Material Matters Research Lab at Emily Carr University
Garima Sood, Zara Huntley, Colby May
In collaboration with Peapod Mats, a Vancouver based company making reusable waterproof bedwetting and incontinence mats, our research team approached this project with a practice led design inquiry. The goal of the project was the implementation of new forms of R&D practice enabled by digital technologies and additive manufacturing methodologies. The primary areas of research include: an iterative approach to introduce IOT to the existing product, exploring an array of sensing capabilities to give the user more agency; experimenting with alternative materials that align with a more ecological approach; finding avenues of modularity through the use of digital fabrication methods.
Initial research questions included:
1. What are some opportunities to explore alternative material for production, keeping in mind the end of life of the product?
2. What are the different ways to employ smart technology for recognizing and notifying bed wetting? Keeping in mind the psychosocial context including associated stigmas.
3. How can we imagine the mat as a larger system of care and agency building by exploring modular placements and attachments for the mat, as well as IOT application?
4. What are opportunities to explore alternative production technology to make different parts for the mat?
5. What are some opportunities to widen the context of use?
Bioplastic as an alternative to waterproofing textiles
We started to explore combining textiles and bioplastic to create waterproofing. We tried, corn starch, gelatine, agar agar, gelatine + agar agar, tapioca starch, carrageenan and chitosan. There was a lot of trial and error in getting the right consistency but fortunately there is a lot of precedent. We found much success in following recipes from The Bioplastic Cookbook by FABtextiles and Recipes for Material Activism by Miriam Ribul as well as through online resources such as materiom.org/
We tried combining the bioplastics with felted wool and a woven cotton and had better results with the felted wool. The first round of bio plastics were corn starch, gelatine and agar agar, we tried machine washing and high heat drying these samples with some success specifically with the agar agar samples. They were tested for waterproofing and still held up.
The second round of bioplastics were tapioca, carrageenan and the combo of gelatine + agar agar. Finally we experimented with chitosan, adding to a gelatine mix. These samples did exhibit waterproof capabilities but require further testing.
We started to look at different ways of laminating, the current mats use quilting to laminate the terry cloth to the middle batting layer. We experimented with felting the terry cloth to a layer of wool roving with some success. Unfortunately after machine washing and high heat drying, the sample unlaminated.
To test a soft sensor we sewed a series of conductive thread lines onto some muslin, using a capacitive touch breakout board and an arduino uno we were able to create a simple touch sensor.
Next we tested to see if the touch sensor could act as a moisture sensor with total success. There is potential to take this concept further.
Initially we looked at modularity for the purposes of the IOT components and how to not disrupt the current function of the mat but still have the capabilities of sensors and output. Later in the project we looked at how to make the mats into a modular system, exploring different ways to fasten the mats together.
We started prototyping our own fasteners using different 3D printers. Some were printed with flexible resin which gave the buttons a softness. We liked the idea of using a soft and flexible material. In further iterations we would like to create larger and flatter buttons that could be attached to the mats for easy modularity.