September 2, 2006 UPDATED WITH NEW IMAGES The world’s largest consumer electronics trade fair, Internationale Funkausstellung (IFA) opened in Berlin yesterday, and one of the big stories is the demonstration of promotional jackets and furniture featuring Philips’ innovative Lumalive technology. Lumalive fabrics feature flexible arrays of colored light-emitting diodes (LEDs) fully integrated into the fabric - without compromising the softness or flexibility of the cloth. These light emitting textiles make it possible to create materials that can carry dynamic messages, advertisements, graphics and constantly changing colour surfaces. Fabrics used in drapes, cushions or sofa coverings become active and designers can use different inputs to change the illumination based on user behaviour. Prototypes of the technology were first exhibited at IFA 2005 but unlike those early example, the products on display at IFA are ready for commercialization, particularly by companies in the promotional industry looking for a new, high-impact medium. We can’t wait to see what the design industry can do with these capabilities.
The jackets are comfortable to wear, and the Lumalive fabrics only become obvious when they light up to display vivid colour patterns, logos, short text messages or even full colour animations. The electronics, batteries and LED arrays are fully integrated and invisible to the observer and wearer. The jackets feature panels of up to 200 by 200 mm, although the active sections can be scaled up to cover much larger areas such as a sofa.
“Taking the Lumalive fabrics from prototypes to integrated products has been a major challenge,” said Bas Zeper, Managing Director of Photonic Textiles, Philips Research. “The light emitting textiles have to be flexible, durable and operated by reasonably compact batteries. Fitting all that into a comfortable, lightweight garment is a considerable engineering success.”
“What Philips Research showed last year were research prototypes; this year the jackets and furniture represent versions that are ready to go into commercial production, and include integrated power sources and control electronics,” said Zeper.
The products include features that make them practical for daily use. For example, when integrating the Lumalive fabrics into the garment Philips Research has made the parts that can’t be easily washed — such as the batteries and control electronics—simple to disconnect and reconnect after the garment has been cleaned. Even the light-emitting layer can be easily removed and refitted to the jacket.
Philips Research is inviting all potential partners to talk about the immediate commercialization potential of Lumalive textiles at IFA 2006 where the company’s booth will act as a showcase for the technology and a focal point for discussions.