One of the ways researchers are making wearable technology less bogged down by electronic equipment and more user-friendly is by developing fabrics with electrical capability built in.

A research team led by Yingying Zhang, a professor in the Department of Chemistry at Tsinghua University in China, has made progress in this area with the development of a one-step 3D-printing technique that prints flexible electronic fibers onto fabrics and textiles.

“Generally, the attachment of rigid and bulky electronic on textile will deteriorate the breathability and flexibility of textiles, leading to a poor wearing comfort,” she told Design News. “One way to alleviate this problem is to develop flexible functional fibers in a textile.”

To achieve this, Zhang’s team used a 3D printer equipped with a coaxial needle to draw patterns, pictures, and lettering using core-sheath fibers onto textile, giving it the ability to transform movement into energy. The work shows that these textiles “could be used for the energy-management purpose, such as for harvesting and storing energy,” she said. Read More