Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab
Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab

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Project #5 e-textiles

This week we worked on mixing in soft-circuits with e-textiles. I was excited for this week since my older sister used to do a lot of sewing but I was too young at the time to touch the sewing machine so I could only watch.

I originally wanted a lot of embroidery, especially after our first lab section with e-textiles. I made a cute super mushroom from Super Mario. Everything went smoothly during this process, including the color of the threads that I chose. It’s not clear in the picture, but I chose to shiny yellow thread for the mushroom, and I was worried that it wouldn’t turn out nice since the thread was pretty stiff. Up close the thread isn’t as nice as the regular materials but from far away the shiny texture of the thread makes it stand out and it gives off a really nice vibe overall.

I wanted to continue building off of the Super Mario theme so I chose to embroider a Yoshi onto my actual bag. I went into the lab thinking that it would be easy, like when I embroidered the mushroom, but the entire process was extremely complicated.

The first problem I ran into was getting tangled thread in the machine. Every time I pressed start the machine would work smoothly a minute, then start emitted a muffled clunking noise. I finally realized that it was because I wasn’t holding onto the thread at the beginning of the embroidering, which then got tangled underneath. It was really frustrating that I missed this small step in the process, and as a result had to restart my embroidering twice.

Embroidering with multiple colors wasn’t very different from just one color – it was just an additional step in the process. Once that was over I started to work on the zipper. 

The zipper went by a lot better the second time around.

I knew how far to space the zipper foot from the actual zipper, and I was able to run it in 2x speed instead of 1x! The hard part of the bag came from the actual stitching together. I followed the instructions on the powerpoint, but it turned out wrong every time. The cause of my problems was that I didn’t see how connecting the bag in a big U shape could make it turn into a bag in the end. Because I didn’t understand what and why I was following the instructions, my results were a disaster. The first time around, I accidentally connected 3 pieces together instead of 2. The second time I attempted this I sewed too far from the edges and my bag ended up weirdly shaped. I ripped everything apart and finally got it on the third time. 


The edges are still not as sharp as I’d like them, so I’m considering remaking this when I have time. 

I decided to work on the soft circuits last because I wanted to see how the lights would line up with the final results. I wanted to re-use my original super mushroom embroider, but I forgot to bring it into the lab with me so I set up the circuits alone. The final result will be Yoshi attempting to eat a shiny mushroom! 


This project took me ~ 7 hours, which was MUCH longer than i anticipated. The majority of the time was spent on fixing mistakes, so word of advice to anyone else attempting this – make sure you understand the steps and how it ties to the final result! It was hard for me to picture flipping the bag inside out, etc. 

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project 4 – 3D printing

I am always looking for small ways help contribute to green awareness, so the first thing that popped into my mind when we first started talking about 3-D printing was “how can I use this project to raise awareness about the environment, but still answer the prompts”? I ended up choosing the flatware prompt, since using plastic utensils is a HUGE waste and there are so many ways that we can, and should, improve on. The inspiration behind this design was something re-usable, but also efficient. I started off with the design of the individual pieces:

Next, I thought about which areas I could reduce the material.

As you can see, upper box is the same for all the utensils, so I can essentially switch out the ends and re-use the container portion. 

The design for this project was much more complex than any of the past projects, since this this was a 3-D design that was completely done on the computer. I had no way of knowing if my design would work until after I printed it. 

I started off with the container since that portion was very clear to me. It was just a cylinder on the outside. The complication came when I had to design how the pieces would insert into the container. I ended up designing something similar to a water bottle, where you have to screw the inner portion into the container. I had to take friction and mistakes made by the printer into consideration, and ended up making the dimensions of the inner cylinder 90% smaller to account for those things. I was worried that it might not be tight enough to hold the utensil in place, or it wouldn’t be efficient if the utensil wiggled. 

