Open-source experimental setup for investigating the actuation behavior of active textiles

Brent Utter, Rachel Marbaker, Kevin Eschen, Julianna Abel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This paper presents an open-source and low-cost characterization device designed to investigate the behavior of active textiles, which are textiles having the ability to actuate (produce motion/force) and or act as a sensor. Although specifically designed for active textiles, the characterization device is broadly applicable for studying the performance of actuators including but not limited to Shape Memory Alloy (SMA) wires, SMA springs, and electroactive polymers. The characterization device may be operated in several modes that enable a wide variety of experimental protocols to be automated. These modes include but are not limited to automatic displacement and displacement rate mode, automatic force mode, and manual displacement mode. For active textiles that actuate by electrical stimulus or by resistive heating, the electronic system has five independent motor drivers. For each driver, the voltage drop across its outputs and current are measured, enabling the measurement of textile power consumption and other electrical properties. The validation of the Active Textile Characterization Device uses a contractile SMA knitted textile actuated by four motor drivers through resistive heating. Several protocols were successfully conducted to demonstrate the experimental flexibility of the system. During these experiments, knit length, knit tension, current through the knit, voltage drop across the knit, and room temperature were measured with respect to time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00083
StatePublished - Oct 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 The Authors


  • Active knitted textiles
  • Actuators
  • Materials characterization
  • Open-source hardware
  • Shape memory alloy


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