Novel manufacturing methods for functional electronic textiles

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: Sch of of Electronics and Computer Sci


This proposal is concerned with the research and development of new manufacturing and assembly methods that add electronics functionality to textiles. Textiles are ubiquitous and are used, for example, in clothing, home furnishings as well as medical, automotive and aerospace applications. Textiles are one of the most common materials with which humans come into contact, but, at present, their functionality is limited to their appearance and physical properties. There is considerable and growing interest in SMart and Interactive Textiles (SMIT) that add electronic functionality to textiles. SMIT offer a far greater range of functionality that can include sensing, data processing and interaction with the user and, as a result, can be applied in a vast range of applications potentially wherever textiles are present.

The overall objective of the research is to develop new manufacturing assembly methods that enable the reliable packaging of advanced electronic components (e.g. microcontrollers) in ultra-thin die form within a textile yarn. The programme of research will investigate approaches for mounting the ultra-thin die onto thin flexible polymer films strips that contain patterned conductive interconnects and bond pads. Individual die will be located on the strip and conductive tracks on the plastic substrate will them together forming a long, very thin, flexible circuit or filament. The filaments will then be surrounded by classical textile fibres (e.g. polyester, cotton, wool, silk) and connected to conductive wires to form an electronic yarn (EY) that will, essentially, appear to be a standard textile yarn but which has embedded within it, circuitry and components. The ultimate goal is to incorporate these EYs into the textile in such a way as to protect the electronic components and interconnects from the rigours of use whilst maintaining the feel, drape and breathability of the textile. A key aspect of the technology is the use of ultra-thin die which are highly flexible and, together with a rectangular footprint, will minimise the profile of the die within the filament. This will then serve to reduce the impact on the yarn making the electronics virtually invisible and minimising yarn diameter.

Planned Impact

The inclusion of electronic functionality will enable a huge range of new textile products that will revolutionise the textile industry and the industries that use textiles. The research will be highly transformative providing an enabling technology that can be applied in medical, performance sports, automotive, fashion and wearable technology applications. The research proposal includes 8 project partners, 6 of which are end users and 2 are involved in the manufacturing supply chain. The end user beneficiaries (Speedo International Ltd, International Automotive Components Group Ltd, BSN Medical, Stretchline (UK) Ltd, Royal Centre for Defence Medicine (RCDM) and Medicity) will benefit from the research by having the technology available to develop new products and capabilities. The CPI will benefit by partnering with end user companies to take the technology to market. Plessey Semiconductors Ltd will benefit from a new range of applications for their products (for example incorporating LED and sensing die in textiles). In addition to these project partners, new collaborators will be sought through the life of the project through the actions described in the Pathways to Impact.

The wider benefits of the proposed research include economic benefits through the growth in business and competitive advantages arising from the new opportunities enabled by the technology. The technology will provide opportunities for enhanced functionality in existing products as well as radically new products. The creative industries (e.g. fashion) will benefit form the capability offered by the technology to develop garments that interact with wearers and respond to stimuli and create stunning visual effects. For eaxmple, the effects demonstrated by bespoke illuminated stage costumes used in the music industry will become available on the high street. Medical applications of the technology will benefit patient care through improved patient monitoring enabling more rapid warning of problems (e.g. through wound monitoring). These wider benefits are likely to occur with 2 years of the end of the project. It is a key objective of the project to bring end users together with members of the supply chain to facilitate further development and create demand pull as well as technology push.

The project is inherently interdisciplinary and the research staff working on the project will benefit from the opportunity to develop expertise in new sectors through academic collaborations and working with industrial partners in the development of demonstrators.
Description Tis project was concerned with the manufacture of electronic textiles. The project developed manufacturing processes that enable bare die components to be fabricated on thin flexible filaments. A method of packaging and protecting the bare silicon die on the flexible circuit such that they can be integrated into a textile and survive washing. The circuits were demonstrated being incorporated inside a textile yarn and woven into a textile during the weaving process.
Exploitation Route Exploitation in partnership with textile and shoe fitting companies.
Sectors Creative Economy,Electronics,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

Description H2020-ICT-2018-2
Amount € 3,732,749 (EUR)
Funding ID 825339 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 01/2019 
End 12/2021
Description Platform Grant
Amount £1,398,636 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/P010164/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2017 
End 03/2021
Description RFID Tags
Amount £35,000 (GBP)
Organisation Set Squared Partnership 
Department ICURe
Sector Private
Start 01/2018 
End 03/2018
Description Wearable multiplexed biomedical electrodes
Amount € 3,700,000 (EUR)
Funding ID Grant agreement ID: 825339 
Organisation European Commission H2020 
Sector Public
Country Belgium
Start 01/2019 
End 12/2021
Description Weaving the Winning Edge
Amount £490,805 (GBP)
Organisation Defence Science & Technology Laboratory (DSTL) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2017 
End 12/2017
Description International Automotive Components Group Ltd - FETT 
Organisation International Automotive Components
Country United States 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Exploring the application of the FETT technology in car headliners.
Collaborator Contribution hosted project meeting and toured factory, understood design and performance requirements, attended steering board meetings
Impact None
Start Year 2015
Description Method for packaging and protecting silicon die on flexible circuits for e-textile applications 
IP Reference GB1816600.9 
Protection Patent application published
Year Protection Granted 2018
Licensed No
Impact None yet