Login| Sign Up| Help| Contact|

Patent Searching and Data


Title:
INTERMITTENT CONDUCTIVE YARN
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2017/091154
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A process (300) of manufacturing a substrate containing an intermittently-insulated conductive yarn, where the process involves providing an intermittently-insulated conductive yarn having insulated (130) and uninsulated (135) sections, feeding the intermittently- insulated conductive yarn to a yarn attachment device (310) and attaching the yarn to a substrate material (320).

Inventors:
JAYASUNDARA KOSALASIRI (LK)
PIERIS CHAMINDA (LK)
SUBASINGHE VAJIRA (LK)
DARSHANA ANUSHKA (LK)
VITHARANA RANIL (LK)
RAMACHANDRANI VIVEK (LK)
Application Number:
SG2016/050581
Publication Date:
June 01, 2017
Filing Date:
November 24, 2016
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
MAS INNOVATION (PRIVATE) LTD (LK)
MATTEUCCI GIANFRANCO (SG)
International Classes:
D02G3/44
Domestic Patent References:
WO2009075676A22009-06-18
WO2004019657A22004-03-04
Foreign References:
EP1987945A12008-11-05
US20110094785A12011-04-28
EP2727521A12014-05-07
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
KINNAIRD, James Welsh (Tanjong Pagar,,P O Box 636, Singapore 6, SG)
Download PDF:
Claims:
Claims

1. A process of manufacturing a substrate comprising an intermittently-insulated conductive yarn, wherein the process comprises:

(a) providing an intermittently-insulated conductive yarn comprising insulated and uninsulated sections; and

(b) feeding the intermittently-insulated conductive yarn to a yarn attachment device and attaching the yarn to a substrate material.

2. The process of Claim 1 , wherein the intermittently-insulated conductive yarn is provided by a process comprising:

(i) providing an uninsulated conductive yarn to an insulating coating device; and

(ii) intermittently coating the uninsulated conductive yarn with an insulating coating material to form a intermittently-insulated yarn comprising insulated and uninsulated sections.

3. The process according to Claim 2, wherein the uninsulated conductive yarn is a metal wire, a metal yarn, or a conductive composite yarn.

4. The process according to Claim 3, wherein the conductive yarn is a composite yarn comprising one or more of a metal and non-metallic conductive materials, or is a composite conductive yarn comprising one or more of a metal and non-metallic conductive materials wound around or impregnated into a stretchable or non-stretchable non-conductive yarn.

5. The process according to Claim 3 or Claim 4, wherein the metal wire, metal yarn or metal in the conductive composite yarn is one or more of iron, copper, silver, gold, aluminium, brass, titanium, tin, platinum and stainless steel.

6. The process according to Claim 5, wherein the metal wire, metal yarn or a metal in the conductive composite yarn is stainless steel.

7. The process according to any one of Claims 2 to 6, wherein the insulating coating material is one or more of a varnish, a latex, a silicone polymer, an epoxy resin, a polymeric fluorocarbon, a thermoplastic elastomer, and a polyurethane.

8. The process according to Claim 7, wherein the insulating coating material is one or more of a silicone polymer, a synthetic or natural rubber, or, more particularly, a thermoplastic polyurethane.

9. The process according to any one of any one of Claims 2 to 8, wherein intermittent coating is applied in accordance with a pre-determined coating pattern.

10. The process according to Claim 9 wherein the pre-determined pattern provides insulated and uninsulated sections having varying lengths.

11. The process according to any one of Claims 2 to 0, wherein the intermittent coating of the uninsulated conductive yarn is achieved using one or more of the group selected from spraying, powder coating, dipping, painting, wrapping, heat pressing of an insulation membrane, electroplating, fusing or shrink wrapping of an insulating material, extrusion, calendaring, electrodeposition, vapour deposition, spin coating, pas-through coating, capillary action coating, condensation, screen printing, coagulation, and polymerisation.

12. The process according to Claim 11 , wherein the intermittent coating of the uninsulated conductive yarn is achieved using spraying.

13. The process according to any one of Claims 2 to 12, wherein the process further comprises a step of curing the insulating coating.

14. The process according to Claim 1 , wherein the intermittently-insulated conductive yarn is provided directly from the process described in any one of Claims 2 to 13.

15. The process according to Claim 1 , wherein the intermittently-insulated conductive yarn is provided directly from the process described in any one of Claims 2 to 12 and the process further comprises a step of curing the insulating coating after attaching the intermittently-insulated conductive yarn to the substrate.

