Documentation Is Hard, Let The SkunkWorks Project Show You How To Do It Well

Documentation can be a bit of a nasty word, but it’s certainly one aspect of our own design process that we all wish we could improve upon. As an award-winning designer, working with some of the best toy companies around, [Jude] knows a thing or two about showing your work. In his SkunkWorks Project, he takes a maker’s approach to Bo Peep’s Skunkmobile and gives us a master class on engineering design in the process.

As with any good project brief, [Jude] first lays out his motivation for his work. He was very surprised that Pixar hadn’t commercialized Bo Peep’s Skunkmobile and hoped his DIY efforts could inspire more inclusive toy options from the Toy Story franchise. He does admit that the Skunkmobile presents a more unique design challenge than your standard, plastic, toy action figure. Combining both the textile element to create the illusion of fur and the RC components to give the toy its mobility requires careful thought. You definitely don’t want the wheels ripping into the fabric as you wheel around the backyard or for the fur to snag every object you pass by in the house.

Given the design challenges of making the Skunkmobile from scratch, [Jude] decided the best way forward was to retrofit a custom-designed skunk-shaped body onto a standard RC car chassis. The difficulty here lies in finding a chassis that can support the weight of the retrofitted body as well as one big enough to hold a 9-inch Bo Peep doll inside the driver’s compartment. Before spending endless hours 3D printing (and re-printing) his designs, [Jude] first modeled the Skunkmobile in card (using cardboard), a practice we’ve seen before, and are always in love with. He continually emphasized the form of his device was probably even more important than its function as capturing the essence as well as the “look and feel” of the Skunkmobile were critical design criteria. You can even see the skunk wagging its tail in all his demo videos. Prototyping in card gave [Jude] a good feel for his Skunkmobile and the designs translated pretty well to the 3D printed versions.

What really impressed us about [Jude’s] project is the incredible detail he provides for his entire design process from his backstory, to the initial prototypes, to the user testing, and, finally, to the realization of the final product. Remember, “We want the gory details!”

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At MIT, Clothing Fiber Watches You

[Yoel Fink] and his team at MIT have announced their creation of a fiber that can sense and store data. In addition, they can use data from a shirt made of the material to infer the wearer’s activity with high accuracy. The fiber contains hundreds of microscale silicon chips into a preform used to create a polymer fiber that connects the chips using four 25 micron tungsten wires. You can read the paper directly in Nature Communications.

The fiber contains temperature sensors and enough memory (24CW1280X chips) to store a short movie for two months without power. It also contains 1,650 neural network elements, which means the fiber can train to infer activity itself without additional help.

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Knitting Machine Rebuild Takes It To The Next Level

Those of us who to textile work may own a sewing machine and even if we’re really into it and have the funds, an overlocker. But there’s another machine in that field that few of us will have, and that’s a knitting machine. These machines have a sliding carriage over a long array of needles, and even the cheaper ones are way more expensive than for example a pretty decent oscilloscope. [Irene Wolf] has a Passap E6000 computerised knitting machine that is by no means an inexpensive one, and she’s made significant improvement to it by giving it new brains, a new motor controller, and replacing the mechanical rear needle bed with a set of computerised ones from the front of another machine.

In her write-up she goes in depth into the arrangement of sensors and electromagnets that operate the machine. She started with a lot of inspiration from a project at Hackerspace Bamberg, but used all the available Passap sensors as inputs where they had used only one. She has two Arduino M0 boards handling the inputs and a Raspberry Pi with control and user interface, and has posted some videos of the system in action one of which we’ve placed below the break.

We probably wouldn’t have had the courage to fearlessly hack such a high-value machine, and we’re particularly impressed by the result. The write-up is particularly interesting not only for the work itself, but for the detailed insight it gives to the workings of these machines. The best news – she’s not finished and there will be more installments.

While you’re waiting for more, remember this is by no means the first hacked knitting machine we’ve brought you.

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Tool Rolls, The Fabric Design Challenge That Can Tidy Up Any Workshop

You’ve designed PCBs. You’ve cut, drilled, Dremeled, and blow-torched various objects into project enclosurehood. You’ve dreamed up some object in three dimensions and marveled as the machine stacked up strings of hot plastic, making that object come to life one line of g-code at a time. But have you ever felt the near-limitless freedom of designing in fabric?

