Don’t Call it a Dumbwatch: The Spectacular Craftsmanship of Philippe Dufour

It won’t answer your phone. It won’t tell you if you have a text message, or how many steps you’ve taken today. You can’t sync it to anything except another clock, and it doesn’t get internet. So why does the mechanical wristwatch persist when everyone’s got a timekeeper in their pocket, and Samsung and Pebble and Apple are making powerful, sleek, connected versions?

Documentaries like this one about watchmakers Philippe Dufour and Vianney Halter, by Kat Mansoor, Will Hood, and Adam Lavis, remind you there’s more to the things you wear. Even if you’re not a watch person (I am) you can find inspiration in the craftsmanship and words of Dufour, who says “The value, besides the gold or platinum case, is what we add, and we spend a lot of hours, days, making things nice.”

“When you compare with mass-produced watches, we produce watches with a soul.”

Dufour compares his handcrafted mechanical watches to the quartz ones that took over the market, but it’s an accurate comparison to smartwatches as well. “People are rediscovering the fact of winding a watch. They lost it because of quartz watches ultimately, but to wind it, to listen to the ‘click click click’ of the winding mechanism, people are crazy about that. They realize also, without them, the watch is dying. So you have to feed your watch every day. And you create this relation.”

Though the documentary is from 2007, Dufour’s musings on craftsmanship apply to the present movement as well — and to more than just watchmaking.

“Every time a watchmaker goes into retirement, we’re losing something,” he says. “In all craft, craftsmen, in every profession … we are losing every day, every day more. And one day we will realize, we lost everything.”

Dufour is still making watches, and still featuring in documentaries. See The Road to Basel Episode 2, and in the comments below, share your favorite videos of exceptional craftsmanship.

Internet Connected Necktie with LEDs

Internet connected wearable devices are on the rise. Software writer and self-proclaimed tinkerer, Hector Urtubia has developed the first internet connected necktie. Using the platform Pinoccio along with Adafruit’s Flora RGB Smart Neopixel LEDs, Urtubia has created an entertaining and timeless piece of technology you can wear.

Why Pinoccio? Urtubia claims Pinoccio is the top choice for web enablers.

“I truly think the best platform right now is to use a Pinoccio…I recently picked a kit up and I’ve been impressed by its ease of use. If you have Arduino experience, you can most definitely program a Pinoccio.”

The tie wouldn’t be Urtubia’s complete package without the use of Adafruit’s Flora NeoPixels. These chainable and individually addressable LEDs (with built-in current driver) are designed specifically for wearables. Hector claims a convenient application of one pin on the Pinoccio will leave enough free space for other sensors on the project.

Adafruit has a similar, but not connected, tie. If you don’t know how to sew on a basic level, it’s time to learn!

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Urtubia also wrote a library that extends the Pinnocio scripting language to function with the pixels directly from the web/API. His library is even available for public use.

Now, when the library and sketch are synced with the Pinnocio Scout, all of the purposes of the odd tie are endless! Hector shared some of his creative and silly thought processes:

  • For software builders, light up your tie when builds start failing.
  • For executives at the office, light up your tie 5 minutes before your next meeting.
  • For dancers (count me out), put it on disco mode and be the center of the party!
  • For bikers, increase your visibility at night by putting the tie on your head.
  • Have your tie stream the news in morse code.

Wait, the tie not only lights up but Urtubia has taken one step further and connected his tie to MIDI (musical instrument digital interface) events!

Hector explains in detail how he is experimenting with using the tie for these MIDI events on his blog!

Overall, this fun tie can be assembled with ease using the Pinoccio and Adafruit’s Flora NeoPixels. Now, what else is possible with the use of Pinoccio? Urtubia is anxious to see what other projects people in the community can imagine with this platform in the future. In the meantime, impress your friends or embarrass your date with your new experimental tech-tie!

[via mrbook]

WearableWeek_Badge_small_bur01This week, July 14-19 2014, we’re exploring wearable electronics of all kinds on Make! If it is electronic and belongs on your body, we’d love to hear about it! You can find all of our wearable articles by going here.


A Working OLED Watch Built from Scratch


What do you do when you have a small spare organic LED display? If you’re computer engineering student Jared Sanson, you make a watch out of it, designing nearly every aspect of it from scratch.

