This month I continued my research by first interviewing Dr. Suh from North Carolina State University’s College of Textiles. I had come across her name a few times in my research for apparel design that utilized 3D scanning technologies to make a garment more individualized, and got a chance to talk to her about her current research.
Dr. Suh is particularly interested in the female body’s specificity in functional apparel. When looking at the body’s response to physical exercise, she was sure that there must be a way that the sports bra could perform better. In beginning her research, she knew it was critical to define the mass of the breasts to proceed to examining their interaction with the bra, but found that there was no accurate means to measure that mass yet. This is understandably difficult, but once she and her colleagues found a way to measure the weight and volume, they could then understand and anticipate the movement of the breasts. The research then led to experiments with the force felt by wearers from their bras – too much versus too little support – to minimize the discomfort. Her students have since then interpreted this project and are working with several different aspects of the bra in which they see potential for improvement, i.e. the underwire, the mass measurement, using 3D scanning to individualize cup shape and support.
I have been spending a good bit of my research time designing and tweaking open sourced 3D models to print, to more closely analyze the potential for textiles to incorporate with the 3D printing technology. The following are open sourced models from Thingiverse.
This above sample is made of Ninjaflex (TPU) filament that I printed on the Lulzbot Mini printer (only important to know if you were to recreate this). This filament is much more flexible than the standard PLA or HIPS plastics that are commonly used in printing, and has a much more dynamic malleability; this filament could be used to create a high fashion garment or a specialized piece of a garment, but I can’t imagine that it would serve as a commodified fiber in the near future.
The (above) sample is made of the same filament, and I was much more excited to interact with this piece once it printed. Perhaps it behaved more like a fabric – it was primarily solid, and the design was rather interesting. This one behaved like chainmail as well, the triangle motifs having ball and socket joints on the underside (pictured in the second photo – I decreased the size of this print without realizing that the joints wouldn’t be as distinct. They look like a joint undoubtedly, but printing at the original size would have made the sockets more aethetically pleasing and more functional I imagine). These joints allowed me to connect the edges of the sample to form a cylindrical sample (second video).
I am currently in the process of designing samples of my own – inspired primarily by geometric chainmail as well as basic weave structures.
This (above) video is my first real exploration in sensor use with microcontrollers. In this smart textiles revolution, sensors are the key to having a garment that responds – to the wearer, to the environment. There has been a steady progression in sensor use in the last few decades – from sensors being attached to apparel (like Nike’s Nike+ sensor), to sensors being embedded in garments (like Ralph Lauren’s PoloTech shirt), to the garment being the sensor itself (BeBop – all of their products).
What I did with this test was use an Arduino controller and a compatible touch sensor to change the color of the LED on the circuit depending on where I touched the sensor. This was an “example” code on the Arduino software, and it was fairly simple to hook up. You can see the LED changing color as I swipe my finger along the sensor. In addition to touch sensors, there are light, motion, color, water flow, temperature, humidity, piezo, altitude, Hall effect, bending, gas leak, squeeze, UV, muscle temperature, bar code, fingerprint, soil moisture sensors, as well as amplifiers and GPS trackers.
In the next few weeks, I am experimenting with new filaments for 3D printing (thanks Charlie!), thinking about app development, and planning something big for next semester!