16. The process according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein the substrate is a flexible substrate, optionally wherein the substrate is a flexible and stretchable substrate.

17. The process according to Claim 16, wherein the substrate is one or more of a fabric, a bonding tape, an elastic substrate, or a non-woven flexible substrate, optionally wherein the non-woven flexible substrate is a non-woven flexible and stretchable substrate. 18. The process according to any one of any one of the preceding claims, wherein the yarn attachment device is selected from one or more of the group consisting of a laying mechanism, an embroidery machine, a knitting machine, manual sewing, gluing, and a heat- pressing device, provided that at least part of the uninsulated conductive yarn is not covered.

19. The process according to any one of any one of the preceding claims, wherein the yarn attachment device further comprises a pattern control unit that attaches the insulated section of the intermittently-insulated conductive yarn to the substrate in a first attachment pattern and attaches the uninsulated section of the intermittently-insulated conductive yarn to the substrate in a second attachment pattern, according to an overall pattern.

20. The process according to Claim 19, wherein the pattern control unit comprises an insulating coating detector device before the yarn is attached to the substrate, where the insulating coating detector device provides a first signal when the yarn is insulated and a second signal when the yarn is uninsulated, said first and second signals at least partly determining the pattern applied by the yarn attachment device.

21. The process according to Claim 20 as dependent upon any one of Claims 14 to 18, wherein the insulating coating device further comprises a yarn insulation controller that works in synchronization with the yarn attachment device, such that the yarn insulation controller controls the insulation of the conductive yarn in accordance with the overall pattern of the yarn attachment device at the correct lengths and supplies this information to the yarn attachment device controller to have a proper synchronization between the insulation step and attachment step.

22. A process of manufacturing a product, the process comprising providing a substrate comprising an intermittently-insulated conductive yarn as described in any one of any one of the preceding claims, wherein the process further comprises attaching conductive interconnects and/or conductive sensors to the uninsulated conductive yarn sections to provide the product.

23. The process according to Claim 22, wherein the uninsulated conductive yarn sections and the conductive interconnects and/or conductive sensors are then encapsulated in an insulating material.

24. A process of manufacturing a garment, wherein the process comprises: providing a substrate comprising an intermittently-insulated conductive yarn as described in any one of Claims 1 to 21 , or a product comprising a substrate and an intermittently-insulated conductive yarn where conductive interconnects and/or conductive sensors are attached to the uninsulated conductive yarn sections as described in Claim 22 or Claim 23, wherein

a garment is formed using said substrate or product.

Description:
Intermittent Conductive Yarn

Field of Invention The present invention relates to a process to provide an intermittently-insulated conductive yarn, said intermittently-insulated yarn and its applications.

Background The listing or discussion of an apparently prior-published document in this specification should not necessarily be taken as an acknowledgement that the document is part of the state of the art or is common general knowledge.

Certain conductive yarns currently used in wearable technology are either incorporated into a fabric as part of the fabric body (e.g. knitted as part of the fabric body). Therefore, to protect the conductive yarn from the environment (and to prevent shocks the wearer and/or short circuits), the knitted conductive fabric must be encapsulated with an insulating material on both sides. It is difficult to achieve complete encapsulation for such materials and the addition of two layers of encapsulation material on either side of the knitted conductive material results in a conductive material that is significantly increased in thickness even before it is added to a fabric substrate and/or top layer - which requires the use of additional bonding layers or steps. This results in a thick garment that may be uncomfortable for the wearer and which may suffer from a short lifetime as the conductive paths incorporated may remain vulnerable to washing.

Another type of conductive yarn currently used in wearable technology require the use of insulated membranes and glue tapes (increasing the thickness and decreasing the comfort of the garment - especially embroidered yarns that require encapsulation on both sides of a substrate) to achieve the following necessary properties:

1. to insulate the conductive yarns;

2. to protect the yarns from water, sweat and detergents; and

3. to bond the yarns to the fabric.

In general the above yarns tend to make use of silver-coated yarns even though stainless steel (SS) yarns are superior in many aspects of performance (e.g. because of higher conductivity, higher wash durability, low susceptibility to detergents, higher strength etc.). This is because SS yarns have been found to be difficult to work with when laying or embroidering a yarn onto a substrate material.