This design was started at the circuit level, and after that, a PCB was laid out in Altium, which Jared only had limited experience using. Once the PCB and components arrived there were a few initial issues, but correcting your mistakes is always part of engineering a new item.

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Once the hardware was functional, quite a bit of software work had to be done. In order to get everything running, including the firmware, graphics engine, and several other “details,” Jared used the C, C#, and Python languages. He humbly remarks on his blog that “it’s taken me a lot of work to get this far,” and I can only imagine how many hours were put into this project.

To finish things off, he considered using a 3D printed case, but decided to go with an aluminum case designed for the iPod Nano. After a little modification, it looks fantastic, but given the amount of detail put into the electronics and programming, I’m almost surprised that he didn’t make a mould and cast his own!

Slideshow pictures from above linked page, and OLED watch (1), OLED watch (2)

WearableWeek_Badge_small_bur01This week, July 14-19 2014, we’re exploring wearable electronics of all kinds on Make! If it is electronic and belongs on your body, we’d love to hear about it! You can find all of our wearable articles by going here.


An Interview With Becky Stern About Wearable Electronics

The illustrious Becky Stern has joined us for an interview about wearable electronics. As you know, Becky lives and breathes wearables so she has some incredible insight.  If you’d like to find more of Becky, you should probably tune into her weekly show about wearable electronics!

If you don’t want to, or can’t open a video, you might appreciate the transcript of Becky’s interview.

Transcript Below

Hi Everybody I’m Becky Stern, the Director of Wearable Electronics at Adafruit, and today I’m doing an interview for MAKE magazine wearables week. The Community Editor Caleb Kraft sent me some great questions and we also have an article in the latest issue so, if you’re curious, continue watching and I’ll answer all of his questions.

First up, he says, how have wearables changed since you got started? Maybe some quick background on what you studied in school.

I studied design and technology at Parsons school of Design right around the same time as the Arduino came out so that was really fortunate for me. I did maybe one semester of PIC chip programming and then it was onto Arduino, which was a lot easier to get started with for an art student like me. I made plush toys like you see here is a toy that was a pair of dueling siblings and when one of them was wearing the crown, a reed switch, a magnetic reed switch, would light up the LEDs in its teeth. And, but we only had regular Arduino boards to work from so all the wires were always hanging out and of course they’re just prototype student projects but I did a lot with the Arduino right when it first came out and I feel really lucky about that.

And then I was also playing around with some weird conductive materials but there weren’t any instructions for any of this stuff about, you know, the best way to use it or cool projects to do, you just kind of had to make them up as you went along. So here’s LED bike helmet. And as you can see here another Arduino board hanging out of a textile project. My first article for MAKE was these plush illuminated steaks that I also made in school. But using some demo it was just like this sample pulse width modulation code that came with Arduino and if that wasn’t there I was stuck, you know, up BASIC Stamp creek without a paddle. So that’s really fortunate.

At the same time, Craft magazine came out and this is a project that was in the first issue by Leah Buechley, which is an electronic tank top with sewable LED sequins but you still had to use a giant AVR development board to program the chip. So that was a really inspirational project but hard to get started building yourself so she developed the LilyPad Arduino, which is, you know, takes the open source design of the Arduino and turns it into a sewable, flat format that’s easy to use with conductive thread. And there were fun tutorials for projects like this one, this LED turn signal hoodie. That was really inspirational for me because I was still embedding electronics into clothes like this. This is a TV-B-Gone circuit and you can see the wires are joined with conductive thread, anyway you can’t — it’s not a very natural connection. So, you can see the pretty stark contrast between what Arduino board clones and derivatives and compatible devices were looking like and then when the sewable one came out what kind of world it opens up for all kinds of people who already had textiles on the mind.

And I did a couple projects for MAKE with the LilyPad that were really fun and got a lot of attention from textile enthusiasts. But basically they become a lot easier to use, Arduinos and stuff like that.

EL wire I think has remained similarly easy to use. This is 2007 Daft Punk costumes from their tour. And there was an instructable then and there’s instructables now, EL wire I feel like has stayed the same usability for the last several years. But then look at the microcontroller market now for wearables. There’s all kinds of boards available, even a .net sewable microcontroller so kind of mashing up skills people previously had — if you’re already into sewing, maybe this is your avenue into electronics. I just think now it’s a lot easier and there are a lot more projects out there that hold your hand getting into wearable electronics.

