Stretchable Knee Wearable Offers Insight into Improving E-Textiles for Healthcare

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SUTD – Ujjaval Gupta, Lau Jun Liang, Chia Pei Zhi, Tan Ying Yi, Alvee Ahmed, Soh Gim Song, Low Hong Yee
SingHealth Polyclinics – Tan Ngiap Chuan

SUTD researchers developed a fully knitted, circuit-embedded knee wearable for wireless sensing of joint motion in real-time. Compared to other knitted electronics, this model has fewer externally integrated components and a more sensitive sensor, making it less error-prone.

The research team led by Assoc Prof Low Hong Yee, Head of Pillar, EPD, used a multi-material 3D printer known as the Computer Numerical Control (CNC) knitting machine to fabricate this brace. Sensors, interconnects and resistors were integrated within each knit.

Mobility limitation is an initial stage of human mobility disability and an early sign of functional decline. It can manifest as muscle weakness, loss of balance, unsteady gait, and joint pain. Long-term and continuous monitoring of joint motion may potentially prevent or delay decline by allowing the early diagnosis, prognosis, and management of mobility-related conditions.

This long-term and continuous monitoring is made possible by analysis systems that are either non-wearable or wearable. Non-wearable systems are reliable, but require a laboratory environment and trained individuals and are therefore impractical for daily use. On the other hand, wearable systems are portable, cheaper, and much easier to use. Unfortunately, typical wearable sensors tend to be inflexible and bulky.

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