TI06 - October 19

Coltec opened a window for the future

It is a new generation of textile coatings, and it might well hold the key to solving many our day-to-day problems. Coltec, a company that specializes in lamination and coating, has just developed a technology capable of incorporating conducting polymers on textiles

António Moreira Gonçalves

The first prototype has been unveiled this year and has attracted the market’s attention. The team that developed it prefers to be cautious regarding projections, but it is certain that this opens a window to a series of new developments.

“Our goal was to use our technologies to create functional products”, explains Francisco Fernandes, head technician at Coltec. The project started in 2016, when the company from Polvoreira, Guimarães, acquired new machines from Hot Melt Printing. Determined to understand the potential of their “new toy”, Coltec’s team began pondering several research angles. “We spoke with CITEVE, with whom we have undertaken many projects, and we understood that smart textiles were an area with a lot to discover”, recalls Francisco. During the development of iTechCoat, CeNTI also joined the project, being in charge of the electronic components.

Since the beginning, the project had home textiles as a top priority. “They are our main market, weighing 60% of our activity, and we also work a lot in the health field”, explains the head technician. Therefore, the team set the goal of creating a mattress protector for bedridden patients. As they remain several hours in the same position, these patients suffer from bedsores – skin ulcers that result from constant pressure.

The system created by Coltec helps to prevent this problem, evaluating which areas of the body are under the most pressure – on a digital dial, as seen in the picture – and emitting a warning sound when the patient needs to switch position.

“We went to nursing homes to understand the people’s real needs. There are cases, for instance, of completely paralyzed patients who fall down during the night, and the caretakers are left with no clue as to how it happened”, exposes Célia Silva, production manager at Coltec. With this new mattress cover, it is also possible to record every position change that occurs during the night.

The prototype (a version of the mattress cover in miniature size), was presented for the first time at last year’s MODtissimo, and has passed by Techtextil, in Frankfurt, as well as for several innovation showcases, in Portugal and in international trade fairs. “It has been well-received. It’s interesting to see people’s reactions in the fairs. Being a radically new concept, it raises a myriad of questions and suggestions”, relays the head technician.

However, and despite the success of this first prototype, Coltec’s team prefers to be cautious when making projections. “It is a very recent technology. At this moment we still don’t have the equipment that enables its continuous production”, states Francisco Fernandes. “Raw materials are still very expensive and hard to work with, but whoever masters this technology will be very successful”, adds Célia silva.

At any rate, the whole team is certain that the mattress cover is just the first of many possibilities. “Here we use pressure sensors, but we could do it with temperature sensors, for example. And it might be used not only for home textiles, but also on shoes and clothing, be it health, top-level sports or even fashion”, challenges Francisco Fernandes. The possibilities are endless, but for now the company is focused on showing this first product. “We are studying different scenarios, to understand what the market wants, and then we’ll think about our next move”, concludes the head technician.

The Product

Developed by Coltec, in partnership with CITEVE and CeNTI

What is it? A highly functional and intelligent coating that integrates a network of conducting polymers What is it for? Multiple uses. When used on a mattress cover it emits an alarm (through the sensors) when a bedridden patient needs to switch positions Status of the project? First prototype available for presentation