Introduction: The ThreadBoard: Micro:bit E-Textile Prototyping Board

About: I use wearables, human augmentation, and multimodal interfaces to design technologies that enable novel and immersive sensory experiences.

The ThreadBoard is a magnetic breadboard for wearable computing that allows for the rapid prototyping of e-textile circuits. The motivation behind the ThreadBoard is to develop a tool that will adapt to the unique set of constraints that e-textile creators face when fabricating an e-textile project. With the ThreadBoard, we hope to make a tool that will take into account the fabric-based nature of textiles with the electronic capabilities of wearable computing. With this device, makers can prototype their circuit design, determine thread length, rapidly test components, and even wear/place their designs on different metallic objects.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Award #1742081. The project page can be found here.

This project was developed in the Craft Tech Lab at the University of Colorado Boulder.

If you have any questions, want to keep up with my work, or just toss around ideas, please do so on my Twitter: @4Eyes6Senses

Step 1: Materials

BBC Micro:bit - Link

4mm (Diameter) x 3mm (Height) magnets - a minimum of 25 - Link

Stainless steel conductive thread - Link

Stiff felt sheets - Link

Duct tape or other adhesive - Link

Pliers - Link

Step 2: Adding Magnets to Your Micro:bit Pins

Now that you have the materials it's time to add magnets to the five Micro:bit pins. The reason we are adding magnets to the pins is to (1) hold the Micro:bit securely to the magnet enriched ThreadBoard and to (2) allow for the easy connection between the pins and the conductive thread. Typically, to connect the Micro:bit with conductive thread you would need to sew and secure the thread around the open pins, and if you wanted to change your design you'd need to cut the thread attached to the Micro:bit and possibly resew your project. With the ThreadBoard you can simply drop your conductive thread on top of the magnets and they will keep the thread secure to the Micro:bit pins and the rest of the board.

- Isolate one disk magnet from the set. Make sure that you have identified which end of the magnet will attract or repel the other magnets, the poles of the five magnets need to be the same so that they are attracted to the magnets that will be embedded into the ThreadBoard.

- Gently push the magnet through the pin until it is secured. The magnet at this point should be crooked in the pin and will detach if placed on a metallic surface and pulled. Continue this process for the next four magnets.

- Using pliers or a flat surface, apply light pressure on the bottom of the magnets until they are secured in the pins and sit even. If at any point you want to remove the magnets, apply light pressure on the top and they'll pop out easily.

Step 3: Cutting the Felt Sheet for the ThreadBoard

To cut the felt sheet for the ThreadBoard, I recommend that you use a laser cutter if you have access to one. The pdf for laser cutting is attached. If you do not have access to a laser cutter you can still use the pdf template to manually cut the felt sheet. To do so, overlay the printed pdf over a felt sheet and cut the ThreadBoard outline, then use a 4mm hole punch to punch out the holes in the felt with the pdf still overlayed.

Step 4: Adding Magnets to Your ThreadBoard

To add magnets to your cut felt, first place duct tape on one side of your felt piece then add magnets to each hole. Again, make sure that the correct pole of the magnet is facing up and will be attracted to the magnets that are in the pins of the Micro:bit. After placing the magnets, place a book on top of the magnet side of the ThreadBoard and apply pressure to secure the magnets. The magnets will hold securely to the tape but if you want an even more secure connection, apply glue around the sides of the magnets near the felt and allow for the glue to dry.

Step 5: Done!

You are now a proud owner of a ThreadBoard! For future Instructables, I plan to continue the development of the ThreadBoard by improving this concept as well as make ThreadBoards for other microcontrollers.


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