Smart Warming Boot Controller
Microcomfort’s Climateon extreme cold weather aviation warming boot insole is the latest application of Microcomfort’s patent-pending wearable microclimate technology. The highly adaptable Climateon technology works by delivering whole-body personalized thermal comfort to the wearer with contact to only a small area of the body. It has broad applications for sports, aerospace, military, industrial, medical, and consumer domains.
The Climateon extreme cold weather aviation insole was designed for Air Force and Navy pilots flying over arctic environments. The operating requirements for these aircraft preclude the pilots from wearing bulky insulating footwear, so aviators run the risk of severe frostbite if they have to perform an emergency ejection in extreme cold. Constraints on the specialized footwear used in this application make traditional methods of warming the extremities (such as exothermic chemical-based warmers or thick insulation) impractical or impossible. The Climateon insole solves this problem by providing instant, on-demand thermal comfort to the wearer in a low profile, lightweight form factor that fits into standard aviation boots and can be powered by battery packs that are already part of the pilot’s gear.
Microcomfort brought in NextFab’s Product Development team to produce a bench-top prototype of the device to be used in laboratory testing for a grant from the U.S. Air Force and Navy. On the controller side, the project involved designing an updated controller Printed Circuit Board (PCB), adding a smartphone app control and logging solution, implementing a new firmware structure to handle various edge cases that the system could encounter, and integrating the electronics into a new customized enclosure. The control system mates with custom-fabricated USB Type C-compatible wire harnesses for the insole’s smart textile heating elements and sensors. NextFab’s solution can be easily scaled down to a smaller wearable form factor. Two prototypes of the new controller/insole system were to be assembled and tested by NextFab and delivered to the Microcomfort team.
OUTCOME & NEXT STEPS
NextFab worked closely with the Microcomfort stakeholders throughout the project to update the PCB design and firmware to align with the latest system requirements. All of the wearable components of the solution, including the sensors, smart textile and connector, were chosen to be as close as possible to those which would be used during commercial manufacturing The PCB was capable of wireless control and data logging of the insole’s performance from a smartphone app. A commercially available enclosure was also selected that could be customized with cutouts, labeling, and branding at NextFab. The PCBs were ordered from a domestic manufacturer then assembled, tested, and integrated into the enclosure in time for system testing with the end customers. After this round of testing is complete, the system can be refined based on user feedback and miniaturized for complete in-boot integration and user testing.