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Design Job: Rock the Boat as Boston Whaler's Senior Designer in Edgewater, FL

Core 77 - Thu, 2017-12-07 21:41

Work in a loose and exciting environment while seeing your ideas come to life. You will generate and develop concepts for Brunswick Boat Group products with a focus on Boston Whaler. Create exciting products through a process that has a strong focus on user centered design through extensive contextual research. You will gain an understanding of how and why people use boats and be able to translate insights, while using your intuition, into industry leading products.

View the full design job here

Worx's JawSaw: An Unusual Twist on the Chainsaw

Core 77 - Thu, 2017-12-07 21:41

The JawSaw by Worx is a very strange-looking chainsaw variant. Take a look at how this thing operates:

It kind of looks like a toy so I wasn't inclined to take it seriously, but it's getting surprisingly good reviews on Amazon.

I'm thinking that if they do another remake of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," Worx should pay for product placement.

Want a Han Solo Parka? Columbia is Selling "Empire Strikes Back" Outerwear

Core 77 - Thu, 2017-12-07 21:41

Clothing brand Columbia has licensed the rights to fashion designs from "The Empire Strikes Back" and, starting on Friday, will be selling the following items:

These are limited edition, with the company only producing 1,980 of each (1980 being the year "ESB" came out). Each one costs $400.

"It is TOO eco-friendly. It's not real fur, you stupid droid." "I really want some of that spaghetti, but I don't want to mess up this outfit." "I know this base like the back of my hand. My right hand, which I will always have."

Japanese House With an Anti-Seismic, Climbable Bookshelf

Core 77 - Thu, 2017-12-07 21:41

Earthquakes in Japan are common enough that when I lived there, I saw that most folks had braces between the top of their bookshelves and the ceiling. These were basically spring-loaded closet rods placed vertically that prevented the unit from tipping forward, but did nothing to prevent the books themselves from shaking out of the shelves.

Japanese architect Shinsuke Fujii has designed a house with a built-in bookcase that is tilted, keeping the books in place during quakes. It is also floor-to-ceiling and climbable, as the shelves protrude.

As you can see from this exterior shot, the house was designed with this feature in mind.

Machine Control Logic Design in 3 Basic Steps

Design News - Thu, 2017-12-07 03:51

Automation continues to push Industry 4.0 with various sensor and embedded technologies. In an industrial panel, the machine controls are designed to perform specific work. The operation of machines includes analog, digital, and motion control capabilities. The machine controls must operate with full functionality as designed. To design machine controls for such industrial applications as parts transfer, material handling, and processing a design process must be established. To develop these industry systems, a design methodology is required.  Three basic design methodology sections required in developing machine controls consists of control signals, decision, and action.


The logic control for industrial machines can be divided into three basic sections. (Source: Don Wilcher)


Control Signal

The control signal initiates the machine control operation through a set of electromechanical contacts or repetitive electronic switching. The target control device such as an electromechanical relay, solenoid, or visual-audible annunciator will be activated by control signals. If the electromechanical or electronic switching device is not active, the control signal will not energize the target electromechanical or electronic load. The machine controls specification will provide the type of electromechanical or electronic switching device to use for the desired control signal.

Examples of control signal devices consist of the following electromechanical or electronic components:

  • pushbutton switches
  • limit switches
  • flow switches
  • temperature switches
  • photoswitches
  • HMI panels
  • proximity switches

Decision Section

The work to be done by the machine control is achieved by decisions. The heart of the decision section is a core digital processing system. A digital processing system can be divided into two subsections: data paths and control logic. The digital paths include arithmetic and data movement circuits like basic adders and shift registers. The control logic provides timing signals to orchestrate proper sequences for correct machine operation. The decisions are accomplished by a central processing unit. In the early days of programmable machine controls a microprocessor was used. Today, FPGAs, PSoCs, or ARM-Cortex based microcontrollers can perform decision processing activities efficiently and rapidly. Arithmetic, sequencing, low level logic, and control operations are typical decision activities carried out in the machine controls programmable processor. Combinational circuits using basic logic gates like AND, OR, NOT, NAND, NOR, and EXOR perform low level decisions for the target machine control. These low- level gates can be implemented using FPGAs or PSoCs.

