Wearable electronic devices are already quite popular, and you see them most often in the form of smartwatches and fitness trackers. Those were easy to integrate into our daily lives, because many people were already used to wearing wristwatches. But wearable technology has a lot more potential than that — if you can convince people to actually wear the devices. That’s why a team of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University have developed ElectroDermis, which is a fabrication system for creating wearable patches that are comfortable and aesthetically pleasing.
ElectroDermis is the result of collaboration between researchers in the Morphing Matter Lab and the Soft Machines Lab, both of which are part of Carnegie Mellon University. The goal of the project is to fabricate wearable electronic patches that can monitor the human body and make that data accessible. That’s not a new concept — many researchers around the world have already created wearable sensor patches that do that. What makes ElectroDermis stand out is the emphasis on comfort and style. Both of those are important factors if people are to be expected to actually wear the patches.
The primary breakthrough behind ElectroDermis is how the patches are fabricated. The researchers start by designing the shape of the patch in CAD, which tailors it to conform to a specific part of the human body. They then use those CAD files to cut the layers of the patch. Some layers are used for the electronics circuits, where the sensors and microcontrollers are attached. Other layers are used to protect the circuit and provide temporary adhesion on the skin. The layers are then stacked and laminated together with heat to form a single patch. As you can see, the resulting patches are quite fashionable and can be used to monitor everything from vital signs to joint movement.