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MATUROLIFE will use design-driven innovation as an approach to embedding creative and artistic design 52. Design Driven Innovation is advocated to create competitive advantage through innovations that create new markets. The approach is proposed in this context where the meaning and emotions around AT is typically negative and needs to shift to improve uptake and usage. There is little evidence that such an approach has been applied in the context of AT. In this project we want to create a new market around desirable AT that embeds innovative technology, but where the products themselves are not driven by the technology. Rather the innovation will emerge through the creation of new meaning about the value and desirability of AT. This will be achieved by working in partnership with the users and stakeholders throughout the project to co-design and co-develop the products thereby innovating and creating new meaning around the core values of aesthetics, desirability, independence and security. There are very few projects that embed a co-design process in the development of AT for older people, especially when seeking to apply it to a number of different types of solution – furniture, footwear and clothing. We will move beyond the traditional approaches and involve end-users across Europe and seek to embed the creative, design driven innovation approaches within the partner SMEs.

New technology: The co-creation process will produce new ideas and concepts for AT. Translating these ideas and concepts into real products will be highly challenging. It will require the full toolbox of skills available within the MATUROLIFE consortium including creative design, materials science and electronics. In practise  the materials processes must be flexible and agile to produce smart textiles and, in this particular case, textiles and fabrics where electronic circuitry becomes part of the material itself. In the MATUROLIFE project a completely different approach will be taken to any existing work for the catalysation of the fibres within the textile and fabrics. In a World first, a highly innovative SAM functionalised CuNP catalyst will be developed with functional groups on their ‘tail’ end that are designed to attach to the fibres within the textile/fabric. The chemistry of these ‘tail groups’ will be designed to attach to specific textiles and fabrics depending on the chemical nature and functional groups on the fibres of those materials. The CuNP catalyst will be formulated depending on the method used to selectively deposit the catalyst onto the textile. A number of approaches will be investigated but in one scenario, the catalyst will be printed onto the substrate using a stamp coated with a functionalised ink, anchor the catalyst to the textile by covalent bond formation with the tail and surface group, rinse and then process the substrate through an electroless copper process to form the fine line circuitry. This printing process, known as micro-contact printing is a low cost, low energy process which is growing in popularity.

In the area of inkjet deposition of the CuNP catalyst, the production of the fine features will be a significant challenge and will push the technology. For this approach, a superfine inkjet printing system (SIJT), available at MATUROLIFE partner PEL, which can print lines 5 microns or less in width will be employed. To the best of our knowledge, no organisation in Europe has an inkjet printer capable of printing these fine features. Using the SIJT will enable our process to achieve not only small features but also achieve a significant reduction in ink volume (the SIJT Technology can achieve 1/1000 of the ink volume used compared to conventional inkjet printing). Inkjet deposition of the CuNP catalyst is an example of an additive manufacturing process; the CuNP catalyst will be jetted onto the textile/fabric, anchor itself to the fibres within that material, before being metallised in subsequent electroless plating processes.

The following innovations with respect to selective metallisation of textiles will occur:

  • One stage catalysation process, compared to 3 stages for the NPL process
  • More cost effective. Cu is 25% cheaper than Ag and thus, immediately the cost of the process is reduced
  • Selective catalysation of fabrics/textiles is possible and can be deposited on a ‘finished’ item
  • The fibres within the fabric will become multi-functional i.e. encapsulation with metal means they will retain the properties of a textile (stretchability, bendability, feel and drape) whilst having the added functionality of a metal coating (low electrical resistance, electronic connectivity, heat conductivity, etc).

A ‘final finish’ will be applied to the selectively electroless copper plated conductive tracks to protect them from the effect of water, sweat etc. Novel organic and inorganic coatings will be used that will not only protect the conductive tracks but can produce textiles with other properties e.g. making them waterproof, UV fast, or biocompatibe. In addition, partner UM are experts in the application of dyes and functional pigments to textiles that can add further functionality e.g. enabling the textile to change colour due to external stimuli e.g. body temperature, sweat pH, or which can make them luminous.

In the MATUROLIFE project we will integrate a team of creative designers into the materials science research group and demonstrate the capabilities of these novel multi-functional textiles. They will see that it is possible to produce a multi-functional textile/fabric which is selectively conductive and has a range of options for additional ‘smart’ functionality. This will give the designers a toolbox of functionality for the ‘smart textiles’ from which to choose and create highly innovative AT.

A further innovation potential will be achieved with respect to the data produced by the AT. Big data methodology will be used to identify patterns and develop predictive models using deep learning techniques. Directed by user and stakeholder involvement through the design process, this will allow innovative personalisation of the AT e.g. warning thresholds adapted for a specific person depending on their characteristics (such as age, mobility or disability). These advantages mean that there is very high potential for the creation of innovative AT products. For example, it has been shown that older people who are at risk of falls tend to touch furniture more to stabilise themselves. The selective metallisation process developed in MATUROLIFE would enable sensors to be integrated into the fabric of furniture and act as an early warning sign that an older person was at risk of falls.

The Unique Selling Points of MATUROLIFE can be summarised as:

  • Unique blending of design driven innovation and scientific investigation and implementation to drive the development of AT
  • Empowerment of older people to co-develop AT to meet their wants, needs and priorities
  • Selectively metallised textiles and fabrics with a wide range of functionality
  • A novel 2 stage catalysation process for electroless copper plating onto a wide range of textiles and fabrics
  • A consortium with a wide range of skills and a toolbox that can translate AT ideas and concepts into innovate AT products
  • Creation of a new SME presence in the AT innovation market
  • Enablement of SMEs to create competitive advantage through Design Driven Innovation