How do you prototype e-textiles? Any way you can that doesn’t drive you insane or waste precious conductive thread. We can’t imagine an easier way to breadboard wearables than this appropriately-named ThreadBoard.
If you’ve never played around with e-textiles, they can be quite fiddly to prototype. Of course, copper wires are floppy too, but at least they will take a shape if you bend them. Conductive thread just wants lay there, limp and unfurled, mocking your frazzled state with its frizzed ends. The magic of ThreadBoard is in the field of magnetic tie points that snap the threads into place wherever you drape them.
The board itself is made of stiff felt, and the holes can be laser-cut or punched to fit your disc magnets. These attractive tie-points are held in place with duct tape on the back side of the felt, though classic double-stick tape would work, too. We would love to see somebody make a much bigger board with power and ground rails, or even make a wearable ThreadBoard on a shirt.
Even though [chrishillcs] is demonstrating with a micro:bit, any big-holed board should work, and he plans to expand in the future. For now, bury the needle and power past the break to watch [chris] build a circuit and light an LED faster than you can say neodymium.
The fiddly fun of e-textiles doesn’t end with prototyping — implementing the final product is arguably much harder. If you need absolutely parallel lines without a lot of hassle, put a cording foot on your sewing machine.
Before you start cutting up that ‘negative ion’ health bracelet or personal massager, be aware that these are highly likely to contain thorium oxide or similar radioactive powder, as this research video by [Justin Atkin] (also embedded after the break) over at The Thought Emporium YouTube channel shows. Even ignoring the irony that thorium oxide is primarily an alpha (He+) emitter and thus not a ‘negative ion’ source (which would be beta decay, with e–), thorium oxide isn’t something you want on your skin, or inside your lungs.
These bracelets and similar items appear to embed grains of thorium oxide into the usual silicon-polymer-based bracelet material, without any measures to prevent grains from falling out over time. More dangerous are the items such as the massage wand, which is essentially a metal tube that is filled with thorium oxide powder. This is not the kind of item you want to open on your kitchen table and have it spill everywhere.
Considering that these items are readily available for sale on Amazon, EBay and elsewhere, giving items like these a quick check with the ol’ Geiger counter before ripping them open or cutting them up for a project seems like a healthy idea. Nobody wants to cause a radiological incident in their workshop, after all.
At first, smartwatches were like little tiny tablets or phones that you wore on your wrist. More recently though we have noticed more “hybrid” smartwatches, that look like a regular watch, but that use their hands to communicate data. For example you might hear a text message come in and then see the hand swing to 1, indicating it is your significant other. Want to roll your own? The OpenChronograph project should be your first stop.
The watches are drop in replacements for several Fossil and Skagen watch boards (keep in mind Fossil and Skagen are really the same company). There’s an Arduino-compatible Atmega328p, an ultra low power real time clock, a magnetometer, pressure sensor, temperature sensor, and support for a total of three hands. You can even create PCB artwork that will act as the watch face using Python.
An ideal application for mesh networking is off-grid communication; when there’s no cellular reception and WiFi won’t reach, wide-area technologies like LoRa can be used to create ad hoc wireless networks. Whether you’re enjoying the outdoors with friends or conducting a rescue operation, a cheap and small gadget that will allow you to create such a network and communicate over it would be a very welcome addition to your pack.
Developer [Kevin Hester] tells us that these are still the very early days, and there’s plenty of work yet to be done. In fact, he’s actively looking to bring a few like-minded individuals onto the project. So if you have experience with the ESP32 or mobile application development, and conducting private communications over long-range wireless networks sounds like your kind of party, this might be your lucky day.
From a user’s perspective, this project is extremely approachable. You don’t need to put any custom hardware together, outside of perhaps 3D printing a case for your particular board. The first time around you’ll need to flash the firmware with esptool.py, but after that, [Kevin] says future updates can be handled by the smartphone application.
Incidentally, the primary difference between the two boards is that the larger and more expensive one includes GPS. The mesh networking side of things will work with either board, but if everyone in your group has the GPS-equipped version, each user will be able to see the position of everyone else in the network.
I’m writing from a cozy farmhouse just outside of Oxford, UK where we are slowly emerging from a particularly intense Atlantic storm. Some areas have widespread flooding, while fallen tree branches and damaged roofs are countrywide. Our neighbours in the Irish Republic are first in the path of these storms, and receive an especially strong pasting.
In the news following the storm is a merchant ship that was washed up by this storm on the coast of County Cork. The MV Alta is a nearly 2300t and 77m (just over 253 ft) freighter that had been abandoned in 2018 south of Bermuda after a mechanical failure had rendered it incapable of navigation. Its crew had been rescued by the US Coast Guard, and since then — apart from a brief sighting in mid-Atlantic by a Royal Navy polar research vessel — it had passed unseen as a drifting ghost ship before appearing on the Irish coast.
In a very literal sense it had dropped off the radar, but the question for us is how? With the huge array of technological advances in both navigation aids and global sensing available at the end of the 21st century’s second decade, should that even be possible? It’s worth taking a while as land-lubbers to look at how ships are tracked, to try to make sense of the seeming invisibility of something that is after all pretty large and difficult to hide.
[Teaching Tech] sprung about $80 or a kit to add dual extrusion to his 3D printer, plus another $20 for an accessory kit. He did get it to work well, but it wasn’t without problems which he covers in the video below.
The design of the head uses a servo to swing two hot ends to — in theory — the same point. Each hot end has an ooze shield, so you don’t need to deal with that in your G-code by building a priming tower. However, there are some requirements for your printer.