Smart textiles for an easier life


On 16 November 2016, the Institut für Textiltechnik of RWTH Aachen University (ITA) opened, together with its Korean partners, the Korea Institute of Industrial Technology (KITECH) and the Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU), the Dream2Lab2Fab (pronounced: Dream-to-Lab-to-Fab) located at Vaalser Strasse 460 in Aachen.

  Tape-cutting ceremony ITA Tape-cutting ceremony

This worldwide unique cooperation brought together the competencies of the respective partners in order to realize the serial production of intelligent textiles (Smart Textiles) in cooperation with small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) from both countries. ITA, as part of RWTH Aachen University, stands for the automated textile production technology, which is being advanced at the Aachen research center. The Korean partners bring in their excellent know-how in ​​textile materials, consumer electronics and digitalization and are setting up a new center in Korea in the first half of 2017.

Why Smart Textiles?
Smart Textiles adopt a wide range of functions in human everyday life, e.g. medical monitoring of body functions, sensors in working and protective clothing and or energy recovery by textile photovoltaics. Market scenarios are expected to be on the order of about US $ 12 billion in 2020, with a growth rate of about 20%. This is a huge potential for medium-sized companies from both countries to develop new business segments and business models and to create new jobs. For this purpose, approximately € 20 million will be invested in research centers in both Germany and Korea.

The importance of this opening was demonstrated by the presence of numerous high-level guests from Korea and Germany. This included:

  • Mr. Kyung-pil Nam: Governor of the Gyeonggi Province from South Korea (comparable to the Prime Minister of a German Federal State)
  • Mr. Youngsoo Lee, Ph.D .: President of KITECH (comparable to the Fraunhofer Society in Germany)
  • Mr. Kyu Sang Chung, Ph.D .: President of the SKKU (comparable to a university rector)
  • Dr. Thomas Grünewald, State Secretary at the Ministry of Innovation, Higher Education and Research of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
  • Mr Marcel Philipp, Lord Mayor of the City of Aachen, Germany
  • Prof. Dr. Aloys Krieg, Vice Rector of the RWTH Aachen Uni-versity, Germany.

    Dream2Lab2Fab is based on Industry 4.0, the interconnection of industrial production with modern information and communication technology. Intelligent, cross-linked systems enable a widely self-organised production and allow a direct communication and cooperation between people, machines, facilities, logistics and products. Thereby, the manufacturing processes become more flexible and it is possible to produce goods customised as well as in series.

    At the opening of the Aachen Research Center the following constructions and machines were presented which underlined the possibility of a flexible mass production:

  • automatic placement of textiles with electronic components – so far this was only possible manually;
  • the unification of digital and functional print – digital prints can now be designed functional according to the customer's needs, e.g. parts of the printing can be illuminated by special printing technology or special yarns;
  • embroidery technology for Smart Textiles – for the first time it is possible to apply electronic features, e.g. a lighting function of the textiles by using embroidery technology with conductive yarns.

    Besides the following Smart Textiles were shown:

  • an interactive light-pillow – a light-pillow with programmable LED chips, which can display any colour, text or pattern on the pillow via WLAN (see attached picture);
  • an interactive curtain - a curtain that opens by contact;
  • heating textiles - textiles which can be heated by electrically conductive fibers and current supply.

    Dream2Lab2Fab manifests the three years of continuous collaboration between ITA, KITECH and SKKU in the building at Vaalser Strasse 460, in order to do some research together on the subject of "Smart Textiles".

    How will it proceed?
    The cooperation will be expanded by further bilateral research projects and industrial cooperation. Therefore, the cooperation with other RWTH departments is supported to promote interdisciplinary research. Within the next three years, the construction of a new building is planned in both countries.


  1. Tape-cutting ceremony (from left to right): Mr Chang Rok Keum, Consul General of the Embassy of South-Korea; Mr Prof. Dr. Thomas Gries, Head of ITA, Germany; Mr Prof. Dr. Aloys Krieg, Prorector RWTH Aachen University, Germany; Mr Kyu Sang Chung, Ph.D., President of the Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU), South-Korea; Mr Kyung-pil Nam, Governor of the Gyeonggi Province from South Korea; Mr Dr. Thomas Grünewald, State Secretary of the Ministry for Innovation, Higher Education and Research of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany; Mr Prof. Dr. Matthias Jarke, Head of Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Information Technology FIT, Germany; Mr Marcel Philipp, Lord Mayor of the city of Aachen, Germany; Mr Youngsoo Lee, Ph.D., President of the Korea Institute of Industrial Technology (KITECH), South-Korea; Mr Adjunct-Prof. (Clemson-Univ.) Dr. Yves-Simon Gloy, Head of Department Textile Machine Engineering of ITA, Germany; source: ITA
  2. Embroidery technology for smart textiles, source: ITA
  3. Interactive light pillow, source: ITA