Further, the above techniques of laying and encapsulating yarns (e.g. in membranes) result in a product that suffers from the problem that increasing stretchability of the resulting product results in an exponential increase in resistance.

One other type of yarn that has been used involves the use of a yarn that has been fully encapsulated in an insulating material that is then applied to a substrate. A problem with these yarns is that they require the removal of the insulating material in order to be able to form electrical connections, thereby resulting in additional steps to form the desired product.

The standard processes described above suffer from a number of drawbacks, either in terms of manufacturing (e.g. adding steps and/or cost) and/or in terms of the perceived quality of the final product (e.g. thick encapsulating layers or problems with shocks/electrical shorts). Thus, there remains a need to find new methods of providing conductive yarns for use in a fabric.

Summary of Invention

In a first aspect of the invention, there is provided a process for manufacturing a substrate comprising an intermittently-insulated conductive yarn, wherein the process comprises:

(a) providing an intermittently-insulated conductive yarn comprising insulated and uninsulated sections; and

(b) feeding the intermittently-insulated conductive yarn to a yarn attachment device and attaching the yarn to a substrate material.

In an embodiment of the invention, intermittently-insulated conductive yarn may be provided by a process for manufacturing an intermittently-insulated conductive yarn, the process comprising:

(i) providing an uninsulated conductive yarn to an insulating coating device; and

(ii) intermittently coating the uninsulated conductive yarn with an insulating coating material to form a intermittently-insulated yarn comprising insulated and uninsulated sections.

In embodiments of manufacturing an intermittently-insulated conductive yarn: (i) the conductive yarn may be a thin metal wire or a metal yarn (e.g. where the metal wire or yarn contains one or more of iron, copper, silver, gold, aluminium, brass, titanium, tin, platinum, and stainless steel (e.g. stainless steel));

(ii) the conductive yarn may be a composite yarn comprising one or more of a metal (e.g. one or more of iron, copper, silver, gold, aluminium, brass, titanium, tin, platinum, and stainless steel (e.g. such as stainless steel)) and non-metallic conductive materials (e.g. conductive polymers, carbon nanotubes and graphene), or may be a composite conductive yarn comprising one or more of a metal and non-metallic conductive materials wound around or impregnated into a (optionally stretchable) yarn (i.e. a non-conductive yarn that may be made from, but not limited to, one or more of cotton, polyester, nylon, acrylic, modacrylic, rayon, vinyon, saran, spandex, vinalon, nomex, kevlar, twaron, modal, polybenzimidazole fiber and the like);

(iii) the insulating coating material may be one or more of a varnish, a latex, a silicone polymer, an epoxy resin, a polymeric fluorocarbon, a thermoplastic elastomer, a polyurethane (e.g. the coating material may be one or more of a silicone polymer, a synthetic or natural rubber, or a thermoplastic polyurethane);

(iv) the intermittent coating may be applied in accordance with a pre-determined coating pattern (e.g. the pre-determined pattern may provide insulated and uninsulated sections having varying lengths);

(v) the intermittent coating of the uninsulated conductive yarn may be achieved using one or more of the group selected from spraying, powder coating, dipping, painting, wrapping, heat pressing of an insulation membrane, electroplating, fusing or shrink wrapping of an insulating material, extrusion, calendaring, electrodeposition, vapour deposition, spin coating, pas-through coating, capillary action coating, condensation, screen printing, coagulation, and polymerisation (e.g. the intermittent coating of the uninsulated conductive yarn may be achieved using spraying);

(vi) the process may further comprise a step of curing the insulating coating.

In certain embodiments of the invention, the intermittently-insulated conductive yarn may be provided directly from the process described to manufacture an intermittently-insulated conductive yarn as described above (using any technically sensible combination of the embodiments thereof).

In alternative embodiments of the invention, the intermittently-insulated conductive yarn may be provided directly from the process described to manufacture an intermittently-insulated conductive yarn as described above (using any technically sensible combination of the embodiments thereof) and the process further comprises a step of curing the insulating coating after attaching the intermittently-insulated conductive yarn to the substrate. It will be apparent that this alternative embodiment requires that no processing step to cure the insulating coating has taken place. In embodiments of the invention:

(a) the process may further comprise a step of curing the insulating coating before attaching the conductive yarn to the substrate;

(b) the substrate may be a flexible substrate, such as a flexible and stretchable substrate (e.g. the substrate may be one or more of a fabric, a bonding tape, an elastic substrate, or a non-woven flexible substrate (i.e. a non-woven flexible and stretchable substrate)).

