Even in this age of wearable technology, the actual fabric in our t-shirts and clothes may still be the most high-tech product we wear. From the genetically engineered cotton seed, though an autonomous machine world, this product is manufactured in one of the world’s largest automation bubbles. Self-driving cotton pickers harvest and preprocess the cotton. More machines blend the raw material, comb it, twist and spin it into yarn, and finally, a weaving machine outputs sheets of spotless cotton jersey. The degree of automation could not be higher. Except for the laboratories, where seeds, cotton fibers, and yarns are tested to meet tight specifications, woven fabrics originate from a mostly human-free zone that is governed by technology and economics.
When you mention Shenzhen, many people think about electronic gadgets, cheap components, manufacturing, and technology. I’m there quite often and find that all of the technology and manufacturing related stress can be overwhelming at times. Sometimes I feel the need to escape it all so I go to markets and places that aren’t traditionally associated with technology so I can clear my head as well as expose myself to something different. It provides me with a constant source of new design ideas and also allows me to escape the persistent tech treadmill that Shenzhen runs on. There are a lot of places in Shenzhen that I consider hidden gems that don’t get a lot of press since mainstream media associates Shenzhen with either factories or technology. Here are my favorite places to window shop and de-stress in Shenzhen.
[Erik] has been keeping extremely busy with his latest project, a flexible RGB LED matrix that he calls “Project Light Bright”. The folks at BuildLounge tell us that this is the first entry they have received so far in their “Light Contest”, in which they are giving away a free laser cutter to the best entry.
[Erik] hand soldered ten 16×16 RGB LED panels together in order to build this display, and the results are awesome. The entire thing is controlled by a WiFi-enabled Beagleboard, which drives all of the panels and then some. The Beagleboard features embedded web and DNS servers, which allows it to act as a wireless AP, enabling him to control the display using any WiFi capable device. The Light Bright displays all sorts of predefined artwork, but [Erik] can also alter the display on the fly via his phone as well. The entire thing is powered by a reasonably sized LiPo battery pack that he keeps tucked away in his pocket, which allows the display to run continuously for about 20 hours.
Check out the video below to see a quick walkthrough of [Erik’s] Light Bright suit, then be sure to stop by his site for more videos, details and updates on the project.
[Eli Skipp] wrote in to share a project she has been working on bit by bit, for over a year – an LED VU meter scarf. The project was originally going to be built using a custom PCB, but no matter how long she spent troubleshooting the piece, it just wouldn’t work right. She eventually broke down and purchased a VU meter kit, which worked out quite a bit better than the homebrew version.
The VU meter circuitry is tucked away inside the scarf as she shows in the video below. The LEDs are connected using conductive thread sourced from Lamé Lifesaver, which she says is far more durable than other threads she has tried. After originally testing the VU meter, she was unimpressed by the output of the LEDs, so she swapped them out for brighter ones, which look much better. It looks like it works quite well – we definitely dig the idea of a scarf with a built-in VU meter, even if it was partially built from a kit.
Continue reading to see [Eli] give a quick demonstration and a rundown of the scarf’s construction.
It’s always interesting to see what happens when hacking meets clothing – check out this pair of bikinis, for instance.
This first item, called the N12 bikini (mildly NSFW), comes from Continuum Fashion and is composed entirely from Nylon 12, hence the name. Shapeways uses 3D Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) to create the tiny circles that make up this piece of swimwear. The suit is held together by tiny stretchy strings made of the same nylon, and the bikini can be printed to order. It seems like an interesting idea, but we wonder how it would hold up against some big waves or a game of beach volleyball.
The second item is a bit more functional. Designer [Andrew Schneider] has put together a bikini that can solve all of your energy needs while sitting by the pool. His solar bikini is covered with hand-sewn flexible solar cells that work together to produce up to 5v, available via a USB connection. He claims that you are free to go swimming in the suit, so long as you dry out the USB port before using it again. For all the guys out there crying foul, don’t worry – he’s got a suit for you too. He’ll be putting together a men’s suit in the near future that powers a 1.5 amp Peltier cooler to keep your beer cold – we just don’t want to know where the hot side of the Peltier goes…
[Render] says his coat is simply “enhanced with EL wire”, but we know the truth. He’s secretly an alien that can’t block out all of his glowing green skin with a the black coat. No? Fine,
You can put away the sewing machine, [Render] simply used a needle and fishing line to attach ~50-70 foot of electroluminescent wire to the outside of a coat he picked up at a local clothing shop. Solder and program in an inverter and controller board thanks to SparkFun, and you’re ready to go.
Just double check all your connections, high voltage directly on your person is not fun. Trust us.