Empa spin-off sews with a laser

Two Empa researchers have developed a process that uses a laser to fuse synthetic fibre fabrics, making the ‘seam’ airtight and waterproof. Their spin-off Nahtlos aims to bring the technology onto the market.

Nahtlos can seamlessly seal synthetic fiber fabrics to make them waterproof and airtight. (Image Credit: Empa)

To make conventional seams waterproof, it has been necessary until now to ‘seal’ them with tape on the underside. An alternative solution has now been developed by Alexander Haag and Michel Schmid from the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa) in collaboration with industry partners.  

Instead of first sewing and then sealing the fabrics, their laser-based technology seals the two identical synthetic fibres together, making the seam – and thus also the fabric – waterproof as well as airtight, explains an Empa statement.

The new laser technology can be used in the clothing industry as well as for producing mattresses, and Empa now holds the patent together with an industry partner from a Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI) project. 

Haag and Schmid founded the company Nahtlos GmbH in the beginning of this year and have put in a lot of time into the search for industry partners, but find that a lot of persuasion and customized functional samples are still needed to find new partners.

“Many companies are sceptical about the new technology as the conventional method has worked well so far,” explained Haag.

Nahtlos GmbH has its offices in the Startfeld innovation centre, which is supported by Empa and four other partner institutions. And the cooperation between Empa and the start-up will continue in the future: Nahtlos is allowed to use Empa’s on-site diode laser for product development with customers and partners.