Fishing is a dangerous profession, but new intelligent protective clothing can improve the conditions for those who work at sea.

Imagine a rough sea, a deck that is smooth as ice, changing temperatures and working gear that you can get caught on or struck by. The sea is a dangerous place to work and fishermen can easily find themselves in risky situations which place great demands on their protective clothing.

Clothes that make a difference
”A fisherman falls overboard into the sea. He isn’t wearing a lifejacket because it’s heavy and too warm when he’s working on deck. What can be done to improve his situation?” Director Christian Dalsgaard from Ohmatex outlines the scenario to explain the aims of the Safe@Sea project.

The solution is to improve the protection offered by the fisherman’s clothing. If the clothes can be manufactured from buoyant materials it could make a big difference to unlucky seamen who fall overboard and wait to be rescued. It would make it easier to stay afloat until help arrives, just as built in sensors can aid faster localisation in the water.

“But it doesn’t have to be that dramatic”, says Christian Dalsgaard and explains that “fishermen will also benefit from the improved protective clothing in everyday working situations because of the work done to make garments puncture and tear resistant, lightweight and comfortable and of course still water and dirt repellent”.

If a fisherman fumbles with a fishing hook or other equipment, the clothing won’t be damaged and more importantly – he won’t be hurt.

Technology? It’s something you wear!
Ohmatex is a small company with a staff of seven who develop intelligent textiles in Aarhus, Denmark. Conductive yarns, ribbons and elastics are sewn into clothing to enable implementation of various functions that benefit users. Ohmatex encapsulates the electronics in the textile so to speak and are one of the pioneers in this field.

Smart textiles are a relatively new business area offering great opportunities for a small company to make its mark. Innovation and development are not exclusively for larger companies but thrive in a small company like Ohmatex.

“In time of course, we intend to expand,” says Christian Dalsgaard. “There should be good opportunities for this because the market for intelligent textiles is growing so rapidly.”

How does innovation arise?
Good ideas don’t arise of their own accord; they must be thought of, searched for, refined and pursued before they develop into practical products and useful knowledge. For such a small company as Ohmatex, a professional network is extremely important for innovation to flourish. The company visits other firms, takes part in network meetings and collaborates with research groups throughout Europe.

The Safe@Sea project, for example, was launched after a meeting focussing on smart textiles at DTU. The team behind the new fisherman’s clothing consists of companies of different sizes with Helly Hansen and SINTEF amongst the larger partners. SINTEF is a privately owned Norwegian research organisation and coordinator for the project.

“When Ohmatex develop their part of the Safe@Sea project, it is extremely important to think in end-user needs and the environment that materials will have to function in” says Christian Dalsgaard. As an example, he describes how the protective clothing must be able to withstand both salt water and laundering in a washing machine. Without damaging the integrated electronics of course.

Fire-fighters suits and a lighted sofa
Safe@Sea is just one of a number of innovative projects that Ohmatex is involved in. The company has already developed a fire-fighters suit with integrated temperature sensors and the next big project will hopefully be to create lighting textiles in collaboration with electronics giant Philips.

“Imagine a lighted sofa, or maybe a T-shirt” suggests Christian Dalsgaard. “Light is important for both health and mood.” In other words, there will be many more serious uses for luminous fabrics.

Contact person:
Director Christian Dalsgaard, tel. +45 86205168, mobile +45 40966951, email: chd@ohmatex.dk

Visit the Safe@Sea website.