As a STEM class we were assigned an introductory project to e-textiles that was to create a glove or wrist brace that lights up when a certain action occurs. The type of sensors we had detects the conductivity of the skin; which can be tied to how much a person sweats. The more a person sweats, the higher the conductivity is. The less a person sweats, the lower the conductivity is.
My partner and I chose to do a wrist brace; Sweat Detector 3000. We made it so it lights up red when sweat is detected, and white when it is not. The following information documents our journey in making the band.
Science Behind the Band
Electronic textiles are a growing trend in society. They have multiple functions in both the science side of things and fashion. Scientists use e-textiles for things ranging from detecting heart rate, breathing rate, when someone is sweating/overheating, heating products, and even pads that can control your iPod (IfMachines).
Fashionistas may use e-textiles so the clothing may light up at certain times, with certain movements, or even completely changing color. You may even find a use for them with home items such as light up pillows or stuffed animals.
Photo Credit: Matthew Van Zandt
How It Works
A main component of electrical clothing are sensors that are used to detect whatever stimulate the function. There are many types of sensors that may be used in e-textiles. The one we used uses the conductivity of the user’s skin. It's the most important part of triggering the sensors.
Example of a sensor; ours has conductive threading holding down a piece of conductive fabric that has cotton ball padding under it in order for it to stick out.
The more electrolytes someone has, the more conductive their body/skin is. As someone sweats, their ions and electrolytes gather in the sweat and dampen the sensors which, as stated before, is what may provoke certain actions to happen; such as a light being turned on.
Skin can be just as conductive without sweat being present; some people are just naturally more conductive because their bodies contain more electrolytes, or have a higher concentration of salty foods prior to sweating which causes them to have the said higher conductivity. All of these things depend on weight, propensity for sweating, and overall body composition; so results vary amongst all individuals.
The Process of Creating
As a team we ran into multiple problems along our journey of making our Sweat Detector 3000 a reality. Such problems occurred in every step; the planning, the creating, and the troubleshooting.
First comes the planning. We originally drew our plans out on the brace using chalk. The chalk outlined where each component of the gadget would go.
Our game plan of where everything would go.
It was difficult to decide how everything would go because of how the brace works. The brace wraps around the wrist and in certain places, the pieces overlap, which was a difficult thing to work around because if we placed certain components where the overlaps occur, it may cause short circuits.
We kept putting the brace on and off after adding a part of the plan in chalk to make sure that where we placed everything would work.
Although we planned it so short circuits wouldn’t occur, they still did. Some of the conductive threading overlapped with others.
We had to tape certain places down and stitch felt to completely cover the back side of the bracelet [where all the threading is] so that when the brace is on, nothing overlaps.
All went well when the code was originally typed. However once it came time to test the process of the lights, the red lights wouldn’t turn on when they were supposed to.
It turned out that the code had the wrong pin typed in so we had to change it; but before we realized that was the problem we changed the sensor ranges and time between blinks at least 3 times, which was pretty agonizing.
These processes are challenging because they essentially were a nuisance. It was a pain in the neck to try and plan around the short circuits, having to rethread/resew things (around 5 times) due to trial and error, and having to sit there switching certain things within the code when it turned out to be one simple change.
The most successful part of the project was the moment it finally worked. It was really rewarding to put it on and have the lights actually work when they’re supposed to and see it in action. It gave us a sense of pride; almost like a proud parent showing off their kid.
What would i change?
Having the conductive thread be visible, and be a different color from the brace, it looks kind of tacky. If it would be a possibility I would change the color of the conductive thread to black so that it would blend into the brace better and not stick out as much.
If I was to add to this project I would add more sensors to the band that would also detect the heart rate of the user. This was our original intention with the brace; so adding it would be neat.
I would make it so if the heart rate got too high, added blue lights would blink, alerting the user that they should take a break from whatever they’re doing that made their heart rate exceed.
" Product F&Qs." International Fashion Machines. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Dec. 2016.
What Is the Clothing of the Future: SMART Wearables & E-textiles. Dir. Data Cube. YouTube. N.p., 17 Oct. 2015. Web. 18 Dec. 2016.