Printing Wearable Technology with University of Kent

The University of Kent has worked in collaboration with CPI to print a wearable tracking device using 3D printing techniques. The resulting bracelet incorporates novel printed antenna technology.

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The collaboration brought together the University of Kent’s leading expertise in antennas and RFID technology, and CPI’s capability in printable electronics. The University of Kent provided the design and 3D Printing of the wrist band, whilst the printing of the antennas were produced at CPI’s National Printable Electronics Centre.

The parties’ aim is to produce wearable wireless devices tailored to individual requirements. Potential market applications include health services, where patients and customised equipment can be located using the existing WI-FI networks. The technology could also be used to improve wireless communication of wearable sensors.

CPI utilised aerosol jet printing techniques to produce the antennas using silver inks. Printable electronics is an emerging technology that opens up a host of design opportunities for future electronic applications in wearable electronics.

The integration of flexible form factors increases the freedom for product designers to embed technology and functionality into their wearable designs, creating the opportunity for new, innovative components that are wireless, smarter, interactive, conformable, thinner, lightweight and rugged.

Printable electronics allow the functionality of conventional electronics to be printed to virtually any surface, creating interactive wearable products with the cost and functionality that rigid circuit boards can’t deliver. The game changer is that printable electronics can provide thin, conformable and lightweight electronics using large-scale high volume manufacturing processes.

CPI is the UK’s National Centre for Printed Electronics, designed to take innovative ideas from concept to production. CPI offers world class, open access capability in the scale up and commercialisation of printable electronics applications. CPI’s facilities and expertise allow clients to understand how their products and processes perform under manufacturing conditions, accelerating commercial realisation.

Dr Benito Sanz is a Lecturer in Electronic Systems at the University of Kent. He has over 10 years of experience in antenna and radio frequency circuit design. His current interests include the fabrication of antennas and wireless sensors using novel additive manufacturing techniques.