Thursday, October 7, 2010

Sewable Arduino Interface

How to create a sewable interface for your Arduino USB board. It is probably not the best solution, especially compared to the Arduino LilyPad . But it is an option for textile electronic projects that use conductive thread and would like to sew directly to the inputs of an Arduino board.

step 1Materials and Tools

- Solderable Perfboard with copper line pattern from All Electronics
- Male and female headers from Sparkfun
- Regular thread
- Piece of fabric
- Small square of stretch fabric
- Arduino USB board from Sparkfun
- 9V battery with a 9V battery snap wired to a power plug
- Conductive thread from
also see

- Soldering iron and solder
- Cutting knife
- File
- Ruler
- Sewing needle
(- Helping hands and/or breadboard)

step 2Preparing materials

Cut your perfboard and headers into following pieces (see sketch for details):

One: 5 x 6 holes
One: 5 x 15 holes
Two: 5 x 9 holes

Male headers
Two: 6 pin rows
Two: 8 pin rows

Female headers
Two: 3 pin rows

!!! Make sure to divide the 5 x 6 hole piece of perfboard into two disconnected sections 3 x 5 holes each. See picture for details.

File all the edges of the perfboards to that they are rounded and not sharp. This is to prevent the edges from rubbing and tearing at the conductive thread that will later be stitched to the edge holes.

The perfboard pieces can also be downsized, if you only plan on connecting only from one side. I also include two rows of holes on each side of the headers for extra space, which also makes sewing-to easier, but one row of holes to one or either side would also work, and make things smaller. I also include an extra row of holes to each side of each perfboard to sew them in place with regular thread. This takes strain off the conductive thread connections&. but can also be dismissed for downsizing.

step 3Soldering

Solder the headers to the perfboards. Look at the pictures for details. A set of helping-hands or a breadboard would come in handy here for holding things in place while soldering.

step 4Sewing into place

Plug your header-perfboards into your Arduino and place it upside-down on top of a piece of fabric. Leave enough space for a battery pouch. Trace the placement of the perfboards to the fabric, then remove the Arduino, unplug the header-perfboards and sew them into place with regular thread. You can create a little battery pouch from stretch fabric so that you can power your Arduino with a 9V battery.

step 5Sewing connections

Now you can plug and unplug your Arduino from the sewable interface. When sewing conductive thread connections to the sewable interface, make sure to make good contact with the copper strip underneath the hole as shown in the pictures.

I plan on using this interface for a few textile objects that I'm working on. Because I would like to be able to sew directly to the inputs, as well as be able to remove the Arduino from the circuit.


Materials and Tools
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