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Inkjet printing shows promise for making E-textiles

Jun 17, 2021
Inkjet printing shows promise for making E-textiles

North Carolina

According to a study by North Carolina State University researchers, layers of electrically conductive ink can be printed on polyester fabric to make an e-textile for using in the design of future wearable devices. The printing method can be completed at room temperature and in normal atmospheric conditions. Researchers believe that inkjet printing could offer a simpler and more effective method of manufacturing electronic textiles, also known as e-textiles and they could also extend techniques common in the flexible electronic industry to textile manufacturing.

In the study, researchers described the use of a FUJIFILM Dimatix inkjet printer to create a durable and flexible e-textile material, to reliably create the e-textile, and its properties. Part of the challenge was to find the right composition of materials so the liquid ink would not seep through the porous surface of the textile materials and lose its ability to conduct electricity.

They created the e-textile by printing layers of electrically conductive silver ink like a sandwich around layers of two liquid materials, which acted as insulators and printed those sandwich layers on top of a woven polyester fabric. After printing the layers of silver ink and insulating materials, made of urethane-acrylate, and poly(4-vinylphenol), they monitored the surface of the material using a microscope. They found that the chemical properties of the insulating materials, as well as of the textile yarns, were important to maintaining the ability of the liquid silver ink to conduct electricity, and prevent it from penetrating through the porous fabric.

The researchers evaluated the electrical performance of the e-textile after they bent the material multiple times and tested more than 100 cycles of bending, to find that the e-textile did not lose its electrical performance.

Eventually, they want to use the printing method to create an e-textile that could be used in wearable electronics such as biomedical devices that could track heart rate, or used as a battery to store power for electronic devices.  Everything was done with an inkjet printer without any lamination or other methodologies.

Source: NC State University Press Release

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