EFI is participating in a €1 million project to find more effective ways of printing textiles using graphene inks, the basis of many printed electronics and intelligent materials opportunities.
EFI will be joined in the Green Tex project by consultancy group IBS Consulting and Directa Plus, which produces the G+ graphene. Graphene is a form of carbon that is ultra thin and hailed as a wonder material. Exploiting carbon’s conductivity, graphene can be used to create electronic circuits using various printing technologies.
For this project Directa Plus will supply a modified version of its graphene product that can be included in a inkjet compatible water based ink by EFI. EFI Reggiani will be responsible for providing the printing equipment, initially as a pilot to demonstrate proof of concept. IBS Consultancy will identify and supply fabrics that are suitable for printing.
The breakthrough is to use digital printing in the textile printing process to replace rotary screen and so open the way to small batch production, minimising set up costs and creating products that have niche applications that cannot be justified through conventional processes.
The fabrics will be sourced from either natural fabrics or synthetic materials obtained through recycling. The opportunity lies in materials that can be used in clothing, upholstery and for more technical applications, including improving thermal and electrical conductivity of chosen fabrics and to introduce a bacteriostatic effect, so inhibiting the growth of bacteria.
The project is funded through EU grants and contributions from each of the partners. The project’s initial duration will be two years. The rationale is that current methods of printing graphene are considered to have a damaging environmental impact. Digital printing using a water based ink and matched fabrics will reduce this through cutting waste, energy, water consumption and the creation of chemical waste.
Giulio Cesareo, founder and CEO of Directa Plus, says that the enhanced garments “offer clear, measurable advantages to end users in a wide variety of fields, from high performance sports to armed forces and emergency services personnel, to manual workers in both hot and cold climates”.
The EU is supporting the Green Tex project which will develop a digital printing system to enable small batch, less wasteful, production of textiles for apparel, upholstery and other advanced applications that use graphene for smart textiles.