Interview with André Genton, CEO of Porcher I...
Interview with André Genton, CEO of Porcher Industries

Textiles are becoming smart

André Genton, CEO of Porcher Industries (Source: Porcher)
André Genton, CEO of Porcher Industries (Source: Porcher)

Porcher Industries designs and manufactures technical materials allowing cutting-edge companies in the fields of aerospace and defense, automotive, construction, energy, and sport to anticipate technological and functional evolutions regarding complex textile, technical and composite materials.

At the beginning of this year you told us your textiles/materials are becoming smart. Can you tell us how smart they are now?
In the current textiles/materials, the properties or functions are static and not adaptive (reinforcement in matrix, color, hydrophobicity, thermal and electrical insulation, etc.). Our textiles/materials are becoming smart by adding dynamic, adaptative functions and could respond to environmental situations. We are developing by offering textile solutions able to positions your hands above the surface (xyz position), that can react if you touch the surface, be a self-heater, and also measure environmental parameters like the temperature.

How do these materials become smart?
By printing smarts components like capacitive contactless sensor, capacitive touchscreen technology and temperature control and heating components directly in the textile/materials. Moreover, we are not only working on the materials but also considering the electronics around the system and the data analysis. These 3 pillars are key to provide a global smart solution.

Can these technologies also be easily implemented in industrial production? Is special machinery or equipment needed?
As it is new technology, we will need to adapt our current asset and develop special equipment to be able to produce the smart textiles industrially. It will be part on maturity increase to go from TRL3/4/5 to TRL6/7.

Where are these products used and what is their added value?
We are still under development and today are at the POC stage. The potential applications we have been considering so far are:
-    de-icing wind blades or aircraft wings systems
-    controlling the temperature in the building
-    human detectors in industrial environment around cobots or robots,
-    contactless touch sensors to control, for example, the light intensity or the room temperature.

What are currently still the biggest challenges with smart textiles?
The biggest challenge on the smart textiles is to demonstrate that these materials last a long time without any issues. Therefore, we are developing dedicated tools to characterize the shelf life of the materials. For example, we have already implemented a special robot to fold and de-fold the textile.

What role do production costs on one hand, and recyclability and sustainability on the other hand, play in your product solutions. Which of these aspects is more strongly considered in the development of new products?
The recyclability and sustainability are our key drivers in the development of new products. I would prefer to consider more environmental impact KPI through LCA (life cycle assessment) and theses 2 items are included. So before considering the smart textiles, we have also integrated bio-based fibers to make fabrics and considering thermoplastic materials for the recyclability. Beyond that, as our smart textiles/materials will be able to integrate dynamic functions directly in the systems that able to reduce the number of steps, and the amount of wire. We will directly see an impact on TCO (total cost of ownership), and also have a positive environmental impact (LCA).

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