At the University of Arizona a team of engineers have developed 3D-printed wearable devices that are custom made for each user. The personalized fit means that they do not require adhesives to stay in place. The technology can be used to monitor a variety of physiological parameters, including body temperature and muscle deformation during physical activity. Strikingly, the new devices do not require a battery, and instead use far-field energy harvesting to wirelessly obtain power from another nearby device, while communicating with a smartphone using Bluetooth.
Wearables promise a new frontier in continuous disease monitoring, with new technologies emerging on a regular basis. Customizing wearables makes sense, as everyone has a slightly different body shape, and there is a huge array of places on the body where wearables would be useful, requiring slightly different designs and sizes to fit well. These new wearables are created using 3D printing, based on body scans of the intended users, and this allows them to fit like a glove and obtain sensitive readings.
“If you want something close to core body temperature continuously, for example, you’d want to place the sensor in the armpit. Or, if you want to measure the way your bicep deforms during exercise, we can place a sensor in the devices that can accomplish that,” said Tucker Stuart, a researcher involved in the study, in a University of Arizona announcement. “Because of the way we fabricate the device and attach it to the body, we’re able to use it to gather data a traditional, wrist-mounted wearable device wouldn’t be able to collect.”
So far, the wearables created by the Arizona researchers resemble light-weight breathable mesh cuffs that can be worn around the arm or leg. Excitingly, they do not require a tethered wire or battery to receive power, and instead harvest power wirelessly from a power casting device that a user can set up in their home or office.
“There’s nothing like this out there,” said Philipp Gutruf, another researcher involved in the study. “We introduce a completely new concept of tailoring a device directly to a person and using wireless power casting to allow the device to operate 24/7 without ever needing to recharge.”
See a video about the technology below.