Conductive Cellulose-Based Fibers For Clothing: Coming Soon?

Summary of the process of producing side-by-side PANI and cotton cellulose fibers. (Credit: Wongcheng Liu et al., 2023)
Summary of the process of producing side-by-side PANI and cotton cellulose fibers. (Credit: Wongcheng Liu et al., 2023)

With the rise of ‘smart’ devices, it seems like only a matter of time before smart fabrics become an every day thing. Yet a complication with these is that merely threading copper wires into clothing is neither practical nor very durable, which is why researchers have been trying to find a way to combine cellulose-based fibers like cotton with another, conductive material like carbon to create an affordable, resilient material which can provide the pathways for these smart fabrics. Recently a team at Washington State University created a version that integrates polyaniline (PANI, press release for paywalled paper), which is a well-known conductive polymer.

A recent review article by Duan-Chao Wang and colleagues in Polymers covers the research in conductive fibers, with conductive additives ranging from carbon nanotubes (CNT) and graphene to various metallic compounds and conductive polymers. As noted by Wang et al., a major aspect to successful commercialization is enabling scaling and cost-effectiveness of producing such fibers. This is the core of the achievement by the WSU team, who used a side-by-side structure of a cellulose substrate and the PANI conductive covering, which should be easier to produce and more durable than previous attempts to merge these two materials into conductive fibers suitable for fabrics.

Other research by Zhang-Chi Ling and colleagues, as reported earlier this year in NPG Asia Materials, details the creation of composite, conductive fibers made from bacterial cellulose with in-situ entanglement of CNTs. With even 100,000 bending cycles not showing much degradation, this could be another good candidate for conductive fabrics. Which of these approaches will first hit mass-production is still anyone’s guess, but we might see them sooner rather than later.

A white, house-shaped clock with the words "TEMPUS NECTIT" written in faux Roman script in black on a strip of silver at the base of the "roof." a white power cord extends from the left of the enclosure, and the center of the clock is a 22 pin knitting machine wheel with one pin covered in silver metalic. A white plastic peg extends from the bottom right of the enclosure to hold the feedstock yarn.

Tempus Nectit, A DIY Knitting Clock With Instructions

We’re no strangers to unusual clocks here at Hackaday, and some of our favorites make time a little more tangible like [Kyle Rankin]’s knitting clock.

Inspired by our coverage of [Siren Elise Wilhelmsen]’s knitting clock, [Rankin] decided to build one of his own. Since details on the build from the original artist were sparse, he had to reverse engineer how the device worked. He identified that a knitting clock is essentially a knitting machine with a stepper motor replacing the hand crank.

Using a Raspberry Pi with an Adafruit motor hat connected to a stepper motor and a 3D printed motor adapter, [Rankin] was able to drive the knitting machine to do a complete round of knitting every twelve hours. By marking one of the knitting pegs as an hour hand, the clock works as a traditional clock in addition to its year-long knitting task. [Rankin] says he still has some fine tuning to work on, but that he’s happy to have had the chance to combine so many of his interests into a single project.

If you’re looking for more knitting hacks, check out this knitted keyboard instrument or a knitted circuit board.

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A white clock with a house profile sits on a variegated grey background. A yellow skein of yarn sits on the top left side of the clock feeding into a circular loom that takes up the bulk of the center. A yellow scarf extends out the back of the clock and out of frame below the image.

Knitting Clock Makes You A Scarf For Next Year

Time got a little wibbly wobbly during these pandemic years. Perhaps we would’ve had a more tangible connection to it if [Siren Elise Wilhelmsen]’s knitting clock had been in our living rooms.

Over the course of a year, [Wilhelmsen]’s clock can stitch a two meter scarf by performing a stitch every half hour. She says, “Time is an ever forward-moving force and I wanted to make a clock based on times true nature, more than the numbers we have attached to it.” Making the invisible visible isn’t always an easy feat, but seeing a clock grow a scarf is reminiscent of cartoon characters growing a beard to organically communicate the passage of time.

We’d love some more details about the knitting machine itself, but that seems like it wasn’t the focus of the project. A very small run of these along with a couple prototypes were built, with a knitting grandfather clock now occupying the lobby of The Thief hotel in Oslo.

If you’re looking for more knitting machines, checkout this Knitting Machine Rebuild or Knitting 3D Models Into Stuffies.

