Introduction: The ThreadBoard: E-Textile Rapid Prototyping Board

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

The Instructable for the non-3D-printed version of the ThreadBoard V2 can be found here.

Version 1 of the ThreadBoard can be found here.

The ThreadBoard is a magnetic breadboard for embedded 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 ubiquitous computing. With this device, makers can rapidly prototype circuit designs, debug mistakes, and test components.

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 and ATLAS Institute at The University of Colorado, Boulder.

Special thanks to my collaborator: Michael Schneider.

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

Step 1: Materials

Lilypad Arduino or Adafruit Circuit Playground - The measurements in this Instructable is specifically for the Circuit Playground - Link

4mm (Diameter) x 3mm (Height) magnets - 16 magnets per halo and 4 magnets for the microcontroller holder - Link

3mm (Diameter) x 2mm (Height) magnets - The count and size will be different if you aren't using a Circuit Playground - Link

Stainless steel conductive thread - Link

Duct tape - Link

Step 2: Adding Magnets to Your Circuit Playground Pins

Now that you have the materials, it's time to add magnets to the fourteen Circuit Playground pins. The reason we are adding magnets to the pins is to (1) hold the microcontroller securely to the magnet enriched ThreadBoard and to (2) allow for a magnetic connection between the pins and the conductive thread. Typically, to connect the Circuit Playground with conductive thread you would need to sew and secure the thread around the open pins, and if you wanted to change your circuitry you'd need to cut the thread attached to the microcontroller 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 microcontroller pins and the rest of the board/components.

- Place duct tape on the bottom of your microcontroller then cut around the edge of the microcontroller. The duct tape will be used to hold the magnets within the pins.

- Isolate one disk magnet from the 3mm x 2mm set. Make sure that you have identified which end of the magnet will attract or repel the other magnets, the poles of the fourteen magnets need to be the same so that they are attracted to the magnets in the ThreadBoard.

- Gently push the magnet through the pin until it adheres to the duct tape. On a flat surface, apply light pressure on the top of the magnets to make sure they are secured to the tape. Continue this process for the next thirteen magnets.

Step 3: 3D Print the ThreadBoard

Our print was done with the Stratasys Dimension BST 768 3D Printer, which has the maximum build size of 8x8x12 inches.

View the file on Thingiverse.

The ThreadBoard's design was heavily inspired by a class of pattens found in nature called: phyllotaxis.

Step 4: Adding Magnets to the 3D Printed Board

To add magnets to your 3D printed board:

- Isolate one (4mm x 3mm) disk magnet from the set. Make sure that you have identified which end of the magnet will attract or repel the magnets in the microcontroller, the poles of the magnets in the ThreadBoard need to be consistent so that they are attracted to the magnets that are embedded into the microcontroller.

- Push the magnet through the hole until it is secured. The magnet at this point will sit crooked in the hole.

- Use a flat surface to press down on the magnet until it is secure, sitting nearly flush with the board.

- Continue this process for the next one hundred and twenty-four magnets. This process should take no longer than five minutes to complete.

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 refining this concept (keep an eye out for version 3 :) ).

Arduino Contest 2020

Participated in the
Arduino Contest 2020