[Guest Article] Does the Future of Technology Lie in Textile Printing?
While today’s discussions on the future of technology focus on IT, software development and cryptocurrencies, can nanotechnology in textiles actually harbor the biggest industrial growth potential? Textile printing is one of the driving industry factors in our industry. Nanotechnology will certainly have an impressive impact in diverse areas of our industry in the near future and it sure will be a big topic at drupa 2020.
The textile industry is one of the largest on our planet. Textiles and technology have a far-reaching history and relationship with one another. One could even say that in textiles lies the very foundation of our modern technologies.
Let’s have a brief look at history:
For millennia, yarn was woven into textile. Textile production inspired weaving machines and punch cards. They, in turn, inspired the earliest computers. Computers gave rise to nanotechnology. Now, this nanotechnology is reapplied to the yarn – to the textile. We have come full circle.
So What Does the Future of Nanotechnology in Textiles Hold?
Like the name suggests, fundamentally nanotechnology deals with the infinitesimally small, individual atoms and molecules. The name derives from the nanometer, a scientific measurement unit representing a billionth of a meter, or three to four atoms wide. Each nano-scale molecule is one million times smaller than a grain of sand.
But Nanotechnology refers not only to the small size of the materials being used but also to how those materials are engineered to perform specific functions. Material properties at this scale behave drastically different. Physical, chemical, biological properties of textile matter are understood, manipulated and controlled differently to the macro scale.
Unlike conventional methods used to impart different properties to textiles (which will lose their functions after laundering or wearing), Nanotechnology can provide high durability for fabrics and other flexible materials. That is because nanoparticles have a large surface area-to-volume ratio and high surface energy, thus presenting better affinity for fabrics and leading to an increase in durability of the function. In addition, a coating of nanoparticles on fabrics will not affect their breathability or hand feel.
There Are Two Ways of Applying Nanotechnology to Textiles:
Nanotechnology in Manufacturing Composite Fibers (Nanofibers)
Generally, polymeric nanofibers are produced by an electrospinning process. But there are other methods, too, to create fibers to nanoscale. From those nanofibers evolves a textile of specific characteristics. Hence this application of nanotechnology creates raw materials with the ability to be used for further production processes.
Nanotechnology in Textile Finishing
In the finishing process, a textile gets a treatment to impart the required functional properties. The completion varies – every application of nanotechnology requires a different finishing process. In this scenario, we find innumerable possibilities for future inks and textile printing.
Here are a handful of companies already specializing in nanotextiles which are taking the first steps into our future:
- The Nippon Paper Group developed CNF (Cellulose Nano Fiber), a very strong, transparent fiber.
- Farotex applies precious metal coatings to fabrics through nanotechnologies.
- Nano-Dimensions prints 3D electronics onto fabrics with nano inks.
- Yaluronica uses Meryl® Hyaluronan (the only yarn in the world with hyaluronic acid inside) to produce anti-aging apparel.
- Aaronia produces EMR shielding fabrics.
In reference to those companies, there are many functions that nanotechnology is already adding to our textiles:
- UV protection
- EMR shielding/absorption
- electrical conduciveness (flexible circuits)
- heat protection/absorption
- wrinkle-free treatments
- strength enhancement
- optical displays
Sounds like space technology, yet these technologies are already real and accessible for the consumer industry.
Many applications of these technologies are still in their infancy and need further research and development, but the possibilities are endless, like, for example, palettes of colours which give us innumerable possibilities for printing.
Nanotechnology has the powerful ability to engineer, synthesize and alter the next generation of improved materials, devices, systems and structures.
It looks likely that in the future, textiles will enhance our physical appearance through nanotechnology, creating an evolutionary next step for us as humans, where textiles react to environmental changes, our heart rhythm, body temperature and energy levels – like today’s apps, but on a different, more direct scale. Nanotechnology thus looks set to revolutionise the fields of engineering, communication, packaging, medical equipment, health care, therapy and active (fashion) wear.
Furthermore, nanotechnology requires much less material for vastly improved application and performance, saving valuable resources. One thing is certain: nanotechnology is reshaping our future.
What do you think about textile printing and the potentials of nanotechnology? Leave us a comment in the section below!
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