World’s first knitting teacher retires
Tilak Dias’ academic career started when he joined the University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka as an Assistant Lecturer in Knitting Technology after earning a “Diplom-Ingenieur” degree in Textile Engineering with Summa Cum Laude from the Technische Universität Dresden in 1981. In 1988 he obtained a ‘Dr.-Ingenieur’ also in textile engineering with Magna Cum Laude from the Universität Stuttgart.
After serving the University of Moratuwa for over a decade, Tilak joined the Department of Textiles at UMIST (University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, now the University of Manchester) in 1992, with the vision of conduct world-class research with technologists and researchers working at the forefront of knitting systems research.
During the early years of his tenure at UMIST, Tilak focused his research on quality control and assurance of the knitting process; his doctoral research at the Institut fὕr Textil- und Verfahrenstechnik (ITV) Denkendorf provided the impetus for this line of research which resulted in the development of intelligent microprocessor-based thread delivery systems to control the stitch length of fabrics produced on computerized flat knitting machines and circular knitting machines with a very high degree of precision.
Technical medical textiles
The integration of mechatronic systems with flat knitting machines has revolutionized weft knitting technology, where the needles, stitch cam settings, fabric shrinkage and needle bed draw-off are controlled very precisely by hand. using microprocessors. This technology was first introduced by machine manufacturer Stoll GmbH for the knitting industry to improve modeling and shaping efficiency.
However, Tilak realized as early as 1990 the potential of this technology as a tool for creating complex, seamless 3D shell structures and shaped spacer structures for non-fashion related applications, and decided to use this technology as a platform to develop a new area of research. knitted medical textiles, designed for a pre-determined functionality, e.g. medical products/devices formed in three dimensions to conform to the patient’s medical needs, by merging flat knitting and 3D body scanning technologies.
In 2002 Tilak expanded his research into the integration of electronics into textiles and is the most established academic in the UK to have embarked on this line of research. His research at UMIST resulted in a number of groundbreaking inventions – the Scan2Knit custom compression stocking technology in 2002 (marketed by Advanced Therapeutic Materials Ltd.) and the technology to produce three-dimensionally shaped shoe uppers seamless in 2004, with his colleague William Hurley. , which resulted in the now famous Nike ‘FlyKnit’. A spin-off company SmartLife Technology was also created by UMIST to exploit Tilak’s research into knitted electrodes, conductive pathways, and stretch sensors.
Tilak then joined Nottingham Trent University (NTU) in 2010 as a Professor of Knitting and formed the Advanced Textiles Research Group (ATRG) within the Nottingham School of Art and Design in 2011, to pursue his vision research on advanced knit structures and electronic textiles.
The perception of the title of Tilak, the teacher of knitting, which is a craft activity, is very different from some of the research he has undertaken, such as the development of infurrable wire mesh for satellite technology – Using advanced textiles to enhance UK-based technology and manufacturing capability in the US satellite space telecommunications industry.
During the final phase of his college career at NTU, Tilak invented a technology to embed micro-semiconductor devices into yarn fibers to produce smart e-textiles.
Tilak has supervised 25 doctorates and 5 MPhil and was named inventor on 80 patents. His research has resulted in the establishment of three UK-based academic ventures and he has given over 60 guest lectures. Tilak also edited the first book on e-textiles and is the author of over 180 scientific papers for leading international journals and research conferences.