Like many 3D printed inventions, smart textiles still seem, to me, to be straight out of a science fiction novel or movie. A dress that knows when you’re stressed out? We’ve come a long way from mood rings. While smart textiles haven’t made it very far past laboratories and runways just yet, we may be seeing a lot more of then soon thanks to textile manufacturer Tamicare. The English company has been developing its patented 3D textile printing technology since its founding in 2001, and now a new mass production line will allow for clothing and other textiles, including smart textiles, to be manufactured in ways most of us have never seen before.
It’s been a long road for Tamicare, which was granted its first patents for its 3D printed Cosyflex technology in 2005. Cosyflex is a versatile, multi-stage 3D printing process that fabricates textiles using a combination of liquid polymers and textile fibers that can be altered according to product needs, enabling easy customization. After a decade of development, Cosyflex is now going into mass production for the first time. Tamicare’s new production line, which has just gone into operation, is capable of producing up to three million items per year, and, remarkably, produces almost zero waste.
“Our Cosyflex production system allows 3D printing to be used for mass production for the first time ever,” said Tamicare founder and CEO Tamar Giloh. “Instead of creating items one at a time, Cosyflex enables high volume high density production from a small footprint at costs far below traditional manufacturing processes.”
A multi-million dollar agreement has just been signed between Tamicare and a major sportswear brand, and several other companies have expressed interest in the Cosyflex technology, which allows complex, multi-material garments to be printed in one piece, with no sewing or cutting required. With Cosyflex, even entire shoes can be printed in just a few steps.
“Sports shoes can require over a hundred individual operations during manufacturing, but Cosyflex reduces this to three,” said Ehud Giloh, Tamicare CTO and co-inventor of Cosyflex. “The same is true for many other complex designs. This allows companies to produce in one location what previously required a complex global supply chain.”
Cosyflex also allows for smart technology to be incorporated into textiles in an entirely new way. Currently, smart materials are woven or knitted into fabric or applied to the surface of traditionally manufactured garments. With Cosyflex, sensors, electronics and other smart materials can be printed into the garment while it is being manufactured. To further develop smart technology applications for Cosyflex, Tamicare is working with Tim Harper, a technology entrepreneur with expertise in medical devices, graphene and smart textiles.
Graphene has been creating a lot of buzz in several industries for its potentially far-reaching applications, and its conductive properties make it a very promising component in the development of smart materials. Adding graphene inks into the textile printing process is one way that smart technology could be printed directly into garments, but it’s not the only way – Cosyflex technology allows for just about anything to be incorporated into a printed textile.
“The Cosyflex system builds a garment layer by layer,” said Harper. “Any one of those layers can be textile, polymer, latex or printed electronics allowing us complete freedom in the way we design smart textiles.”
If you’ve never heard of Tamicare, don’t feel bad; the company has been rather quiet about the development of its groundbreaking technology over the past decade. Now, though, Tamicare is ready to take over. Now that Cosyflex has gone into mass production, deals with major brands are expected, and we’ll almost certainly be hearing much more about Tamicare in the near future as they sprint to the front of the 3D printed textile industry. Discuss this article in the Cosyflex forum on 3DPB.com.[Source/image: Innovation in Textiles]