E-Textiles @ Next Tex, Munich Fabric Start SS19

Introducing Statex, Madeira and ZSK who will be exhibiting their Electronic Embroidery products under the E-textile theme – one of three themes at our upcoming Next Tex SS19 showcase at Munich Fabric Start this January/February 2018.

For the uninitiated, e-textiles or electronic textiles are fabrics that can conduct electricity and so can be connected to or embedded with digital components. They are used in a wide range of performance-enhancing, health/body monitoring and aesthetically-appealing applications: from heated car seats and clothing, to sensors in medical equipment and luminous fashion tech.

Electronic embroidery, or e-broidery, is one way of integrating conductive metallic threads on/into textiles to create soft circuits, turning the fabric itself into electronic hardware while maintaining the flexible, drapable, and even washable characteristics of cloth. This technology is already being used in garments, such as the Levi’s x Google Jacquard jacket, to act as an interface to more commonplace devices such as mobiles and headphones.

Once connected to the internet of things (IoT), e-broidered sensors in garments could monitor the vital signs of the wearer and change their environment accordingly, whether that’s simply adjusting the ambient temperature, or selecting music to match your heartbeat. In turn, such sensors could one day harvest body heat or static cling in clothing to power these smart features and remove the need for additional, external power supplies – therefore creating a truly wearable computer.

Bringing the future closer one stitch at a time, Statex, Madeira and ZSK are three well established German companies working together to make e-broidery possible on an industrial scale.


Statex silver threads


Founded in 1978 in Bremen, Statex is a global market leader in silver textiles and other metallic yarns. Silver is the most electro- and thermoconductive of all pure metals, followed by copper and gold. Statex’s Shieldex range of silver yarns and fabrics also harness the precious metal’s electromagnetic (EM) / radio frequency (RF) shielding, antibacterial and antistatic properties. The 3rd generation family business frequently collaborates with research institutes and other companies to develop customer-specific solutions – more of which below. For Next Tex, Statex will be presenting a variety of their technical embroidery threads and conductive panels (like the heart-shaped electrode further down the page).



LED dragonfly made with Madeira embroidery threads


Madeira is a globally-renowned name in quality embroidery threads. Starting life in 1919 as "Burkhardt & Schmidt Garnfabrik" in Freiburg – the gateway to the Black Forest and eco-capital of Germany – almost 70% of Madeira threads are still produced there according to stringent environmental standards. Beyond their classic range for hand and machine embroidery, there’s flame retardant, glow-in-the-dark and highly conductive (HC) threads – the last of which will be exhibited at Next Tex. Madeira HC thread is not only plated with 99% pure silver Shieldex thread but also has pure silver twisted into the polyamide core, making it highly conductive and durable. Perfect for stitching into embroidered sensors and circuits, Madeira HC thread is Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified, free of harmful substances, kind to skin and machine washable.



Moss e-broidered electrode made of brass Statex thread


Leading German embroidery machine brand ZSK Stickmaschinen Gmbh was founded in 1984 after acquiring Zangs: a textile machinery company in Krefeld with over 100 years of history. ZSK Technical Embroidery Systems provide innovative solutions for wearables and advanced materials, such as conductive moss embroidery where a dense network of loops is made with a single thread on a textile substrate to create flexible sensors, touch buttons and electrodes – as used in electronic muscle stimulation (EMS) for sports training and physiotherapy.

The ZSK Functional Sequin Device (FSD) embroidery machine lays and securely stitches LED lights onto textiles, connecting these to embroidered conductive threads and incorporating them into motifs. This technology would be particularly suitable in high-vis workwear or sportswear for the nighttime jogger, especially since it does not interfere with the movement of the body. You can see the FSD embroidery machine in action at Next Tex, or get a sneak preview in the video below:


Title image: LilyPad Arduino 328 Main Board microcontroller affixed to fabric using ZSK Technical Embroidery Systems

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