The decision section receives control signals from the electromechanical or electronic switching device. The electrical information will be in an analog or digital format in which the decision section will process. An appropriate output signal is provided that will drive a specific machine control action. The decision functions are traditionally coded in a high-level language such as C, C++, or a graphical format consisting of a ladder logic program. The actual decision parameters will be provided in the machine controls’ functional specification.


The CPU performs the decision activity for industrial machine controls. Programmable ICs like microcontrollers or FPGAs can provide central processing of control signals generated by electrical-electronic input devices. (Source: Don Wilcher)


After the decision section processing logic functions have been specified in a software requirements specification, the output action function needs to be specified. The action is traditionally physical either providing motion, visual, or audible function. The action directs the motion, visual, or audible effects of the machine control. Motors, solenoids, LED pilot lamps, LCD displays, and electronic annunciators are examples of electromechanical and electronic action components used for output machine control functions. The CPU’s output control data can be sent to electromechanical or electronic actuators hardwired to an industrial machine control panel using traditional MC (machine control) wire. Another alternative to MC wire is AS-Interface (Actuator Sensor) which is a simple two-wire network. AS-interface is a wiring replacement that connects electromechanical or electronic actuators to a CPU-based industrial machine control panel by a digital communication protocol.


AS-Interface based machine controllers can replace traditional MC wire that direct the actions of such electromechanical actuators like solenoids and motors. (Source: Siemens)


Electromechanical relays and solid-state drives operate based on the machine controls’ direct- action capability. Partitioning your machine control designs into these three basic sections will allow industrial systems to be designed effectively. Testing and troubleshooting industrial systems can also be performed using this basic design methodology, as well.

This design method presented will serve as a template for future automation and machine control applications. Additional information on electromechanical and industrial solid-state devices can be found in the Electrical Motor Controls for Integrated Systems fifth addition textbook. AS-Interface protocol can be found on the Siemens website.

Don Wilcher is a passionate teacher of electronics technology and an electrical engineer with 26 years of industrial experience. He’s worked on industrial robotics systems, automotive electronic modules/systems, and embedded wireless controls for small consumer appliances. He’s also a book author, writing DIY project books on electronics and robotics technologies. Besides being an Electrical Engineer, he’s a Certified Electronics Technician with ETA International and Alabama State Certified Electronics Instructor.

DoE Identifies Material as Fastest Solid-State Conductor for Magnesium Battery

Design News - Thu, 2017-12-07 02:28

Magnesium batteries are one of the energy-storage chemistries in line to replace lithium-ion batteries, which are eco-unfriendly and can even be dangerous. However, to date magnesium batteries have had a number of limitations to being suitable to the task.


Now researchers at the Department of Energy (DoE) have made a significant breakthrough in developing solid-state magnesium-ion batteries that are both energy dense and safe by discovering the fastest magnesium-ion solid-state conductor to date, researchers said.


Commercial batteries use liquid electrolytes—the reason for the flammability in lithium-ion batteries that has resulted in fires and explosions. However, solid-state conductors—which potentially can be electrolytes—tend to be more fire resistant.


Using something like this instead of an electrolyte is a good fit for magnesium batteries, which is so new, “it doesn’t have any good liquid electrolytes,” said Gerbrand Ceder, a senior faculty scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory who worked on the project alongside researchers at Argonne National Laboratory and MIT. “We thought, why not leapfrog and make a solid-state electrolyte?”

Researchers identified magnesium scandium selenide spinel as the material for a new class of solid conductors that researchers said can transport magnesium at unprecedented speeds. They used a combination of computational materials, science methodologies, synthesis, and a variety of characterization techniques to identify the material, which has magnesium mobility.

Researchers published a paper about their work in the journal Nature Communications.


Argonne scientist Baris Key (left) at work in his nuclear magnetic resonance lab. Key worked with researchers at Berkeley Lab on the discovery of the fastest-ever magnesium-ion solid-state conductor. (Source: Argonne National Laboratory)


Key to proving that magnesium ions could move through magnesium scandium selenide spinel as rapidly as theoretical studies had predicted was conducting what are called nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy experiments. This was the job of paper co-author Baris Key, a research chemist at Argonne.

