Dec 8, 2014 | By Simon

In what sounds like something that would be straight out of Wonder Woman's wardrobe, Australian researchers have used 3D printing to aid their development in creating the world's first bionic bra aimed at supporting female breasts during various stages of an athletic workout.

While the sports bra market is already saturated with a variety of designs that vary in sizes, materials and support strengths, there is still a population of women who find wearing a sports bra cumbersome due to various breast-related problems and insecurities.

According to a study on the subject by the University of Portsmouth, roughly 20 percent of women avoid exercise altogether due to embarrassment about breast bounce and the inability to find a well-fitting sports bra. Additionally, it has been found that 85 percent of women in general wear ill-fitting bras that can lead to a myriad of problems. When considering the impact that this discomfort has on an overall lack of physical activity, the problems can lead to long-term health problems that can affect both mental and physical well-being.

After 15 years of development, researchers at the University of Wollongong (UOW) in Australia, have finally found a viable solution thanks in part to more recent developments in additive manufacturing, which has made the prototyping process easier than ever.

According to Executive Research Director and UOW Professor Gordon Wallace, the "advent of approaches such as 3D printing has enabled us to assemble structures containing new sensing technologies to more accurately monitor movement and new artificial muscle technologies to control it."

Team member Dr. Sheridan Gho added, "Results indicate that our technologies can sense breast motion and provide additional breast support. The challenge now is to integrate these technologies into a functional, comfortable bra."

Based on their findings, the final design will be made from a 'smart yarn' material that is responsive to a user's physical activity. When needed, support to the bra is added when it senses that there is more movement than normal. When the physical activity stops, the bra conditions itself into a more relaxed position.

While the bra itself is made from fabric, the components needed to power the sensors within it would be made from a more durable material such as molded plastic located on the back. Due to the need for the bra to be laundered regularly, quickly testing component housing solutions via 3D printed parts has proven to be invaluable when iterating on the final and washable design.

The bra was discussed at the Opening Keynote Address of the 9th Australasian Biomechanics Conference and is expected to begin its final prototyping stage soon.



Source: University of Wollongong (UOW)



Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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