Latest News in Revolutionary Fibers & Textiles

Taking on the Wearables Challenges

November 16, 2023

The future with textiles 2.0 

In his presentation Dr. Sasha Stolyarov, CEO, Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA) described the vision AFFOA has for “textiles 2.0,” which brings fibers/textiles together with semi-conductors and advanced materials to create fibers that are devices and fabrics that function as systems.

What that means, ultimately, is fabrics will be able to see, hear, sense, communicate and perform other, specific functions designed to solve critical defense needs, but also to generate new commercial markets with advanced applications. The range of applications in both market areas is extensive and could include warfighter protection, large area sensing, industrial monitoring and tunable color, among several others.

This is a big order. One way AFFOA intends to accomplish its mission is by establishing and leveraging a broad “ecosystem” of producers, researchers and government entities.

AFFOA also intends to nurture a workforce—starting at the high school level—that will be capable of producing these advanced materials in the future.

“We’ve assembled a national network that will supply the next generation of fabrics,” he says. This network stretches from its manufacturing base to the Fabric Innovation Network, to the U.S. Office of the Secretary of Defense and other federal agencies, to state governments, to Fabric Discovery Centers based at institutions around the country, and, of course, including the “tough-tech” investors who support innovators. All of this is designed for “helping to cross that valley of death,” he says, which prevents a great idea from becoming fully realized and commercialized.

Among its capabilities, AFFOA can support end-to-end design, from complex material needs to a prototype. It also studies manufacturability and makes the data collected fully available to its members.  AFFOA’s fiber microelectronics capability, which supports functional fiber microsystems, offers “unlimited potential for new capabilities,” he says, and “a whole new way to design an architecture within a thread.” But the fiber capability also has to be integrated into a textile, which it is now doing in yarns and ropes, wovens, nonwovens, knits and composites.

He also shared a number of success stories from companies that have launched color-changing fabrics, for example, where they addressed the problem of manufacturing to scale. “They started off with a one-meter-long fiber,” he says, “and in less than a year had entire garments.”

They also helped in the development of medicine-infused fabric products, conductive thread made into yarn that’s carbon based, soft robotics for healthcare applications and others.