He said that the tests—which were among the first experiments to prove the theoretical research—were crucial to confirm that what scientists surmised was indeed true.

“It is not often that the theory and the experiment agree closely with each other,” Key said. “The solid state NMR experiments for this chemistry were very challenging. … As we’ve shown in this study, an in-depth understanding of short- and long-range structure and ion dynamics will be the key for magnesium ion battery research.”

NMR is similar to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), but instead of showing hydrogen atoms of water in biological substances, it is tuned to detect other elements--including the lithium or magnesium ions that are found in battery materials.

However, though the experiments proved the speed at which ions move through it, other results were inconclusive due to the unknown structure of a material with complex properties, Key said.

The team plans to do further work to use the conductor in a battery, although researchers acknowledged that it will be quite awhile before this application is ready for prime time. However, it does prove what scientists did not think was possible—that magnesium could move quickly through a solid material, they said.

Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer who has written about technology and culture for more than 15 years.



UBM Announces the 2017 Annual Creativity in Electronics Awards Winners

Design News - Wed, 2017-12-06 22:58

Winners of the 2017 Annual Creativity in Electronics (ACE) Awards were announced during a live ceremony held at the San Jose Convention Center, in conjunction with Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) Silicon Valley.

Twenty leading organizations and individuals, including Ajay Bhatt, co-creator of USB, received accolades for their trending new products and accomplishments, as well as several other awards, including company of the year, executive of the year, design team of the year, IoT product of the year, and the Tomorrow’s Reality Award.

Ajay Bhatt, co-creator of USB, received the Lifetime Achievement Award during last night's ACE Awards ceremony.

“We are honored to recognize some of the brightest minds in the electronics industry for their impeccable achievements at the 2017 ACE Awards,” said Nina Brown, vice president of events, UBM. “This is an industry that is continually on the cutting-edge of innovation and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to fully identify the impact that they are having on the world.”

The 2017 ACE Award winners are:

Company of the Year: Achronix Semiconductor Corporation 

Executive of the Year: Sam Heidari - Quantenna

Design Team of the Year: NEO Tech - NEO Tech Design Services 

Internet of Things Product of the Year: Analog Devices - SmartMesh IP with Virtual Manager 

Tomorrow's Reality: Bedrock Automation - Bedrock Open Secure Automation System with Cybershield 2.0

Ultimate Products Category Winners:

Analog ICs: Analog Devices - LTC2947 

Automotive: Maxim Integrated - MAX2175 Remote Tuner Solution 

Development Kits: Nordic Semiconductor - Nordic Thingy:52 

LEDs and Lighting: OSRAM Opto Semiconductors - IR OSLON - SFH 4735

Logic/Interface/Memory: Marvell Technology Group - Marvell 88NV1160 DRAM-less SSD controller 

Passive, Interconnects and Electromechanical: Vishay Intertechnology - T59 Polymer Surface-Mount Chip Capacitors 

Power: Maxwell Technologies - Maxwell Technologies Generator Starting Solutions (GSS) 

Processors (CPUs, MPUs, MCUs, SoC, FPGAs): Cypress Semiconductor Corp. – PsoC 6 

Sensors: Texas Instruments - mmWave 

Software: Jungo Connectivity Ltd. - CoDriver

Test and Measurement Systems and Boards: Tektronix - 5 Series MSO

Wireless/RF: Maja Systems - 60Ghz CMOS Single Chip Transceiver 

In addition, the ACE Awards also honored Ajay Bhatt, former chief architect at Intel and co-creator of USB, with the Lifetime Achievement Award; and Daniel Beeker, principal engineer, NXP Semiconductor, with the first-ever ESC Speaker of the Year Award. The Jim Williams Innovation and Education Award, which is presented to an engineer who has made substantial contributions to the advancement of knowledge in the field of engineering and design by publishing his or her own technical articles, speaking at industry events, or otherwise sharing experience that adds to the growth of engineering, was presented to Jacob Beningo, embedded software consultant, Beningo Embedded Group.

