Is That a Tweet on Your Belt Buckle or Are You Just Happy to See Me?

What a time to be alive! The range of things you never knew you needed but absolutely must have expands at a breakneck pace, such that it’s now possible to pick up a belt buckle with an embedded LED matrix to scroll messages. We have no idea what the use case for something like this is, but some people will buy anything.

One such person was a friend of [Brian Moreau], who doubled down after being gifted the glowing bauble by turning it into a WiFi enabled Tweet-scrolling belt buckle. It appears to be a just for fun project, and to be honest one would need a heck of a belt for the buckle after his mods. He added an ESP8266 to take care of monitoring his Twitter account and driving the display on the belt buckle, a non-trivial task given that the thing is programmed with only two buttons that scroll through characters to compose a message. The microcontroller might have fit inside the original buckle or only added a little to its bulk, but [Brian] decided to replace the two coin cells powering it with an external 6-volt battery pack. That required a buck converter to power the ESP, so the whole thing ended up being thrown in a case and acting more like a neat display than a flashy fashion statement.

We’d bet some tradeoffs could be made to reduce the bulk and get that buckle back where it belongs, though. Once it does, maybe it’ll be part of a complete LED-laden ensemble, from head to toe.

The Latest 3D Printed Fad: Flexible Armor And Pangolin Cosplay

Last week, [David Shorey] came along to the monthly Hackaday meetup in Pasadena. These meetups feature speakers and drinks, projects and chit-chat, and sometimes a few demos of what the local Hackaday community has been working on. [David]’s impromptu demo was something no one had ever seen before. It’s 3D printed tiles embedded in fabric. This is the beginning of 3D printed flexible armor, a great method for cosplay builds, and a really cool way to add another trick to your 3D printing toolkit.

Hexagons tesselate. Image credit: DrainSmith

The steps to reproduce this project are actually very easy. The most important bit is the fabric itself. This is just a piece of tulle, a fine fabric mesh that’s usually used for bridal veils. According to members of the 3D printing community, you can pick up some tulle in the fabric department of any WalMart. The steps to reproduce this technique are simply to print three layers, pause the print and move the head out of the way, lay the tulle down on the print, and hit resume.

Judging from the commentary surrounding this new technique, there are a few tips and tricks to get the most out of this 3D printable fabric. The fabric should be taut and held down with either tape or binder clips. Melting or burning doesn’t seem to be an issue, but tulle made out of nylon is fairly common, and printing 3D panels with exotic filaments that require high temperatures may result in a mess.

While very cool, there are some limitations to the technique. If, for example, you are building a suit of body armor out of bendable tessallatable panels, you will have to assemble a quilt made out of panels as large as your print bed. This could be made easier by sewing (or gluing) the tulle/scale assembly onto a larger piece of fabric. Alternatively, the process could be modified for use with an Infinite Build Volume printer. This would give you yards and yards of 3D printed scales, ready to be fashioned into an outfit.

This is one of the most interesting techniques to bring 3D printing into the domain of ‘soft’ hacks and fashion we’ve ever seen. If you want to check out what’s possible with this, be sure to follow [David] on Twitter and out his Instagram. There are a lot of really great ideas there.

As with most ideas in 3D printing, this is one that’s been done before, albeit at not such a high level. [Drato] a.k.a. [RobotMama] did pretty much the same thing a few months ago, and we thank her for her contribution to the community.

Friday Hack Chat: Fashion! (Turn To The Left)

An underappreciated facet of the maker movement is wearable technology. For this week’s Hack Chat, we’re going to be talking all about wearable and fashion tech. This includes motors, lighting, biofeedback, and one significantly overlooked aspect of wearables, washability.

For this week’s Hack Chat, we’re sitting down with Kathryn Blair and Shannon Hoover to talk about the workability and washability of fashion tech. Over the last decade or so, wearable tech has become ever more popular, and these advances in the science aren’t just limited to amazing outfits lined with hundreds of Neopixels. Now, we’re dealing with biofeedback, clothing that regulates your body temperature monitors your vital signs, and necklaces that glow when the sun goes down.

Kathryn and Shannon are part of the team behind MakeFashion, a Calgary-based outfit that has produced over 60 wearable tech garments shown at 40 international events. MakeFashion is introducing designers to wearables through a series of hands-on workshops built around developing wearable electronics and electronic wearables.

One of the key technologies behind MakeFashion is the StitchKit, a development kit that’s now available on Kickstarter designed to add electronics to wearables. This means everything from uglier Christmas sweaters to interactive clothing.

