There’s been plenty of research into “smart fabrics”, and we’ve seen several projects involving items of clothing with electronics integrated inside. These typically include sensors and simple actuators like LEDS, but there’s no reason you can’t integrate moving electromechanical systems as well. [Rehana Al-Soltane] did just that: she made an elegant evening dress with flowers that open and close on command.
It took [Rehana] a bit of experimentation to figure out a floral design that opens and closes smoothly without crumpling the fabric or requiring excessive force to actuate. She finally settled on a plastic sheet sandwiched between two layers of fabric, with pieces of fishing line attached that pull the edges inward. The lines are guided through a tube down the back of the dress, where a servo pulls or releases them.
The mechanical flower can be operated by touch — [Rehana] made one of the other flowers conductive by embedding copper tape between its petals and connected it to the capacitive touch sensor interface of an Atmel microcontroller. The micro is sitting on a custom PCB that’s worn on the hip, with wires going to the servo at the back. You can see how the system operates in the video embedded below.
The dress is [Rehana]’s final project for the famous “How To Make (almost) Anything” course at MIT, and required a wide variety of skills: the cable guide was 3D printed, the flower petals were laser cut, the PCB was milled, and the end product was sewn together. [Rehana] has a knack for making electronics-infused clothes and accessories, including the flexible PCB crown that she’s wearing in the image above. Continue reading “Elegant Evening Dress Sports Servo-Actuated Flowers”→
TshWatch is a project by [Ivan / @pikot] that he’s been working on for the past two years. [Ivan] explains that he aims to create a tool meant to help you understand your body’s state. Noticing when you’re stressed, when you haven’t moved for too long, when your body’s temperature is elevated compared to average values – and later, processing patterns in yourself that you might not be consciously aware of. These are far-reaching goals that commercial products only strive towards.
At a glance it might look like a fitness tracker-like watch, but it’s a sensor-packed logging and measurement wearable – with a beautiful E-Ink screen and a nice orange wristband, equipped with the specific features he needs, capturing the data he’d like to have captured and sending it to a server he owns, and teaching him a whole new world of hardware – the lessons that he shares with us. He takes us through the design process over these two years – now on the fifth revision, with first three revisions breadboarded, the fourth getting its own PCBs and E-Ink along with a, and the fifth now in the works, having received some CAD assistance for battery placement planning. At our request, he has shared some pictures of the recent PCBs, too!
The necklace is made of copper-clad board, the type typically used by those who would etch their own PCBs at home. In this case, the board is placed on a [Bantam Tools] mill, which removes copper strategically and cuts out the final shape. This creates a series of traces on the back for a battery, LEDs and a small swtich, while creating areas on the other side of the board for light to shine through.
With a battery installed, the LEDs on the back side of the necklace glow through the fiberglass for a beautiful effect. With a PCB mill and a reflow oven, it’s remarkably easy to make, too. Of course, if you like your parts density a little higher, these FPGA earrings might be more your speed!
When it comes to wearables, there are a few places you can mount rechargeable batteries and largish circuit boards. Certainly, badges hanging from a lanyard are a favorite here on Hackaday. A belt is another option. [deshipu] has come up with a good location on your head, provided you have long hair that is. That’s the hair clasp or barrette. It can support a hefty mass, be relatively large, and doesn’t touch your skin.
Being able to solder the clasp to the circuit board was his first success and he’s since made a test barrette with pulsing LEDs which he’s distributed to others for evaluation. We really like his electronic hub idea and look forward to seeing where he takes it. For now, he’s done enough to have become a finalist in the Hackaday Human Computer Interface Challenge.
Finding a killer application for e-textiles is the realm of the hacker and within that realm, anything goes. Whether it’s protecting your digital privacy with signal shielding, generating audio with a wearable BeagleBone or 555 timer, or making your favorite garment into an antenna, the eTextile Spring Break is testing out ways to combine electronics and fabric.
You may be asking yourself “What are e-textiles good for?”. Well, that’s an excellent question and likely the most common one facing the industry today. I’m afraid I won’t be able to give a definitive answer. As an e-textile practitioner, I too am constantly posing this question to myself. There’s an inherently personal nature to fabric worn on the body and to our electronic devices that makes this answer elusive. Instead of trying to fabricate some narrow definition, what I offer is a look at topics of interest, material experimentation, and technical exploration through the lens of a week-long event held recently in New York called eTextile Spring Break.
The practice of developing wearable electronics offers a lot of opportunity for new connector designs and techniques for embedding electronics. Questions like these will eventually come up: How will this PCB attach to that conductive fabric circuit reliably? What’s the best way to transition from wire to this woven conductive trim? What’s the best way to integrate this light element into this garment while still maintaining flexibility?
Mika Satomi and Hannah-Perner Wilson of Kobakant are innovators in this arena and inspire many with their prolific documentation while they ask themselves questions similar to these. Their work is always geared towards accessibility and the ability to recreate what they have designed. Their most recent documented connector is one they call the Bumblebee Breakout. It connects an SMD addressable RGB LED, such as Adafruit’s Neopixel, to a piece of side glow fiber optic 1.5mm in diameter. On a short piece of tubing, the four pads of the SMD LED are broken out into four copper rings giving it the look of a striped bumblebee. To keep from shorts occurring while wrapping the copper tape contacts around the tube, they use Kapton tape to isolate each layer as they go.