Bespoke Implants Are Real—if You Put In The Time

A subset of hackers have RFID implants, but there is a limited catalog. When [Miana] looked for a device that would open a secure door at her work, she did not find the implant she needed, even though the lock was susceptible to cloned-chip attacks. Since no one made the implant, she set herself to the task. [Miana] is no stranger to implants, with 26 at the time of her talk at DEFCON31, including a couple of custom glowing ones, but this was her first venture into electronic implants. Or electronics at all. The full video after the break describes the important terms.

The PCB antenna in an RFID circuit must be accurately tuned, which is this project’s crux. Simulators exist to design and test virtual antennas, but they are priced for corporations, not individuals. Even with simulators, you have to know the specifics of your chip, and [Miana] could not buy the bare chips or find a datasheet. She bought a pack of iCLASS cards from the manufacturer and dissolved the PVC with acetone to measure the chip’s capacitance. Later, she found the datasheet and confirmed her readings. There are calculators in lieu of a simulator, so there was enough information to design a PCB and place an order.

The first batch of units can only trigger the base station from one position. To make the second version, [Miana] bought a Vector Network Analyzer to see which frequency the chip and antenna resonated. The solution to making adjustments after printing is to add a capacitor to the circuit, and its size will tune the system. The updated design works so a populated board is coated and implanted, and you can see an animated loop of [Miana] opening the lock with her bare hand.

Biohacking can be anything from improving how we read our heart rate to implanting a Raspberry Pi.

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Flexible Actuator Flaps For 100,000,000 Cycles Without Failure

Flexible PCBs are super-useful things, but they can have a limited fatigue life. [Carl Bugeja] has been using them to create flexible actuators, though, and he’s getting an amazing 100,000,000 cycles out of them after some rigorous development.

[Carl] explores all manner of optimizations to his flippy actuators in the video. He tried making them oscillate faster by putting a hole in the middle to reduce drag. Other tricks include getting the arm thickness just right, and experimenting with rigidity through adding or removing sections of soldermask.

Fundamentally, though, he learned the key to longevity laid in the copper traces on the flex PCBs themselves. After enough flexural cycles, the traces would fail, killing the actuator. He experimented with a variety of solutions, eventually devleoping a ruggedized two-arm version of his actuator. Twenty samples were put to the test, oscillating at 25 Hz for two weeks straight. All samples survived the test, in which they were put through around 107,820,000 cycles.

[Carl] has put in plenty of hard work on this project, and his actuators have come a long way since we saw them last. He hopes to use the better actuators to improve his FlexLED display. Video after the break.

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Supercon 2022: Samy Kamkar’s Glowing Breath

Sometimes the journey itself is the destination. This one started when [Samy] was 10 and his mom bought a computer. He logged on to IRC to talk with people about the X-Files and was WinNuked. Because of that experience, modulo a life of hacking and poking and playing, the talk ends with a wearable flex-PCB Tesla coil driving essentially a neon sign made from an ampule of [Samy]’s own breath around his neck. Got that? Buckle up, it’s a rollercoaster.

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Sticker Brings The Heat

[Carl] is always looking at making heater plates for PCB reflow and other applications. In his latest video, he shows how he is using thin flexible PCBs with adhesive backs as stickers that get hot. You can find gerber files and design files on GitHub.

You might think that this is a pretty simple thing to do with a flex PCB, but it turns out while the PCB might be flexible, the traces aren’t and so the typical long traces you see in a heater won’t allow the sticker to bend, which is a problem if you want to wrap it around, say, a coffee mug.

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Dreaming Of A Transparent (PCB) Christmas

[Carl] wanted to put his force sensors on a transparent PCB and had to ask his board vendor for a special sample. Flexible PCBs are available on transparent substrates made of PET, but they are not as common as polyimide boards. As [Carl] found out, these boards are a bit thicker, a bit less flexible, and don’t hold up to very high heat as well as the standard boards. Undeterred, he designed a 3D Christmas tree using the clear boards. The result that you can see in the video below looks pretty good and would have been hard to duplicate with conventional means.

When you build the board it is as a flat spiral, but lifting it in the center allows it to expand into a conical tree shape. The circuit itself is just an LED blinker, but the flexible board is the interesting part.

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Circuit Boards You Can Stretch: Liquid Metal Nanomaterials Make A Strange Flex

If you think polyimide-based flexible PCBs are cool, wait until you get a load of what polymerized liquid metal networks can do.

Seems like [CNLohr] has some pretty cool friends, and he recently spent some time with a couple of them who are working with poly LMNs and finding out what they’re good for. Poly LMNs use a liquid metal composed of indium and gallium that can be sprayed onto a substrate through a laser-cut stencil. This results in traces that show the opposite of expected behavior; where most conductors increase in resistance when stretched, pol LMNs stay just as conductive no matter how much they’re stretched.

The video below shows [CNLohr]’s experiments with the stuff. He brought a couple of traditional PCB-based MCU circuits, which interface easily with the poly LMN traces on a thick tape substrate. Once activated by stretching, which forms the networks between the liquid metal globules, the traces act much like copper traces. Attaching SMD components is as simple as sticking them to the tape — no soldering required. The circuits remain impressively stretchy without any apparent effect on their electrical properties — a characteristic that should prove interesting for wearables circuits, biological sensors, and a host of real-world applications.

While poly LMNs aren’t exactly ready for the market yet, they don’t seem terribly difficult to make, requiring little in the way of exotic materials or specialized lab equipment. We’d love to see someone like [Ben Krasnow] pick this up and run with it — it seems right up his alley.

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Slipping Sheets Map Multiple Bends In This Ingenious Flex Sensor

When thoughts turn to measuring the degree to which something bends, it’s pretty likely that strain gauges or some kind of encoders on a linkage come to mind. Things could be much simpler in the world of flex measurement, though, if [Fereshteh Shahmiri] and [Paul H. Dietz]’s capacitive multi-bend flex sensor catches on.

This is one of those ideas that seems so obvious that you don’t know why it hasn’t been tried before. The basic idea is to leverage the geometry of layered materials that slip past each other when bent. Think of the way the pages of a hardbound book feather out when you open it, and you’ll get the idea. In the case of the ShArc (“Shift Arc”) sensor, the front and back covers of the book are flexible PCBs with a series of overlapping pads. Between these PCBs are a number of plain polyimide spacer strips. All the strips of the sensor are anchored at one end, and everything is held together with an elastic sleeve. As the ShArc is bent, the positions of the electrodes on the top and bottom layers shift relative to each other, changing the capacitance across them. From the capacitance measurements and the known position of each pad, a microcontroller can easily calculate the bend radius at each point and infer the curvature of the whole strip.

The video below shows how the ShArc works, as well as several applications for the technology. The obvious use as a flex sensor for the human hand is most impressive — it could vastly simplify [Will Cogley]’s biomimetic hand controller — but such sensors could be put to work in any system that bends. And as a bonus, it looks pretty simple to build one at home.

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