Congratulations to all of our winners!


Nike's Bras & Innovation Design Director Nicole Rendone Shares Her "Active Gifts for Active Women" Ultimate Gift Guide

Core 77 - Wed, 2017-12-06 21:40

Nicole Rendone is the Design Director for Nike Bras & Innovation with more than?12?years of experience designing bras, underwear, swimwear and intimate apparel innovation. A graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology in Fashion Design; Intimate Apparel, Rendone works closely with designers and innovators within the Nike Innovation Team as well as engineering teams to create new, performance solutions for the most important sporting garment for women. A strong believer that the right bra can change a woman’s life, she is spearheading?Nike bra design to empower women to break barriers with confidence in both sport and in life.

View the full content here

Reader Submitted: A Log Splitting Device Designed for... Children?

Core 77 - Wed, 2017-12-06 21:40

For my honors research in Integrated Product Design at the University of Technology Sydney, I designed an interactive log splitting device intended for children to use in daycare centers. The machine explores the child developmental theory of risky play through harnessing mechanical principles, cause and effect and mimicry.

'Stop That!' 'Watch out!' 'Be Careful!'

These phrases are pervasive among modern parents. Increasingly, however, research shows children benefit from risky play, and over-protection can be counterproductive. Risky play is the combination of fear and exhilaration. It permits children to test their boundaries and flirt with uncertainty. Moreover, it offers valuable lessons for life, and for this reason fire pits and other higher risk experiences are being trialled in early child-hood centers around Australia.
Chop is an interactive log splitting device, designed for children, allowing them to contribute to the first step in the fire-making process.

Safety is paramount. The notion of danger is key.

Children work together to rotate a spring loaded axe into a log. The spring compresses, building anticipation and offering a visualization of the force involved. Eventually, the pressure reaches a critical point and as the log begins to split, the spring unloads, shooting into the log, providing an exhilarating reward for the children's hard work.

View the full project here

Design Job: Design (Not Decorate!) Your Dream Job as a Restoration Hardware Interior Designer in Philadelphia, PA

Core 77 - Wed, 2017-12-06 21:40

We are designers, not decorators. That distinction means that we look at a project in the context of the entire space, or the whole, rather than as parts or components. RH designers understand the art and science of lifestyle, environment and taste to create a functional, beautiful and personal space. We provide luxury design services for the reimagining of one room or an entire home, anywhere in the world. Our designers embody the RH lifestyle and a sense of personal style, polished appearance,

View the full design job here

Today's Urban Design Observation: Anti-Craftsmanship

Core 77 - Wed, 2017-12-06 21:40

Manhattan's Chinatown is filled with shops, and many of them have outdoor displays. During the day you can't see the actual display unit, just the goods covering them. But early in the morning the displays are visible.

They are functional, and only that. Visually they are horrific-looking. I call it anti-craftsmanship. They are built with no thought to aesthetics, longevity nor pride. The materials used are always construction-grade plywood and dimensional lumber joined with sheetrock screws, and the absolute minimum amount of materials and labor are used. For instance here you can see they did not have enough wood to extend this shelf all the way to the back of the unit, so they've straddled the gap with three small pieces.

This piece has been designed to straddle the sidewalk hatch and allows it to be accessed without displacing the unit. The unit lives outside 24-7, and you can see the plywood has not weathered the elements well. The neighborhood kids have tagged it up for good measure.

This unit is in front of a florist, and each morning they cover it with plants and it essentially disappears.

From Transformers to Real-Life Robots: Harald Belker on the Evolution of Design

Core 77 - Wed, 2017-12-06 21:40

Thirty years ago, German-born Harald Belker never imagined he would get the chance to work in the US. Today, we chatted to him from his home in Marina Del Rey, Los Angeles, about his illustrious career in industrial design.

Harald's career is show stopping. From designing cars for high-end automotive brands, to creating iconic vehicles for some of Hollywood's biggest movies, his portfolio is the envy of designers around the world. Having spent the first four years of his career in automotive design working for the likes of Porsche and Mercedes Benz, it wasn't long before the big screen beckoned, and California looked like it could become a permanent home.