OK, next question. What upcoming tech are you most excited about?

Umm, that’s fun. I’m always excited about everything that’s coming out but, most notably, the Fona. It’s the new Adafruit product that let’s you put a cell phone inside into your electronics projects. I’m looking forward to making a garment that, you know, like tweets when you fall in a puddle or calls your friend when you get out of the subway on the way to your favorite pub or sends a text message for any reason. So, I think the fact that you can get your hands on a cool GSM module that’s so small, is really neat and I’m excited to see what people do with the Fona.

The other tech I’m excited about that’s happening recently is Bluetooth low energy. So that’s the new standard the new iPhones use, the new iPads. It’s, Bluetooth has previously been pretty high power so the new low energy chips are pretty exciting because they make it possible to put this tiny chip that can communicate with your phone inside your garments. This is the shine activity monitor that you uses Bluetooth low energy to communicate your activity stats to your phone, and we also have a Bluetooth low energy module that makes it so that you can use your phone to send a message to your LED scrolling hat, things like that. So the idea that you can use your phone, like if your garment can’t be a phone, which it almost can be, so far, you can control it with your phone so that, you know, your dress changes color depending on the weather report that comes into your phone everyday. Stuff like that, I think the possibilities are really opening up so, phone wearables and Bluetooth low energy wearables are what I’m excited about.

The next question is who are, oh sorry, what is the biggest bottleneck in wearables currently?

I don’t know that there is one I think that it’s really taking off like crazy and that’s really exciting. Here’s our wearable electronics pinterest board and there are many out there, wearable tech pinterest boards you can spend all day on there looking at all the cool projects that are going on. And here’s Studio XO makes stuff for Lady Gaga and other stage performers — they’re really taking off right now and also Cute Circuit is a company that’s also made costumes for celebrities but also has their own line out this season of, you know, iPhone controlled, animated garments. I’m seeing the space really take off, I don’t think there is a bottleneck as far as what people can do. There a lot of possibilities out there and you’re seeing a lot of start-ups take advantage of the sensors that are available and the fact that people want to put tech on the real estate of their bodies. There’s just endless dog activity monitor start-ups, hair clips that call the police when you’re mugged, all kinds of businesses starting up right now. It’s really sort of fervent activity. No bottleneck — I don’t think so.

The next question is who are three people’s work you enjoy watching?

Well besides all the customers and other people on the internet who share their wearables projects, just individual people who’ve made their first project — those are really my favorite. When people are getting that first bit of inspiration and opening up the possibilities of what they can make in the future.

Here are three people who are doing really awesome work right now. Moritz Waldemeyer makes costumes for all kinds of bands, OK Go! Jackets, beautiful chandeliers, beautiful table sculptures, just amazing LED work overall. And he’s not in the DIY space he’s doing corporate hotel lobbies and big events. He did Olympic Opening Ceremony dance costumes — really high level inspirational stuff. And then another guy I really like is Adam Harvey. He’s doing all of this stealth ware, wearable tech that helps you fight against other technology. So like thermal, like a cape that hides your thermal image from surveillance drones and cell phone pockets that block your cell phone signal, makeup that makes you invisible to facial recognition software. I think that kind of stuff is really important because it teaches you — or he’s making it fashionable to be aware of how technology works and how it might work against you and you can use technology to fight technology that you don’t agree with in a really fun, fashionable way. He’s also a really nice guy. And then the third person who’s work I’m really excited about watching now is Katya Vega. She does what she calls beauty technology — conductive makeup that controls all kinds of digital interfaces, RFID fingernail polish to unlock doors, and she documents it all, LED headdresses. She’s involved in various events and her work is really fun to follow online. So I really like anybody’s work that is documented really well so that I can see it and can see how it was made and people are clearly having a lot of fun doing what they’re doing.

OK, the next question. As someone who does a million projects as part of her job, what wearables have made themselves part of your daily life?

