EU-funded project - CREATIF 2013-2016

The CREATIF project is based in the area of smart textiles. It aimed to create collaborative tools in the form of intuitive digital software design tools coupled with digital printers in order to facilitate interactive print on textile.

This tool allows the user to design, create, layout, visualise and simulate smart fabrics by printing active electronic materials in the form of inks/pastes. CREATIF is funded by EU's Seventh Framework Programme and is a design driven development project. It provides design solutions and tools for the culture and creative industry.

The consortium consists of University of Southampton (UK), Institut für Textiltechnik Aachen (DE), Grafixoft (BG), Ardeje (FR), Diffus Design (DK), Base Structures (UK) and Zaha Hadid Architects (UK).

 

Material Research Project

CREATIF collaboration aims to revolutionise ‘smart’ fabric production 

Imagine that you could print touch sensors and active light directly on fabric – if your fabric could be turned into an interactive surface with different inputs and outputs printed in one go, on one surface. The CREATIF project will allow creative designers to convert their design drawings directly into smart fabrics using printing technology without the need for specialist electronics or smart fabric expertise.

CREATIF is a project that made this possible! 

Three creative partners; Base Structures (UK), Diffus Design (DK) and Zaha Hadid Architects (UK) collaborated with four technical and research based partners Ardeje (FR), Grafixoft (BG), Institut für Textiltechnik Aachen (DE) and University of Southampton (UK) in developping a smart fabric printer.

The CREATIF project is based in the area of smart fabrics and aimed to create collaborative tools in the form of intuitive digital software design tools coupled with digital dispenser printers in order to facilitate interactive print on fabric. This tool allows the user to design, create, layout, visualise and simulate smart fabrics by printing active electronic materials in the form of inks/pastes. Recently developed fabric compatible functional inks and printing techniques allow physical realisation of the designs emerging from CREATIF’s collaborative tools. Today, the CREATIF tools enable any CCI using fabrics to replicate the creative experience of designing smart fabrics, and significantly reduces the complexity of the process and the technological learning curve required.

Background 

In Oct 2012 the EU issued a call within the Information and Communications Technology Programme covering ‘Technologies and scientific foundations in the field of creativity’. This call addressed creative tools and aimed to equip different industries with more effective creative tools that make use of all our senses and allow for richer, more collaborative and interactive experiences. This challenge called upon research and industry to unite their forces to produce powerful and interactive tools for creative industries and enhance the creativity of workers pursuing different professions. 

Goals 

Demonstrating the creative experience tools use in a real environment by producing three advanced smart fabric prototypes for interactive light emission, interactive colour change and sound sur faces. Those prototypes will take the form of interactive modular blinds and interactive exhibition spaces. These prototypes directly target the CCI of design, advertising and architecture and any CCI using fabrics by facilitating the creative production and use of smart fabrics without prior knowledge.

Modular Blind

For CREATIF Diffus developed a Modular Blind, that is a system of geometric shapes that can be assembled in different ways in order to create different sizes, shapes and functionalities. The idea is to provide a smart and flexible system where functionalities like light, sound and colour change can be controlled or adapted to proximity and touch. Thereby the Modular Blind becomes a facilitator for interactive experiences. The blind can be used for creating smart and adaptable spaces and surfaces. This could be in private homes or offices, as window blinds or space dividers and it could also be as smart advertising surfaces. The scalability of the product allows the project to range from table size space division to large scale exhibition enclosures.

The Modular Blind is made of a range of textile circles. The textile is a polyester that shrinks 10% when heated. Therefore we mount the textile (with or without embroidery and without ink) on a circular metal frame and heat treat the discs after mounting. This way the fabric becomes tensile and work like drum skins. The driving force for this development was that we were working with the idea of creating a textile surface of sound. What happens due to the interconnectivity between the discs is that every disc - with or without a sound module - becomes a surface of sound when just one of the discs have sound in it. This fits very well with the idea of the modular blind containing printed speakers. The speaker module simply gets a louder volume and a clearer sound when mounted on the frame. Another feature of the polyester textile that we are using is its translucency. This brings a certain lightness to the blind, letting light pass through but blinding the sight. Below is an image of how the printed textile circles looks like.

Proximity disc

The print for the proximity disc is very precise and have sharp edges. Even in a close up as below the ink has a smooth and continous appearance inside the lines and a clear border. The transition between ink and embroidery is elegant and precise. This discovery of the mixing possibility of conductive ink and conductive yarn is really positive and opens up to a lot of possibilities.

Thermocromic disc

The thermocromic disc is very even and smooth. The meander pattern can be seen as a variation of light reflection when it is looked upon in a certain angle. The edges in one direction of the woven fabric seem to be a little uneven. Probably because of the direction of print. These small irregularities - that are regular in their own terms - are adding to the materiality of the disc and is from our point of view adding to the aesthetic quality.

Speaker disc

The spiral of the speaker disc is perfectly and regularly printed with sharp corners and edges. The bridge that is needed for the ending point of the spiral to be able to connect to the edge of the disc is a little wide for our liking. For now it is about making sure no short circuits appear and we recon that this can be improved in the future. The ink looks different on the bridge compared to the ink printed directly on the fabric. The smoothness of the ink seems more difficult to obtain on the surface of the bridge compared to the surface of the polyester fabric chosen for the discs. The transition of the conductive ink and the conductive yarn is not as smooth as in the case of the proximity sensor and the thermocromic disc. These details are only visible if you look very close - in the normal viewing distance the speaker discs looks great.

Electroluminiscent (EL) disc

The EL discs are the most inconsistent of the prints if different discs are compared. There are significant differences between them. Therefore each disc is like a unica with their own personality. There is definitely something interesting about the fact that the EL ink is a little unpredictable. In all cases the ligt gets a beautiful depth and materiality. Often light blinds the eye in a way that the light emitting material can not be seen when turned on, or the evenness of the substate makes it uninteresting. In this case the materiality of the light emitting material stay visible, creating a very special light that almost resembles a candle light or a gas flame more than an electrical light.


Credit
Design and concept: Hanne-Louise Johannesen and
Michel Guglielmi (Diffus Design)
Programming and engineering: Jens Lee Jørgensen
Design and Research Assistent: Molly Price

Partners of the consortium:
Base Structures (UK)
Diffus Design (DK)
Zaha Hadid Architects (UK)
Ardeje (FR)
Grafixoft (BG)
Institut für Textiltechnik Aachen (DE)
University of Southampton (UK)

 

 

Key project data
Title: CREATIF – Digital Creative Tools for Digital Printing of Smart Fabrics
Start date: October 2013
End date: April 2017
EC Research call: Objective ICT-2013.8.1
Technologies and scientific foundations in the field of Creativity
Website: www.creatif.ecs.soton.ac.uk


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