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The e-textiles market is still a young one, with most developments coming from start-ups and other small companies. However, it is starting to grow, and large-scale commercialization is on its way to becoming a reality. Knowledge and efficiency are improving, and risks and overhead are decreasing.
While the wholesale market is currently worth about USD 100 million, market research firm IDTechEx predicts that the market will approach USD 5 billion in value by 2027. The company notes that large apparel and electronics players are currently assessing the market and expects that significant investments will lead to the development of mainstream commercial products, driving the market during the next decade.
E-textiles are fabrics with electronics woven into them, allowing for a more seamless integration than other methods of combining these two items. There are many different uses for these wearable electronics, both decorative and functional. Examples include heating elements, sensors, data transfer, and displays.
One of the most common application areas for e-textiles is healthcare, where they can perform a variety of functions. They can monitor things like heart rate, motion, and respiration, and can be used in electrocardiography (ECG) and electromyography (EMG). They can also heat or cool patients, or provide transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) and electrical muscle stimulation (EMS). They offer a comfortable and less intrusive way of monitoring patients. Additionally, since e-textiles can be worn in the home and are not restricted to hospital use, they can improve home care and early detection of health problems.
Another medical use of these textiles is in prosthetics. They can help create a better, more comfortable fit than the materials prostheses are generally made from, and their conductive abilities can facilitate control of the prosthetic. For an item that is so important and will be worn so often, comfort is extremely important.
The sports and fitness sector can make use of e-textiles in a similar way to healthcare. The monitoring capabilities of these wearable electronics allow them to perform comparable (and sometimes more extensive) functions than other fitness trackers, while also being more comfortable and less obtrusive.
E-textiles also have multiple applications in the military. There are many creative ways that such fabrics can be used in this sector. For example, soldiers cannot use wireless technology in the field because it is vulnerable to interference, so they must rely on wired connections. This can be awkward and difficult to manage outside a vehicle or building. E-textiles, however, can be made to perform the same functions as cables, and with more flexibility and less weight.
There are many other applications for these fabrics, such as safety gear and fashion. They can be integrated with LED lights, for example, either for safety or fashion. Many designers are currently experimenting with LEDs in both fields, and are gradually creating results that are more comfortable and functional.
While it may still be early in this product’s life cycle, e-textiles are growing out of infancy and becoming increasingly more practical. Technology is being refined and industry giants are moving in on this market. It is only a matter of time before these fabrics become a part of everyday life. To discover companies currently innovating in this field, register with BizVibe and explore manufacturers, wholesalers, and potential customers from around the world.