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Funxion Wear Inc. wins US government fund for innovation in wearable smart textiles

Hasan Shahariar, alumni of Textile Talent Hunt (TTH) second season 2010 and also one of the co-founders of Funxion Wear Inc. and his colleague Raj Bhakta have received the Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) Phase I grant of $ 225,000 from National Science Foundation (NSF) for innovation in wearable smart textiles. The fund will pursue their work for the further development and commercialization.

Flexible direct-write printed heater
Figure 1: Flexible direct-write printed heater. Courtesy: Raj Bhakta and collected from Berlin Art Link

They developed a high throughput 3D printing process to functionalize fabrics with conductive materials. Currently, Funxion is running their R&D laboratory in full scale in the NC State incubator center.

The company is moving forward collaborating with world-leading companies in materials, textile and electronics spaces. Funxion is aimed to develop their first 3D printed MVP product in the form of a smart shirt in the next six month.

It has a cross-functional team of material scientists, chemical engineers and textile engineers to realize a unique process technology developed at NC State College of Textiles and the NSF funded ASSIST research center for self-powered wearable technology.

Funxions’ mission is to go from Atoms-to-Apparel and transform the functionality of fabrics while retaining the same cost, comfort, and fashion of existing apparel – offering humanity an upgrade of lifestyle. The goal is to functionalize fabrics for bio-sensing, passive heating/cooling, self-cleaning and color changing use-cases. Funxion believes that fabrics should do more for the human condition and it could be possible to transform this industry by applying their unique science since they have a great cross-functional team.

Innovation and development

Hasan Shahariar, during his Ph.D. study, has developed a high throughput 3D printing process to functionalize fabrics with conductive materials. Regular textile materials are very rough, porous and temperature sensitive, which makes it difficult to 3D print (direct-write print) patterned metals or functional materials (adhesive, dielectrics, and ceramic). The unique process has the throughput of 8X faster than the current state of the art.

Additionally, this process eliminates the extra steps of conventional sewing, stitching or embroidery of conductive yarns/threads, and capable of lowering the manufacturing cost by automating the whole process in a single bench-top machine.

Raj Bhakta, who have physics and nuclear engineering background, another co-founder of the company has been pursuing Ph.D. on the similar technology. His research focuses on the techniques of depositing and processing multiple functional materials on the textile platform, which increase the diverse applications of this new technology.

Bhakta also does research on smart clothing and electronic textiles, where he studies the effects of fiber optics and electronics that are embedded or printed onto textiles.

Relationship between the textiles based wearable device and the data infrastructure for our internet-of-things application
Figure 2: Relationship between the textiles based wearable device and the data infrastructure for our internet-of-things application. Courtesy: Raj Bhakta and collected from Berlin Art Link

In a conversation with Berlin Art Link, Raj Bhakta said, “The vision behind this was immensely motivating and I truly believe there is a lot of value in creating not only new technology but new art through the fusion of electronics and textiles. A good example is the ‘Pulse’ dress that our research group worked on which pulses LEDs intertwined into a formal dress based on your heart rate.”

Both of the co-founders of Funxion believe that automation of traditional textile manufacturing is happening and it is inevitable. They want to create a positive contribution in the space by revolutionizing the 3D printing process to automate manufacturing electronics textiles and smart textiles.

In fine, textile industry profits are made up on volume sales currently. Nonetheless, some prominent revenue-generating branch like technical textile, smart textile, and electronic textile are still untapped. Striking research and innovation, an enthusiastic entrepreneur could boost up these areas like Funxion Wear Inc. doing, a start-up company founded in 2017.

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