Wearable technology is on the rise, and designers now face the challenge of creating original and marketable products within this new powder keg. Self-proclaimed "creative technologist," and one of our Trailblazers, Madison Maxey is one of the young minds pioneering the trade, exploring new ways designers can convert the surface of their textiles into working circuit boards. Last week, in collaboration with StrongArm Technologies, Maxey and her design and engineering studio The Crated premiered Armor, a new prototype vest that monitors the wearer’s body temperature, posture, and bodily stress level. The vest operates through a system of textile circuitry that’s printed onto the fabric using custom formulas and machinery developed by The Crated.
Maxey is looking towards what she calls the second wave in wearable tech, where hardware is embedded into textiles themselves. But herein lies an issue: there aren't any factory-fitted machines to produce these items on an industrial scale.
In a new video profile, Maxey gives a tour of her studio at the Autodesk Pier 9 Residency, and shows off some of the tools she’s been experimenting with. Says Maxey, “The trouble with textiles is that they’re really delicate, they’re stretchable, they’re flexible, they're unpredictable. If you need to make a lot of them, and you need them to be robust, there is just not really the tools out there for it.”
Maxey has been experimenting with different machines and chemical formulas to develop a conductive material that is malleable enough to affix and mold to the textile itself. She’s been working on synthesizing conductive nylon by mixing different nanoparticles like graphite and silver nano-powder. In the short video, Maxey also showcases some of the prototypes she’s been developing for machines that would help deposit her conductive materials on to the fabric.
The Armor vest runs a printed graphene temperature sensor constructed by Bon Bouton. It was designed and fabricated using The Crated’s own textile circuitry technology, INTELLiTEX. Armor’s press release says the aim of the prototype is to help make e-textiles softer, accessible, and more utilitarian: “The Crated hopes that more companies collaborate with others to create unique products that are beautiful and functional.”
Madison Maxey is Founder and President of The Crated. Check out their website and keep up with more work by Maxey and here team, here. Keep your eye out for more more projects coming out of the Pier 9 residency here.