Wearables with intelligence and comfort
They are flat, flexible and inconspicuous, but very intelligent – small electronic devices that are affixed to the skin like a patch, providing support for consumers when they’re taking part in sports and leisure activities or treating medical conditions
Such wearables have enormous market potential, even though there are still a few hurdles to clear. Covestro is driving the development forward with integral and sustainable material solutions that make the wearables more comfortable to wear while also enabling further areas of application.
An important target group for wearables are consumers who are personally committed to safeguarding their health and well-being. The little devices can ascertain their level of physical fitness, measure body temperature and pulse rate, and evaluate the quality of sleep. It’s expected that in the future, improved and even smarter products will also play a supporting role in medical diagnoses and treatments, and even deliver medications in accurate dosages. This would require them to remain on the skin for extended periods and be comfortable to wear.
The right mix of materials guarantees outstanding comfort
“Consumers want wearables that cling gently to the skin, and that are also breathable and hypoallergenic,” says Gerd Büschel, a films expert at Covestro. “We’re meeting this need with a clever combination of different materials. The patch is affixed to the wearer by means of a skin-friendly, breathable adhesive, which also is solvent-free and water-repellent. For this the company is offering custom-tailored polyurethane (PU) raw materials.
A film made of thermoplastic polyurethane, frequently in combination with a thermoplastic PU foam, forms the outer envelope. In addition to protecting the electronics and ensuring comfort for the wearer, this layer must be as thin as possible to prevent build-up of the adhesive bond. The Covestro products also make it easy to embed the sensor in the patch, by using thermoplastic processing technologies – without resorting to additional wet chemistry.
Covestro has a broad spectrum of know-how when it comes to the materials and their processing, and the company is looking for partners along the value chain who are interested in pursuing and coordinating further projects. “Developments like this are helping us make the world a brighter place,” says Büschel.
Soon wearables may play a role not only during leisure activities, but also in the workplace, for example in hospitals, industrial facilities and businesses.
Be sure to visit us at the K 2016 plastics trade fair from October 19-26, 2016, in Düsseldorf, Germany, Hall 6, Stand A 75.
Photo 2 The future objective of the Covestro development is to enable a continuous manufacture of wearables from the reel. The picture shows a thermoplastic carrier film which is fed from the top right. It is then laminated with the thermoplastic foam (from left) under the influence of heat and pressure.