STRETCHTRONICS: Soft and Stretchable Mechatronics for Wearable Devices: Fabrication, Implementation and Applications

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"Portuguese Centers of Excellence, such as ISR-UC, can attract the best talents in the country in order to develop State of the art research in cooperation with one of the best engineering schools of the world -CMU. ERI allows international collaboration on leading edge technologies. We truly congratulate the program coordinators and appreciate the efforts behind this program. ERI is an absolutely necessary measure, since such collaboration is rarely possible through any other European funding.” Aníbal Almeida and Carmel Majidi 

 Portuguese PI
Aníbal Traça de Almeida
(ISR-Coimbra; UC)

CMU PI
Carmel Majidi (ME)


 

Research teams: Carnegie Mellon University (CMU); Instituto de Sistemas e Robótica (ISR-COIMBRA); Instituto Politécnico de Leiria (IPLEIRIA); Universidade de Coimbra (UC)
Organizations: Centro Tecnológico da Indústria de Moldes, Ferramentas Especiais e Plásticos (CENTIMFE)
Main Research Unit: Instituto de Sistemas e Robótica (ISR-COIMBRA)

Funding Reference: CMUP-ERI/TIC/0021/2014
Duration: 48 months 
Keywords: Soft MEMS; Human Machine Interaction Wearable technology; Additive Manufacturing

 Machines in engineering use mostly hard materials, while living systems in nature are often soft. This conspicuous contrast has been an inspiration for the novel field of soft machines.
Embedding electronics on low-cost and flexible substrates holds promise for wearable devices such as health monitoring suits, fitness trackers and entertaining industry, as well as other fields such as soft antennas, soft batteries, soft sensors, mobile robotics, grasping mechanisms, and more. Flexible and ultra-thin electronics can be attached to the skin and can follow the dynamic morphology of the skin. Once attached to the skin, they can detect the electrical signals such as the heart rate and muscular activities, and can be used as health monitoring devices, or Human Machine Interfaces (HMI). Soft and Wearable technologies aim to develop Products that are extension of the body and not a separate hang on and are an important step toward realization of ubiquitous systems.

 
This project intends to investigate the methods for fabrication of soft and stretchable MEMS in small and large quantities and at the same time develop wearable systems with a good market potential. This includes:
1. A low cost accessible FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) printer for prototyping purposes
2. An SL (StereoLithography) printer for fast, precise and   compact soft electronics. The role of these printers would be creating flexible and stretchable MEMS (Micro Electro-Mechanical Systems) elements that integrate conductive and insulator polymers with arbitrary 3D shapes, to form soft electronics and eventually upgrading this to a “4D printer”, to develop soft elements that can change their shape by applying heat or voltage to the system by integration of Shape Memory Polymers (SMPs).

We will also investigate the possibility of scaling up the process for higher quantity production.  In parallel the consortium will continue the research on the applications of these elements. This includes a mesh of soft pressure sensors to develop a MEMS skin, to be used in prosthetic devices as well as robotic systems, a wristband as a general purpose HMI device and pieces of a wearable technology for tracking the motion profile and kinematics of a human. This proposal also considers two calls for small projects (15 projects each time) that can be performed by MSc and PhD students.

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The Phase II of the Carnegie Mellon Portugal Program emphasizes advanced education and research that can lead to significant entrepreneurial impact. The activities of the program are for the most part configured in Entrepreneurial Research Initiatives (ERIs).

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