Fusing technology and fashion - High-tech cycling jacket Sporty Supaheroe wins Red Dot Design Award
The cycling jacket Sporty Supaheroe has won the renowned Red Dot Design Competition’s 2013 Best-of-the-Best Award in the category “Design Concept”. Wolfgang Langeder (UTOPE) designed the jacket with the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration IZM und Stretchable Circuits GbR. The award will be presented at a ceremony with an international audience of several hundred guests from design, media and industry on October 25, 2013, in Singapore.
Sporty Supaheroe is a high-tech cycling jacket for urban nomads, who value function as much as style. The jacket integrates a microelectronic system that makes bicycle riders more visible at night and includes LEDs, sensors, control components, an on/off switch and a rechargeable battery. The electronic system is as flexible as fabric and its packaging is designed for maximum robustness and moisture resistance. Integrated sensors synchronize the cyclist’s movements with LED lights on the jacket’s front and back. As the jacket wearer’s movements become faster, the white front light and red back lights on the jacket intensify.
In terms of function, the jacket design factors in the specific demands of individuals on the go. A special challenge was integrating the rigid but sensitive electronics into soft material, as the jacket has to yield to the cyclist’s everyday movements. Rigid electronic units would be extremely cumbersome and their functionality could easily be impaired under commonplace conditions. Moreover, apart from ensuring that the jacket is wind-resistant, the designers had to make the complete microelectronic system is moisture-proof. Only smart textiles that meet these prerequisites are truly suitable for everyday use.
The new development was possible thanks to close collaboration with Fraunhofer IZM Berlin’s TexLab. “The jacket’s electronic system is based on a flexible PCB comprising a flexible foil made of thermoplastic polyurethane, which we developed at Fraunhofer IZM,” explains Christian Dils, a TexLab scientist. Once mounted with sensors, copper circuit traces and LEDs, the PCB is laminated onto a textile substrate flexible enough for the implementation of electronic systems in clothing. A rigid PCB would quickly be damaged by the wearer’s movements. “The PCB can be manufactured using conventional production processes, which is a prerequisite for series manufacturing,” says Dils.
Particular focus of the research was the system’s safety and robustness. The PCB is resistant to moisture and mechanical stresses. However, the fabric, including the integrated electronics, is machine-washable. Only the battery is externally attached and has to be removed prior to washing. A number of safety mechanisms also prevent short circuits. The system operates on a maximum of five volts, which is harmless even on direct contact.
“The exceptional aspect of this jacket is that it fuses fashion design, technology and practical application into one. Sporty Supaheroe makes completely new products and applications possible for clothes and integrates them into our everyday digital lifestyle. This forges new design and business opportunities for design, fashion and sports wear. The jacket’s light display can also be used as a decorative motif,” says Utope’s Wolfgang Langeder.
With further development, Sporty Supaheroe will also include indicators for cyclists. Even wireless data transfer will be possible to, for example, display text or images on the jacket monitor. Other possible applications include physical and environmental monitoring and navigation.
The Red Dot Design Award, first conceived in 1955, is today the world’s largest and most prestigious design competition. The annual event features three categories: ‘Product Design’, ‘Communication d
Design’ and ‘Design Concept’. In 2013 the competition received approximately 4400 entries from over 50 countries.
Link to video about the jacket: https://vimeo.com/52871984