Housed at 3101 Market St., the 10,000 square feet of mixed-use lab, teaching and event space is funded by the state and federal government as part of Drexel’s involvement in the Advanced Functional Fabrics of America initiative, according to a release.
The center can be used to create textile technology, as well as methods for integrating them into industrial garment manufacturing processes and modules to help retrain the workforce for working with these new technologies, the university said.
Genevieve Dion, the center’s director, said that Drexel is a fitting host for the center, as it’s a “comprehensive campus” with multiple disciples that can use the center. But while the center is housed at the university, it’s not exclusively for students — rather, it’s meant to be a research and development hub “where industry and academia can come together,” she told Technical.ly.
The center is outfitted with textile manufacturing equipment, weaving and looming machines, as well as technology such as a 3D printer. Much of the equipment was purchased from a $1.5 million grant from Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, Dion said.
A variety of projects involving work such as smart fabric sensors and textile energy storage are underway. Two projects, a smart fabric belly band and the Capacitive Touch Sensor, are platform technologies that are becoming robust enough as concepts that it’s not difficult to imagine how people could use them practically, the director said.
The goal for the center is to be able to work collaboratively with companies or agencies like the Department of Defense that are interested in developing and scaling functional textile projects to manufacture or make available to consumers.
“Were very excited,” Dion said. “There’s not that many fabric discovery centers — in fact, we’re the first one outside the state of Massachusetts.”
Dion has been working with functional fabrics for the last decade, and originally worked at a smaller version of the center at the university’s ExCITe Center. About four years ago, Drexel was awarded the grant and began work on the new 10,000-square-foot space.
The center had a soft opening a few weeks ago, but officially opened Wednesday.
“We’re looking to engage, collaborate and innovate,” Dion said.