HCDE 451: Fabric Construction Process Blog
The next medium that we would be exploring for our class was fabric, particularly the use of sewing to either create a new or redesign an IoT device that we already made in previous weeks. So far, all my projects have revolved around the Joint Pressure Sleeve and this week’s theme was also perfect to use on the Joint Pressure Sleeve.
Part of the assignment for this week was to make use of a simple electronic interaction with an LED. Back when I was first creating the joint pressure sleeve I wanted to include a way to indicate to the user when they are over exert their muscles. At that time, I just said that the user will be notified but never went into any detail about how that would happen. However, I thought using an LED would be perfect for this indication.
Sketches & Ideation
For the longest time I couldn’t figure out how I would implement an LED that activates when a user bends their knee(for context, the joint pressure sleeve was prototyped as a knee brace). From my previous experience with circuits, the only thing I worked with that was remotely close to what I had in mind were switches yet I didn’t have any switches to use. After looking online for some inspiration, I came across a YouTube video that used aluminum foil as a make shift switch. I then set off to create a schematic and sketch how the system would be implemented.
Construction of the Parts
Equipped with my sketch and schematic, I was now ready to create the
LED system for the joint pressure sleeve. The first step was to create a pouch
that the battery would be held in. Using the old pair of jeans that the sleeve
was created from so that the whole sleeve would be of the same material,
I cut off another piece of fabric and removed all the stitches so that I had
one long piece of fabric. After taking some measurements to ensure that
the pouch would fit on the sleeve, I made some cuts and was now ready to
sew it together.
I then used a running stitch to sew up the sides of the piece of fabric to create a small pouch to house the battery. A snap-in button was also included in order to allow the pouch to close and secure the battery in place during usage.
Now it was time to create and test the circuit. I never had used aluminum foil in a circuit before but I was optimistic about it. I originally wanted to use conductive thread in the construction of my circuit, but I found in my previous testing that the conductive thread was too finky to reliably use — the conductive thread would often kink on itself and create a short circuit. Instead, I opted to use some spare wires I had laying around the house as they worked more reliably in the circuit.
Assembling the Parts Together
With all the parts created, it was I was now ready to put it all together. I honestly thought that this would be the easiest part of the process, but it turned out to take a grueling long two hours as I had to make adjustments to make everything fit despite my prior planning. The biggest source of trouble came from trying to integrate the additional parts around the bracket that existed on the side of the sleeve. The bracket was in the way of where I wanted to place the LED, so instead I modified the bracket to hold the LED and sorted the wires around it.
Unfortunately, my brother was out of state for the week of this assignment so I could not test it on anyone else. Putting it on for the first time, I noticed how careful I was being with the prototype. A part of me didn’t want to break it but that made me realize how delicate the LED indicator system made the prototype in general. However, once it was on everything worked perfectly! Any time that I bent my knee, the LED turned on.
Analysis & Reflection
Overall, I was happy with the way the prototype turned out. Even though I ran previous tests to make sure the circuit would work with the make shift aluminum foil switch, it was satisfying to see everything come together well. The only piece of feedback that I got from critique sessions was that the LED location might make it hard for users to notice especially if they’re not paying attention to their knee brace all the time. If I had a chance to further iterate upon this design, I would also include a way for a notification to be sent to the user’s phone or an audible sound to be played so that users are more aware.