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Innovation Design Engineering (MA/MSc)

Hanson Cheng

Hanson Cheng is an interdisciplinary designer working across scales of design. From products, speculation, to immersive pavilions, his work explores themes of sustainability and technology, health and wellbeing, as well as play and the built environment. 

He co-founded The Tyre Collective — a startup tackling tyre wear emissions, a stealthy source of microplastic and air pollution. Our patent-pending technology captures tyre wear at the source. 

He also co-founded SpaceScape — a design-build studio creating playscape structures across Shanghai, China.

Hanson graduated with a MA / MSc Distinction, in Innovation Design Engineering (IDE) at Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art. He received his Bachelor of Architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) with a concentration in nature, culture, and sustainability studies and has worked at internationally renowned architecture firms SOM and KPF

His work has won various international awards, been exhibited at the Saatchi Gallery London and featured on BBC, Dwell, designboom, Evening Standard, edie, and Sky News. 





Degree Details

School of Design

Innovation Design Engineering (MA/MSc)

Pneu-tex integrates safety into apparel and discreetly protects those prone to injury from falls. Within milliseconds of detection, the smart jacket inflates to cushion the impact, preventing injuries. 

A large part of my work focuses on sustainability and the environment. Pneu-tex allowed me to take a human-centred design approach and explore the process of designing through making. I was able to play with unfamiliar materials, learn new fabrication techniques and the process of making a garment.

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the scope of the project focuses largely on the design of the product whilst the technical components have remained as prototypes and concepts supported by research. Falls, undoubtedly, will be a problem we face as we age. It has been incredibly humbling to engage elders during these unprecedented times and to have the opportunity to design for our future selves. 

Pneu-tex: Smart Personal Fall Protection Apparel
In the UK, falls are the most common cause of injury and related deaths in ages over 75. Beyond causing bruises and bone fractures, falls can also result in a loss of independence and confidence. Mentally, a constant worry that they might fall again. Vulnerability to falls is not only determined by age, but also by the condition. People with balance impairments are equally at risk of falls. With an increasingly ageing population and trends of living alone, how can wearable technology enable our independence? Advancements in personal fall protection products that are not immediately redolent of decrepitude and dependency are ever so imperative.

From exercise therapy to walking canes, there is a range of products and services to prevent and protect one from falls. This includes a series of hip protection devices. However, their bulkiness and appearance make them some of the least desirable products. In contribution to existing work, Pneu-tax applies human-centred design principles to personal fall protection. The result is an outdoor jacket that is minimal and smart. By merging performance with lifestyle, Pneu-tex aims to remove the stigma of fall protection products by creating something accessible and appealing to all people and ages. Protection should not compromise aesthetics.
AestheticBalanceElderEngineeringFallFashionHealthHuman-centeredProduct DesignProtectionTextilesWellbeing

Pneu-tex — Protection should not compromise aesthetics. Pneu-tex is designed to look like an ordinary outdoor jacket.

Sketches — The design of was inspired by athleisure and utilitarian fashion styles.

Detail — Pneu-tex discreetly protects those prone to injury from falls. Integrated portions of the jacket inflate to protect the hip and arm.

Detail — The lower back is one of the most vulnerable, injury-prone part of the body during the fall.

Unit — The inflation and detection mechanisms are housed in a removable unit, located below the neckline.

Detection — A 3-axis accelerometer, gyroscope, and threshold algorithm are used to detect falls, within milliseconds of detection, the smart jacket inflates to cushion the impact, preventing injuries.

Inspired by athleisure and utilitarian fashion trends, the apparel can be worn as a standalone jacket or integrated as a lining for other clothes. The seam creates a dynamic detail and allows the inflatable portions to be seamlessly integrated, protecting the hips, arms, and lower back. It transforms from a flat surface to a geometrically intricate pattern, while maintaining flexibility and structural integrity. Informed by a series of material explorations, the jacket is made from a TPU coated Nylon, a marine textile used in rafts and lifejackets. The fabric is durable, easily maintained, and waterproof. The jacket is inflated by a standard 16g compressed CO2 cartridge, replaced after each activation. A tri-axis accelerometer, gyroscope, and threshold algorithm are used to detect falls. The inflation and detection mechanisms are housed in a removable unit, located below the neckline. This location is optimal for fall detection and is the least disruptive to the wearer. 

Products designed for fall protection should not embarrass the wearer. It should empower one to stay active and confident. Pneu-tex is functional and appealing, ensuring your safety with discretion.

TPU Study — The flexibility of an inflated TPU sample.

TPU Study — Varied seal lines manipulate the volume of air in each cavity.

Foam Study — Woven textile foam study.

Foam Study — Flexible grid structure foam study.

Foam & TPU — Embedded foam and TPU studies.

Foam & TPU — Layered foam and TPU studies.

Nylon & TPU — Nylon coated with TPU inflated sample.

Nylon & TPU — Detail of heat-sealed fabric.

A large part of my design process was on material exploration, iterating and learning through making physical prototypes. I was inspired by the discipline of soft robotics, specifically the branch of soft-rigid hybrid systems, which focuses on how we can reinforce systems by modifying geometry to exhibit both flexibly and stiffness with the use of inflation.

Materials explored range from Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU), Foam, Nylon and composites of each material. By varying the seal lines of the TPU studies, I was able to control the geometry and the directionality of inflation, manipulating the volume of air in each cavity. Foam has the capability to absorb impact. Inspired by woven textiles, I experimented with changing the composition and geometry to increase the foam’s firmness and flexibility. TPU coated Nylon is a heat sealable fabric that is waterproof, has high abrasion resistance and elasticity. Combinations of these base materials created composites of varying rigidity and appearance. 

Due to the lack of access to testing facilities, most observations have remained qualitative. Standard practice would require a drop weight tower to simulate a fall that directly impacts the hips and a force plate at the base to measure the impact force. Inflation is effective in dissipating the force of impact. 
A study comparing commercial foam and inflatable hip protection showed that inflatables can reduce peak impact forces by up to 85%, to about 1000N, below the proposed hip fracture threshold of 2100N.

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