In recent years, the integration of electronics in textiles has gained increasing attention worldwide. Many industry driven projects have already been started in this area on national as well as on European level. In order to enable industrial manufacturing of wearable smart textiles it is necessary to develop modular concepts as well as integration processes suitable for high volume production. By introducing new concepts for textile substrates, electronic packaging as well as textile-integrated sensors and actuators, more comprehensive smart textile systems will be possible.
From the early stages of smart textile development the monitoring of physiological parameters plays the most important role. Smart textiles for medical applications can cover various aspects: prevention, diagnosis, therapy and rehabilitation. For these applications sensors can be textile based but also miniaturized conventional sensors can be required. Different polymers and metals can be used as yarns, printable pastes or foils to realize a broad range of measurement principles. While the performance of textile and polymer sensors cannot compete with conventional sensors, the mechanical properties of these materials allow completely new applications, e.g. in strain measurements.
The mechanical reliability is essential for smart textiles. Especially different degrees of stretchability and drapeability have to be achieved while maintaining the sensor properties. This presentation describes and compares different technological approaches for conductor integration sensor and actuator integration in textiles. It also introduces a new technology for Textile Circuit Boards with improved mechanical and electrical performances by embedding structured conductive textiles into a matrix of thin thermoplastic elastomers films. This new approach also allows the realization of actuators.