Why screen printers should care about the development of apparel infused with electronic sensors and circuitry.
New purpose-built equipment for electronics prototyping and production is also being developed. According to a study by BCC Research, the global market for thin-film printing equipment should quadruple from $237.8 million in 2015 to $973.7 million in 2020. Factors driving the demand for thin-film printing equipment include the need for low-cost deposition processes and a growing availability of nanomaterials with improved properties at reduced unit prices.
One key component of wearable technology will be “soft” sensors that can be placed directly on the body or glued, sewn, molded, or mounted onto flexible materials. These sensors will be designed to record accurate data about any change in the shape or structure to which the sensors are applied.
Soft and stretchy sensors can directly measure human movement without interfering with it. In athletic gear, these sensors can give coaches a better understanding of body motion, muscle contraction, breathing rates, movement techniques, posture, and risk of injury. Soft sensors in the padding of a football helmet could help monitor and reduce concussions.
One company pioneering soft sensors is BeBop Sensors, a startup that designs custom turnkey sensor solutions for apparel OEMs. Their ultra-thin, wearable smart fabric sensor measures all aspects of physicality, including bend, location, motion, rotation, angle, and torque, and continuously provides real-time reporting. Markets include clothing and protective wear, shoes, healthcare devices, athletic equipment, automotive, robotics, aerospace, gaming, biometrics, and prosthetics. Sensors in the sleeves of jackets and shirts can connect to smartphones to answer calls or adjust volume to select songs while the phone remains tucked in the user’s pocket. Applied to the insoles of shoes, BeBop sensors can measure gait, pressure, contact style, fit, and flexure of toes and feet.
Technology Companies to Watch
Any company that seeks to profit in wearable technologies should stay up to date on all types of emerging technologies, research, and patents. IDTechEx and other information sources can help you keep abreast of these emerging opportunities and identify when products are being overhyped. Here are just a few of the companies you should get to know:
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