About FDCs and their purpose

In support of AFFOA’s mission to rekindle the domestic textile industry, the Institute has established regional centers of excellence, called Fabric Discovery Centers (FDCs). Their purpose is to spur innovation and regional economic development aligned with advanced fibers and fabrics. Funded in partnership with local universities and State governments, FDCs are innovation centers with capabilities including, advanced R&D, end-to-end prototyping, start-up incubation space, manufacturing process development and EWD activities that support both DoD and commercial needs. AFFOA currently has four Fabric Discovery Center locations established. Please see below for more information on each individual FDC.

AFFOA's Locations

Cambridge, MA



AFFOA’s HQ FDC is an end-to-end advanced fibers and fabrics prototyping facility with state of the art prototyping and manufacturing equipment. Our facility is ITAR compliant, enabling us to support a range of defense & commercial needs.

Facilities & Equipment

HQ FDC is 12,000 square feet and houses a variety of equipment, including:

  • Fiber Development & Manufacturing: 5 fiber draw towers, machine shop for polymer processing, hot press with vacuum capability, chemical lab for active material preparation, including a fume hood and a glove box, thermal deposition system for low temperature material deposition, and a clean room
  • Knitting & Weaving: Stoll ADF X Shima Seiki Mini Whole Garment, Santoni Circular Knitter, TC2 Jacquard, Studio Dobbie AVL Loom, CCI Weaving Machine, Agteks Twister
  • System Assembly: Bernina sewing machine with embroidery module, laser cutter, 3D printers, JUKI industrial sewing machines, Pegasus Sergers
  • Testing: spectrophotometer, spectrometer, bend testing, tensile testing, wash testing, microscopy – optical microscopy, SEM, Keyence 3D microscope, electrical assembly, electrical characterization, fabric-embedded software

Capabilities: AFFOA’s in-house capabilities include end-to-end advanced fiber design and product prototyping. Our five main categories of capabilities include: 

  • Design & Modeling of Integrated Textile Systems: Modeling advanced fiber and fabric properties and design for systems analysis driven product prototyping
  • Fiber & Yarn Devices: Creating advanced multi-material monofilaments with embedded semiconductors through our proprietary thermal draw process (polymer and glass fiber capabilities) 
  • Systems Integration: Integrating electronic components at any stage of the prototype process. Validating product design through iterative testing and rapid feedback
  • Textile & System Assembly: Designing & developing end products or textiles with integrated advanced fibers or components through knitting, weaving, embroidery, and traditional cut and sew
  • Testing: Characterizing fibers and fabrics through, electronic, optical, and mechanical testing, ensuring reliability and manufacturability of prototypes

AFFOA can rapidly prototype in-house for a variety of fiber and fabric demonstrators and support small batch manufacturing. 

How to Engage: To learn more about how to engage with AFFOA’s HQ FDC, visit our Membership Page or Contact Us.

Lexington, Massachusetts

Defense FDC

About AFFOA Headquarters

The Defense Fabric Discovery Center (DFDC) is a state-of-the-art prototyping facility that enables researchers from MIT Lincoln Laboratory to develop advanced fiber and fabric technology that provides soldiers with wearable capabilities. 

The DFDC was formed in partnership with AFFOA, MIT Lincoln Laboratory, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC).

Facilities & Equipment

The DFDC is located at MIT Lincoln Laboratory. This location houses CAD software responsible for modeling the fiber preform that contains the microelectronics, draw towers that pull and spool fiber, full-garment knitting machines that weave the fiber into fabric, and system integration technology that produces a finished product. 


The center is equipped to design and produce fabrics with embedded microelectronics, which enables these fabrics to change color, store energy, emit and detect light, monitor health, and facilitate communication. The ability to complete all the prototyping steps under one roof expedites the process of supplying finished products to the Department of Defense for operational use. 

To learn more about the DFDC, please email dfdc@ll.mit.edu 

Website: https://www.ll.mit.edu/about/facilities/defense-fabric-discovery-center

Philadelphia, Pennslyvania

Pennsylvania FDC

About the Pennsylvania Fabric Discovery Center at Drexel University (PA FDC)

The PA FDC at the Center for Functional Fabrics (CFF) is an end-to-end manufacturing platform dedicated to advancing the design and manufacturing of integrated textile systems that will transform the way we work, live and interact with the world. Our vision is to foster the creation of a new US industry where transdisciplinary teams tackle innovation barriers in advanced manufacturing of textile devices, enabling the next generation of meaningful products.

Facilities & Equipment

The CFF and the PA FDC is a 10,000-square-foot facility at Schuylkill Yards in University City, Philadelphia, PA. The PA FDC is an end-to-end rapid prototyping facility for advanced manufacturing of functional fabrics. 

