New UMass Lowell Institute Aims To Explore Tech Through Textiles

Should fashion and textile design be included among STEM education? That’s a question the soon to be opened Fabric Discovery Center of the University of Massachusetts Lowell is aiming to answer. The new facility will be built on two floors of a converted textile mill and will be a place for innovators to explore textile production that incorporates a range of digital technology.

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Functional Fabrics Through Flexible Electronics

Built with the help of a $11.3 million state grant and through a partnership with Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA), the Fabric Discovery Center will focus on the development, testing, and manufacture of fabrics that feature a variety of technological elements. The center will explore ways to incorporate flexible electronics into a range of consumer, commercial, and industrial fabrics for various uses and applications.

Designs Downloaded Directly To Clothing

According to AFFOA CEO Yoel Fink, the institute will explore technology that may someday make it possible for consumers to download designs from the web directly onto their clothing. Beyond the novelty of digitally connected attire, the Fabric Discovery Center also aims to foster innovation for a new level of functionality in fabrics.

Courtesy UMass Lowell

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Lifesaving, Built-In Sensors

Other projects to be explored include sensor integrated clothing that can monitor various health conditions, send communication signals, and even help regulate body temperature. Defense contractors Raytheon and S12 technologies are also partnering with the institute to see how tech-enabled textiles can help check and maintain vitals for soldiers in combat situations. There have even been proposals for fabrics that can be wrapped around pipes and other infrastructure to detect issues such as leaks.


Rooted In Manufacturing Traditions

The Fabric Discovery Center is also an effort to enable and inspire a new generation of textile developers and manufactures, while carrying on Lowell, MA production traditions rooted as far back as the Industrial Revolution. As Governor Charlie Baker stated during the grant announcement “This is a perfect example of honoring the past and building and looking to and grabbing as fast as we can the future.”

What are your thoughts on the upcoming Fabric Discovery Center and its mission to merge tech with textiles? Tell us in the comments.

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