2023 Author: Bryan Walter | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-21 22:24
Engineers from the Netherlands and Canada have developed a method for creating a two-layer garment with buttons integrated into the fabric. They proposed embroidering an electrical circuit with conductive threads and using a 3D printer to print plastic buttons on fabric with thin metal plates that complete the circuit. An article about the method was presented at the DIS 2020 conference.
There are quite a few attempts to create smart clothes: mostly research projects, although there are already commercial examples, such as the jacket from Google and Levi's. As a rule, they have the same, still unresolved, problem: it is difficult to make clothes with electronic components as flexible, stretchable and, as a result, comfortable to wear as regular jackets or sweatshirts. In particular, there is a problem with the buttons, so you have to use either flat touch surfaces that do not give the usual tactile response, or ordinary hard buttons that are uncomfortable when worn on the body.
Engineers led by Rong-Hao Liang of the Eindhoven University of Technology have created a simple method that allows buttons to be embedded in clothing, while still using standard sewing techniques. The clothing created by this method consists of two layers of fabric. On the bottom layer from the inside, you need to embroider a simple electronic circuit, consisting of intersecting but not touching conductive threads, embroidered along and across.
On the outside of the top layer, engineers 3D printed or embroidered hexagonal buttons with a circle in the middle using a sewing machine. As in the case of the bottom layer, the fabric was stretched before this. Due to this, after the button was printed and the fabric stopped stretching, the area of the fabric with the button rose above the rest of the part and took shape.
On the inside of the button layer, the authors glued thin copper plates. When the user presses the button, the plate touches two intersecting conductive paths of the adjacent layer, and a circuit closure occurs, which is registered by the Arduino board connected to them.
Button Array Electrical Diagram
Implementation of the circuit on fabric using conductive and non-conductive threads
For example, the authors sewed a sleeve with an array of hexagonal buttons: such a sleeve can track in real time both individual buttons and several buttons simultaneously.
Recently, American engineers have learned how to create clothing with dozens of temperature and motion sensors. In it there are strips with conductive tracks and sensors hidden from the surrounding layers between the layers of fabric. Data from them is collected by a small device that attaches to clothes through ordinary buttons-fasteners.