That’s a hard question because I don’t really wear, I don’t really wear a watch even — I don’t like to wear stuff on my wrists. I wear a little bit of jewelry every once in a while but it’s all fashion related so, what goes with my outfit. But I would say if I had to pick some of the projects that I’ve done in the past, the one I wear most often is probably the TV-B-Gone jacket. And originally it was a hoodie and then I liked the way it functioned so much that I kind of wanted all my jackets to turn televisions off with a zipper. So I used a jacket that I really liked wearing already so now I just like wearing that jacket and it just happens to come with this extra feature if that’s the jacket I wear, so that’s a big one — TV-B-Gone, being able to turn TVs off with my zipper. It’s been really handy throughout the years. And then I guess the project I wear most often, because we do a lot of costume stuff, we don’t make fitness activity monitors that you’re supposed to wear to sleep. This LED neopixel bangle bracelet I wear most often when I want to pick something from my catalogue to dress up with. So those are my two favorites.

There’s one more question. Do more women and girls get into electronics that involve textiles and sewing?

Well, maybe. But I have some comments on the topic of gender. Here is a couple of girls at the Google Made with Code launch event. They’re doing this 50-million-dollar initiative to get girls into computer science because studies are showing that, you know, the percentage of women in engineering and coding jobs is going way down over the last several years and that’s like not OK because it is really like, if you don’t know how to program you will be programmed by the system. So I mean we like to make projects that have, that are genderless and ones that are very specifically inspiring to groups of people. Because if you see something cool, and you can see yourself wearing it, you can see yourself making it, then that might inspire your imagination to build something else and to really see yourself as having a role in technology. While a lot of projects are, pretty genderless like EL Wire hoodie, which does involve some sewing, we also make projects that are specifically more feminine oriented. It’s just, I mean, like ladies adorn themselves so there’s like more fun opportunities like makeup — this is costume makeup so obviously for all genders, too, but it does involve soldering. So, I mean, we do think about the audience when we make a project. This one lets you be a digital princess and it does involve sewing or soldering but if a little girl sees a project that’s very clearly a like beautiful tiara and she wants to play dress-up as a princess and wants her tiara to light up, it might inspire her to learn how to program and how to solder and sort of take what she knows and stretch the imagination a little. Also, like, I can’t help but make projects that I would want to wear and I happen to be a woman. And similarly with this LED hair bow, it’s just like yeah you’ve see robot embroidery but like it, I think that to be really inspired in a sort of disadvantaged group, I don’t know that they’re disadvantaged, or under-represented really speaks to that group. Because I do a project every week, I can do a project for girls, for boys, for everybody, depending on what week it is. And we do try to do projects that involve sewing and and soldering and look good on a dude or a lady, like the fire-walker sneakers. And then here’s a tie that is an all sewing, all conductive thread project that, you know, is a necktie that’s typically worn by a dude. We’re trying to do the opposite too, like make engineering enthusiasts who maybe have never tried textile crafts before try that so it works well for us if everybody wants to try the thing they don’t already know how to do, right? And to that end we try to make projects with as broad of a reach as possible.

So, thanks Caleb for asking me all those great questions and if you have any more questions for me, you can ask them in the comments or on twitter and I’ll answer them on my live show Wearable Electronics with Becky Stern every Wednesday at 2pm on the Adafruit Youtube channel. So thanks so much for the opportunity for being interviewed here on MAKE Wearables week is very exciting and I hope that you make something fun to wear.

WearableWeek_Badge_small_bur01This week, July 14-19 2014, we’re exploring wearable electronics of all kinds on Make! If it is electronic and belongs on your body, we’d love to hear about it! You can find all of our wearable articles by going here.


Bridging the Gap Between Makers and the Supply Chain

Many backers of projects on crowdfunding platforms have experienced the anxiety of waiting for the package to arrive as promised. Meanwhile, the creators of those projects spend their own sleepless nights trying to get the projects delivered within the promised shipping time. But there are almost always problems, such as sourcing critical components, debugging and redesigning fixtures, and improving structural designs, which won’t be solved easily, even after the many Skype meetings and several trips to the suppliers.

Manufacturing and shipping are among the many problems that concern makers, especially as more begin to build, source, and sell products. They have a brilliant idea and finally come out with a working prototype. After launching on a crowdfunding platform, some got funded within just a few hours. But their work is just beginning — problems come along when they try to turn the projects into products. It’s just not as simple as turning one piece into 1,000, let alone greater than 20,000 pieces if the project is really popular.

