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Science and Technology

Making wearable electronics commonplace

The market for wearable electronics could top $3 billion by 2018, according to a new report. However, Beecham Research says with better collaboration between technology companies and the fashion industry, the market could be worth $9.3 billion by 2018.

Purdue University Researchers appear to be doing their part. Babak Ziaie, a professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, has discovered a simpler and cheaper way of attaching electronics to material.

Ziaie and his team are using a simple sewing machine and a zig-zag stitch to sew wire directly on regular fabric embedded in a rubbery, stretchable "elastomer" called Ecoflex, manufactured by Smooth-On Inc. It's capable of stretching 500 percent of its length.

The stretchable option allows for new applications, including biomedical:

  • a cap that patients wear to re-grow hair
  • "smart gloves" for health monitoring
  • "soft" robotics with whom people can better identify

Competing approaches require the use of complicated and expensive microfabrication techniques in a clean room.
The research was funded by the National Science Foundation.