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by Abby Lee on March 10, 2021
The future of fabric can be found at Drexel’s Center for Functional Fabrics

Fabrics have come a long way, baby. 

No longer limited to merely covering your caboose, today’s textiles can augment your strength, help you store energy, and even monitor your vitals. Getting stronger without going to the gym? Why, yes, we would love that.

Some of the most innovative and technologically-advanced smart textiles in the entire world are being developed at Drexel University’s Center for Functional Fabrics (CFF) in Schuylkill Yards’ rising innovation district.

The futuristic, state-of-the-art lab is led by director Genevieve Dion, named one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People in 2014 for her work in “stretching the potential of fabric.” Together with a multi-disciplinary team of creatives, engineers, medical researchers, and scientists, CFF develops “wearable smart textiles with built-in sensors that will one day impact everything from medical procedures like fetal monitoring to battlefield communications and homeland security operations.”

One of the innovations that caught our eye was the Exo-Skin Soft Haptic Exoskeletal Interface, a glove used for medical rehabilitation and strength augmentation in the military. 

The Exo-Skin device is a knitted tendon actuated exoskeleton capable of delivering force and textural feedback to individual fingertips. The knitting process is similar to a 3D printer, however, rather than extrude plastic, it uses a variety of fibers including nylon, spandex and low-melt PET.

So yeah. They’re pretty smart over there.

Fueled by a $1.5 million grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Drexel has been able to invest in a state-of-the-art prototyping facility, which includes “seven Shima Seiki flat weft-bed knitting machines, two circular weft-bed knitting machines, a Comez warp knitting machine, a CCI Tech weaving suite and a variety of yarn-twisting machines. The center also has a number of advanced design and production capabilities, such as a 3D body scanner, an ultrasonic sewing machine, a seam sealer, textile testing machines and advanced sewing machines.”

Most recently, CFF shifted gears to respond to the Coronavirus pandemic, pulling 3D knitting machines off of a Department of Defense project to design and produce washable, adjustable masks made of antibacterial and antiviral material.

The Center for Functional Fabrics represents the future smart textiles, and the endless possibilities that they offer. Checkout more about CFF and their projects at Drexel Functional Fabrics. .

Our latest Knitwear collection is made on Whole Garment knitting machines, a process where the garment is completely assembled through the machine similarly to 3D printing. These machines are readily used in Drexel's Center for Funcitonal Fabrics. Feel free to check out our 3D Knit collection here:


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