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Borås University's new method for printing on textiles

Oct '19
Pic: University of Boras
Pic: University of Boras
Scientists at the University of Borås, Sweden, have developed a new method for printing on textiles which cuts short the resource intensive production process. What is currently printed with screen or inkjet technology can now be done by printing directly on textiles with a 3D printer. This is important in producing smart and functional textiles.

Doctoral student Razieh Hashemi Sanatgar has in her research project developed a new polymeric material with electrically conductive properties used as a feeding material in the 3D printer. It is a nanocomposite, a mixture of a polymer into which she mixed electrically conductive nanofillers, including carbon nanotubes and carbon black. She has also done a systematic study of how different mixtures of these nanocomposites attach to the textile and what properties are achieved.

The conventional printing processes, such as screen or inkjet technology, require large amounts of energy, water, and chemicals. The method that has now been developed opens up great flexibility in the production process.

“The goal of my research is to develop an integrated and tailor-made production process for smart and functional textiles that simultaneously uses less water, energy, chemicals and makes less waste and thus leaves as little an imprint on the environment as possible, while at the same time being of benefit from a production point of view, as the method is both cost and resource efficient,” Sanatgar says.

“Another benefit is that it is possible to get customised production with printing the nanocomposite directly on the textile material on the exact places needed,” she explains.

One challenge in the project was to achieve and maintain the desired properties of electrically conductive 3D printer filaments evenly after the filament has passed through the 3D printer. “In the project, we have succeeded in optimising the properties of the nanocomposite before and after 3D printing, which is important to be able to control the properties and their changes after printing,” the scientist says.

Another challenge was how well the polymers and nanocomposite adhere to different textile materials. The results from this part of the project fill an important gap in the research field. “As 3D printing on textiles is a novel technology, the adhesion of polymers and nanocomposites on textiles has not been thoroughly explored. What we have now done is a systematic study where we have investigated the effect of different printing process parameters on the adhesion of polymers and nanocomposites on textiles,” she says.

The new process can be used in the production of smart bandages, VR gloves, garments with sensor and heat properties, rescue equipment, sports garments that sense body temperature, medical equipment, the automotive, aerospace and space industry, etc - situations which need control of exactly where the conductive material should be placed on the textile material and how the conductive property should function.

Fibre2Fashion News Desk (SV)

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