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Covestro Creates Flexible Electronic System for Smart Clothing

Having developed an electronic system that responds to movement without losing its functionality, the materials manufacturer—formally known as Bayer MaterialScience—said Tuesday that it will unveil luminous apparel at the upcoming K 2016 plastics trade fair (Oct. 19-26) in Dusseldorf, Germany.

The system consists of a flexible and formable film made of thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) that acts as a substrate for printed copper circuits, arranged in a meandering pattern on a piece of soft fabric—not on a panel or strip—so they can be bent or stretched. The circuits themselves are manufactured using a multi-stage process that includes laminating copper films onto polyurethane films and using thermoforming to shape them as required.

“The films are resistant to standard etching and imaging processes,” Covestro film expert Wolfgang Stenbeck said in a statement. “Formable electronic systems can also be directly laminated onto textiles, as in the case of the luminous dress.”

The production technology was developed as part of various projects funded by the EU Commission, with the aim of producing circuits cost-effectively using standard equipment that can be integrated seamlessly into energy-efficient components.

According to Covestro, this new technology opens up a wide range of options for wearable technology in the apparel industry by reducing complexity, cutting cost and shortening time to market. It also allows designers to place LEDs exactly where they want them on a garment.