Monday, February 13, 2006

off the cuff

Creating even the most basic flexible circuit proved to be a lot tougher than I had ever imagined. I had problems with both the fabrication of my cuff as well as with the electrical circuit.

Having no experience with conductive fabrics, my assumption was to think of them as thin flat wire. However , the flexibility of the fabric—a feature which makes it so useful—also proved to be problematic in the circuit construction. I had a hard time insulating the fabric, leading to shorts in the circuit. I had this issue with the LED as well as with the battery. I ended up solving it (at least for the LED) by layering the conductive material between cotton muslin. The battery connection proved to be a lot more challenging. I had planned to sandwich the battery between the two ends of the cuff, and use the force of the clasp to provide the needed tension to make a solid physical connection between the fabric leads and the poles of the battery. I found that the flexible nature of the fabric and the thinness of the coin cell didn’t work well together: the cell was enveloped in the conductive cloth creating a short.

As for the fabrication, I didn’t have much fun with the Juki. That thing is impossible to control. I was never able to get a handle on the speed, leading to embarrassingly sloppy seams and construction. On the plus side, the constantly breaking thread made me become quite proficient with threading the machine. This project taught me a lot about fabrics, and how hard it is to stitch them into submission.

Designers, carry on!


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