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open hardware textile spinning machine constructed from aluminium extrusions, arduino electronics and 3D printed parts

An Open Hardware Automatic Spinning Machine

The team at the Berlin-based Studio HILO has been working on ideas and tools around developing a more open approach to small-scale textile production environments. Leveraging open-source platforms and tools, the team has come up with a simple open hardware spinning machine that can be used for interactive yarn production, right on the desktop. The frame is built with 3030 profile aluminium extrusions, with a handful of 3D printed, and a smidge of laser cut parts. Motion is thanks to, you guessed it, NEMA 17 stepper motors and the once ubiquitous Arduino Mega 2560 plus RAMPS 1.4 combination that many people will be very familiar with.

The project really shines on the documentation side of things, with the project GitLab positively dripping with well-organised information. One minor niggle is that you’ll need access to a polyjet or very accurate multi-material 3D printer to run off the drive wheel and the associated trailing wheel. We’re sure there’s a simple enough way to do it without those tools, for those sufficiently motivated.

We liked the use of Arduino for the firmware, keeping things simple, and in the same vein, Processing for the user interface. That makes sending values from the on-screen slider controls over the USB a piece of cake. Processing doesn’t seem to pop up on these pages too often, which is a shame as it’s a great tool to have at one’s disposal. On the subject of the user interface, it looks like for now only basic parameters can be tweaked on the fly, with some more subtle parameters needing fixing at firmware compilation time. With a bit more time, we’re sure the project will flesh out a bit more, and that area will be improved.

Of course, if you only have raw fibers, that are not appropriately aligned, you need a carder, like this one maybe?

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Hardware Store Chemicals Transform Sheets Into Waterproof Tarps

For hackers in the Northern Hemisphere, the seasons of wet and cold are upon us. Staying dry is every bit as important as staying warm, so what better than a hack or two to keep us warm and dry! All you’ll need is a bed sheet, some rope, and a run to the local hardware store, and a bit of knowledge. [NightHawkInLight] has us covered with the excellent video “Recycled Bedsheets Make The Best Waterproof Tarps” as seen below the break.

[NightHawkInLight] brings old traditional methods into the 21st century by turning away from oil, beeswax and canvas in favor of a recycled bed sheet made waterproof with silicone. The video goes into just enough detail so that you can reproduce their results without fear of working with the powerful solvent being used.

Cheap hardware store grade silicone sealant is thinned by naphtha, worked into the old bed sheet, and then hung out to dry overnight. The result? A perfectly waterproof sheet that’s just as pliable as before treatment. But how can you use it like a tarp, when there are no eyelets? If you watch the video for no other reason, check out the neat attachment trick at the end, where traditional technology is brought to the fore once again with nothing more than a rock and a slip knot.

We can imagine that the uses for such inexpensive, durable home made tarps are many. Perhaps one could put it to use when building your own Custom Cycling Camper.

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3D Printing For Textile Work

While it isn’t for everyone, some of the best creators we know are experts at working with textiles. While the art is ancient, it isn’t easy and requires clever tools. [Lauren] collected a few 3D prints that can help you with knitting, crochet, and even a knitting loom.

Some of the designs are pretty basic like the yarn bowl, or pretty easy to figure out like the simple machine for re-spooling wool. We were frankly surprised that you can 3D print a crochet hook, although the post does mention that breaking them is a real problem.

We were really impressed though, with the sock knitting machine. There are actually a few of these out there, and you can see a similar one in the video below. Of course, like a RepRap printer, it needs “vitamins” in the form of metal rods, fasteners, and the like. There’s also a  portable knitting loom which looked interesting.

We aren’t adept enough with fabric arts to know if these tools are serious contenders compared to commercial products, but we have to admit the sock knitting machine looks like it could be. We recently saw a sophisticated loom, although that might be a bit more than most people need. We have looked at open-source knitting machines, too. Of course, if you’d rather not create with textiles, you can always 3D print on them, instead.

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3D Printed Braiding Machine Brings Back Some History

Mechanizing the production of textiles was a major part of the industrial revolution, and with the convenience of many people are recreating the classic machines. A perfect example of this is [Fraens]’ 3D printed braiding machine, which was reverse engineered from old photos of the early machines.

The trick behind braiding is the mesmerizing path the six bobbins need to weave around each other while maintaining the correct tension on the strands. To achieve this, they slide along a path in a guide plate while being passed between a series of guide gears for each section of the track. [Fraens] cut the guide plate components and the base plate below it from acrylic and mounted them together with standoffs to allow space for the guide gears.

Each of the six bobbins contains multiple parts to maintain the correct tension. The strands are fed through a single guide ring, where the braid is formed, and through pair of traction gears. All the moving parts are driven by a single 24 V motor and can produce about 42 cm of a braided cord per minute, and you can even set up the machine to braid around an inner core.

This braiding machine is just one in a series of early industrial machines recreated by [Fraens] using 3D printing. The others include a sewing machine, and a power loom, and a generator.

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