IGF-AiF 17056 BR

The research project "Thread Electronics" aimed to develop processes for the production of textile and textile-technologically processable threads on which electronic components of different polarity are mounted. The processing of these threads in textile processes was to be investigated. The component-mounted threads were being processed with textile
techniques and linked with the incorporated electrical conductor threads to form functional units.

First, conductive thread materials and their suitability for component assembly were investigated. The processing of the conductive thread materials into different thread-like structures, e.g. braids or tapes, enables the realisation of different electronic interconnections. After the characterisation of the components, their interconnection on the filamentary carriers and the tests on suitable contacting materials (solder pastes, adhesives, etc.), the component assembly techniques that could be considered were defined.
The first tests for component assembly were carried out manually with installation tools such as magnifying glasses, tweezers and soldering irons. In the course of the project work,
these assembly techniques were replaced by a mechanised variant and a research workstation was set up for the assembly of conductive threads with components. Basic investigations into automation for later application in industry followed. Finally, processing trials of the assembled threads were carried out on the weaving technology of the TITV
Greiz and the partners of the project-accompanying committee and the first functional modules were set up. The protection of the component-equipped threads against mechanical influences and interactions with the environment was also realised.

Results and ApplicationsAs a result of the work, a technology is available that makes it possible to structure conductive thread-like carriers, to contact components of different polarity and designs on these carriers in a functionally appropriate way and to integrate the component-equipped threads into textile processing procedures (Fig. 1).

Abb. 1: Gewebe mit LED-bestücktem Faden
Figure 1: Fabric with LED-equipped thread ( LED size 1.6 mm)

Since German companies in particular no longer see a growth market in the classic segments for textile products, there is an opportunity in the production of intelligent and functionally determined textiles and textile components. There is a high demand for improving the functional properties and manageability of electronic textiles and their automated production. With the developed electronic threads, not only can this need be met, but there are also other applications. In this respect, small and medium-sized companies from the fields of technical textiles, electronics and medical technology benefit due to the functional expansion and thus clearly distinguish themselves from suppliers from the Far East.
Since the component-loaded threads can be integrated into textiles using commercially available machine technology, this factor supports manufacturers in implementing them in
new and existing products. The textile structures can be tested as an alternative to the conventional, mostly manual, production of smart textiles and, if necessary, further modified until they are ready for use. In this respect, a reduction in manufacturing costs and a shortening of manufacturing times is possible, while also ensuring an increase in quality.
Manufacturers and retailers of smart textiles are able to offer high-quality products with additional properties with the component-equipped textile structures. This results in higher
customer acceptance. An increase in sales is directly linked to this. The textile manufacturers themselves also benefit from the results. Since the newly developed textile fabrics can be produced on standard machines, the investment costs for SMEs are minimised. Against the background of further economic developments, this means a significant competitive advantage. The development of further areas of application for textile fabrics is thus possible.


Dipl.-Ing. (FH) Kay Ullrich