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Electroluminescent Wire is very interesting. While it doesn't photograph particularly well, in a dark room, the effect is very brilliant. I decided to create an Arduino controlled light suit with an attached helmet. The methods outlined here can be applied to an endless variety of applications.

Step 1: Acquire the Materials

This project has an extensive list of materials. These are presented in no particular order:

  1. Black, spandex body suit. I found one online that shipped from China. There are dance supply catalogs that carry these items. However, some of them are very stretchy and are very small when not being worn. Think of how shrunken panty hose are before being put on. The EL wire isn't elastic, so the garment has to be close to its final size in an unstressed state.
  2. Black nylon gloves: You can find these online at outlets for dance teams, cheerleaders, and marching bands.
  3. Mannequin. It may seem unnecessary, but it is almost impossible to work on the lightsuit without one. I found a cheap plastic one online (from China again). It's important to find one that's in a neutral position. Most mannequins have a dynamic pose which makes it very difficult to create a symmetrical layout. Dressforms are another option, but they are for professionals and can be very expensive.
  4. Electroluminescent Wire. I bought mine from various online outlets. Sometimes called Cool Neon or EL, it's available in different diameters and brightness. It works similar to fluorescent lights. A high frequency, high voltage alternating current causes the phosphors to emit photons. It doesn't get hot, but if there's a loose wire, it can shock you (thoroughly). Mine was 2.6mm super bright. Thinner wire can't handle the flexing of a garment; the thicker wire is too stiff. I used about 70 feet total.
  5. Materials to terminate the EL wire ends. You need wire strippers, a soldering iron and its accessories, heat shrink tubing, and adhesive copper tape. There are plenty of Instructables detailing the attachment of conductors to the EL wire. It might take a little practice to master the technique.
  6. EL Tape and Panels. Available from Sparkfun, I used these for the eyes and mouthpiece.
  7. EL Inverters (or Drivers). These transform DC power into high voltage alternating current to run the EL wire. I used two of them, the Big Boy Classic from Cool Neon Lighting. Make sure it's rated for the length of EL wire you plan to use (hence my need for two of them).
  8. Curved sewing needles, fishing line, and cyanoacrylate glue. I got my needles from a leather shop. A pair of needle nosed pliers or forceps are also helpful.
  9. 2-conductor and Ribbon Wire: You'll need a lot of wire to run between the EL material and the control boards. I used 6-conductor ribbon wire to run down the arms to the fingertip switches.
  10. Black Gorilla Tape: I used up two rolls by the time I was done.
  11. Autocad, Inventor, and/or 3DS Max software: You'll need CAD-type software and some modeling expertise to create the various enclosures and the helmet.
  12. (Access to) a 3D Printer and a CNC router table: The helmet was cut in 1 1/2" thick layers out of blue foam. All the other parts were made out of ABS plastic in a 3D printer.
  13. 8-Cell AA battery holder: I needed the raw voltage supply to be 12V to run the inverters, and I needed it to provide a decent amp-hour duration, so I decided on AA batteries. They're heavy, but placed between the shoulder blades, it's not that bad.
  14. Two Panel-mount Rocker Switches: These are used for the main power switches.
  15. Micro Push Buttons (maximum of 8): These are for the fingertip controls. They're momentary contact switches attached to inputs on the Arduino board.
  16. Micro-controllers and circuit components: I used two Arduino Uno micro-controllers, two El Escudo Dos EL shields from Sparkfun, two audio analyzer breakout boards from DFRobot along with two of their microphone boards. This lets me run two completely independent systems. One runs the helmet, and the other runs the body. The computer programs are slightly different for each.
  17. Various Tools: You'll need a multimeter, forceps, miniature screwdrivers, knives, scissors, etc.
<p>I really need to do something with EL wire. It looks like a super fun medium! </p>

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