The custom-made TC2 Digital Jacquard loom–all 1,000 pounds of it–has arrived and is now assembled in Assistant Professor Laura Devendorf's Unstable Design Lab. First projects will focus on just learning to use it, Devendorf says, but after that she plans to utilize more complex fabrics with integrated sensing and pockets. One of the first steps will be to develop textile design software for the loom to facilitate the prototyping of smart textiles.
The loom is part of an ambitious research program funded with a $173,000 grant* from the National Science Foundation. Purchase of the loom was made possible by a seed grant from the CU Boulder’s College of Engineering & Applied Science Multi-Functional Materials Interdisciplinary Research Themes (IRT).
The device can seamlessly weave complex patterns of traditional textiles and high-tech threads, such as wires coated in thermochromic pigments that change color in response to an electric current.
"The TC2 loom will create high-resolution fabrics with almost infinite design possibilities," Devendorf says. "On a more practical level, one can “program” the loom by providing it with bitmap images, something that is relatively easy to generate with software. So all together, it will allow us to make really high quality weaves that integrate traditional and new “smart” materials.
"One of the qualities of this loom—and handlooms more broadly—that I like is that they require the weaver to be physically present and engaged in the activity. Specifically, he or she has to toss the shuttle back and forth across the yarns to produce the fabric. This hand work allows us to work with non-traditional materials, which may be brittle, and also puts the maker in connection with the materials and functions of the machine. It makes weaving smart textiles a nice context to talk about human-machine collaboration."
*NSF Award #1755587