Hackaday Prize Entry: Circular Knitting Machines

Deep in the recesses of a few enterprising hackerspaces, you’ll find old electronic knitting machines modified for use with modern computers. They’re cool, and you can knit colorful designs, but all of these machines are ultimately based on old equipment, and you’ll have a hard time building one for yourself.

For their entry to the Hackaday Prize, [Mar] and [Varvara] is building a knitting machine from scratch. Not only is it a 3D printed knitting machine anyone can build given enough time and plastic, but this machine is a circular knitting machine, something no commercial offering has yet managed.

We saw [Mar] and [Varvara]’s Circular Knitic last January, but this project has quite the pedigree. They originally started on their quest for a modern knitting machine by giving a new brain to old Brother machines. This was an incredible advancement compared to earlier Brother knitting machine hacks; before, everyone was emulating a floppy drive on a computer to push data to the machine. The original Knitic build did away with the old electronics completely, replacing it with a homebrew Arduino shield.

While the Circular Knitic isn’t completely 3D printed, you can make one in just about any reasonably equipped shop. It’s a great example of a project that’s complex and can be replicated by just about anyone, and a perfect example of a project for The Hackaday Prize.

Check out the video of the Circular Knitic below.

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

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Making Mittens For A Smartphone

For those of us in the slightly inhospitable parts of the northern hemisphere, it’s freaking cold outside. Spring can’t come sooner, and smartphones won’t work if you’re wearing normal gloves. Smartphones will work if you sew a few bits of conductive thread into your gloves, but if you prefer mittens, you’re out of luck. That’s alright, because [Becky] at Adafruit has great guide for knitting your own smart phone mittens.

Intellectually, the concept of weaving fabric is fairly simple – it’s just interlaced threads that form a flexible sheet. Sewing, too, is fairly straightforward. Knitting, on the other hand, is weird. It’s a single string tied to itself that forms a 3D shell. If you’ve ever picked up a pair of knitting needles, you’ll soon realize whoever invented knitting is perhaps the greatest forgotten genius in all of human history. Lucky, then, that [Becky] has a lot of links that go through how to knit, and how to turn yarn into a pair of mittens with this pattern.

To make these mittens work with a smartphone, [Becky] is using a stainless conductive yarn stitched into the thumb and fingertips of the mitten. It works, and now you can use your touchscreen device no matter how cold it is.

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Knitting In The Round

There have been a few posts on Hackaday over the years involving knitting, either by modifying an old Brother knitting machine to incorporate modern hardware, or by building a 3D printed knitting machine. All of these hacks are examples of flat knitting, and are incapable of making a seamless tube. Circular Knitic bucks that trend by using 3D printing and laser cutters to create an open source circular knitting machine.

Circular Knitic is an expansion on an earlier build that gave a new brain to old Brother knitting machines from the 70s. This build goes well beyond simple manipulation of electrons and presents an entire knitting machine specifically designed for circular knitting. It’s completely automated, so once the machine is set up, a giant tube of knit yarn is automagically created without any human intervention.

This isn’t the first completely open source knitting machine; OpenKnit can be made with aluminum extrusion, some electronics, and a few 3D printed parts. Circular Knitic is, however, the first circular knitting machine we’ve seen, and according to the Github is completely open source.

The creators of Circular Knitic, [Varvara] and [Mar] have been showing off their machine at an exhibition in Zaragoza, Spain called DOERS, where they’ll be knitting for the better part of six months. You can see some video of that below.

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THP Entry: All Yarns Are Beautiful

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There are a lot of builds out there that retrofit modern electronics into ancient knitting machines. The ability to print in yarn is very cool, but when you look at the total costs of these projects – especially the ancient Brother KH-930 knitting machines – these projects start getting very expensive. A much cheaper solution to these $700 knitting machines is the Brother KH-910 model, the first of its kind, and a machine that can be purchased for about $100. For their entry into The Hackaday Prize, [chris007] and [andz] put modern electronics into this slightly less capable knitting machine, turning what was once old junk into something with the same capabilities of a much more expensive machine.

