Sensing surface: Multi-layered woven fabrics for application of resistive pressure-sensitive e-textiles

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master's thesis
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Master’s Programme in Fashion, Clothing and Textile Design
As multidisciplinary collaborations among different fields are increasing, textiles have become a very popular carrier, especially when working with electronics. Pressure-sensing textiles, for example, are one of the applications. In the future, many textile products may sense the pressure given to them by our bodies and provide versatile forms of feedback based on their functions. For now, many additive textile fabrication methods like printing, sewing, or laminating printed electronics on top of fabrics are used to achieve the pressure-sensing property. These methods use textiles merely as substrates instead of utilizing unique possibilities created by textile design and construction. This practice-based research focuses on constructing multi-layered woven textiles with pressure-sensing functions. More specifically, it investigates how to achieve different textile performances by altering the woven structures. The background research aims to build an initial understanding of e-textiles and pressure sensors, then outline the state-of-the-art in pressure-sensing textiles research. During the practice-based research process, multiple design methods are integrated into woven textile prototyping and testing. This thesis combines textile thinking, which refers to prototype development, with a logical mindset, which refers to data analysis. The textile designer's knowledge of weaving is also essential in mapping the relevant variables, designing suitable structures, or solving technical problems through the practice of weaving. Compared with existing research on pressure-sensitive textiles, this thesis takes a rather micro perspective by zooming into multi-layer structures through textile thinking to find out how variables of woven textiles affect the pressure-sensing properties. In the current state of research, detailed information relating to textile structures is missing from the e-textile development, because the research papers are often theoretically written and pay more attention to the material and engineering principles. That makes it extremely hard for future textile designers to follow the studied structure designs. Therefore, this thesis intends to complement the current research by embedding textile thinking into woven e-textile development process. With thorough documentation of the ideation, prototyping, and analyzing processes, this work helps to form a way of thinking and fill in the gap between engineers and designers. Being a multidisciplinary subject by nature, textile design deserves to get more attention, instead of being neglected and remaining in the minds of weavers. The outcome of this thesis includes a collection of woven textile designs with tested results on their pressure-sensing properties generated through experimentation and observations, as well as a guideline for future designers or engineers for constructing pressure-sensitive multi-layered woven textiles. With this guideline, they can choose the proper woven structures based on their applications or get inspired by the mindset carried out through this research. As this study uses only one kind of resistive material, the results cannot be generalized to other materials. However, this thesis can still be an example of exploring pressure-sensitive multi-layered woven fabrics for future research when more potential materials are tested.
Salolainen, Maarit
Thesis advisor
Pouta, Emmi
Yu, Xiao
e-textiles, pressure-sensitive e-textiles, multi-layer woven fabrics, woven structure design, textile thinking, interdisciplinary research
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