Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin have developed a new process for producing inexpensive wearable patches that can continuously monitor vital signs and could outperform traditional monitoring tools like cardiac event monitors. The manufacturing method is described in a recently published paper in the journal Advanced Materials.

The technique for creating the wearable patches involves a repeatable “cut and paste” method that reduces manufacturing time to only 20 minutes via roll-to-roll manufacturing in bulk with a roll of flexible plastic and a processing machine. This method is the first dry and portable process for producing these electronics that do not require a clean room, wafers, and other expensive elements. An electronic mechanical cutter is utilized to form patterns on the metal-polymer sheets and after removing excessive areas, the electronics are printed onto any polymer adhesives and can be easily customized.

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These wearable patches can pick up and transmit the human body’s vital signals, tracking heart rate, hydration level, muscle movement, temperature, and brain activity. During testing, the patches detected body signals that were stronger than those taken by existing medical devices, including an ECG/EKG. The patches can also minimize motion-induced false signals or errors because they conform nearly perfectly to the skin.

Currently the researchers are working to add additional types of sensors to the wearable patches, including blood pressure and oxygen saturation monitors.

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