Dion and her colleagues are developing a "belly band" to monitor fetal growth for women facing high-risk pregnancies. The band, knit with conductive yarn and outfitted with a fabric antenna, can transmit radio signals to a pregnant woman's physician, providing around-the-clock, real-time data on the health of the mother and unborn baby.
The band is much more comfortable than current fetal-monitoring devices and can be worn throughout a woman's pregnancy, Dion added.
At the Shima Seiki Haute Technology Lab, engineers and designers are also investigating new ways to digitally fabricate knit garments. The researchers use special software to design pieces of clothing, which are then manufactured by state-of-the-art computerized knitting machines. The process, Dion said, is essentially the fashion industry's take on 3D printing.
Already, the digital models and the resulting prototypes are "remarkably close," she said.