The CFF at PA FDC utilizes a wide range of state-of-the-art industrial textile fabrication equipment for research and development of functional fabrics including:

  • Fiber Development & Yarn Assembly: Agteks yarn covering and twisting machines, Simet twisting machine, bobbin winding machine, custom-built modular twisting set-up, New England Butt Company braiding machines, nanomaterial electrospinning machine
  • Knitting & Weaving: 7 Shima Seiki flat weft knitting machines, a Lonati circular weft knitting machine (shoe upper machine), a Santoni circular weft knitting machine, a Comez warp knitting machine, a CCI weaving machine
  • System Assembly: JUKI industrial sewing machines, 3D body scanner, ultrasonic welding/sewing machine, hot air seam sealing machine, embroidery machine, advanced flat overlock sewing machine, precision washer and dryer, steam iron station, ultrasonic bath with temperature control
  • Testing & Characterization: stereoscopic microscope, electronic twist tester, yarn count tester, yarn wrap reel, tensile testing, seam testing station, abrasion and pilling tester


The PA FDC utilizes their equipment to push the current boundaries of functional fabrics, smart garments, novel materials and wearable technology. PA FDC resources are used by faculty, staff and students at Drexel University to develop textile devices from concept to prototype as well as multidisciplinary research, enabling quick knowledge transfer between disciplines.

Prototyping/Translation to scalable manufacturing
The PA FDC has experience modifying full scale manufacturing equipment and developing small scale equipment to translate novel materials into prototypes relevant to industry and research application.

Yarn Level Prototyping
The PA FDC has the knowledge and equipment to develop prototypes and solutions at the yarn level. Manufacturing and research scale equipment is used to modify existing yarns and create composites through twisting, covering and sizing processes.

Knit & Woven Textile Fabrication
Flat and circular weft, warp and sample weaving machines are used at the PA FDC. Each of these knitting machines are commonly used in full scale textile manufacturing. The PA FDC team has created modifications and interventions to quickly scale ideas from research and development level prototypes to production level proof of concepts.

The PA FDC has a variety of equipment for both traditional and non-traditional textile testing and characterization including stereoscopic optical microscopy, abrasion and pilling, water resistance, yarn twist, burst strength, flexural strength and tensile testing. Electrical properties such as linear resistance can also be measured to characterize yarns for use in e-textiles.

Systems Integration
The PA FDC is experienced in developing embedded hardware and software for textile devices and in finding solutions to interface textiles to electronics hardware. This includes embedded sensing, signal processing and driver development for textile-based sensors.

Education and Workforce Development
In alignment with Drexel University’s broader strategic strengths in experiential learning and applied research, the PA FDC incorporates a hands-on undergraduate cooperative educational role and extensive transdisciplinary graduate research in its projects.

How to Engage:

To learn more about how to engage with the PA FDC, visit our website, follow us on Twitter or Contact Us.

Website: https://drexel.edu/functional-fabrics/initiatives/pennsylvania-fabric-discovery-center/

Lowell, Massachusetts

UMass Lowell FDC

About UMass Lowell Fabric Discovery Center:

UMass Lowell Fabric Discovery Center (UML FDC) is the first and only site in the nation that brings together opportunities from three Manufacturing USA Innovation Institutes (AFFOA, Nextflex and ARM). Under one high-tech regional ecosystem, the UML FDC is responsible for driving research and prototyping (product and process development) for automated manufacturing and the commercialization of advanced functional fabrics, flexible hybrid electronics, and robotics. Focused on helping create the next generation of manufacturing and the workforce  for advanced textiles, wearable electronics, & medical textiles, this location’s work also impacts the regional and national economy as well as national security.

Facilities and Equipment:

The UML FDC is a 28,000 square foot research facility focused on the development, testing, and manufacturing of “smart” materials.  The FDC offers leading edge equipment for the development of new advanced textiles, fiber-based materials, and integrated electronics. Equipment includes:

  • Fiber and Yarn Processing: Wire Coating Line, Xplore Microcompounder, Agteks Twister, Wardwell Maypole Braider, 
  • Knitting & Weaving: Stoll Knitting Machine, TC2 Jacquard Loom
    • Testing: KLA Nano-single Fiber Tester, Instron Tensile Tester, Thermal Mechanical Analyzer, Air Permeability Tester, Thermetrics Guarded Hot Plate, ESPEC Temp/Humidity Chamber, Martindale Abrasion Tester, Vertical Flame Tester, MOCON WVTR Tester, Olympus Microscope
    • PPE Testing: Automated Filter Tester, Hydrostatic Head Tester, Mask Synthetic Blood Penetration Tester
  • Integration & Post-Processing: HMI Screen Printer, Roll to Roll Coating Line, Heat Transfer Press
  • Functional Apparel, Fashion Makerspace: Gerber Cutter, Digitizer & Plotter, Industrial Sewing Machines


UML FDC serves the needs of both academic and industry researchers to rapidly transform product concepts into functional prototypes. Our main capabilities include:

  • Polymer compounding and Fiber extrusion 
  • Textile assembly (e.g., knitting, weaving, braiding) and textile finishing (e.g., coating, digital printing, bonding/seaming, sewing) equipment 
  • Additive manufacturing and roll-to-roll processing (for creation of flexible electronics, conformal sensors, energy harvesting devices, wearable electronics) 
  • Testing for mechanical and thermal properties, flammability, permeability, and abrasion.

How to engage:

To learn more about UMass Lowell FDC and how to engage, please visit https://www.uml.edu/Research/fdc/ 

And do not hesitate to email us with any questions at LowellFDC@uml.edu

Website: https://www.uml.edu/Research/fdc/