Harald's career in film design took off with a flying start, working on Joel Schumacher's 1997 film Batman and Robin. Over the next eighteen years, Harald added more impressive strings to his bow, designing iconic vehicles for a roster of blockbusters including Armageddon, Transformers and Iron Man.

These days, Harald's design work has become more physical. He now focuses most of his work on product design. One of his most recent successes is Cozmo: a gifted little robot created in his current role as Head Vehicle Designer at artificial intelligence start-up, Anki.

We spoke to Harald about his views on the transformation of an industry, from sketching the Batmobile, to 3D modeling real-life robots using cutting-edge tools like Modo:

You've had an incredible career story so far; do you have any particular highlights?

I enjoy the futuristic element of design, so a highlight for me was designing the cars in Minority Report, and later the work I did for Tron: Legacy and Total Recall. I was often just designing things that destroy other things, but those particular films really stretched the envelope of what you could do, and let you design with the future in mind.

And, of course, I got to design the Batmobile. It doesn't get much better than that!

You've worked across a breadth of sectors; how do they differ when it comes to design?

I've always been involved in product design. I've designed furniture and also worked for a sunglass company for twelve years. Product and automotive typically go hand in hand, but they have their differences.

When designing a product, things work relatively quickly. Designing cars, for instance, takes much longer. With film, what you're creating just has to look good, whereas with product, everything has to be functional. You work closely with engineers to make it work.

How have 3D modeling tools like Modo helped your line of work?

Modo has helped massively with the communication of my work. As a designer, I know in my head how a design should look, but communicating that to another person is hard. You think you've been clear, but the final product still comes back different sometimes. Modo reduces the risk of this kind of miscommunication.

With Modo, you can literally make adjustments in five minutes. Someone can request edits over Skype and in no time at all you're able to send back revised designs. It's ridiculous how easy it is.

Before Modo I worked with CAD design tools. With CAD, you had to have a firm idea of what you were doing before moving to 3D. With Modo, things develop more naturally. These days, for everything beyond sketches, I use Modo.

Do you have a favorite tool within Modo?

The Edge Weight tool is my favourite. I use it on almost everything!

Can you tell us more about Cozmo, your AI robot?

Cozmo was three years in the making. He was thought up by Anki's Co-founder Hanns Tappeiner, and partially inspired by Disney's WALL-E. He's built to interact beautifully with humans; the programming is amazing. First and foremost it's a toy, but it's also a device that will help those who use it to learn how to code, which is a wonderful thing.

What was the process for designing such a unique product?

Together, Hanns and I explored what we thought this robot would look like. It had to have arms, eyes and wheels, but the face was the most important thing. I was inspired by the way Disney magically make inanimate objects look human. I wanted to create a robot that people could relate to on an emotional level. 

Overall, I think Cozmo went through about 20 changes in design. Technically speaking, Cozmo was relatively small compared to other products I had worked on. The reason he took so long to create was due to the number improvements that kept coming through. It had to be perfect.

How did Modo help you design Cozmo?

The beautiful thing about Modo is that it's as much a sketch tool as it is a renderer, or 3D modeling tool. You can generate basic surfaces and designs unbelievably quickly. The guys at Anki saw how quickly you can get things done in Modo, and how realistic the end result is. Cozmo ended up looking exactly the way we imagined he would. We were all very happy with him.

Were there any challenges that you had to overcome?

From a design perspective, Cozmo was relatively complex. Overall it came together very naturally. I'd say the main challenge was dealing with alterations to the dimensions and restrictions put in place by the engineers. The robot needed to be functional as well as visually impressive, which meant we needed to make modifications to the design as we went along. Thankfully, in Modo, you can just move things around until they match what is required, which makes the process relatively painless.

How has 3D design changed in your lifetime?

It's changed a huge amount. In the old days, we'd spend a lot of time working up sketches and control drawings for basic scenes and shapes before moving into CAD. I still remember the day a friend told me about Modo, and it completely changed my outlook on design. Suddenly it was possible to manage the entire 3D process with one tool. It made the job so much easier, faster and more enjoyable.

