Wearables continue to take new forms and gain new features. Early wearable health tech devices were typically incorporated in wristbands, brooches, necklaces, or belts. Developments in skin patches and sensor-embedded garments have even greater potential for continuous biometric monitoring without users needing to put on, attach, or carry extra devices as they go about their lives. Recent examples of new wearable tech include an epidermal VR system that enables a sense of touch under development at Northwestern and a joint project to create stretchable, battery-free skin patches by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Hanyang University in Seoul.

Researchers at KAIST (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology) recently announced a 3D-printed pressure sensor. The device uses a rigid microbump array that incorporates liquid metal materials to create a soft and flexible sensor. Led by Professor Inkyu Park from the KAIST Department of Mechanical Engineering, the team demonstrated the technology’s to produce precise, continuous physical signal measurement. According to the KAIST researchers, the highly-sensitive soft pressure sensors are suitable for applications in electronic skin, wearable electronics, and soft robotics.

The KAIST-developed process reduces manufacturing process complexity by 3D printing the rigid microbump array and a liquid metal microchannel at the same time. The KAIST team claims the new design has an extremely low detection limit and enhanced pressure sensitivity compared with other liquid metal-based pressure sensors. The KAIST sensors have negligible signal drift after thousands of pressure, bending, and stretching cycles and remain stable in a wide range of environmental conditions.

According to Park, the team successfully used its pressure sensors to measure pulse and blood pressure. Other application opportunities include monitoring for pressure-related issues such as pressure ulcers. Park foresees the potential for whole-body pressure monitoring to track a range of physical parameters.