Self-fitting is the ability of a wearable, garment or body-mounted object to recover the exact shape and size of the human body. Self-fitting is highly desirable for wearable applications, ranging from medical and recreational health monitoring to wearable robotics and haptic feedback, because it enables complex devices to achieve accurate body proximity, which is often required for functionality. While garments designed with compliant fabrics can easily accomplish accurate fit for a range of body shapes and sizes, integrated actuators and sensors require fabric stiffness to prevent drift and deflection from the body surface. This paper merges smart materials and structures research with anthropometric analysis and functional apparel methodologies to present a novel, functionally gradient self-fitting garment designed to address the challenge of achieving accurate individual and population fit. This fully functional garment, constructed with contractile SMA knitted actuator fabrics, exhibits tunable %-actuation contractions between 4–50%, exerts minimal on-body pressure (≤ 1333Pa or 10 mmHg), and can be designed to actuate fully self-powered with body heat. The primary challenge in the development of the proposed garment is to design a functionally gradient system that does not exert significant pressure on part of the leg and/or remain oversized in others. Our research presents a new methodology for the design of contractile SMA knitted actuator garments, describes the manufacture of such self-fitting garments, and concludes with an experimental analysis of the garment performance evaluated through three-dimensional marker tracking.

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