Introduction: The ThreadBoard V4: Flexible 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 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, and test components.

Version 3 of the Threadboard introduces a chainmail design that enables the ThreadBoard to be wrapped around 3-dimensional objects and body parts (as seen in Figures 3-7 and the video).

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 colleague and the ThreadBoard's co-creator: Michael Schneider.

Photo (1) credit to Elliot Whitehead.

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

White PLA filament 1.75mm (I used HATCHBOX).

3D Printer (I have a Prusa i3 MK3S+).

4mm (Diameter) x 3mm (Height) neodymium magnets.


Quick grip clamps.

Step 2: 3D Print Chainmail

*The 3D print included in this step is a remix of Thingiverse user connormprints' project NASA Chainmail Fabric. They go through their entire design process in the Thingiverse post, it's super insightful and educational. I added additional material to the face of each link and added a hole for the magnets.

My settings for the prints were (w/ face side down - Figure 1): no supports, resolution: 0.15 mm, and infill: 100%. I printed a 9x9 (81 total) grid which took about an entire night to print.

If your print seems stiff, play around with the chainmail for a couple of minutes to loosen it up.

Step 3: Adding Magnets to the 3D Printed Substrate

To add the magnets, I recommend pushing in a magnet slightly using your finger or pliers. Then, while the magnet is still slightly in the hole, use some quick grip clamps to apply pressure to the magnet until it is fully in the hole (this will secure it). If some of the holes are too big from your 3D printer, use some super glue to hold the magnet in place.

I don't remember exactly how long it took me to complete this process but I got it done while watching a TV show, so around 45 minutes.

Step 4: Done!

You now have your very own flexible ThreadBoard! Happy prototyping!