Freely formable electronic systems open up new possibilities for the design of fashion items

Freely formable electronic systems open up new possibilities for the design of fashion items

Polymer company Covestro has developed a flexible smart circuit technology that can illuminate fabrics for use in clothing. 

At the centre of the development is an electronic system that is responsive to movements without losing its functionality. The technology, the company says, can perform key functions such as protecting pedestrians and cyclists against accidents.

The light-emitting diodes are positioned on a piece of soft fabric. The system comprises a flexible and formable film made of thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU). This is the substrate for the printed copper circuits, which are arranged in a meandering pattern and can thus also be bent and stretched. 

Covestro showcased an item of luminous clothing items at the recent K2016 plastics trade fair in the US. 

"The films are resistant to standard etching and imaging processes," saus Covestro film expert Wolfgang Stenbeck. "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. The objective is to produce 2.5-dimensional electronic circuits cost-effectively using conventional forming processes.

Stretchable circuit board (SCB) technology for manufacturing stretchable electronic circuits was developed earlier as part of the European STELLA project. This was led by the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration (IZM) and the Technical University of Berlin. Coated TPU films can be stretched repeatedly up to 60%, and on a one-time basis by as much as 300%.