Abstract

Stretchable electronics is an emerging technology that creates devices with the ability to conform to nonplanar and dynamic surfaces such as the human body. Current stretchable configurations are constrained to single-layer designs due to limited material processing capabilities in soft electronic systems. Here we report a framework for engineering three-dimensional integrated stretchable electronics by combining strategies in material design and advanced microfabrication. Our three-dimensional devices are built layer by layer through transfer printing pre-designed stretchable circuits on elastomers and creating vertical interconnect accesses using laser ablation and controlled soldering. Our approach enables a higher integration density on stretchable substrates than single-layer approaches and allows new functionalities that would be difficult to implement with conventional single-layer designs. Using this engineering framework, we create a stretchable human–machine interface testbed that is based on a four-layer design and offers eight-channel sensing and Bluetooth data communication capabilities.

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Acknowledgements

The project described was partially supported by the UC San Diego Center for Wearable Sensors, Center for Healthy Aging, Contextual Robotics Institute, and the National Institutes of Health Grant UL1TR001442 of CTSA funding. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH. We thank R. L. Sah’s group for assistance with the XCT measurements, M. Tolley for discussions on robot control, Z. Zhang for his contribution on data analysis, M. Li for discussions on Bluetooth, M. Makihata for discussions on the antenna test and S. Xiang for her constructive feedback on manuscript preparation.

Author information

Author notes

  1. These authors contributed equally: Zhenlong Huang, Yifei Hao, Yang Li.

Affiliations

  1. Department of Nanoengineering, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA

    • Zhenlong Huang
    • , Yifei Hao
    • , Yang Li
    • , Chonghe Wang
    • , Akihiro Nomoto
    • , Yimu Chen
    • , Weixin Li
    • , Yusheng Lei
    • , NamHeon Kim
    • , Chunfeng Wang
    • , Lin Zhang
    • , Xiaoshi Li
    • , Albert Pisano
    •  & Sheng Xu
  2. State Key Laboratory of Electronic Thin films and Integrated Devices, University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, Chengdu, China

    • Zhenlong Huang
    • , Taisong Pan
    •  & Yuan Lin
  3. Biomedical Engineering, School of Precision Instrument and Opto-electronics Engineering, Tianjin University, Tianjin, China

    • Yifei Hao
    •  & Weixin Li
  4. Materials Science and Engineering Program, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA

    • Hongjie Hu
    • , Yue Gu
    • , Tianjiao Zhang
    • , Albert Pisano
    •  & Sheng Xu
  5. The Key Laboratory of Materials Processing and Mold of Ministry of Education, School of Materials Science and Engineering, School of Physics & Engineering, Zhengzhou University, Zhengzhou, China

    • Chunfeng Wang
  6. Soft Matter Materials Branch, Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, The Air Force Research Laboratory, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH, USA

    • Jeremy W. Ward
    •  & Michael F. Durstock
  7. Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA

    • Ayden Maralani
    • , Albert Pisano
    •  & Sheng Xu
  8. Department of Bioengineering, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA

    • Sheng Xu

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Contributions

Z.H. and S.X. designed the experiments. Z.H., Y.H. and Y.Li carried out experiments. All authors contributed to analysing the data. Z.H. and S.X. wrote the paper, on which all authors provided valuable feedback.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Sheng Xu.

Supplementary information

  1. Supplementary Information

    Supplementary Notes 1–9 and Supplementary Figures 1–63

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/s41928-018-0116-y

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