We’ve all heard of cotton, wool, and silk fabrics and with technological advancements we’ve also know about moisture, mildew and ultraviolet ray resistant materials. But, do you know what conductive fabrics are and how they are used?
Lets take a quick dive into conductive fabrics, what they are, how they work, and ideal uses for them.
What are Conductive Fabrics?
Conductive fabrics are materials that are made from, coated or blended with conductive metals including but not limited to gold, carbon, titanium, nickel, silver, or copper. Base fabric materials include cotton, wool, polyester, and nylon.
There are two main categories of conductive fibers according to the Conductive Fiber Manufacturers Council. The first category are “intrinsically conductive fibers and conductive polymers which constitute the largest portion of the industry, with carbon fiber being the biggest portion." While "the second group includes non-conductive or less conductive substrates, which are then either coated or embedded with an electrically conductive element, often carbon, nickel, copper, gold, silver, or titanium.”
Conduct Fabric Uses
Conductive fibers are used in products ranging from metal mesh, aerospace textiles, taser or stun gun vests, conductive threads or yarns, fabric sheets used for thermal heating, etc. Conductive fabrics can also be used to conduct electricity in small spaces, for static dissipation, EMI shielding, signal and power transfer in low resistance versions, and in heating elements in higher resistance versions, in medical equipment like electrodes, and so much more.
One major conductive fabric product is ARACON, a brand metal clad fiber by Micro-Coax. ARACON fibers are built on a modified KEVLAR® base and provide good thermal and dimensional stability with very high yarn strength.
Conductive fibers can be woven, knit, sewn, cut or braided. This is a great benefit for manufacturers who can use conductive fibers for their flexibility, low weight, and versatility.
The Future of Conductive Fabrics
Conductive fabrics are relatively new to the specialty fabrics industry even though Thomas Edison used a carbonized sewing thread in his light bulb. With today’s technological advances, the possibilities for conductive fiber uses have grown tremendously. Engineers and manufacturers are developing products that can be worn for sports activity and even used in a new type of neuroprosthesis - precision mapping of responses from different areas/regions of the brain or spinal cord.
In fact, by 2025 more than $25 billion will be spent on formulations and advanced textiles for wearable technology, according to a report "Wearable Technology Materials 2015-2025" published by analysts IDTechEx. The industry for E-textiles or E-fabrics (AKA conductive fabrics), is growing and we will likely see advances in the fitness, healthcare, and medical industries. Also, conductive fabrics are being utilized in the electronics industries to help make products that are smaller – E-fabrics are much more flexible than standard metal wire making it easier to create smaller electronics.
To find out more about conductive fabrics visit the Conductive Fiber Manufacturers Council – an international trade and business development resource – at http://cfibermfg.com.
In the meantime, you can always contact your local manufacturer or Herculite Products to inquirer about their Lectrolite® brand of conductive fabrics to find out how you can start using conductive fabrics today. Remember, you can use conductive fabrics to help control static, provide conductivity in small spaces where thick metal wire or sheets just won’t do. Conductive fabrics have a variety of uses in the specialty fabrics industry. Manufacturers like Herculite Inc. custom engineer specialty products like conductive fabrics. Visit Herculite at www.herculite.com for more information.