Dr. Olivier Vermeersch

Dr. Olivier Vermeersch 

Vice-President R&D CTT Group – Québec, Canada
Chairholder, NSERC Industrial Research Chair for Colleges in 3D Textiles & Smart Textiles : NEXTEX Chair

A graduate of the ENSISA (Engineering School in Mulhouse, France) and the University of Haute Alsace in France in Textile Materials & Processes Engineering, Dr. Vermeersch has been involved in the technical textile industry since 1990 within the CTT Group, the largest R&D laboratory in Canada in the areas of technical textiles, geosynthetics and flexible materials. He holds the position of Vice-President R&D and is also Chairholder of the NEXTEX Industrial Chair of St-Hyacinthe College, a Canadian NSERC Level 2 Chair that focuses on 3D textiles & preforms for composites as well as smart textiles. He is the author of several patents, which are commercially exploited by several of his industrial partners. Involved in organising several EXPO HIGHTEX editions for a decade, co-editor-in-chief of “ The Textile Journal” until 2016, author of numerous technical and scientific publications, he is also co-author of a book that will be released soon by Elsevier on the “Advanced characterisation and testing of textiles”. In 2014, he was awarded the prestigious Excellence Award from the Fonds de recherche Nature et Technologies du Québec.

Title : Smart Textiles : From lab prototyping to production and commercialisation

Abstract :

CTT Group has created in 2007 a multidisciplinary research group dedicated to Smart Textiles. This research group is composed of both engineers in textile and in electronics as well as R&D technologists. Over 50 projects have already been accomplished and more are on-going. The research themes are centered on the development of functional textile such as heating textile, lighting textile and many types of textiles sensors.

All of these projects have been led in partnership with local textile companies who have been able to benefit from the outcomes of these developments and, in some cases, introduce new products on the market.

An example of these achievements is the technology Thermastrom™ which consists of electrically conductive nonwoven with heating capacity. It is currently commercialised as heated scarfs and insoles Products Inc. These seat belts, initially conceived for the aircraft industry, integrates very thin conductive yarns during the weaving process and act as sensors to determine if the person has buckled its belts. The system also communicates with an interface which allows the flight attendants to check the status of several rows at a time, directly from the crew cabin, without having to walk up and down the aisle.

More recently, CTT Group has patented a new technology of LEDs integration onto textile which allows an incredible versatility and an infinite possibility of design. The lighting textile remains very flexible, washable, and can have many applications, both aesthetics and practical.

Despite those few successful examples the commercialisation process of smart textiles remains challenging for most manufacturers. The automatization of the manufacturing process is the key to gaining easier access to the market. Indeed, a large part of the manufacturing steps involves manual labour which consequently, translates to more costly and slower production. The repeatability and quality of the products becomes also more difficult to control due to its dependence to the operator.

To overcome this major issue, equipment manufacturers which specialised in embroidery and tailored yarn placement machines, have started to offer new additions which can be, for some of them, mounted directly on existing equipment. Those new options include a device for placing LEDs and diverse electronic components, soldering head, etc.

In parallel, new standardization sub-committees (ASTM, ISO, etc.) are forming all around the world to address the issue of developing objective test methods in order to evaluate the performances of smart products placed onto the market. This initiative will allow the verification of product claims which will likely increase the consumers trust and acceptance of smart textiles, by giving valid comparison points.

Though, we are still at an early stage of those developments, the economic trends show clearly a will to increase mass production of smart textiles