Here are some of the main problems that lead to delays:

  1. Lead time for sourcing components for production is longer than for prototypes
  2. Certain critical components are not easy to procure and might need substitutes
  3. The design of fixtures needs to be improved for testing a larger quantity of products
  4. Quality control of PCBAs in production
  5. Improving structural design
  6. Communicating with a logistics company

These problems occur because of two main reasons. For one, the current supply chain is aiming at serving mass production for large companies instead of small startups. Another is that project creators are not familiar with manufacturing, and their design is not always compatible with the manufacturing condition.

How can makers solve these problems? Here are some suggestions for how to make supply chains compatible:

  1. Encourage the use of shared components (from an open parts library). In this way, both the quality and quantity are ensured. Meanwhile, the price is more competitive.
  2. Provide agile productization services to help makers test and improve their designs efficiently
  3. Provide design-for-manufacturing services to make it easier to put makers’ projects into production
  4. Provide drop-shipping services to ship packages to the backers directly, helping makers skip problems in logistics

Little by little, the gap between makers and the supply chain will be narrowed, and then makers can enjoy a more maker-friendly supply chain ecosystem.

Take, for example, a product built in cooperation with Seeed Studio, where I am a blogger. This story is about a wearable product named “BETWINE”, which grew from idea to prototype but struggled to become supply-chain compatible for a production run of more than 10,000 pieces. BETWINE aims to promote good health and love between you and the people you care about, combining an activity tracker with a social simulation game to connect people, even people who are thousands of miles apart.



Let’s have a look at a the following picture, which shows how BETWINE, inspired by a Tamagotchi, evolved from a prototype to its alpha version.



ImLab, the startup behind BETWINE, is made of a global group of makers, designers, researchers, and entrepreneurs. But like many other startups, while team members have excellent skills and are professional in their fields — product design, user interface, hardware and software, etc. — they don’t know much about manufacturing. It led to some setbacks while BETWINE went through tremendous changes from its prototype to the first production batch.

In the process of putting prototypes into production, ImLab ran into problems including uncertain lead time, structural problems, and a low yield. In this process, Seeed worked closely with the ImLab team to solve the problems. For examples:

Uncertain lead time When a battery supplier couldn’t produce in time, Seeed helped search for two additional suppliers, to get samples for testing. ImLab could then change to another supplier directly without affecting the lead time of the whole project.

Structural problems The wristband needed to be redesigned so a small metal part would not scratch the wrist, and the connection of wristband and the polycarbonate enclosure required strengthening. Together, engineers from Seeed and ImLab Team redesigned the structural parts to get rid of these problems.

Low yield The vibration from the ultrasonic soldering method affected the performance of the PCB, causing damage to the accelerometer and leading to a low yield. To solve this, the structure was redesigned to minimize vibrations and the technicians trained to be more proficient.

In the first batch ImLab produced 100 pieces; after solving those problems they went on to the next level and finally shipped 1,000 pieces to their customers.

After this process, ImLab is ready to put BETWINE into mass production with InnoConn, a new hardware startup incubator that helps startups access resources formerly available only to large companies.

BETWINE is now live on Kickstarter, joining a long list of products bridging the gap between makers and the supply chain ecosystem, one more example teaching makers how to realize their dreams.


WearableWeek_Badge_small_bur01This week, July 14-19 2014,  we’re exploring wearable electronics of all kinds on Make! If it is electronic and belongs on your body, we’d love to hear about it! You can find all of our wearable articles by going here.


Call for Projects: Wearables

WearableWeek_Badge_small_bur01We’ve been talking about the wearables revolution since at least 2011. It seems we’ve been on the cusp for ages, with shrinking technology and growing consumer interest, and big companies finally getting on board (hi Google, hi Samsung). There have been all manner of Kickstarters and seed funding rounds and some successes — but no iPhone moment.

We’re not here to drive wearables’ iPhone moment, but we’re fascinated by wearables, and we know the maker movement has a lot to contribute. So we’re hosting a week’s worth of projects, interviews, stories, and more, all about stuff you can put on your body. But we want to hear from you. We know you’ve built lots of cool wearable technology — so tell us about it! Send a line to and let us know the coolest thing you’ve built, or seen somebody build, or discovered on the internet. And visit us next week, for all of the best that we’ve found.

