This page was printed from

Advanced fabrics seminar scheduled

Features | August 26, 2014 | By:

IFAI 2014 Advanced Textiles Expo will host a seminar on current research and innovation in advanced fabrics.

Molded polystyrene sheets can be shaped by randomly placed cross cables to produce one-off architectural wall panels at an economical cost, using a process developed by Marc Swackhamer’s design firm HouMinn. Swackhamer will look at the new relationship between architecture and nature through the use of technology.


IFAI Expo 2014, scheduled for Oct. 13–16 at the Minneapolis Convention Center, will host a seminar entitled “Current Research + Future Innovation: Advanced Fabric Developments in Academia, Research Centers + Industry.” The event continues on the themes of the highly successful seminar in Boston two years ago featuring researchers from MIT, Harvard and Toronto’s OCAD University (OCAD U).

This year’s event brings together several speakers from the Midwest: Lorna Ross, director of the Innovation Center, Mayo Clinic; Associate Professor Marc Swackhamer, architecture department, University of Minnesota; Associate Professor Dr. Lucy Dunne, director of the Wearable Technology Lab, University of Minnesota; and Dr. Julianna Abel, research associate at the Smart Materials and Structures Design Lab at the University of Michigan. The event takes place Oct. 15, 8.30-11.30 a.m.

The session is jointly organized and chaired by Prof. Marie O’Mahony, Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD U) and Bruce Wright, AIA, University of Minnesota. The format will be a series of presentations from each of the speakers, followed by a panel discussion with delegates invited to comment and ask questions of the speakers. Under discussion will be the latest developments in advanced fabrics as they emerge in academia, research centers and industry. A key focus for the discussion will be collaborative relationships: how they are built and developed from concept through final product.

Active textiles and engineering

Dr. Abel will give a talk entitled “Active Textiles: Smart Material-Based Textiles for Engineering Applications.” Active textiles—smart material-based textile actuators, sensors and energy harvesters—have the potential to meet emerging needs for diverse engineering applications, such as morphing aircraft, deployable space structures, and medical and rehabilitation devices. She will discuss the design of active textiles including the textile structure (knit, weave, stitch, etc.) and smart material (shape memory alloy, shape memory polymer, electro-active polymer, piezoelectric, etc.) in addition to providing details on the design of active knits. Active knits are a particularly promising example of active textiles that create complex, three-dimensional distributed actuation motions, including contraction, scrolling, coiling, arching and accordioning, which are not currently attainable.

Service design and health care

Lorna Ross will look at the role of design in the service community, specifically in health care. The Mayo Clinic is widely acknowledged as the world pioneer in the health care arena as the first medical community to actively leverage service and experience design. Service design, with its roots in ethnography, and systems thinking is proving highly effective in determining the optimum touch points for users to access a service, in effect becoming the customer’s experience.

Ms. Ross will describe how the discipline of service design has evolved to adapt to the clinical context, and how creativity and imagination gain credibility in evidence-based culture. Throughout the presentation, Ross will showcase projects and case studies from the Mayo Clinic, sharing general insights and lessons learned.

Issues for wearables

Continuing the theme of health and well being, Dr. Lucy Dunne will focus on developments in wearable technology, examining the use of new and emerging technologies in designing for pervasive monitoring of medical conditions, athletic performance and other indicators of health and well being. Looking beyond the clinical environment, she will consider its integration as discrete design for daily use.

Regarding the leap from personal devices to textile integration, posing a key challenge for research and industry, Dr. Dunne will go on to discuss the roles of academic and industry research in overcoming them.

Architecture and the “hypernatural”

Marc Swackhamer will look at the new relationship between architecture and nature through the use of technology. He describes the role of technology in this context as hypernatural: working directly with natural forces and processes, rather than against them.

The result is a design approach that facilitates the amplification, extension or exceeding of natural capacities, rather than replacing them. This approach is part of a growing field of study (biomimicry), being utilized in areas as diverse as textile production, engineering and architecture. As scientists craft photosynthetic cells made from trees, engineers encapsulate stratified clouds within buildings, and architects design structures that simulate the phototropic behavior of plants, we see a new reverence for nature emerge. In both academia and practice, the conviction that nature holds the keys to the advancement of technology and design is now a primary motivator.

This presentation is based on Swackhamer’s forthcoming book “Hypernatural: Architecture’s New Relationship with Nature,” to be published in 2015.

For more information on the IFAI Expo presentations, visit IFAI Expo.

Marie O’Mahony is a professor at Ontario College of Art + Design, Toronto, and the author of several books on advanced textiles and smart materials. Her most recent book is “Advanced textiles for Health + Wellbeing,” published by Thames + Hudson.

Share this Story