Embroidered Fabric Speaker

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About: My work combines conductive materials and craft techniques to develop new styles of building electronics that emphasize materiality and process. I create working prototypes to demonstrate the kinds of electr...
Embroider highly conductive thread to make a fabric speaker coil. Then run an amplified sound source through it and hold a magnet close to hear it play. Sewing the coil takes longer than you might think!

Here some videos of what the speaker sounds like:










Here some links to further documentation and variations of the fabric/paper speaker coil and membrane:
>> Fabric speakers
>> Paper speakers
>> Embroidered speaker kit
>> Embroidered speaker kit page

Step 1: UNDERSTANDING HOW a SPEAKER WORKS

A speaker makes sound because an electromagnet (the embroidered coil) is mounted to a membrane (the fabric) with a permanent magnet close by.  When an audio signal is connected to either end of the electromagnet (coil) a fluctuating magnetic field forms around the coil, repelling and attracting the membrane from the permanent magnet. These vibrations happen so fast that we can barely see them, but the membrane moves the air around it, translating electrical frequencies into audible waves that we can hear.
Take a good look at the diagram and stencil on the other side of this sheet so that you understand what variables will influence the efficiency (volume) of your speaker coil before designing your own.

Step 2: MATERIALS AND TOOLS

MATERIALS:

* solderable conductive thread:
>> http://www.karl-grimm.com/navi.swf
>> https://www.etsy.com/listing/114198338/solderable-conductive-thread

* neodymium magnet(s):
>> http://www.kjmagnetics.com/products.asp?cat=17
>> http://magnet-magnete.eu/

* fusible interfacing:
>> http://www.amazon.com/Thermoweb-17-Inch-5-Yard-Iron-On-Adhesive/dp/B000XAMYXI/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1354193110&sr=8-2&keywords=heatnbond

* regular fabric

* regular thread


TOOLS:

* scissors

* iron

* sewing needle

Step 3: TRACE AND FUSE

Iron a square of fusible interfacing to the back of the piece of fabric that you plan to embroider your speaker coil on. Peel the paper backing from fusible interfacing and trace the outline and mark the center point of your coil on the front of the fabric.

Fusible interfacing is a heat glue that bonds two pieces of fabric together, adding stiffness to the material. The reason it makes sense to stitch your speaker coil onto stiffer fabric is because it will help keep the fabric taut as you sew so that the coil will not start to collapse the fabric back on itself.

Either before or after sewing your speaker coil, use an iron to fuse your membrane to another piece of fabric, or an item of clothing, or your project - wherever you want the fabric speaker to go. Having multiple layers of fabric fused together does make it harder to sew, but it also makes for a stiffer membrane that is better at moving air.

Step 4: START SEWING

With a sewing needle pull the end of your conductive thread through the center of your coil so that the needle ends up on the back side (with the fusible interfacing). Pull as much thread through as you will need to connect the center of your coil to your circuit. Generally 10-20 cm is good. Then remove the thread from the needle.

Step 5: COUCHING

Thread the needle with regular thread and tie a knot in one end. Insert from the reverse side through the center point of your coil design. Stitch over the conductive thread and back into the fabric, then come back through the fabric a few mm further along your coil path. This embroidery technique is called "couching".

Step 6: KEEP SEWING

As you are sewing your coil from center to edge, you want the conductive thread to come as close as possible to the previous turn without touching it. If one turn of the conductive thread touches another then the electricity will not be forced to flow around in circles, which is what increases the strength of the magnetic field.

Step 7: ADD MAGNETS

For a quick first test of your speaker simply clip on two magnets one on either side of your coil, so that they hold each other in place. If you have a smaller magnet, then place this one on the front side, since the magnet is conductive it will otherwise short out your speaker's coils. You can also put a piece of fabric in between the magnet and the coil to isolate it. For your final design you will want to mount your magnet(s) in the center of the coil without having them directly connected to the membrane.

Step 8: HOOK UP YOUR SPEAKER

Connect both ends of your speaker coil to your amplified audio signal. If you can not hear your speaker, try holding it very close to your ear. If it is very quiet then it is working, but you might need to increase your power source or reconsider your coil design to make it more efficient at moving air, which is what makes it louder.

>> Some simple ways for amplifying various audio signals

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    36 Discussions

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    AmiraI1

    3 years ago

    I made mine using stainless steel conductive thread. I commented then threads to the output from an already amplified signal from some speakers, but it did not work :/

    Help! Plz!

    image.jpg
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    AmiraI1

    3 years ago

    I made mine using stainless steel conductive thread. I commented then threads to the output from an already amplified signal from some speakers, but it did not work :/

    Help! Plz!

    image.jpgimage.jpgimage.jpgimage.jpgimage.jpg
    0
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    AmiraI1

    3 years ago

    I made mine using stainless steel conductive thread. I commented then threads to the output from an already amplified signal from some speakers, but it did not work :/

    Help! Plz!

    image.jpg
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    T0BY

    3 years ago on Introduction

    Genius! You can build them into clothes/hats/socks!

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    kaycstevens

    4 years ago on Introduction

    what size magnets do you recommend? i am on the website now, but not sure which magnets to select... awesome project!

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    Hi can you explain why I must be solderable conductive thread, would this http://www.kitronik.co.uk/products/textiles/textiles-kits/individual-e-textiles-parts/small-conductive-thread-bobin-6m-approx/ sort of thread work either?

    1 reply
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    PluseaWeAreMakeshop

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    it doesn't have to be solderable. but it should be highly conductive. the thread you linked to has a relatively high resistance to it, for making a speaker coil. meaning your speaker will be quieter because the electromagnet will be weaker.

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    TCBTC

    5 years ago on Introduction

    Isn't it also possible to use lightly insulated wire so they wont touch?

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    boygenuis32

    5 years ago on Introduction

    So I made two of these and embedded them in my hoodie! The sound quality isn't great, but it's still cool!

    IMG_20121209_133030.jpgIMG_20121209_133100.jpgIMG_20121209_132928.jpgIMG_20121209_132913.jpg
    1 reply
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    dee4402

    5 years ago on Step 8

    This is super cool! How do you think of all this stuff?!

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    boygenuis32

    5 years ago on Introduction

    Made a version with magnet wire on felt. Waiting on some magnets to test it out.

    IMG_20121206_005540.jpgIMG_20121206_005529.jpg
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    agis68

    5 years ago on Introduction

    very nice instructable for experiments. What if you place bigger magnet. I think the better sound quality was the speaker in a black fabric. Was really understood every single word of the song.....very neat.....keep rolling

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    Pluseaagis68

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    you're right the black speaker sounds best, but it's not just the speaker it is also the audio source. for the black speaker the audio is coming from an mp3 player and being amplified by a commercial amplifier, but in the other videos the audio is coming from a cheap sound circuit found inside greeting cards and i am amplifying it with a transistor.

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    Justin Tyler Tate

    5 years ago on Step 7

    This project would make for good ear-muff-headphones, for the winter months.

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    Justin Tyler Tate

    5 years ago on Step 3

    Couldn't you stretch the fabric on a frame or use embroidery rings, before sewing the speaker coil, in order to keep the fabric taught?

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    DIY-Guy

    5 years ago on Introduction

    Plusea you wowed us again! Would you happen to be related to Thomas Edison by chance? :)
    On another note, will this speaker resonate a little better with a firm frame of reference such as stretching the floppy fabric coil over a more solid hoop of some kind? Anchor the edges so to speak.

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    Arghus

    5 years ago on Introduction

    Sound quality seems awful.. A speaker like that will only be cool when it offers audio fidelity. Still cool project to show ppl how a speaker works