During this Hack Chat, we’re going to be discussing the design and engineering behind fashion technology, including biofeedback, how motors and lighting work with a human body, and how to design for washability. If you have a question for this Hack Chat, add it to the discussion part of the event page.

join-hack-chat

Our Hack Chats are live community events on the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This Hack Chat is going down Friday, January 19th at noon, Pacific time. Time Zones got you down? Here’s a handy countdown timer!

Click that speech bubble to the left, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io.

You don’t have to wait until Friday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

Hackaday Prize Entry: Open Bike Shoe

Shoes are some of the most complex pieces of equipment you can buy. There’s multiple materials ranging from foam to weird polyesters in a simple sneaker, and if you dig into shoes for biking, you’ll find some carbon fiber. All these layers are glued together, stitched, and assembled into a functional piece of exercise equipment, with multiple SKUs for each size. It’s really amazing.

Accordingly, [marcs] created N+ Open Bike Shoe Platform, the purpose of which is to create open source,  customizable, and repairable shoe platform based on 3D printing, though with other techniques like rubber molding and sewing fabric uppers are included as well.

The project breaks down its signature shoe into all its various parts: heel, toe tread, insole, upper, and so on. With each part individually customizable, the shoe can be tailored to suit each individual, all while part of a cradle-to-grave lifecycle that allows shoe parts to be replaced, repaired, or recycled.

Project Kino: Robotic Jewelry And Tech Accessory

Researchers from MIT and Stanford are taking the ‘person’ in ‘personal assistant’ to mean something more literal with these robots that scurry around on the user’s clothing.

Project Kino — inspired by living jewelry — are robotic accessories that use magnetic gripping wheels on both sides of the clothing to move about. For now they fill a mostly aesthetic function, creating kinetic accents to one’s attire, but one day they might be able to provide more interactive functionality. They could act as a phone’s mic, adjust clothing to suit the weather, function as high-visibility wear for cyclists or joggers, as haptic feedback sensors for all manner of applications (haptic sonar bodysuit, anyone?), assemble into large displays, and even function as a third — or more! — hand are just the tip of the iceberg for these ‘bots.

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Clever Battery Holder Hack Makes Brilliant Earrings

A ‘googly eye’ with hole for LED leads on one side, slot for coin cell on the other. Black disk for pupil removed.

We love seeing a thing get used effectively for other than its intended purpose, and this DIY LED Earrings project is a great example. [IdunnGoddess] liked the idea of making light-up LED earrings powered by a small coin cell, but an enclosure and power connection for the battery were sticking points. The solution? A googly eye after a few minor modifications turned out to be perfect.

A googly eye resembles a thin, flat, hollow plastic bulb. Choose one that’s just a bit bigger than the coin cell, and cut a slot in one end and a small hole in the other. The LED leads go into the hole, and the coin cell slides into the slot. The result? A lightweight battery holder for an attached LED, and as a bonus the hacked googly eye is a clean and super smooth surface that can easily be painted or decorated to make it part of the design. The video embedded below demonstrates the process and showcases a few sample designs.

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“Starry Night” Dress Shines on the Experience of Multiple Builds

[Dave Hrynkiw] wrote up some practical and useful detail around embedding electronics into clothing. It centers around his daughter’s “Starry Night” high school graduation dress, which is the culmination of a lot of experimentation in finding the best way to do things. His daughter accented the dress with LEDs to produce a twinkling starfield effect, and a laser-cut RGB pendant to match.

While [Dave] is the president of Solarbotics and pitches some products in the process of writing it all up, the post is full of genuinely useful tips that were all learned though practical use and experimentation. Imagine how awesome it must be growing up a child of a “local technology-hacking company” founder — akin to growing up as Willy Wonka’s progeny.

What advice does [Dave] have for making electronics an awesome part of garments? For example, the fact that regular hookup wire isn’t very well suited to embedding into clothing due to the need for high flexibility. There is also the concept of sequestering electronics into a separate Technology Layer — a must for anything that will be used more than once. The idea is to “build your technology so it can be isolated from the fashion aspect as much as possible. It makes building and maintenance of both the fashion and technology aspects much simpler.”

Slapping some LEDs and a battery pack into clothing might do the trick if all you care about is some bling, but if you want something that actually highlights and complements clothing while also being able to stand up to repeated use, this is a great read. A simple lighting effect that complements a design isn’t difficult, and there’s no need to reinvent the wheel or make the same mistakes others have encountered. Video is embedded below.

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