Then there's the technology. I started my career in automotive design, and now I'm building AI robots for kids!

What advice would you give to someone wanting to improve their design skills?

My advice to those looking to improve their design capabilities would be to keep challenging yourself to try different methods and tools. I've always learned new techniques throughout my career, and I'm still learning today. For example, in Modo, I'm spending a lot of time getting to grips with the MeshFusion tools. I love challenging myself with new concepts and I'm always looking to improve, whatever stage I'm at in my career.


Modo is an award-winning 3D modeling, texturing and rendering tool from visual effects software developer Foundry. Leading artists choose Modo for creating real-time content in product design, games and VR, iterating on concepts and bringing bold ideas to life.

Visit https://www.foundry.com/products/modo to see how designers from all industries are using Modo to take their creative ideas to the next level.

Ford Will Offer 15 New Electrified Vehicles in China

Design News - Wed, 2017-12-06 05:32

Ford Motor Co. said yesterday it is making a big bet on electric vehicles in China, promising to roll out at least 15 new electrified cars in that market by 2025.

The rollout will include plug-in hybrids from Ford and Lincoln, as well as a contingent of battery-electric vehicles through a joint venture with Chinese automaker Zotye International Automobile Trading Co., Ltd. It is part of a larger plan to introduce a total of 50 new vehicles of various types to the Chinese market over the next eight years.

The company said its emphasis on electrification is a response to the rapid changes in the Chinese auto market. “China is not only the largest car market in the world, it’s also at the heart of electric vehicle and SUV growth and the mobility movement,” executive chairman Bill Ford said in a statement.

Industry experts said the announcement is significant because it establishes Ford as a presence in the fast-growing Chinese EV market. “Clearly, this is Ford saying, ‘We’re in the game,’” Brett Smith, an assistant director at the Center for Automotive Research, told Design News. “Ford realizes that to be in the game in China, they’ll have to develop and build these vehicles.”

Ford’s announcement builds atop a joint venture agreement that it made in November, in which it said it would establish Zotye Ford Automobile Co. Ltd to build and sell electric passenger cars in China. The new company is leveraging a combined investment of $756 million. It has not offered any detail on the technology or the vehicles it plans to produce, however.


In November, Ford signed a joint venture agreement with Zotye Auto to build and sell electric passenger cars in China. (Source: Ford Motor Co.)


The Chinese market has recently become important to automakers because it sells more EVs than any other market in the world. China is expected to be responsible for nearly half of all worldwide plug-in vehicle sales in 2017, according to EV-volumes.com. Topping out at more than 500,000, its sales are now more than twice those of the US EV market.

The key to the growth of the Chinese market has been a major government push to sell more EVs. Local and central governments have reportedly allotted subsidies worth up about $15,000 per vehicle, according to a recent article in the Financial Times. In large population centers, Chinese consumers also have little chance of obtaining license plates for new gas-burning cars, creating a mandate of sorts for EVs.

For reasons such as those, and because there is a requirement for manufacturers to have Chinese partners in certain industries, automakers outside China have begun to form joint EV ventures. Earlier this year, Renault-Nissan signed an agreement to partner with state-owned Dongfeng Motor Corp., while Volkswagen said it would team up with state-owned JAC Motors. Ford, Renault-Nissan and Volkswagen are just three of the 200-plus companies that have announced intentions to build and sell EVs in China.

For automakers, the question is whether China will remain committed to its policies long enough to build a foundation for its EV market. Earlier this year, when the country temporarily put constraints on its subsidy programs, sales dropped. After the constraints were subsequently removed, sales resumed. “There were almost no sales in January and February, so everyone thought it was going to be a down year,” noted Christopher Robinson, an industry analyst for Lux Research Inc.. “But here they were in Q3, selling twice as many EVs as any other country.”

Most observers believe, however, that China will remain committed to its policies, at least for the foreseeable future. “There’s not a lot of indication that China will change course,” Smith told us. “They’ve been pretty strong on this.”

