How and why standardization will benefit the e-textile industry: Page 5 of 9

April 14, 2020 // By William G. Wong
In e-textiles, developers spend too much time finding out which component works with which. What the industry needs is a collaborative effort in the electronics and textile industries to work toward common standards.

What can e-textile learn from these examples?

Trends and movements toward standardization and/or merging are already happening in textile and electronics. In 2004, when I started out in e-textile, we had to develop our own conductive yarns. This is no longer necessary because many yarn manufacturers have developed a variety of very good products with excellent conductive properties and strength. The IPC D-72 E-Textiles Materials Subcommittee is now able to finalize a standard IPC-8921, covering requirements for conductive fibers and conductive yarns, including standardized key characteristics, durability testing, and industry test methods.

This novel industrial value chain in e-textile shows the complexity of the industry. (Courtesy of Centexbel, DITF and the SmartX project).

Such standards are the result of a retrospective effort. What’s needed to speed it up is a proactive development in both the electronics and textile industries to define standards for a more comprehensive microsystems architecture.

SmartX-Europe has taken a stab at doing this, but as you can see, it’s still a pretty complicated framework in which the two industries have yet to really merge. Also, End-of-Life needs more elaboration, since sustainability has become a major factor in the whole process of e-textile.

If we stick to this model, I think that the e-textile industry as a whole should concentrate on the two left-hand green “bubbles”: Textile Electronics Objects Assembly and Smart Textiles Assembly.

The OSI seven-layer model for communication stacks became the reference model for not only protocols, but also physical components like Ethernet connectors, routers, and switches. Having such a framework could be a great step for smart textiles. I could envision a model consisting of four layers.

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