Let’s face it: pretty much everything about e-textiles is fiddly. If wearables were easy, more people would probably work in that space. But whereas most circuit prototyping is done in two dimensions, the prototyping of wearables requires thinking and planning in 3D. On top of that, you have to figure out how much conductive thread you need, and that stuff’s not cheap.
[alch_emist] has a method for arranging circuits in 3D space that addresses the harsh realities of trying to prototype wearables. There’s that whole gravity thing to deal with, and then of course there are no straight lines anywhere on the human body. So here’s how it works: [alch_emist] made a bunch of reusable tie points designed to work with an adhesive substrate such as felt. They laser-cut a set of acrylic squares and drilled a hole in each one to accommodate a neodymium magnet. On the back of each square is a small piece of the hook side of hook-and-loop tape, which makes the tie points stay put on the felt, but rearrange easily.
We love the idea of prototyping with felt because it’s such a cheap and versatile fabric, and because you can easily wrap it around your arm or leg and see how the circuit will move when you do.
Not quite to this planning stage of your next wearable project? Magnets and conductive thread play just as well together in 2D.
As a species, we’ve done a pretty good job at inventing some useful devices. But as clever as we think we are, given sufficient time, natural selection will beat us at our game at almost every turn. So it makes sense that many of our best inventions are inspired by nature and the myriad ways life finds to get DNA from one generation to the next.
Hook and loop fasteners are one such design cribbed from nature, and the story behind this useful mechanism is a perfect example that a prepared mind, good observation skills, and a heck of a lot of perseverance are what it takes to bring one of Mother Nature’s designs to market.
Editor’s Note: As some predicted in the comments section, we were contacted by representatives of Velcro Companies and asked to change all mentions in this article to either VELCRO® Brand Fastener or to use the generic “Hook and Loop” term. If it seems weird that we’re calling this hook and loop, now you know why.
Continue reading “Mechanisms: Hook And Loop Fasteners”
Remember the 1980s, when velcro sneakers were the hip new thing? (Incidentally, VELCRO® is a registered trademark for VELCRO® brank hook-and-loop fasteners but we use it here as a general term for the fastening technology). Only the coolest kids in school had a fresh pair of Zips. Velcro left a bit to be desired though. The hooks and loops would wear out, and the sneakers always seemed to pop apart at the worst possible moments — like when running or jumping. These days, velcro seems to be relegated to the elderly, which gives it the stigma of “old people shoes”.
So what is an aspiring hacker to do, just tie their shoelaces like a simple plebe? [Pentland_Designs] has the answer with his shoelace locks. The design is his take on the classic plastic clip found on backpacks and jackets. [Pentland_Designs] has added a twist though — a “button” which flexes a plastic ring, releasing the main body of the clip. This means the user doesn’t have to bend down when taking off their shoes. This isn’t just good for folks with disabilities. Anyone with back problems will tell you that avoiding a couple of deep bends at the end of the day helps a lot.
Check out the video of [Pentland_Designs] Shoelace locks after the break. For more shoe-tech, check out these LEGO self-lacing shoes, or this teardown of Nike’s self-lacing offering.
Continue reading “Shoelace Locks Keep Your Fancy Footwear Firmly Attached”
Before this project, [David]’s office had a fairly terrible system to tell everyone who was in the office, who was out, and who wasn’t coming in today. Velcro and whiteboards will do the job, but arcade buttons and LEDs called to [David], leading him to create this In/Out Status Board.
The old system consisted of a whiteboard on the side of each partition, with velcroed labels indicating if a particular person was in the office today, out, sick, or on holiday. Inconvenient to change, and there was no single place everyone could look to see if a particular person was in or not. The new system consists of a four-person pod with four arcade buttons and WS2811 LEDs, an Arduino Nano, and a 433 MHz radio. The main panel is just a bigger version of the four-person pod, keeping track of everyone in the office.
A single button switch will change a person from being in to being out, with longer presses necessary for ‘sick’ and ‘vacation’. It’s interesting to note what’s not included in this build: A fingerprint scanner was out of the question, because that would effectively eliminate anyone ever being marked as ‘sick’. An RFID tag reader was out for the same reason. Also not included is a display. That’s just fine, really – [David] won’t be changing the labels very often, anyway, and that would just add to the cost and complexity of the project.
With new materials comes new possibilities in fabrication, and with 3D printers, this observation is no different. In the past year or so, there have been a few very interesting new filaments that have come into mainstream use – a printable sandstone, high impact polystyrene, and a flexible PLA. When [Rich] saw a bike light that had an integrated hook-and-loop fastener – think Velcro – built in to its enclosure, he thought to himself, ‘I could do that too.’
[Rich]’s “ElastoStraps” are printed with Makergeek’s Flexible PLA, and the entire device works surprisingly similar to other hook and loop fasteners with a registered trademark. The design is up on Thingiverse, and since the object was designed with OpenSCAD, the 3D printed Velcro can also be opened up in the Customizer for hook-and-loop straps that perfectly suit your needs.
Forget hacking an easy button, grab a couple of those outdated CD-Rs and build your own switch for that next project. This was developed with handicapped accessibility in mind; assembled easily with common products and it’s fairly robust. In fact, our junk box has everything you need except the adhesive backed copper foil. Combine two old CD’s, covered in copper on facing sides, separated by two strips of Velcro to separate the conductors. When pressure is applied, one CD flexes to make contact with the other and complete the circuit. So easy, yet we never thought of it. We’ll add it to our list of homebrew input devices.
This is (video above) perhaps the most abstract way of playing sounds…ever. Yes, we’ve heard Hard Drive music and Obsolete technology bands, but [DJ Sures] brings us the first ever, spark plug instrument.
Much like Velcro and Teflon, the musical spark plug is claimed to be an accident. After testing energy use vs. spark power with his flare stack ignition controller, [DJ Sures] noticed that different frequencies could be produced. It was only a matter of reprogramming before death metal Twinkle Twinkle Little Star is heard. Now he just needs to refine it a bit and build a full stereo cabinet.