Art-Tech Collaborations

Art and design are inseparably interwoven with the textile world. For e-textiles at the intersection of textiles and electronics, creative aspects play an equally important role. That is why we have been cooperating with artists and designers in co-creative processes for more than 20 years. Through new impulses and changing perspectives, such collaborations hold enormous potential for innovation. With an artistic approach, we are researching innovative technologies with the aim of creating new products, processes and services. We work individually with designers, students and (Berlin) universities. The results of such collaborations have been featured in international press (e.g., Vogue, The Guardian, New York Times), is or has been exhibited in museums (e.g., MAK Wien, Boras Smart Textiles Showroom, Red Dot Museum Essen) and has won awards (Red Dot Design Award and Avantex Innovation Award among others). The Textile Prototyping Lab (TPL) at the IZM, a result of a collaborative project between the IZM, the weißensee kunsthochschule berlin (KHB) and other partners, is also an example of a successful art-tech cooperation. 

New funding opportunities from the Fraunhofer society via their »Wissenschaft, Kunst und Design« (science, art and design) network or the European Union (New European Bauhaus and S-T-ARTS) have created new and easier ways for art-tech collaborations.

Collaborative Development of textile-based Electronics using Co-Design and Co-Creation processes at the Textile Prototyping Lab (TPL) of the Fraunhofer IZM 

Outcome of the project E:Space – a collaboration between IZM and KHB – was an interactive desktop mat. In times of changing work environments (“new work”), the mat is designed to achieve a more nuanced and personal way of communication with co-workers across distances. The project idea was developed and realized in a series of workshops (with and without invited experts from ergonomics, art and design) using innovative, design-driven methods like co-design, co-creation and design thinking. This process was just as much the goal of the project as the realized demonstrator. The TPL at the IZM is the hub of the project, it houses workshops and prototyping sessions, it serves as a work and presentation space. 

In the desktop mat, an integrated textile pressure matrix enables gesture control of certain functions like e.g., the applause in a video call. A “stress ball” serving as a switch when pressed offers a more intuitive and emotional input option. Integrated LEDs and a vibrator allow for haptic and visual feedback to the user. The realization of the demonstrator built upon the E-Textile Prototyping Toolkit and used the tex bond technology (a proprietary interconnection method for e-textiles). The knitted sleeve – designed by collaborators from KHB – represents the functions with different knitting patterns. The innovative methodology of the project is showcased in an accompanying video documentary.


Re-FREAM - European Union's Horizon Logo

Re-FREAM was part of the S-T-ARTS program (Science + Technology + Arts), an initative of the European commission within the larger program Horizon 2020. Working side by side, researchers and artists developed innovative and sustainable ideas, materials, processes and production methods for the fashion sector and created impulses for user-oriented synergies of textiles and technology. Three research hubs (biotechnology, e-textiles and 3D printing) put an emphasis on sustainable, integrative and regionally produced textiles.

The participating artists and designers had the possibility of using technology completely new to them by collaborating with the researchers at the Fraunhofer IZM. Microelectronics do not only become a fashion accessory but give new functions to garments. Using integration technologies and textile sensors, garments can be connected, opening up the perspective for e-health applications.

The partners in the collaborations of Re-FREAM were just as diverse as their joint developments. Italian designer Giulia Tomasello set out to challenge taboos surrounding female health in her project “Alma”, a pH-sensing underwear designed to monitor vaginal flora. A team of designers, an anthropologist and IZM researchers developed the embroidered system with the aim of non-invasive prevention of bacterial vaginosis or yeast infections. The focus of “Connextyle”, led by designer Jessica Smarsch, was also on the therapeutic use of textiles. Using integrated textile circuit boards and EMG sensors, a bolero-type garment was equipped to measure muscle activity to optimize rehabilitation of recovering stroke patients. An app gives visual feedback and generates reports about the healing progress for the therapists, enabling them to individually adapt the therapy.

More info about the project and the results of the 20 collaborations can be found in the PDF document.

Working Group

System on Flex

The research group System on Flex at Fraunhofer IZM focuses on advancing the fields of flexible hybrid electronics, stretchable electronics and electronic textiles (smart textiles). The goal is developing innovative solutions for various applications. The group focuses on developing scalable manufacturing processes for flexible, stretchable and textile electronic systems.