In certain embodiments, the yarn attachment device may be selected from one or more of the group consisting of a laying mechanism, an embroidery machine, a knitting machine, manual sewing, gluing, and a heat-pressing device, provided that at least part of the uninsulated conductive yarn is not covered. In additional embodiments of the invention, the yarn attachment device may further comprise a pattern control unit that attaches the insulated section of the intermittently-insulated conductive yarn to the substrate in a first attachment pattern and attaches the uninsulated section of the intermittently-insulated conductive yarn to the substrate in a second attachment pattern, according to an overall pattern. For example, the pattern control unit may comprise an insulating coating detector device before the yarn is attached to the substrate, where the insulating coating detector device provides a first signal when the yarn is insulated and a second signal when the yarn is uninsulated, said first and second signals at least partly determining the pattern applied by the yarn attachment device.

In embodiments of the invention, wherein the insulation and attachment processes discussed hereinbefore are conducted in series, the insulating coating device may further comprise a yarn insulation controller that works in synchronization with the yarn attachment device, such that the yarn insulation controller controls the insulation of the conductive yarn in accordance with the overall pattern of the yarn attachment device at the correct lengths and supplies this information to the yarn attachment device controller to have a proper synchronization between the insulation step and attachment step. In a second aspect of the invention, there is provided a process of manufacturing a product, the process comprising providing a substrate comprising an intermittently-insulated conductive yarn as described to manufacture an intermittently-insulated conductive yarn as described above (using any technically sensible combination of the embodiments thereof), wherein the process further comprises attaching conductive interconnects and/or conductive sensors to the uninsulated conductive yarn sections to provide the product. In certain embodiments, the uninsulated conductive yarn sections and the conductive interconnects and/or conductive sensors may then be encapsulated in an insulating material.

In a third aspect of the invention, there is provided a process of manufacturing a garment, wherein the process comprises providing a substrate comprising an intermittently-insulated conductive yarn as described in the first aspect of the invention (or in any technically sensible combination of its embodiments), or a product comprising a substrate and an intermittently-insulated conductive yarn where conductive interconnects and/or conductive sensors are attached to the uninsulated conductive yarn sections as described in the second aspect of the invention (or in any technically sensible combination of its embodiments), wherein a garment is formed using said substrate or product.

Drawings

Example embodiments of the invention will now be described more fully hereinafter with reference to the accompanying drawings. However, the invention may be embodied in different forms and should not be construed as limited to the embodiments set forth herein. Rather, these embodiments are provided so that this disclosure will be thorough, and will convey the scope of the invention to those skilled in the art.

In the drawing figures provided, dimensions may be exaggerated for clarity of illustration. It will be understood that when an element is referred to as being "between" two elements, it can be the only element between the two elements, or one or more intervening elements may also be present. Like reference numerals refer to like elements throughout.

Figure 1 schematically depicts the operation of a process for manufacturing an intermittently- insulated conductive yarn according to an embodiment of the current invention.

Figure 2 schematically depicts the in-line manufacturing of an intermittently-insulated conductive yarn and curing of the applied coating, according to an embodiment of the current invention. Figure 3 schematically depicts the in-line application of an intermittent insulating coating to a conductive yarn, followed by attachment of the intermittently coated conductive yarn to a substrate. Description

A new method has surprisingly been found that provides a number of advantages over the conventional processes and products. These advantages include: 1. enables SS, copper and silver yarns to be used of different thickness and conductivity;

2. enables laying between two bonding / membrane tapes that can be directly attached into the fabric;

3. enables manufacturing in roll form and piece form;

4. enables different stretch requirements (e.g. from 20% to 150% as per the requirement); 5. low cost method of manufacturing;

6. enables manufacturing at the place of application which eliminates the requirement of storage of conductive pathways separately (which may also cause a degradation of properties, especially in silver coated yarns);

7. fully insulated from water, sweat and detergents;

8. does not add significant thickness to the conductive yarns;

9. does not add stiffness to the yarns (thereby increasing comfort for the wearer);

10. the termination ends are not covered with an insulation layer (thereby reducing the steps used in the process and increasing efficiency, while lowering cost);

11. easy to manufacture any customizable lengths that are required;

12. does not alter the conductive yarn properties, especially the conductivity of the yarns;

13. allows the stretchablility and laying properties of the yarn to remain unchanged;

14. the coating may supply a bonding / gluing effect to attach the yarn to a substrate/top layer without using an extra bonding layer;

15. the coating may adhere well with bonding layers that are used to bond the laid on yarn and a substrate to a cover fabric; and

16. avoid the use of expensive and thicker polyurethane sheets, which are currently used as standard for encapsulation purposes.

