Wearable technology has attracted global attention in the last decade and the market is experiencing an unprecedented growth. Wearable devices are designed to be low-profile, light-weight and integrated seamlessly into daily life. Comfort is one of the most important requirements for wearable devices. Fabric based antennas are soft, flexible and can be integrated into clothing. State of the art textile manufacturing techniques such as embroidery, combined with advanced conductive textile materials can be used to fabricate flexible fabric based on-body antennas.
In this thesis, the feasibility of using computerised embroidery in the fabrication of wearable, flexible yet functional fabric based antennas have been examined. The fabric based antennas are embroidered using conductive threads. The most suitable materials for fabricating embroidered antennas have been identified. The embroidered fabric based antenna systems including transmission lines and low-profile detachable connectors have been fabricated and their RF performances have been tested. The optimal manufacturing parameters related to embroidery such as stitch direction, spacing and length have been examined. The repeatability of embroidered antennas, cost estimation, and complexity of manufacturing process have been clearly presented. The results can be used to inform and provide guidelines for the development of representative products that can be mass manufactured.
A new simulation approach has been introduced to analyse the anisotropic properties of embroidered conductive threads. Simulations and measurements indicate that the performances of embroidered antennas are affected by the anisotropic surface current due to the embroidered stitches. Exploiting the current direction, a novel non-uniform meshed patch antenna has been designed. Representative results show that the non-uniform meshed structure can significantly reduce more than 75% of the usage of conductive materials for the microstrip antennas with negligible effect on the antenna performance.
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.