Electronic components are getting smaller and smaller, but the printed circuit boards we usually mount them on haven’t changed much. Stiff glass-epoxy boards can be a limiting factor in designing for environments where flexibility is a requirement, but a new elastic substrate with stretchable conductive traces might be a game changer for wearable and even implantable circuits.
Researchers at the Center for Neuroprosthetics at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne are in the business of engineering the interface between electronics and the human nervous system, and so have to overcome the mismatch between the hardware and wetware. To that end, [Prof. Dr. Stéphanie P. Lacour]’s lab has developed a way to apply a liquid metal to polymer substrates, with the resulting traces capable of stretching up to four times in length without cracking or breaking. They describe the metal as a partially liquid and partially solid alloy of gallium, with a gold added to prevent the alloy from beading up on the substrate. The applications are endless – wearable circuits, sensors, implantable electrostimulation, even microactuators.
Looks like progress with flexibles is starting to pick up, what with the conductive silicone and flexible phototransistors we’ve covered recently. We’re excited to see where work like this leads.
Continue reading “Stretchable Traces for Flexible Circuits”
Flexible circuits and wearables seem to be all the rage these days. We’ve got conductive paint, glue, and even thread. So how about conductive silicone? Well, as it turns out — it’s not that hard to make.
[Andrew Quitmeyer] has been researching flexible circuits for a while now, and recently stumbled upon an expired patent for flexible ignition cables, using carbon fibers mixed with a conductive silicone. He started playing around with it, and discovered that by dissolving pieces of carbon fiber in rubbing alcohol, letting it dry, and then mixing it into a 2-part silicone you get pretty good electrical conductivity. In fact, in the range of 40-150ohms, which is actually pretty darn impressive!
Continue reading “Conductive Silicone Makes Flexible Circuits”
[Lumilectric] is getting ready for Burning Man and made herself this fantastic fiber optic LED skirt.
She’s always been fascinated by fiber optics and the effect they create, so she wanted to try using them in a project, and this was just the ticket. The tricky part was figuring out how best to couple cheap fiber optic strands off eBay with a strip of RGB LEDs.
In the end she figured out a way to make rudimentary fiber optic coupling joints using vinyl tubing. She managed to fit 17 strands of 0.5mm diameter fiber into a 6mm diameter vinyl tube. To improve light transfer when it’s all together, you can gently melt the ends of the fiber optics together to glaze the plastic into a single clear surface — don’t melt the vinyl though!
Continue reading “Jellyfish Inspired LED Skirt for Burning Man”
The Internet overflows with prosthetics projects, and to a large extent this is somewhat understandable. Prosthetic devices are ultimately a custom made for each user, and 3D printers are trying to find a purpose. Put two and two together, and you’re going to get a few plastic limbs.
The electronics required for advanced prosthetics are a bit harder than a 3D scanner and a printer. If you’re designing a robotic leg, you will need to pump several hundred watts through an actuator to move a human forward. For the last few years, [Jean-François Duval] has been working on this problem at the MIT Media Lab Biomechatronics group and has come up with his entry for the Hackaday Prize. It’s a motor and motor control system for wearable robotics that addresses the problems no other project has thought of yet.
The goal of the FlexSEA isn’t to build prosthetics and wearable robotics – the goal is to build the electronics that drive these wearables. This means doing everything from driving motors, regulating power consumption, running control loops, and communicating with sensors. To accomplish this, [Jean-François] is using the BeagleBone Black, a Cypress PSoC, and an STM32F4, all very capable bits of hardware.
So far, [Jean-François] has documented the hardware and the software for the current controller, and has a few demo videos of his hardware in action. You can check that out below.
Continue reading “Hackaday Prize Entry: Wearable Robotics Toolkit”
With the human URL [will.i.am] serving as Chief Creative Director of 3D Systems, and [Martha Stewart] selling her own line of 3D printer filament through MakerBot, more and more celebrities are piling onto the hacker, maker, and DIY revolution. Now, the partnership we’ve all been waiting for: the Raspberry Pi Foundation and [The Artist Formerly Known As ] are teaming up to produce a line of Pi-based wearable electronics. The first product from this new, fashionable line of electronics is beyond anything you would expect. It’s called the Raspberry Beret, and it’s shaping up to be a Revolution in wearables.
The wearable Raspberry Beret is exactly what you would expect: a habadasher’s masterpiece that pairs equally well with figure skating costumes and skin-tight cloud print suits. Inside, though, is a new piece of hardware based on the Raspberry Pi compute module. This module includes a Bluetooth module that will sync with any Windows phone. The Raspberry Beret also includes enough sensors that will blow away everything from a Fitbit to the new Apple Watch. The Raspberet will keep track of your heart rate, activity, and exercise routine.
The Raspberry Beret is just the beginning; the Pi Foundation and [The Artist Formerly Known As ] are also teaming up with OSH Park to produce a limited, special edition Raspberry Pi 2. This board will be clad in the beautiful OSH Park purple soldermask and sports 4GB of eMMC Flash. This Flash will not be usable; instead it will contain a remastered edition of Purple Rain that will play as a startup chime. There will be no option to skip the chime.
Certain parts of the Northern Hemisphere are very, very cold right now. For those of us living in these colder climates, [Aaron] has a simple yet effective hack for keeping your hands warm when you go out for a walk in the brisk cold. He’s wired his jacket up for USB charging so he can make sure his hand warmers are always working.
[Aaron] bought a set of handwarmers that conveniently charge over USB, but he always forgot to actually plug them in once he got home, ensuring that they were always dead. To make his forgetfulness a non-issue, he built the USB charger for the handwarmers into his jacket, but he didn’t just run a wire out of the pocket. The USB charging circuit runs through the coat hanger, using some conductive cloth and steel thread in the inside of the jacket’s shoulders. From there, the cloth makes contact with the metal arms of the hanger and runs out of the hanger to the wall outlet.
This is a great cold-weather hack that might help any forgetful people on the north side of the planet keep warm. You could even use this method to charge batteries used in other wearable electronics. This project is a great reminder that sometimes the best hacks are the simple ones that no one’s thought of yet!
Picture it: your first open mic night at Larry’s Laugh Lounge. You’re up second in the lineup. It’s better than going first, but the crowd is far from hitting the two-drink minimum and your dad jokes are going over like a lead balloon. What now? Time for your secret weapon. You throw out the ‘tough crowd’ line while casually reaching into a pocket of your herringbone blazer. You press a button and the sound of crickets reaches the microphone. Someone chortles near the back. You smile, and remembering that Barbie joke from Reddit, your act takes a turn for the profane and the sweet sound of your first real laugh is forever burned in your memory.
This laugh track jacket from Adafruit’s [Becky Stern] is based on their own audio FX board, a standalone unit that can store and play WAV and OGG files. The board is also available with 16MB of flash for extended pre-recorded Foley artistry. This is an easy solder-and-sew project with a lot of wearable applications, and all of the components are available in the Adafruit store. There are plenty of places to get free sound effects that are already in WAV format, as the board does not support MP3s. As always, [Becky] has provided a clear and thorough guide with plenty of pictures and an introduction video that you can see after the break.
Continue reading “Laugh Track Jacket is Actually a Blazer”