Innovation in the form of the combination of soft materials with high technology has led to the development of so-called Smart Textiles. These are of strategic importance for the European textile industry to sustain their competitive edge and to counter threats from low-labour cost producers.
Smart Textiles can conduct light, heat or currents; i.e. the textile becomes an interactive product and can now become part of larger product service systems (PSS). This opens up a vast field of opportunities for textile developers and product and service designers to combine their disciplines in the application areas of well being and life style.
To develop these complex PSS solutions, manufacturers need to move away from their current fragmented, slow or non-existent knowledge exchange methods and team up with relevant partners. Initial investment in this field has led to the design and development of an inspirational test-bed, called ‘Wearable Senses’ at TU/e.
What questions were answered?
Teams from 3 universities and Industry partners were working together to answer the questions:
How can the application of user-centred design methods discover, exchange and combine the theoretical principles, strong traditions and best practices within the domain of textile, interactive product and service design?
What are the methods and criteria for the different stakeholders to pass the transitions from the Incubation, Nursery and Adoption phases?
How can the creative industry illicit awareness about the opportunities and challenges of Smart Textile PSS through co-creation and the use of inspirational Test-beds?
What have the teams achieved?
A methodology and tools for the creative industries to translate societal issues into opportunities for Smart Textile PSS’s. An ‘inspirational test-bed’ where proposals for these systems are realised and studied in context.
Timeframe and communication:
Smart Textile Services started in 2011 and finished in 2015. Throughout the project, we published articles in journals and conference proceedings in the fields of industrial design, computer-human interaction, empirical aesthetics ad health and care research. Progress was published via this website and explored in workshops.
Who was involved?
Scientific partners: Eindhoven University of Technology, Delft University of Technology, the Design Academy Eindhoven and Saxion University of Applied Sciences;
Industry and Societal partners: Audax Textiel Museum, V2_, Waag Society, Modint, Contact Groep Textiel, Unit040 Ontwerp, Metatronics en De Wever
Prof. dr. ir. Caroline Hummels, Eindhoven University of Technology
Dr. Oscar Tomico, Eindhoven University of Technology
Dr. ir. Stephan Wensveen, Eindhoven University of Technology (until 2011)
Prof. dr. Kees Overbeeke, Eindhoven University of Technology (until 2011)
Social FabricWorking on this knowledge patchwork, Research Associate Michelle Baggerman arranges for people from different backgrounds in textiles and technology, including textile manufacturers, technology experts, designers, traditional craftspeople, students, craftivists and tinkerers to work together to create an interactive patchwork representing different pieces (or patches) of their expertise while at the same time literally forming a social fabric. All possess specific knowledge, insights and opinions valuable for themselves and others, which can be shared through this patchwork. By capturing these pieces of knowledge with and from people with relevant experience for future smart-textile applications, we can literally stitch them together and connect them while contemplating and discussing how all these pieces relate to each other and what ‘smart’ things we can do with them. The different pieces together will make up the patchwork. Each patch has a story to tell by itself that contributes to the overarching story. The story however is not strictly defined but leaves room for personal interpretation and meaning. The story is fluid and may change over time or when new patches are added, keeping knowledge in motion and inviting play and exploration. The patches can show different materials; traditional or innovative, different manufacturing techniques; high-tech or low-tech, different degrees of smartness; like sensors or a quick trick to attach a button and so on. They are connected in a way that tries to link them so that they allow new combinations of materials, techniques etc. to form easily.
These connections are made hands-on, with groups of contributors. By playing around with the pieces, trying them out, touching, pointing, feeling, rearranging them; new insights can be created and captured. The patches that are added and the ideas they inspire will be documented to become part of a mirror patchwork. A digital resource can reach a bigger audience and show all the changes to the patchwork and the progressing story that it tells. The physical patchwork serves as a tool and a method and the digital patchwork is the database that can be browsed for making further connections, tracing the history of the patchwork and finding additional resources. The patchwork is not meant to become a functional object, but will serve as a conversation starter that invites a discussion both with words and hands, and facilitates knowledge exchange between different groups in an informal way inspired by the concept of the social fabric. Without a fixed pattern or design, the piece may grow in any direction and proliferate or perhaps wither over time, illustrating opportunities and challenges for smart-textiles. As more people start playing and experimenting with their own technological or textile skills and exchanging them, the more opportunities there will be to find valuable and meaningful ways to integrate smart-textiles in our lives that the industry can supply and users can inspire. As the patchwork grows, the changes and outcomes will be documented on seaminglysmart.tumblr.com.