Saturday, April 12, 2014

eTextiles + 3D printing = fun name badge

In my early search for my first authentic e-textile project,  I wanted something that could be  "a walking" billboard promoting the maker spirit.  My original thoughts was that it would be some type of e-textile project that could become part of my book bag which I have with me most places. I spent a lot of time playing with this idea as I  picked up supplies at Michael's and Walmart and ordered LilyPad components from SparkFun.  When my  Sparkfun package arrived,  I was able to easily get my computer sending schemes to the Lilypad boards and started creating circuits using craft materials, conductive thread and basic Lilypad components.

The Sparkfun website is filled with tutorials that might be helpful.  For getting started with LilyPad e-textiles, I would suggest  the following series.

Since I had just finished my own build of a 3d printer (The Printrbot Simple  ) I decided I wanted to integrate 3D printing with the e-textile components in a way that would start conversations about maker empowerment.   Although the book bag idea seemed fun,  the design wasn't jumping out at me. Then while cleaning out the bus one day, I found some name badges from recent conferences, and it  occurred to me that conference name badges are meant to provide just enough information about you to start a conversation - so why not find a way to add some maker elements to a badge holder.  Although I had lots of different components, most of which were overkill  for this project,
I settled on augmenting the battery powered basic circuit with a LilyPad Twinkle board.

This board actually has an ATtiny microcontroller which is programmed to make LED's you attach blink like fireflys. Although there was no need for programming for this project, I did find lots of advanced user tips for those who wanted to tackle programming the board. The built in firefly effect was going to work just fine for my project (attention getting in a subtle way).


What seemed like a quick and easy project ended up taking much more time than expected due to my lack of modeling ability and unexpected challenges of working with fine wire. I found a model on Thingverse that would work if I could create a cutout in the middle for the LED. After struggling to get the extrusion working with 123Design, I resorted back to TinkerCad and was able to get the right size hole after only 2 prints. (The digital callipers came in very handy and I was tickled to use my newly assembled printer.)

Wire management ended up being my biggest obstacles. The fine wire I used was conductive enough but had to be pulled really tight to complete the circuit and became much more tangled and harder to manage than I had expected. But after multiple takes and some reinforcement with the glue gun, I now have a fairly solid name badge holder than can start conversations about 3D printing, circuits, and maker empowerment.