You Should Already Know About Becky Stern

flora_becky-stern-firewalker-sneakers-adafruitIf you don’t know who Becky Stern is, it’s not her fault. She’s prolific. She’s worked at Make:, Adafruit, places of higher learning, and given talks all over the nation. Any decent write up of her work could easily take up a small novella, or a shelf worth of alternative yet action packed zines. But for those of you very new to the scene, here’s the skinny version.

We love Becky, and not just because we were contractually obligated to back when she worked at Make: making rad video. There’re too many to even get started, but here’s a small 3-hour selection. She was doing awesome things before she came to Make:, and she’s doing awesome things now (which is why we still post cool stuff from her, like this GPS watch.)

Since I joined make after she left, I only met Becky at Maker Faire New York 2013, where she called me out on wearing the same code as her. Despite the fact that she then posted a photo for public shaming, she was kind and pleasant and generally fun to be around. But I’d heard of her at least as far back as 2008.  If you were on the internet that year, you probably came across her bizarre-as-it-is-brilliant Compubody Sock. Perfect for knit-happy introverts in your life.


“for privacy, warmth, and concentration in public spaces”

But it was the TV-B-Gone hoodie that got me excited about wearable electronics, showing off her talent for blending thread and wires as if people had been doing it for ages. She’s now Director of Wearable Electronics at Adafruit, with 82 guides and counting. And it’s solid stuff. From teardowns  to ties, she does amazing wearable electronics work, including working on stuff for the FLORA (the most popular soft-circuits arduino-compatible product line that I’m aware of [feel free to call me out – I’d love to know of others]). And she somehow manages to make them impressively geeky, while stepping way over socially acceptable into freaking awesome.

Here’s to more wonderful things.

New fans and students hunting the internet for research purposes would do well to check out her bio on Adafruit.

Fab Lab DC’s Phyllis Klein Takes Her “Remember2” Wearable to the White House


Remember2 by Phyllis Klein

Phyllis Klein, co-founder of Fab Lab DC, wore her Fab Academy final project, Remember2, to the White House Maker Faire. Remember2 is a a programmable, origami-inspired bracelet that sparkles at intervals to remind the wearer to get up and move, take a break, exercise, refocus, or various other actions.


Remember2, illuminated

“I’m thrilled and honored to be attending the White House Maker Faire,” she says. “Receiving the invitation was a Cinderella moment for me.”

But it’s not just about being at the White House, she says. A Maker Faire is still a Maker Faire: “I’m looking forward to meeting other makers, including policy makers; learning about their projects and initiatives; and discussing how together we can further the ‘make’ mission,” she says.

And she hopes to find some kindred spirits there. “I think this project nicely aligns with the First Lady’s Let’s Move initiative,” she says.

Fab Lab DC’s Founders Story: Phyllis Klein and Alex Mayer

Alex Mayer and Phyllis Klein are lifelong makers, from childhood to now, making things and making things happen. Initially working as artists, multimedia designers, and researchers, we were naturally drawn to new digital design technologies and processes and the possibilities they offer — for our ideas and for others. In addition to keeping the lab running, I’m also participating in Fab Academy and exploring tessellation fabrication, press fit systems, and wearable designs. Alex is learning and applying digital fabrication in his art, design, and architecture projects.


CNC-ed fine art by Alex Mayer


Made at Fab Lab DC

As an “urban pioneer,” settling in DC in the mid-1970’s, Alex purchased and began reviving an 1890’s smokehouse for home and studio in the 14th and U neighborhood. At that time, the area — which had been the epicenter of the 1968 riots – was desolate and troubled. I joined Alex here in the mid-1980’s. And, although riddled with crime, prostitution, and drugs, we saw the opportunity to contribute to the transformation of the neighborhood. Our engagement with neighbors, civic groups, the local government, and a citywide coalition of like-minded citizens helped to leverage positive results. And, in parallel, we were also members of a burgeoning and dynamic arts community. We still live and work in the ‘smokehouse,’ and we raised our two daughters here. WAMU did a fun piece about we alley dwellers: “D.C.’s Alley Dwellers Live In The Heart Of It All, Out Of Sight”.