The conductive yarns with an outer coating will eliminate the requirement of TPU sheets currently used to encapsulate the conductive yarns which is a significant cost factor in the production of current conductive yarns for use in wearable technologies. In addition, these TPU bonding sheets increase the modulus of the garment and are not breathable; therefore, the bonding sheet area feels uncomfortable to the user when they sweat.

The invention will be described more fully hereinafter with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which example embodiments of the invention are shown. While preferred embodiments of the invention have been described using specific terms, such description is for illustrative purposes only, and it is to be understood that changes and variations may be made without departing from the scope of the following claims. In the following description, where the detailed description of known functions or configurations related to the invention makes the subject matter of the invention unclear, the detailed description has been omitted. Further, like reference numerals are used to identify like elements throughout different drawings. For clarity and convenience of description, the size or shape of elements shown in the drawings may not be illustrated to scale.

Figure 1 illustrates the operation of a process for manufacturing an intermittently-insulated conductive yarn according to an embodiment of the current invention. As depicted, the process (100) involves providing an uninsulated conductive yarn (120, 125) to an insulating coating device ( 10) and intermittently coating the uninsulated conductive yarn with an insulating coating material (130) to form a intermittently-insulated yarn comprising insulated (130) and uninsulated (135) sections.

When used herein, the term "yarn" is intended to take its ordinary meaning in the art (long continuous length of interlocked fibres, suitable for use in one or more of the production of textiles, crocheting, knitting, weaving, embroidery and, more particularly sewing), though it is expanded herein to also cover the use of single filaments of a material, such as a metallic filament. Thus, the uninsulated conductive yarn may be a thin metal wire (e.g. a metal filament suitable for use in one or more of the production of textiles, crocheting, knitting, weaving, embroidery and, more particularly sewing), a metal yarn (i.e. interlocking metal fibers), a yarn or filament made from a conductive polymer, and a conductive composite yarn.

A number of different kinds of conductive composite yarns exist. A first type of conductive composite yarn comprises a normal non-conductive yarn's fibres as a core material that is impregnated with at least one conductive material, such as a metal or a non-metallic conductive material, which latter material may be provided in part in a polymer matrix. A second type of conductive composite yarn comprises a normal non-conductive yarn's fibres as a core material that is then wound together with one or more filaments/fibres of a metal and/or a non-metallic conductive material. A third type of conductive composite yarn comprises a non-metallic conductive material, such as carbon nanotubes or graphene along with a polymeric material, wherein the non-metallic conductive material may be distributed homogeneously throughout the polymeric material to provide a conductive yarn, or the non- metallic conductive material is aligned to form a yarn, with a polymer dispersed within the spaces created in said yarn (e.g. a continuous superaligned carbon nanotube yarn as a conductive framework with polyvinyl alcohol inserted into the intertube spaces of the framework, as described in Liu et a/. ACS Nano, 2010, 4 (10), pp 5827-5834).

Metals that may be mentioned in aspects and embodiments of the invention include, but are not limited to, iron, copper, silver, gold, aluminium, brass, titanium, tin, and platinum and alloys thereof. For example, a metal alloy that may be mentioned herein is stainless steel. The insulating coating material used in the process may be any suitable insulating coating material. For example, the insulating coating material may be one or more of a varnish, a latex, a silicone polymer, an epoxy resin, a polymeric fluorocarbon, a thermoplastic elastomer, and a polyurethane. Particular insulating coating materials that may be mentioned herein include a synthetic or natural rubber, a thermoplastic polyurethane or combinations thereof. Other materials that may be mentioned herein include a silicone polymer.

It will be appreciated that any suitable method of applying the intermittent coating of the conductive yarn with insulating coating material is intended to be covered. These methods include, but are not limited to the use of one or more of the group selected from spraying, powder coating, dipping, painting, wrapping, heat pressing of an insulation membrane, electroplating, fusing or shrink wrapping of an insulating material, extrusion, calendaring, electrodeposition, vapour deposition, spin coating, pas-through coating, capillary action coating, condensation, screen printing, coagulation, and polymerisation. A particular process that may be mentioned in applying the intermittent coating of the conductive yarn with insulating coating material is spray-coating.

