In the last issue “Technology and Challenges,” we interviewed with Mr. Shiomi, a team leader of PIECLEX* production and development, and Mr. Takumi, in charge of product development and evaluation, and primarily asked about the technical aspects of PIECLEX, such as inspiration behind its development, as well as technical challenges on the road of productization.
In this issue; “Applications and Outlook.” we asked the developers about the potentials and future prospect of PIECLEX as well its social impact concerning the environmental issues.
* PIECLEX is an antimicrobial and deodorant fabric developed by PIECLEX Co., Ltd., a joint venture formed by Murata Manufacturing and Teijin Frontier.
--Products such as face masks, t-shirts, and socks are already up in the market. Could you tell us about your product development plans in the future?
The appeal of PIECLEX lies not only in its high antimicrobial properties and its superior environmental-friendliness. While it is a synthetic fabric, its texture has a silky and dry touch with superior quick-drying properties, which makes it ideally suited to sportswear for vigorous physical activity such as golf and cycling. In recent years, stretchable jackets are hot-selling. Now, what about using PIECLEX for the lining of such jackets? Wearer can enjoy a high-level antimicrobial and deodorant effect. In addition, deodorization effect level of PIECLEX is such that one can scarcely recognize the odor, thus it can be tailed to a wide variety of textile products.
--Regarding the designability, can PIECLEX achieve similar types of expression as other fabrics do?
We believe that some adjustments are necessary. For example, PIECLEX needs a little bit sophisticated technique in dyeing process, which is a typical difference from the normal synthetic fabrics used in daily clothes. Therefore, we are currently improving the dyeing method to stabilize the coloring output. To avoid the misunderstanding, we already can provide a variety of coloring for apparel products, by using cotton and/or polyester on the front, while using PIECLEX on the reverse side of the apparel products.
--We see your corporate slogan read “Change the World with Electric Textile”. What are some of the prospects for PIECLEX?
For instance, we are considering PIECLEX to be used in the clothing for medical workers (uniforms) and/or bedding used in hospital wards, as well as for seat surface in automobile. In any case, there requires hygiene and safety standards that are stricter compared to the one for apparel industry, but we believe the antimicrobial capabilities of PIECLEX would be appreciated by professional applications in terms of hygiene and odor prevention.
Moreover, we have another dream. We want to seek some new opportunities by integrating PIECLEX into Murata‘s electronic components. Because electricity level of PIECLEX changes according to the orientation and strength of the applied stress, PIECLEX could sense and detect the hand actions on the fabrics such as touching, pressing, and stroking. Using such capability of PIECLEX might make it possible to develop a kind of module, where Murata sensors and batteries all together integrated in clothing, then to harvest, store, and supply electricity from the fabric, for example.
Impact of PIECLEX on environmental issues
--PIECLEX is made of polylactic acid (PLA) which is biodegradable, so please tell us about the impact on the environment.
The material of PIECLEX consists of polylactic acid (PLA), and that raw material is derived from plants such as corn and/or others. First, plants absorb atmospheric CO₂ during the cultivation process. Secondary, we can dispose PIECLEX products at the end of their life by burying in the soil ground. Polylactic acid biodegrades in the soil. You see, where there is no incineration, there emitted no CO₂. Just think about mass production scale impact, PIECLEX could make a significant contribution to carbon neutrality.
Can we hear your impressions during development of PIECLEX?
--Because PIECLEX is an exceptional fabric, so you must have various experiences relating to PIECLEX from the initial stage of development up till today, I guess. Did you have turning points that made your mind set changed and/or sense of achievement that came up from inside?
Takumi: In school days, I majored in life and medical sciences and gave myself up to mechanical engineering focused on supporting human body. When I joined the company, I was assigned a planning job, but with the launch of the PIECLEX project, I was transferred to a development team. The PIECLEX project was a place where I could make much of my school days knowledges related to body movement and/or sense of fitting. Our development target was quite specific, which was to create an antimicrobial material for footwears. I remember there came up a big expectation and an excitement inside of me. Today PIECLEX was successfully commercialized and my dream come true. My next challenge is to aim higher in ever lasting missions in R&D. Naturally, there would be tough times on the way; however, the sense of excitement came inside of me at that time is yet unchanged.
Shiomi: Before joining PIECLEX, I was working in the textile industry. Coming from the textile industry to the electronics industry, I could feel the possibilities and dream of an antimicrobial fabric that uses electricity that was not possible in the textile industry. In addition, I feel that we were able to create a stir with respect to the problems currently faced by society through environmental initiatives and other aspects of the development of PIECLEX.
--In closing, kindly share with us your messages as a developer of PIECLEX.
Takumi: I believe that once you put it on, you sure to understand the value of antimicrobial effect of PIECLEX. Although it is a gradual process, I feel that the high functionality and other values of PIECLEX are being accepted by society. I believe our mission is to win the hearts and minds of consumers through material and original products development.
Shiomi: Most of all, I would like people to know that PIECLEX is an environmentally friendly textile product. There are many other similar eco-friendly fabrics, however, please keep in mind that PIECLEX all-out is environmentally friendly textile, in a sense that plant-derived material, antimicrobial function, comfort as a clothing, as well as biodegradability in case of disposal and/or recycle. I would like to keep my communication to everyone that when it comes to environmental advantages, PIECLEX is the real deal.
Significance to Murata – Afterword
Mr. Takumi comes from a science and technology background, while Mr. Shiomi hails from the textile industry. Two developers with quite different specializations met at the company called PIECLEX. Such symbolic encounter should represent the cooperation of two industries; electronics and textile. In other words, PIECLEX is a precious child given birth through the encounter of two industries, as the result of two different style of innovative development. In the days ahead, product development needs to meet the diversifying requirements from the society in terms of functionality, environmental-friendliness, as well as safety. If so, should we be satisfied with some limited expertise from a single business field? Future development would naturally test not only the knowledge and accumulation of technology but also the collaborative ability to combine expertise from various fields, and that at a high level. PIECLEX realizes superior antimicrobial and comfort of users. It also helps consumers casually conserve the environment. PIECLEX, who pioneered the next-generation development method, represents the advanced technology of Murata Manufacturing.
* As of June 2023, sales of “PIECLEX” is limited to Japan.
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