method when operating a business in highly sensitive applications such as medical textiles. Durable or non-durable, the product must be super clean. Contamination is not acceptable, and snow-white color generally a must. Producers have the security they need with Uster Jossi Vision Shield N. Detection of tiniest contamination fragments, even in light pastel colors and whites is not a problem.

Slim and powerful

Uster Jossi Vision Shield N is the result of surveys, close collaboration with international nonwovens companies and countless hours of field tests. Installation is easy, since the fiber cleaner’s slim design fits perfectly into existing lines. The system readily copes with the pace of standard production environments — up to a capacity of 2,000 kg per hour. Stainless steel inserts, in areas which come into contact with the fibers, guarantee unmatched durability.

The future-oriented graphical user interface gives a quick overview of running performance in real time, on a large high-resolution touchscreen, showing the most relevant data at a glance. User-friendly, quick and intuitive navigation makes data handling easy.

No fault, no risk

Managing quality with Uster Jossi Vision Shield N at the fiber preparation stage gives manufacturers the total confidence that only contamination-controlled products are delivered. The paramount need is to prevent defects from the production processes reaching the end-product — and the Uster system simply does that.

Uster Technologies has built experience and technological know-how over nearly three decades of fiber cleaning in spinning. Contamination is unwelcome in yarn, just as it is in nonwovens! Worldwide, 5,000 installations of Jossi Vision Shield fiber cleaning systems in spinning mills underline Uster’s success.

October 13, 2022

Users Care About Assistive Devices’ Look, Feel And Smell

By Laura Oleniacz

A new study by North Carolina State University researchers found that people often considered the look, texture and, occasionally, the smell of two assistive devices — compression gloves and a knee brace — in online reviews of the products.

The findings detail key aesthetic characteristics that users care about as well as the language they’re using to describe them — factors that could be important for manufacturers to consider in product development.

“Aesthetics of assistive devices are often not taken into account despite the fact that research shows one reason for abandonment is that users feel embarrassed or stigmatized by their devices,” said the study’s lead author Kate Nartker, assistant professor of textile and apparel technology and management. “There’s also an assumption that users want to conceal their devices, but increasingly some want to express themselves, and need more opportunities for creativity and self-expression.”

In the study, researchers analyzed online reviews of assistive devices on Amazon.com to look for descriptors of the visual aesthetics of the products, such as their color, appearance, style, feel, smell and sound. They analyzed 1,000 reviews of a knee brace posted between Aug. 10, 2019, and March 18, 2021, and 1,082 reviews of compression gloves posted between Dec. 27, 2017, and March 31, 2021.

They found users did comment on the aesthetic qualities of their devices, and most commonly made comments about their visual qualities.

One of the most common words that people used in reference to visual aesthetics was “color,” which occurred 92 times. Some reviewers praised sellers for offering a variety of color options, while others requested more neutral colors, as well as colors not currently available including beige, dark brown, or grey.

“Some users complained about there not being a broader range of browns,” Nartker said. “It’s only recently we’re starting to see different shades of skin color in medical products like Band-Aids. Our findings align with this and suggest that there is a need for more skin tone colors if people want to conceal their devices. Color was also the one aesthetic option for each device, and users appreciated having multiple colors to choose from. I imagine if the device were offered in different patterns or textures, maybe that would have come up more.”

The researchers also noted that some consumers commented on their devices’ style, using that term 18 times, while the word “look” was used 144 times. Commonly, the word “look” was used to praise devices when they looked stylish and not “medical.”  Users liked it when products aligned with fashion trends.

“We had consumers who were excited that they felt the product was not read as a device from others — that the gloves looked like normal gloves and used materials they were familiar with, so they could wear them conspicuously,” Nartker said. “Devices are made to be functional, so they’re often made with industrial materials that might stick out. But consumers responded when they used recognizable materials.”

The word “smell” occurred 18 times in online reviews, primarily in a negative context. Six customers said they found a disturbing smell when they opened the product packaging, which researchers said could be an indicator to designers and developers to allow for off-gassing when packaging materials. Users also responded when the device felt rough, scratchy, soft or stretchy.

“When you’re looking at tactile characteristics, it’s hard to distinguish between aesthetics and functionality,” Nartker said. “Some had a sensation of it slipping — that could also be considered a functionality issue. In terms of smell, some people noticed body odor or off-gassing when you open the product — smell is something designers often don’t take into account.”

