By Ken Elkins kelkinsbizjournals.com Charlotte Business Journal
Dan St. Louis believes the Manufacturing Solutions Center in Conover will soon play a unique role in bringing smart fibers, connected clothing and other 21st-century textile products to market.
But he can’t tell us all the details about how the center will work with the Advanced Functional Fabrics of America, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology offshoot. Those details will have to come from the AFFOA, he says.
St. Louis, who is MSC's executive director, can tell us that the center will be working with Gaston College and the AFFOA in bringing some of the advancements in smart clothing to market. N.C. State University also will be involved in the agreement. MSC is a unit of Catawba Valley Community College but has its own 30,000 square feet in Conover Station, a restored glove factory in Catawba County.
Once the agreement is announced, St. Louis can start answering some of the basic questions about merging electronics with clothing fibers.
“We could determine what should you do with it: Do you knit it into fabrics? Should we weave it?
“If you can put all the electronics into a chip, why can’t you extrude that into a filament,” or thread of synthetic fabric, he asks.
We’re talking about military uniforms than can tell command centers the heart rates and status of soldiers on the battlefield, St. Louis says. Cell phones could be incorporated into clothing. Your outfit could warm you in the winter and cool you in the summer, he says.
“It’s huge,” St. Louis says. “We will be able to tap into some of the latest technology and bring products to market.”
Currently, MSC helps entrepreneurs and manufacturers try out their products before they begin production. The center can make a prototype, test materials or help identify a manufacturer for a product.
St. Louis can also tell us that the AFFOA connection will be a watershed day for the MSC.
“We can put what we do (at the MSC) on steroids,” he says. He expects MSC to be involved in making prototypes of the yarn and perhaps even some of the smart fabrics.
St. Louis expects the AFFOA announcement to be made in the next few weeks.