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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.

With more than 30 years of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market, Ann Thompson brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting. She has reported for WKRC, WCKY, WHIO-TV, Metro Networks and CBS/ABC Radio. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2019 and 2011 A-P named her “Best Reporter” for large market radio in Ohio. She has won awards from the Association of Women in Communications and the Alliance for Women in Media. Ann reports regularly on science and technology in Focus on Technology.