EntellFibres Ltd was established in May 2008 to commercialise a patented technology platform for the creation of intelligent electronically active fibres invented in the University of Manchester. The technology is based on embedding microelectronic devices within a bundle of fibres and encapsulating with polymer micro pods.
Everyday clothing consists of textile fibres which are woven and knitted to produce a fabric for both structural and aesthetic purposes. Integration of sensors, actuators and information technology into fabric material can provide added functionality. Our intelligent fibres will enable the creation of functional textiles and garments that can be cleaned and used without special treatments. The vision of EntellFibres Ltd is to integrate this new dimension of functionality into fibres, thus turning everyday objects into intelligent artefacts. Moreover, the goal of electronically functional fibres is to turn existing "bricks around the body", i.e. textiles with discrete electronic domains/regions, into a comfortable, flexible and wearable textile form.
Our Micro-device Encapsulation Technology (MET) has the following advantages:
- No interference in the current fibre, yarn and fabric manufacturing technologies; as such these processors can be operated at their maximum efficiency;
- No degradation in the properties of the fibres/yarns;
- Possibility of developing very efficient and cost effective manufacturing technology.
The core technology platform MET is based on encapsulating electronic chips within the fibres of a yarn. A polymer resin is used to bind the chip with the fibres of the yarn (Figure 1). The concept is to position encapsulated chips along the length of the yarn at a predetermined interval, which could be acceptable as minor thick places. The encapsulated area would form a hermitically closed seal around the chip thus protecting it from all forms of stresses (mechanical, thermal, chemical etc). The encapsulation of an electronic chip within the fibres of a yarn would craft an intelligent yarn with the ability of physical sensing, signal processing, transmitting and receiving. The technology has been proven by encapsulating working RFID devices. The competitive advantages of EntellFibres' RFID fibres include:
- Reduce the cost overall cost (RFID tag / garment -inc. attaching the RFID to the swing tag and the swing tag to the garment);
- Reduce the time to manufacture and present a garment on the shop floor;
- Additional features (e.g. security, product traceability);
- Compliant with existing RFID protocols;
- Adaptable -comply with target market performance standards;
- Enable item level tracking during the manufacture / transportation of a garment;
- Integrating at the item level thus reducing supply chain management (SCM) costs.
The paper includes a brief introduction into electro-textiles and reports on the development of the encapsulation technology and RFID fibres.