Microfabrication to enable smart, flexible textiles
To ensure that it remains globally competitive, the European textile industry must ensure it is capable of producing the latest intelligent materials. EU-funded researchers hope to ensure this by investigating the exciting opportunities offered by new technologies such as electronic inks when incorporated with MEMS on flexible textiles and fabrics The 'Micro fabrication production technology for MEMS on new emerging smart textiles/flexibles' (Microflex) project aims to develop microfabrication production technologies for MEMS on fabrics to quickly produce economical flexible smart textiles and garments with a simple design process. According to the researchers, this process will be based on thick film printing and sacrificial etching for the MEMS structures. Subsequent inkjet printing will be used to deposit thinner structures on the thick film printed layers incorporating, for example, active nano-particles to add further functionality. In addition to the expected technological and economic impacts, the researchers believe the project will also have social and environmental benefits. These should result from the inks they will develop: they will enable the production of socially beneficial smart fabrics, such as those needed for medical uses, while using minimum amounts of raw materials 'to achieve a positive environmental impact'.