To gauge the innovation activity in the smart textile space, Lux surveyed the patent landscape and identified 10,051 patents published since 1997 relevant to smart textiles and fabrics. There has been a consistent uptick in activity, showing a greater interest in smart textiles as other enabling technologies, such as conductive inks, sensors, and power systems, further develop. We have previously looked at the innovation occurring in smart textiles (see the report “Innovation in Smart Textiles Moves from Materials to Analytics” [client registration required]) and printed electronics. To evaluate the patent landscape, we utilized a Lux-developed search tool that uses patent data that has been stored and categorized by Clarivate Analytics. The search terms used were conductive fabric, conductive textile, electronic fabric, electronic textile, smart fabric, and smart textile. There were no specific conductive ink terms used in the search; therefore, companies that innovate primarily in conductive ink were not included in this search. Even without including conductive inks, the amount of patent publications specifically around smart textiles is growing; 2016 saw the most-ever patents granted, with a total of 377. Figure 1 shows the total number of patent publications per year, with the data for 2017 current to May 2.
adidas recently announced the launch of Futurecraft 4D, a performance running shoe with a 3D printed midsole that will be available to consumers in fall 2017. Although adidas and other footwear companies have demonstrated shoes with a 3D printed midsole, this is the first time a sportswear manufacturer will manufacture and sell thousands of 3D printed midsole shoes. The Futurecraft 4D shoe was developed through a strategic partnership with Carbon (formerly Carbon 3D) that leveraged the company’s digital light synthesis (DLS, previously referred to as continuous liquid interface production [CLIP]) technology and elastomeric polyurethane photopolymer resins. adidas promises to deliver 5,000 pairs to consumers this year, and also claims it will manufacture over 100,000 pairs by the end of 2018. A closer analysis of these claims makes this announcement less valuable as a manufacturing benchmark, and more valuable from a marketing and strategy standpoint. Continue reading
Last week, San Francisco-based Bolt Threads unveiled its first product for customers: a necktie made from its synthetic spider silk fiber. Bolt Threads’ product launch includes 50 limited edition neckties that consumers can purchase through a lottery hosted on the company website. Selected participants will have the opportunity to buy the necktie for $314.15 on March 14.
Bolt Threads uses genetically engineered yeast to produce synthetic spider silk proteins via fermentation. After harvesting, purifying, and drying the protein to a powder, Bolt Threads wet-spins it into a yarn-like fiber. For its necktie, Bolt Threads weaves the yarn into a chevron pattern representing the molecular structure of the spider silk proteins. The company recently built a new 11,000 ft2 fiber spinning facility to scale up its manufacturing capacity. Continue reading
Last week at the 2016 Biofabricate conference in New York City, Adidas unveiled its Futurecraft Biofabric concept shoe, which uses Germany-based AMSilk’s Biosteel® synthetic spider silk fiber as the upper mesh. Adidas expects to release the performance shoe to market next year, according to Adidas’ James Carnes (VP of Global Brand Strategy), but the first product will be in “limited quantities” and at a “higher price.” After the initial launch, Adidas also plans to expand the product line using AMSilk’s Biosteel® with other shoe models or possibly even apparel. Notably, for AMSilk, the Adidas partnership follows a series of major announcements this year including signing four sales distribution agreements with RAHN, Zeus QuÍmica, Biochim, and Hanjoo, as well as raising additional capital to increase production capacity and expand product development. Continue reading