Read More Articles on Automotive Technology:

Tesla Debuts Electric Beast Semi Truck

The Ten Least Reliable Automotive Brands

10 of History's Greatest American Pickup Trucks

12 Vehicle Infotainment Systems That Distract Drivers

The EV Trend Is Now Irreversible

GM to Produce 20 New Electric Cars by 2023


Senior technical editor Chuck Murray has been writing about technology for 33 years. He joined Design News in 1987, and has covered electronics, automation, fluid power, and auto.



Pacific Design & Manufacturing, North America’s premier conference that connects you with thousands of professionals across the advanced design & manufacturing spectrum, is back at the Anaheim Convention Center February 6-8, 2018! Over three days, uncover software innovation, hardware breakthroughs, fresh IoT trends, product demos and more that will change how you spend time and money on your next project. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER TODAY!



Ultra-Thin Micro-Fiber Sensed Eyed for Medical Monitoring, Diagnostic Apps

Design News - Wed, 2017-12-06 02:51

Researchers in Singapore have developed one of the smallest and most versatile sensors yet for healthcare applications with the design of a stretchable microfiber sensor with the diameter of a strand of human hair.

A team from the National University of Singapore (NUS) developed the sensor, which can be woven into textiles—such as a glove—to monitor the vital signs of patients, such as heart rates and blood pressure.

The sensor solves a key challenge to the development of wearable technology—the lack of comfort in the design of the sensors necessary to provide the data-collection technology such devices use, said Professor Lim Chwee Teck of the Department of Biomedical Engineering in the National University of Singapore (NUS) Faculty of Engineering.

“Wearable and flexible technology has gained significant interest in recent years, leading to tremendous progress in soft and wearable sensors,” he told Design News. “However, current devices have various limitations, such as not being able to fit well on the skin, or are uncomfortable to wear.”


Professor Lim Chwee Teck (standing) of the Department of Biomedical Engineering in the National University of Singapore (NUS) Faculty of Engineering works with team members to test a microfiber sensor woven into a glove that they developed. The tiny sensor has the diameter of a human hair and can be used to monitor the vital signs of patients, such as heart rates and blood pressure. (Source: Lim Chwee Teck, NUS)


The sensor developed by Lim and the team, on the other hand, conforms well to curvatures of the skin as it bends, and provides no discomfort for the person wearing it, who barely knows it’s there, he said.

“The sensor is as tiny as a thread, which is imperceptible and hardly visible when woven into gloves and bandages,” he said

Moreover, despite its tiny size, the sensor is highly sensitive and also has excellent electrical conductivity and mechanical deformability, Lim said.

“It functions like a conductive thread, and is designed to be highly durable and to withstand washing,” he said. “It can provide real-time monitoring with high precision. The sensor is cost effective to produce and easy to maintain, and the process for electronics integration is simple.”

The structure of the sensor itself team is comprised of a liquid metallic alloy—gallium indium—which serves as the sensing element and is encapsulated within a soft silicone microtube, Lim said. “The two inlets are sealed with copper wires and connected to a multi-meter to measure electrical resistance,” he explained.

The sensor can be used to monitor a person’s pulse waveform in real time, information that can be used to determine one’s heart rate, blood pressure, and stiffness in blood vessels, as well as bandage-pressure sensing, Lim said.

“The detection of pulse waveform is achieved by weaving the sensor into a glove, which can then be worn to monitor these key vital signs,” he said. “Similarly, the sensor is also woven into bandages for pressure monitoring.”

Due to its versatility, the sensor also could be used for a wide range of other applications as well, such as healthcare monitoring, smart medical prosthetic devices, and artificial skin, Lim added.

Researchers have already published papers about their work in the journals Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and Advanced Materials Technologies.

The team has filed a patent for the sensor, and they currently are working with Singapore General Hospital to test its application for bandage-pressure monitoring, Lim said.

The team also is exploring new applications for the technology, including smart socks for feet-pressure monitoring to help patients with diabetic foot ulcers, as well as smart mouth guards to assist patients who have problems with grinding their teeth, he added.

“We are also refining the sensor design and reducing the size of its accessories to improve the user-friendliness of the device, and are keen to work with commercial partners to bring the novel sensor to market,” Lim said.

Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer who has written about technology and culture for more than 15 years.