The more expensive KH-930 and -940 knitting machines are fairly impressive pieces of technology, controlled with a floppy drive, and can be retrofitted with a serial cable to upload patterns. This is the basis of the Electro-knit and Knitic, but they simply don’t work with the Brother KH-910, a machine programmed with a primitive scanner and semi-transparent picture cards. It’s like the difference between punch cards and a disk drive, really.

[chris] and [andz]’s new controller for the Brother KH-910 is based on the Arduino, acting as a connection between a PC and the 200 solenoids and pins inside the knitting machine. That in itself is impressive – now, instead of being limited to 60-pixel wide yarn prints, the Brother KH-910 can use its full width, limited only by your arm strength and amount of yarn.


SpaceWrencherThe project featured in this post is an entry in The Hackaday Prize. Build something awesome and win a trip to space or hundreds of other prizes.

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Knitted Circuit Board Lends Flexibility to E-Textiles

knitted circuit boardWhat could be better than sewing a circuit into wearable fabric? How about rolling your own circuit-ready knits? Chicago-based artist and assistant professor [Jesse] has done just that by perfecting a method for knitting solderable circuit boards.

This can be done by hand or with a knitting machine. The basic idea is that 2-3 strands of 34-36AWG bus wire are knitted into mercerized cotton yarn in rows, mimicking a piece of stripboard. Once the knitting is blocked and the component layout chosen, the floating bus wire strands between the rows are cut as you would cut unneeded stripboard traces. When it’s all done, [Jesse] used iron-on backing to protect her skin from scratches and lead transfer.

Her tutorial covers a simple LED circuit with a battery and a sliding switch, though she describes in detail how this can be expanded for more complex circuitry and offers good suggestions for working with different components. She also advocates feeding the bus wire from a spool rack to maintain tension and recommends stretching a piece of nylon stocking over the spool to keep it from unfurling all over the place.

This is the most aesthetically appealing e-textile work we’ve seen since this electro-embroidery piece or this blinky LED necklace, and it’s fascinating to watch the e-textile world unfold. Watch [Jesse]’s short videos after the break where she demonstrates a simple blinky knit as well as a lovely pulsing heart collar.

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OpenKnit, the Open Source Knitting Machine

For all the hubbub about 3D printers leading a way into a new era of manufacturing, a third industrial revolution, and the beginnings of Star Trek replicators, we really haven’t seen many open source advances in the production of textiles and clothing. You know, the stuff that started the industrial revolution. [Gerard Rubio] is bucking that trend with OpenKnit, an open-source knitting machine that’s able to knit anything from a hat to a sweater using open source hardware and software.

We’ve seen a few builds involving knitting machines, but with few exceptions they’re modifications of extremely vintage Brother machines hacked for automation. OpenKnit is built from the ground up from aluminum extrusion, 3D printed parts, a single servo and stepper motor, and a ton of knitting needles.

The software is based on Knitic, an Arduino-based brain for the old Brother machines. This, combined with an automatic shuttle, allows OpenKnit to knit the sweater seen in the pic above in about an hour.

Since OpenKnit is inspired by the RepRap project, all the files, software, and assembly instructions will be up on Github shortly. there’s also a video available below, and a Flickr gallery right here.

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Twitter Knitter combines 40 year old hardware with modern social media

When presented with a vintage Empisal Knitmaster knitting machine, members of the TOG Dublin Hackerspace worked together to not only bring it back from the dead but to also add some custom hardware that allows for computer generated patterns.

At first the Knitmaster was in fairly bad shape requiring a few custom machined parts just to function.  It was originally designed to feed in special punch cards that mechanically directed the many moving parts of the machine (called “dibblers”) to knit patterns in yarn.  Using an Arduino, a number of servos, and a microswitch to detect when the knitting carriage is pulled across, this card-read system was replaced with a computer controlled mechanism that can direct the machine to print out images one row at a time.

Of course, you don’t get too many opportunities to name your project something as cute as “The Twitter Knitter”, so once the system was working, it was only a matter of writing some code to snatch tweets from the web and generate images out of the text.  Visitors of the Dublin Mini Maker Faire got to watch it in action as they posted tweets with a particular hashtag which the machine happily printed in yarn (as long as they weren’t too long).

Video demo after the jump.

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