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9 June 2009

OFSETH member of the platform SYSTEX

The European textile and clothing industry still significantly contributes to the wealth in Europe. Nevertheless it faces huge challenges today. Fierce worldwide competition is at present putting a lot of pressure on our textile industry. E-textiles, also called intelligent, interactive or smart textiles or textile systems are expected to be a new generation of textile products that can help the textile industry in its transformation into a competitive knowledge driven industry.

They are electronic systems based on or embedded in textile substrates, adding wearability and comfort to devices and systems made for signal acquisition, transmission and processing. An example could be wearable health monitoring systems. Basically these systems include sensing and actuation, data processing, communication and energy supply. E-textiles and wearable electronics are expected to be one of the answers to these threats and hence will play a significant role in the future European textile and clothing sector. But also on societal level they will contribute significantly. In particular application areas like health, sports and protection their benefits are enormous, leading to improved health care and safety, combining increased performance and cost savings.

Several projects in smart textiles and wearable electronics have been carried out or are under execution within national as well as European programmes. Also in the US and Asian countries small and large projects are being undertaken. Co-ordination is limited and only takes place on an international level.

E-textiles and wearable electronics are complex systems that combine knowledge from many disciplines with the specific requirements of textile and clothes and this is a huge challenge. Intelligent stand alone suits must be considered as systems consisting of a set of components and this system approach is rather new to textiles. However without a system approach successful developments cannot be achieved. In addition individual components/devices are often available but when they are brought together in one system for one particular application often the overall result does not meet the requirements. Similarly, solutions found for one particular application may not fully meet the requirements for other applications.

Another challenge is the gap between Microsystems (often large to very large companies) and textiles (consisting of more than 90% of SME’s). Many materials and systems are available as well as devices for sensing and actuation, but they are not compatible with a textile nor with the textile production process. They could be transformed into a textile compatible structure or even in a full textile structure, but for this understanding on how the devices work must be combined with knowledge on textile materials, structures and processes and this turns out to be the obstacle. Organic electronics is an emerging field that merges electronics and polymeric materials, but textiles are still hardly involved in this.

Several efforts are made to make surveys or roadmaps in areas related to e-textiles.

SYSTEX wants to coordinate the activities of these actions and offer complementary actions to reinforce their overall result.

All partners will collect information within their own range of activities on technological as well as non technological aspects of smart textile systems.

This information will be stored in a user friendly data base. This data base will be accessible through the project website. Access rights will vary according to the status of a person requesting access to the database e.g. project partner, member of the user group who have signed an agreement or other person.

The information will be analysed in order to identify actions needed to meet the prime objective of SYSTEX. Actions that will be taken include preparation of an agenda for research and development, dissemination of available and missing knowledge and experience, communication with all stakeholders ranging from policy makers to the end users (wide public).

Apart from information, special efforts will be made to exchange materials as well. This includes collecting demonstrators but also prototypes for inter project exchange.

The information will be spread actively through training as well as through dissemination. Target groups are industry, researchers, students and potential end users. The intention is to combine activities with ongoing events and networks and to create as many synergy effects as possible.

A task will be dedicated to agreements that must enable optimal inter project exchanges as well as access to confidential information wherever appropriate.

SYSTEX aims at developing a framework for current and future actions in research, education and technology transfer in the field of e-textiles and wearable micro systems / electronics in Europe to support the textile industry in the most efficient and effective way to transform into a dynamic, innovative, knowledge-driven competitive and sustainable sector.

On the Web :

www.systex.org

Files to download

Flyer SYSTEX
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IST Project ehealth
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the authors only.
The European Commission is not liable for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.