Among the most important requirements for garments with integrated electronics – but also for e-textiles from other fields – is their washability. For a textile typical usability, which is indispensable for product acceptance, e-textiles have to be clean- and washable in case of soiling. Especially for medical, sports, care or protective purposes – all key applications for e-textiles – hygiene requirements make the ability to properly clean a product a must.
Although components like batteries or controller are often designed to be removable, other elements of an e-textile system (textile conductors and circuits, sensors, actuators or electrodes) are firmly integrated and have to withstand washing. While the textile components withstand laundry processes without difficulty, the combined stress of water, detergent, mechanical forces and the washing temperature constitute a big challenge for the integrated electronics. Interconnections between hard and stiff components and soft textile circuits are especially prone to damages caused by washing, leading to impaired or complete loss of function. Protective Elements like housings, foils or encapsulations can improve washability, but may locally worsen the textile properties of the product. E-Textile typical material mixtures as well as composites of textile and metallic materials are challenging, as different properties concerning water intake or thermal expansion might cause problems during washing.
On the road to reliably washable e-textiles, we actively research which factors impact washability, why which kind of damages occur during washing and which measures lead to improved reliability. We can offer counseling concerning e-textile washability, compile application specific wash testing programs and conduct and evaluate e-textile washing tests. By actively participating in standardization, we are working towards industry-wide standards for e-textile wash testing.