Screen Time –

Flexible and wearable electronics are becoming a popular trend in tech. Consumers have adopted devices like smartwatches, fitness trackers, and smartwatches. The manufacturing process of these devices can be expensive, complicated, and error-prone.

High costs of materials are one of the major challenges for flexible, wearable electronic manufacturing. These materials, including sensors and flexible displays, are still very new and difficult to manufacture in large quantities. Manufacturers have a difficult time producing devices that are both high-quality and affordable.

The complexity of the manufacturing process is another major problem. Flexible electronic devices are made up of many steps. This includes the creation of flexible substrates, printing thin film transistors, and assembly. Each step must be performed with precision and accuracy. This can be challenging and increase the chance of making mistakes.

This process is contrasted with silk screening, also known for its printing techniques that have been around for centuries. This involves pushing ink through a screen or stencil onto a surface. You create the stencil by blocking sections of a mesh screen using a non-permeable substance. Only the desired design is allowed to pass through.

This process is simple enough to be done manually, but also requires minimal and affordable equipment. This process is most well-known for printing designs on tee shirts. So what does this have to do with wearable electronics? Washington State University researchers discovered this technique and started to experiment with it. Print electronic components that are flexible and wearable. like electrodes.

It involved printing multiple layers made of a mixture polyimide/polyethylene glycol on a glass slide. The silver layer was interspersed with a pattern, conductive layer. The screen-printed material can then be pulled off the slide and attached either to fabric or the body. The electrodes were made using a serpentine pattern. They are highly malleable. They could stretch up to 30% more than their normal size and bend up to 180 degrees with no damage.

Researchers put their new methods to test in a real-world experiment. The researchers developed and tested a wearable device that can monitor electrocardiograms wirelessly in real time. A combination of the printed electrodes and flexible circuit was used to calculate heart rates, respiratory rates and heart rate variability metrics. This latter metric could have clinical application in arrhythmia detection.

An advantage to the team’s approach is that it can easily scale up — the same techniques that they are using to create single devices can be used to mass produce a commercial wearable. That could prove to be very useful. This technology could also be used in smartwatches and fitness trackers.