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The EDA Materials & Structures Week - Workshop on smart textiles in defence

EDA's CapTech Materials & Structures recently organised a workshop on “Smart textiles in defence” at AITIIP Technological Centre in Zaragoza (Spain). It gathered 27 experts from various European Ministries of Defence, industry, SMEs and academia related to this technology domain. The objectives were to raise awareness and better understand the potential of smart textiles and discuss the impact of these technologies on future defence capabilities. 

Today, efforts in this field are focused on the development of standards to define terms, definitions, technical specifications and requirements for smart textiles. Future trends include multi-functionalities to make the soldier lighter, safer, and smarter. Specifically the main trends include the monitoring of the well-being, health status and protection of the soldier, including adaptive camouflage and reducing the weight. Given the interest of the smart textiles for different applications, highlighted in the Materials Strategic Research Agenda (SRA), this workshop sought to gather experts in related fields to discuss future research directions within Europe, when applying this kind of materials to defence systems.

The workshop brought forward multiple success stories of smart textiles used in different defence applications with functions such as: thermal control, moisture control, UV protection, functional bactericidal and self-cleaning. Ongoing activities and projects were presented by EDA and organizations from Member States showing the increasing interest and potential of smart textiles for enhancing soldier systems. Among the most targeted research areas were shown to be: durability, thermal comfort,  adaptive camouflage, measurement and communication sensors, energy harvesting and recovery, modelling and simulation tools and new materials such as graphene or bio-composites. 

The discussion also addressed manufacturing and commercialization of smart textiles, recognizing the growing market and opportunities stemming from the technological developments taking place in the civilian sector. Furthermore, the certification and standardization aspects were highlighted with particular attention paid to ensuring product quality and development of legislation.  

The main outcome of the workshop was the identification of the areas for cooperation at EU level, especially in terms of identifying and testing the available systems, and several proposals were put forward for in-depth study and future activities. Another conclusion of the workshop included the need of shaping future priorities and defining stages toward the goal of achieving multifunction soldier uniforms. 

The workshop was followed by the 37th meeting of the CapTech Materials & Structures held in the research centre ITAInnova on 31 May and 1 June. The meeting focused on the review of the CapTech’s current activities and on the discussion about future actions and upcoming opportunities. The efforts of the CapTech were further acknowledged with the occasion of the visit to the EDA Additive Manufacturing facility deployed in the Zaragoza Airbase. The successful deployment of a 3D-printing lab for the duration of EAATTC 17-3 represents the main focus of EDA’s ground-breaking project, “Additive Manufacturing Feasibility Study & Technology Demonstration”. The deployment underscored the strong interest and potential of AM technologies across all military branches (pilots, maintenance, technicians and logistic support), who were keen to learn how 3D-printing could benefit their area of expertise. The success of this showcasing has significantly contributed to raising awareness on the operational application of these technologies and on the potential synergistic effects of undertaking European defence R&T activities. 

The workshop and the Materials CapTech meeting was co-organized by EDA’s CapTechs Materials & Structures, Land Systems and CBRN & Human Factors, and the Research and Technology Organizations CITEVE, AITEX, ITAInnova and the Spanish MoD.


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