Our interest in urban renewal, art and design, education, and technology led us to the Fab Lab Project and founding Fab Lab DC.


Made at Fab Lab DC

About Fab Lab DC

Fab Lab DC is a nonprofit, community maker space nestled in the middle of a block on busy North Capitol Street, NW, in a transitional neighborhood in the heart of Washington, DC. (You can see the U.S. Capitol from our front sidewalk.) We are currently an all-volunteer organization, growing incrementally through our Fab activities, grants, contributions, and community support. We offer workshops, events, speaker series, and exhibitions. Our reach and opportunities for collaboration are also extended through our connection with global network of Fab Labs.


CNC Gallery Show at Fab Lab DC; Sculptures by Alex Mayer, Snap Furniture by Ryan McKibbin, via Fab Lab DC


Made at Fab Lab DC

We launched Fab Lab DC after meeting Neil Gershenfeld and Sherry Lassiter in 2010, and starting out in MIT’s Mobile Fab Lab. From there, our lab ‘popped up’ at the historic building on North Capitol Street in November 2011, during DC’s Digital Capital Week. We formally got underway at the location in mid-2012.

We serve the region’s diverse creative community, which includes makers, artists, designers, architects, educators, students, and the general public. The serendipitous convergence of people from a variety of backgrounds, educational experiences, ages, and interests contributes to the appeal of the lab as a gathering place to exchange and realize ideas. We also serve as a model lab for leaders in government, industry, education, and business, and provide information and answers to the many inquiries about the Fab Project. Interested in learning more? Contact Fab Lab DC!


Just a few things going on at Fab Lab DC

324 Dazzling Addressable LEDs on a Single Leather Vest

Pixeldelic Vest1

Joshua Hubert’s friend modeling the Pixeldelic Vest.

Dazzling is the word that comes to mind when you see the Pixeldelic Vest by artist, designer, and maker Joshua Hubert. He is bringing it to Maker Faire Bay Area again this year, so if you didn’t get a chance to meet Joshua last year, you’ll get another shot this weekend. He will be roaming around, so he doesn’t have a set exhibit location, but you might find him in the darkened Fiesta Hall.

I asked him a couple of questions about how he built this eye-catching number, and he gave me the lowdown:

What made you think of creating the Pixeldelic Vest?

As a sculptural lighting artist who takes as much of a scientific as a creative approach towards my work I am always looking at new technologies. When I learned about the technology behind individual addressable LEDs, I did not know what I wanted to make, but I recognized the unlimited potential and knew I needed to create an LED array to start experimenting. I realized that if I made a traditional sculpture or studio setup of LEDs, it would be just as challenging to share my work with my target audience as it would be to create the work itself. I concluded that if I could wear the technology I could take it with me wherever I go, acting as a literal beacon to attract those interested in my art or technology directly to me.

Pixeldelic Vest2

Joshua will be wearing this outfit at Maker Faire. Find him and say hello!

I knew to be taken seriously I had to create something that didn’t look like a thrown together science fair project, I needed to do it right. I sought out to make an ergonomic design that was also fashionable. I created a comfortably weighted design using quality materials such as real leather, stainless steel, water resistant LEDs and connectors, and soft plush interior that hid all wiring while keeping the wearer cool. The goal was to create a piece of wearable technology that looked good even when the LEDs were not turned on.

What I never expected was the symbiotic experience I felt wearing a piece of technology that is able affect people around me. Years of observations of the social influence and personal experience of wearing the vest has got my mind racing with the endless ways to evolve what is possible with a wearable LED array. There is so much more to come.

What are you using to program it?

I picked a common LED Chipset (WS2081) that is compatible with a wide variety of languages such as Arduino, Raspberry Pi, and BeagleBone, so anybody with programming knowledge can make their own patterns and input interfaces. But I wanted to make sure a user with no programming knowledge could easily make their own custom patterns easily. Using a fantastically user friendly program called LEDedit 2012, it allows a user to record a section of a desktop PC screen and save it onto an SD card. Simply overlay an onscreen frame around anything like a music visualizer, a video, a GIF file, or something as simple as MS Paint to record stunning  custom patterns. Just pop the SD card into the compact T-1000S controller, pick your pattern, and go light up the night. While I am working on wireless capabilities I can currently wire the vest directly to a PC for live input, allowing musicians and DJs wear a full color music visualizer, or to set up a live video feed to create a cloaking effect. There are truly endless possibilities.

