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November 17, 2016

Fungus based leather alternative

We’re always interested to come across materials that meet particular requirements. In this case a leather alternative that is not an animal product. Muskin is a material based on a large parasitic fungus that grows on trees in subtropical forests. It is similar in appearance to suede-leather and its texture can be stiff like cork or softer.

It reminds me of another unusual textile I’ve written about before here

Website link: MuSkin, LifeMaterials

N-Pro Tackling Head Injuries in Rugby

We’ve been helping N-Pro develop their new rugby headguard which launched today – more to come…

Website link: n-pro website


September 3, 2016

Bat Bot the aerobatic robot

I have an ongoing fascination with bats, bat wings and bat flight and so was delighted to come across this bat-based aerobatic robot. It’s known as Bat Bot (B2) and has been developed at the University of Illinois by postdoctural researcher Alireza Ramezani who describes it as being able to “dance in the air with great composure”.

A real bat wing is incredibly complex and contains over forty joints. This allows the morphology of the surface to change rapidly and significantly and enables a real bat to be agile and nimble in the air. Its younger sibling Bat Bot (B2) has a little catching up to do.

baby product design July 1, 2016

Baby product design for time-strapped parents – Bibado

Baby product design, BibadoHow can baby product design save parents time? Reduced mess = less tidying.

Rachel and Tom Wood are parents of twins – and time sapped as a result. Seeking to save on tidying and clothes changes (or messy kids) after mealtimes, Rachel began experimenting with bibs. They approached Thread with a prototype made from a broken umbrella that strapped onto highchair trays, because they wanted to turn their functional lash-up into a product.

Thread explored design options and prototyped them for user testing. We developed the chosen concept further to be made from a single pattern piece that was adjustable to increase the age range of the product, and could fit a wide range of high chairs.

This bib catches mess that would otherwise end up on clothes and the floor. We can vouch for it as Thread’s directors tested a pre-production prototype with their first child.

We’re delighted that Bibado has launched this week and is available to buy.

prototype gloves concept June 9, 2016

Go Gloves and Wheelchair Prototype

Thread has recently reconnected with Ben Hubert of Layer, a friend from previous projects. Ben has been working with Materialise on a 3d printed wheelchair. Here are some links to the very good-looking wheelchair and glove prototypes.

We’ve previously worked with Ben back in our earliest days when we were involved with the design and prototyping of the soft parts of the Mamas and Papas Mylo pushchair.


Website link: Go wheelchair

Website link: Go gloves

Plastic built by food poisoning (sort of)

Apparently bacteria can be engineered to produce thermoplastics. This is not a fact I knew and is casually mentioned on the website of the BiOrigami team of undergraduates from Standford and Brown universities who are developing a method of producing plastic and then causing it to fold into useful objects based on E.coli bacteria. This is rather different to injection moulding or extruding an object!

The motivation behind the project is to allow tools to be produced in space by astronauts, for example, on flights to Mars, to help reduce the weight of equipment taken.

Website link: BiOrigami Stanford-Brown

A cracking idea

A big theme in textiles and materials development at the moment is sustainability and recycling so this story about egg packaging made of eggs has scrambled our minds.

Researchers as Tuskegee University added egg shell nanoparticles (350,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair) to a plastic polymer consisting of 30% PLA (polylactic acid, a polymer derived from cornstarch) and 70% PBAT (polybutyrate adipate terephthalate, a petroleum polymer that, unlike other oil-based plastic polymers, is designed to begin degrading as soon as three months after it is put into the soil). This resulted in a material that was 700% more flexible than other bioplastic blends and this pliability could make it ideal for use in retail packaging, grocery bags and food containers — including egg cartons.

How amazing to be able to make a valuable material out of a waste product!

Website link: Tuskegee University – Eggshell-based nanoparticles could be used in future biodegradable packaging

March 7, 2016

The future of textiles R&D in the UK

Thread attended a consultation workshop for the UK textile community exploring textile R & D priorities for 2017-2020 organised by the Knowledge Transfer Network.

One of the main themes was development of textiles that can integrate with data gathering equipment for monitoring purposes eg medical.

Another strong theme was creating textiles that can be recycled easily without decreasing the value of the final textile. Increasing use of laminates in textiles (where several layers with different properties are combined to create a technical textile) can make this more difficult.

Website link: Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN)



Off to ISPO

On Monday, Thread is off to Munich for ISPO, the sports industry trade fair, to meet suppliers and bring back inspiration, market insight and great new materials and hardware.

If you’ll be there too let us know: chris@thread-

December 19, 2015

The wrong trousers went into space in 1971!

Inspiration can come from many places and often seems to come from seemingly unrelated fields. I was recently at the Science Museum’s Cosmonauts exhibition and found the clothing particularly fascinating. (Frustratingly for me there was almost no information on what the garments were made of or how they were constructed. I wish I could have opened the cabinets to have a closer look) One item in particular caught my eye and I couldn’t help but wonder if Nick Parks of Aardman Animations might also once have seen them?

Website link: Chibis Lower Body Negative Pressure (LBNP) Device, NASA

Website link: Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age, The Science Museum, 18th September 2015 – 13th March 2016


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