I don’t have to tell you how satisfying it is to make something with your hands, especially something that will get a lot of use. When it comes to that sweet cross between satisfaction and utility, fabric is as rewarding as any other medium. You might think that designing in fabric is difficult, but let’s just say that it is not intuitive. Fabric is just like anything else — mysterious until you start learning about it. The ability to design and implement in fabric won’t solve all your problems, but it sure is a useful tool for the box.

WoF? Fat quarter? How much is a yard of fabric, anyway?

To prove it, I’m going to take you through the process of designing something in fabric. More specifically, a tool roll. These two words may conjure images of worn, oily leather or canvas, rolled out under the open hood of a car. But the tool roll is a broad, useful concept that easily and efficiently bundles up anything from socket wrenches to BBQ utensils and from soldering irons to knitting needles. Tool rolls are the best in flexible, space-saving storage — especially when custom-designed for your need.

In this case, the tools will be pens, notebooks, and index cards. You know, writer stuff. But the same can just as easily organize your oscilloscope probes. It’s usefully and a great first foray into building things with fabric if this is your first time.

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Kitty Yeung On Tech-Fashion Designs And The Wearables Industry

If there is a field which has promise verging on a true breakout, it is that of wearable electronics. We regularly see 3D printing, retrocomputing, robotics, lasers, and electric vehicle projects whose advances are immediately obvious. These are all exciting fields in which the Hackaday community continually push the boundaries, and from which come the astounding pieces of work you read on these pages daily. Of course the projects that merge textiles and electronics are pushing boundaries in the same way, except for that it’s often not obvious at first glance. Why is that?

Wearables are a field in which hard work and ingenuity abound, but pulling off the projects that stand out and go beyond mere ordinary garments adorned with a few twinkly LEDs or EL wire is hard. Wearables have a sense of either still seeking its killer application or its technological enabler, and it was this topic that physicist, textilist, and artist Kitty Yeung touched upon in her talk at the recent Hackaday Superconference.

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MIT Makes Washable LED Fabric

Let’s face it, one of the challenges of wearable electronics is that people are filthy. Anything you wear is going to get dirty. If it touches you, it is going to get sweat and oil and who knows what else? And on the other side it’s going to get spills and dirt and all sorts of things we don’t want to think about on it. For regular clothes, that’s not a problem, you just pop them in the washer, but you can’t say the same for wearable electronics. Now researchers at MIT have embedded diodes like LEDs and photodetectors, into a soft fabric that is washable.

Traditionally, fibers start as a larger preform that is drawn into the fiber while heated. The researchers added tiny diodes and very tiny copper wires to the preform. As the preform is drawn, the fiber’s polymer keeps the solid materials connected and in the center. The polymer protects the electronics from water and the team was able to successfully launder fabric made with these fibers ten times.

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We Couldn’t Resist This CNC Batik Bot

Batik is an ancient form of dyeing textiles in which hot wax is applied to a piece of cloth in some design. When the cloth is submerged in a dye bath, the parts covered with wax resist the pigment. After dyeing, the wax is either boiled or scraped away to reveal the design.

[Eugenia Morpurgo] has created a portable, open-source batik bot that rolls along the floor and draws with wax, CNC-style, on a potentially infinite expanse of cloth. The hardware should be familiar: an Arduino Mega and a RAMPS 1.4 board driving NEMA 17 steppers up and down extruded aluminium.

Traditionally, batik wax is applied with a canting, a pen-like object that holds a small amount of hot wax and distributes it through a small opening. The batik bot’s pen combines parts from an electric canting tool with the thermistor, heater block, and heater cartridge from an E3D V6 hot end. [Eugenia] built the Z-axis from scrap and re-used the mechanical endstops from an old plotter. Check out the GitHub for step-by-step instructions with a ton of clear pictures and the project’s site for even more pictures and information. Oh, and don’t resist the chance to see it in action after the break.

We love a good art bot around here, even if the work disappears with the tide.

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