In future work, researchers plan to dig deeper into different demographics to find out what it is about the appearance, sound, smell or texture that appeal to product users, or not.

“This study gave us insight into how people talk about aesthetics; the language and terms are different from what is used in the field of design,” Nartker said. “It also told us that visual aesthetics was the most common feature people were concerned with, but users were also interested in texture and smell as well. Overall, this supports the argument that aesthetics need to be a bigger piece in the development of assistive devices.”

The study, “Consumer perceptions and concerns regarding aesthetic attributes of textile-based assistive devices: A qualitative analysis of online retail product reviews,” was published online in the Research Journal of Textile and Apparel. The study was supported by the Wilson College of Textiles Research Opportunity Seed Fund.


Editor’s Note: Laura Oleniacz is Public Communications Specialist at NC State News Services.


October 13, 2022

Could Automation Be The Answer To The Great Resignation?

Could Automation Be The Answer To The Great Resignation?TW Special Report

Regardless of location, if you are a manager in manufacturing, you will have seen the increasingly staggering data about the so-called Great Resignation, a phenomenon where employees voluntarily decide to quit their jobs. Claudia Jarrett, US country manager at global supplier of quality automation components EU Automation, explores how automation can help manufacturing businesses cope as staff retention rates fall.

The Great Resignation, a term coined by Anthony Klotz, a professor at Texas A&M University, is a growing economic trend in which employees have been voluntarily resigning from their jobs en masse since early 2021. Wage stagnation in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, job dissatisfaction and safety concerns due to COVID-19 are all contributing factors as to why staff resignation levels are persistently on the rise across the globe. So, what does this mean for the manufacturing industry?

According to the Harvard Business Review, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, employees are now self-evaluating, significantly reconsidering their career paths and prospects. Humans are creatures of habit, but the pandemic has caused a shift in both perspective and work-life balance for manufacturing staff.

In Germany, the main factor triggering this shift in the workforce was inflation. Price hikes across food and energy products meant that in 2021, Germany saw inflation rates of 4.1 per cent in September 2021 — the highest in nearly 30 years, causing employees to seek higher-paid jobs with benefits such as working from home.

What’s more, in manufacturing there are few options for remote work compared to other sectors. The Washington Post reports that manufacturing workers fear a new COVID-19 outbreak, and feel that their safety is not sufficiently protected. Other reasons for why staff retention has plummeted are the stagnation in pay rates, especially in manufacturing that involves ‘nondurable goods’, and harsh working conditions.

Leveraging Automation

Job functions within the manufacturing industry often involve constant repetitive actions that might be monotonous and even lead to strain injuries. Leveraging automation systems across production lines to automate repetitive actions will reduce the chance of human error and increase levels of accuracy, but also allow employees to move into more fulfilling job roles, increasing job satisfaction. This might reduce the levels of staff resignation and increase productivity.

Pick and place robots are just one example of how manufacturers can leverage automation for increased efficiency. Using advanced vision systems, these robots can identify, pick up and move objects from one place to another and can be configured with a myriad of end-of-arm tools, thus making the robot useful for an array of tasks. Automating repetitive processes such as this can help increase levels of production, allowing workers to focus on more complex and rewarding work.

Automating the quality assurance function of the manufacturing process can also assist managers with harnessing automation effectively. The process of quality assurance can become a tedious task for workers over time and inspectors can make mistakes due to the complex nature of the item they are inspecting, whose quality is best assessed by an automated solution. Replacing manual inspection with an autonomous machine vision solution will lead to higher inspection accuracy, while workers can be moved to tasks that require reasoning and decision-making. Navigating the automation industry and sourcing new parts for these manufacturing functions can be a costly process, but sourcing your parts from a supplier of reconditioned and obsolete parts could be the solution.

Crucially, manufacturers should not hesitate to deploy new automated solutions for fear that breakages will lead to increase maintenance costs and more downtime. Liaising with a supplier such as EU Automation will allow managers to access parts easily and affordably, so that repairs can be made quickly and stress-free. While the Great Resignation movement continues, the manufacturing industry should accelerate the adoption of new technology to optimize productivity while moving their current employees into more rewarding, fulfilling jobs. Managers must see that automation is not just another expense but an asset to be valued.

October 13, 2022

 

 

 

 

 

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