Pixeldelic quote 1

I am currently working with the PixlePusher that will allow users to transmit what they viewing on their smartphones and tablets to the LEDs wirelessly in real time. This opens up amazing possibilities I am only starting to explore. Imagine going to a concert/party/festival, the microphone on your smartphone picks up the ambient music turning the LEDs into a full color music visualizer, the gyroscope shows patterns based on your dancing and movements, the GPS lights up the LEDs to tell you which way you are going or point towards saved locations and friends, a Bluetooth fitness wristband displays you pulse and vitals onto the LEDs, while a Brainwave sensor headband visualizes your thoughts and emotions. The goal is for the LEDs to autonomously produce a complete biometic display to become a symbiotic experience with the user.

How long did it take you to make?

The initial build took just 3 days to conceive and create, but in reality I have been working on the project for 3 years now. It is an ever-evolving prototype. While I now have a finalized design available that has been rigorously field tested, proven durable, and user friendly I am still learning how to make future models better. Since its creation I have replaced nearly every element (LEDs, Controller, power system) with better versions.

Most recently I have solved the power issue that has plagued my design for years, but I have finally developed a system that uses a compact LiPo battery that lasts 10+ hours at full brightness and recharges in about an hour, allowing an entire night of hassle free glow.  But as I have the ability to create an endless number of patterns created be an endless variety of data the project can never actually be completed; it only evolve further.

mf14ba_badge-01What were your favorite reactions to the vest at last year’s Faire?

My favorite feature of the vest is the spectacular effect is has on with people around me. Last year at the Maker Faire and dozens of other events it never ceases to amaze me how people gravitate towards the lights and patterns. My friend has aptly given the nickname “Moths” to people who crowd around, follow, and run up to me. I have worn one of my own vests, my own personal model, for 200+ hours over the years, to the point I actually forget I am wearing an object blasting full color patterns into a room, and sometimes forget why folk are staring at me.

It’s been a fantastic social experiment, to see how the presents of me wearing the vest can affect not only individuals but the entire mood of an environment. It also acts a beacon for other artists/scientists/engineers who introduce themselves to me who otherwise would have walked right by me if I was dressed in my daily attire. It is impossible to express how many amazing people I have met, how many backstage and VIP areas I have been invited into, and how many life changing opportunities have come my way thanks to my creation.

Pixeldelic Vest close-up LEDs

A close-up of some of the LEDs.

Pixeldelic Vest back

Joshua’s goal was to create a piece of wearable technology that looks good even when the LEDs are not turned on.

The Pixeldelic Vest was a contender in last year’s Pitch Your Prototype challenge at the Hardware Innovation Workshop.

Hybrid RepRap/Sewing Machine “Teddy Bear Printer” Takes Yarn as Feedstock

Scott E. Hudson is a Professor in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon, and the founder of their “HCI” doctoral program. The talk he gave yesterday at the Association for Computing Machinery’s 32nd annual Special Interest Group on Computer Human Interaction (ACM SIGCHI 2014) is making waves all over the web today. The paper and video (embedded above) released to accompany that talk present a new kind of “soft” 3D printing technology that radically expands the possibilities of low-cost additive prototyping and manufacturing equipment.


Hudson’s “Teddy Bear Printer” uses a process that is, in his words, “tightly analogous” to the familiar fused-filament fabrication technology of RepRap, MakerBot, Ultimaker, and other common desktop 3D printers — so much so that the established software toolchains for these printers can be used almost without modification for Hudson’s machine. His proof-of-concept system consists of an off-the-shelf RAMPS-controlled desktop 3D printer running Repetier-Host for client functions, Slic3r (plus “custom translation” post-processing software) for CAM functions, and OpenSCAD for modeling (CAD) functions. The major difference is a special “needle felting print head” attached to the Cartesian robot.

Scott Hudson, “Printing Teddy Bears: A Technique for 3D Printing of Soft Interactive Objects”, to appear in Proceedings of the CHI’14 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, April 2014. (PDF)