The process of applying the coating may be conducted in accordance with a pre-determined coating pattern. This pattern may provide insulated and uninsulated sections of the conductive yarn that have varying lengths. As will be discussed in more detail below, the ability to introduce a pattern and/or to control the length of the insulated and uninsulated sections of the conductive yarn enables the yarn that is provided by this process to be used with minimal additional steps in down-stream processes as described herein. The advantages associated with this process will therefore become apparent when considering these downstream processes, which are discussed in more detail hereinbelow. The insulating coating material and/or the process that is used may be a material that requires to be dried or cured. As depicted in Figure 2, in certain embodiments of the invention where the resulting yarn is to be stored and/or transported before use in a downstream process, the drying and/or curing step can take place immediately following the application of the insulating coating material (130) to the conductive yarn in the insulating coating device (110). This curing process is depicted schematically by a curing device (210), which results in the insulating coating material (130) dried/cured to form the final insulating coating material (235). In alternative embodiments, the curing process may be applied at a later stage of a process, as described in more detail below. While the process depicted in Figure 2 shows a curing device (210), it will be appreciated that certain materials that may be used herein do not need to be subjected to an external curing operation, other than exposure to ambient temperature before being prepared for storage (e.g. storage as a yarn cone or yarn roll). In alternative embodiments, the curing device (210) may be a physical device that is immediately downstream from the insulating coating device (110) and is capable of applying a curing effect onto the insulating coating material (130) before it is stored. Examples of suitable curing devices include by are not limited to a UV light curing device and heat-curing devices (e.g. an oven or an infra-red light curing device). An intermittently-insulated conductive yarn can be attached to a substrate by a process that comprises:

(a) providing an intermittently-insulated conductive yarn; and

(b) feeding the intermittently-insulated conductive yarn to a yarn attachment device and attaching the yarn to a substrate material. It will be appreciated that the intermittently-insulated conductive yarn may not be fully attached to the substrate. That is, some sections of the intermittently-insulated conductive yarn may not be attached directly to the substrate, but are held in place by adjacent sections that are so attached.

As shown in Figure 3, the attachment process may occur immediately downstream from the process described hereinbefore to manufacture an intermittently-insulated conductive yarn. That is, process 300 may involve providing an uninsulated conductive yarn (120, 125) to an insulating coating device (110) and intermittently coating the uninsulated conductive yarn with an insulating coating material (130) to form a intermittently-insulated yarn comprising insulated (130) and uninsulated (135) sections, said intermittently-insulated conductive yarn is then provided to a yarn attachment device (310) that attaches the yarn to a substrate material (320), such that the substrate has yarn sections that are insulated (335) and uninsulated (336). While the process depicted in Figure 3 describes an integrated process where the intermittently-insulated conductive yarn is manufactured and is then fed directly into the yarn attachment device, it will be appreciated that this process may also include a curing step prior to/after the attachment of the yarn to the substrate or may instead use a pre-fabricated intermittently-insulated conductive yarn instead that will have been cured before use in the attachment process. It will also be appreciated that indirect use of the process where the intermittently-insulated conductive yarn is manufactured may be used in certain circumstances. For example, when the insulating material has been cured before it has been attached to a substrate, the resulting intermittently-insulated conductive yarn may be wound onto a roll and stored prior to use.

As mentioned above, the intermittently-insulated conductive yarn may be provided directly from the process described to manufacture an intermittently-insulated conductive yarn and the attachment process may then further comprise a step of curing the insulating coating after attaching the intermittently-insulated conductive yarn to the substrate. For example, when the insulating coating material is a silicone polymer, the uncured silicone coating material may be used in whole or in part to attach the partially insulated conductive yarn to the substrate, after which the silicone is cured.

