Drexel University has opened a new innovation centre which, equipped with some of the latest warp and weft knitting machines, will support the creation and advanced manufacturing of innovative textile technology. The 10,000-square-foot, $7 mn research and development facility, known as the Center for Functional Fabrics and the Pennsylvania Fabric Discovery Center, hosted its opening ceremony on September 25.

During the event, attendees were given a tour of the manufacturing area at the centre, which features a main equipment room kitted out with flat and circular weft knitting, warp knitting and weaving machines as well as facilities for yarn customization. With the support of $1.5 mn from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Drexel has, over the years, expanded its state-of-the-art prototyping facility, which now includes seven Shima Seiki flat-bed knitting machines, two circular knitting machines, a Comez warp knitting machine, a CCI Tech weaving suite and a variety of yarn-twisting machines. The center also has a number of advanced design and production capabilities, such as a 3D body scanner, an ultrasonic sewing machine, a seam sealer, textile testing machines and advanced sewing machines.

The University’s online publication, Drexel Now, also highlights how the facility also includes spaces for digital design and programming, systems integration and assembly, yarn and textile testing, finishing, dyeing and climate-controlled archival storage. There is also a mixed-use space that brings together laboratory and manufacturing facilities with office, training and technology exhibit space. Functional fabrics being explored at Drexel range from the smart fabric bellyband which monitors contractions and breathing in pregnant mothers to fabrics being developed to protect, monitor and communicate with soldiers and other emergency personnel.

The Center for Functional Fabrics expansion includes the Pennsylvania Fabric Discovery Center, which was created to support Drexel’s role as the regional leader of Advanced Functional Fabrics of America’s network of fabric discovery centers. The PA FDC engages, collaborates and innovates with government, companies and entrepreneurs taking advanced-textile ideas from concept to prototype to scalable products. These facilities will also prepare America’s workforce for jobs in this growing sector through education and training.