While any suitable substrate may be used, particular embodiments of the invention that may be mentioned herein relate to the use of a flexible substrate (e.g. a flexible and stretchable substrate). Examples of flexible substrates that may be mentioned herein include, but are not limited to a fabric, a bonding tape, an elastic substrate, or a non-woven flexible substrate (e.g. a non-woven flexible and stretchable substrate) or combinations thereof. For example, the substrate may comprise a combination of a bonding tape and a fabric, such that the majority of the intermittently-insulated conductive yarn (i.e. the insulated parts), may be entirely attached to the bonding tape, while a minority of the intermittently-insulated conductive yarn (e.g. at least part of the uninsulated sections) may lie on, or be attached to, the fabric instead. The yarn attachment device may be selected from one or more of the group consisting of a laying mechanism, an embroidery machine, a knitting machine, manual sewing, gluing, and a heat-pressing device, provided that at least part of the uninsulated conductive yarn is not covered. It will be appreciated that at least some of the uninsulated conductive yarn should be left "naked" so as to enable an electrical connection to be established. Once the electrical connection has been established, said "naked" sections may be encapsulated or otherwise protected from the environment (e.g. protection from moisture in the form of sweat and/or from washing).

In certain embodiments of the invention, the yarn attachment device (301 ) may further comprise a pattern control unit. The pattern control unit may attach the insulated section of the intermittently-insulated conductive yarn to the substrate in a first attachment pattern and attaches the uninsulated section of the intermittently-insulated conductive yarn to the substrate in a second attachment pattern, according to an overall pattern. When used herein, "first attachment pattern" and "second attachment pattern" are subordinate to the "overall pattern", as such each first and second attachment patterns in a substrate may vary as required by the length of the insulated/uninsulated sections and/or to comply with the requirements of the overall design of the product to be produced (e.g. a garment comprising wearable technology). For example, as illustrated in Figure 3, a first insulated section (336) has been attached to the substrate (320) with a different length and pattern than the second insulated section (335). For the sake of clarity, the insulation on the wires has been schematically depicted in the form of boxed sections (335, 336) to illustrate the sections of wire that are insulated. The variance in these patterns within the overall pattern provides a great degree of flexibility to the overall patterns that can be applied to a substrate. This enables the process to provide customised patterns on a substrate that may be suitable for various purposes (e.g. providing a customised pattern to ensure that sensors are provided in desired regions of a garment made from the substrate).

As noted above, the process may involve the use of varying lengths of insulated and uninsulated conductive yarn. While the process may use an overall pattern that takes into account the variants of lengths, slight differences may occur in the manufacturing of the partially-insulated conductive yarn, which may subsequently result in a misalignment of the pattern. To help avoid this, the pattern control unit may comprise an insulating coating detector device before the yarn is attached to the substrate, where the insulating coating detector device provides a first signal when the yarn is insulated and a second signal when the yarn is uninsulated, said first and second signals at least partly determining the pattern applied by the yarn attachment device. The use of the insulating coating detector device ensures that no misalignment of the overall pattern occurs by providing signals to the pattern control unit, which rectifies the first and/or attachment pattern to comply with the overall pattern. Alternatively, when the insulation and attachment processes are conducted in an uninterrupted sequence, the insulating coating device may further comprise a yarn insulation controller that works in synchronization with the yarn attachment device, such that the yarn insulation controller controls the insulation of the conductive yarn in accordance with the overall pattern of the yarn attachment device at the correct lengths and supplies this information to the yarn attachment device controller to have a proper synchronization between the insulation step and attachment step.

As will be appreciated, the attachment process described above provides an intermittently- insulated conductive yarn attached to a substrate material, which may undergo further processing. This further processing may be conducted in sequence in a production line, or may be conducted at a different site entirely. For example, the yarn-attached substrate may be used to make a final product (e.g. a garment as described below). Alternatively, the yarn- attached substrate may make an intermediate product, wherein the downstream process may be a process of manufacturing a product, the process comprising providing a substrate comprising an intermittently-insulated conductive yarn as described hereinbefore, wherein the process further comprises attaching conductive interconnects and/or conductive sensors to the uninsulated conductive yarn sections to provide the product. Subsequently, the uninsulated conductive yarn sections and the conductive interconnects and/or conductive sensors may then be encapsulated in an insulating material. The resulting product may then be used immediately to manufacture a final product (e.g. a garment) or be stored and provided to a different manufacturing line to provide the final product. Thus, there is also provided a process of manufacturing a garment, wherein the process comprises:

providing a substrate comprising an intermittently-insulated conductive yarn as described hereinbefore, or a product comprising a substrate and an intermittently-insulated conductive yarn where conductive interconnects and/or conductive sensors are attached to the uninsulated conductive yarn sections as described hereinbefore, wherein

a garment is formed using said substrate or product.