The final design looked like it was practical, and would work when printed, so I headed to the Maker Lab at BIF. I worked with the staff choosing the final parameters and it began printing! (Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures of it while it was printing). I was pretty confident it would work, and was really excited, but when the machine was done printing I found very different results. 

I did not take size into consideration when I printed things. The utensils are very circular, which the printer apparently does not handle too well. The spoon ended up with a hole in the middle since the surface was too thin, and I had a lot of plastic strings in areas that didn’t belong. Furthermore, the edges in the knife and fork did not turn out well, since it was so small. The structural support that was required for the utensils since they are round did not rip off well, and ruined some areas. Finally, the utensils did not fit well in the cylinder, so I should have made it even less than 90%. 

Even though the final product wasn’t great, I had a lot of fun working on it and learned a lot from my mistakes. I think trial and error is a big part of learning with 3-D printing, and observing how other projects turn out is important. It’s also important to take size into consideration, and leave room for error with curves and edges. I learned that the machine is not perfect since it’s working with real materials and not just conceptual shapes on the screen. 

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Assignment 3 – copper tape circuits

For the third assignment we had to make copper tape circuits. This assignment was pretty different from the past two assignments since it was a lot of hands on / touching, whereas in the previous projects the main bulk of the work was done through a computer software. I was looking forward to this project since I don’t know much about circuits (zero knowledge!!) and I was excited to learn more and feel like a real engineer 😉 

For my quote inspired picture I chose to use a quote by Leah LaBelle that I found online. The quote read “Work hard for what you want because it won’t come to you without a fight. I wanted this to be a fun scene, since the first part of the assignment with the one LED I worked on in class was pretty serious. I began by building the circuit first. I learned that taping EVERYTHING down is the most important step. 

Making the circuit itself wasn’t that bad, but I had to restart so many times because I couldn’t get a good connection between the battery and the tape, the tape and the LEDs, etc. I ended up building the circuit and then putting a clear tape over everything on the circuit to make sure that it would connect.

I drew a person finishing a race with a STOP sign as the switch. Drawing the picture was really fun, since the everything but the eyes were free for me to create whatever I wanted. 

For the final part I decided to go for an origami and created a scene in the background.

I did not take into account the thickness of the paper, so the light didn’t show through. I was really disappointed in this, since I had imagined a really pretty scene for the finished product. I imagined the background to be a washed out dark blue, with two bright objects floating – the ship sailing towards the treasure chest. Putting the LED inside the objects would definitely have solved the problem.

Fortunately the light shows up in a dimly lit room at least, and I’m pretty happy with the finished product! I did not glue the pieces onto the board because I wanted to demo it in class and then tape the pieces flat to the board, so I can hang it on the wall of my room afterwards for a decoration at night! 

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Project 2 – Vinyl Stickers

For the second assignment we made vinyl stickers. I was really excited to make laptop stickers since I had seen so many other people with really cool, unique design stickers and I never knew where they got them.

The first time I used the sticker cutter I intimidated by the loud cutting noises. It was also really hard for me to picture how the different layers would come together. Thankfully, assignment 1 really helped prepare me for this project. I was able to use Inkscape much more quickly and efficiently than last time.

My first sticker was a sticker with the Warriors logo. There’s actually supposed to be two more colors in this sticker, and some words around the corner, but I was so frustrated by the small details that I ended up reducing the layers. It actually turned out quite well. One thing I didn’t take into account was how hard transferring would be, especially since the bridge contains so many fine lines.

My final design was supposed to be a panda hugging a bamboo plant in the middle of the forest. My forest was so thin that it ripped during the transfer 🙁 

The thickness of the vinyl was definitely something that I did not consider during the process that would have changed the outcome quite a bit. 

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Project 1 – Laser Name Tag

The goal of this project was to make a nametag that reflects your personality / creativity. I am a huge fan of animals, jokes and anything cute, so I thought some sort of animal shaped name tag would reflect this the best. 

The design portion of this project took the longest. It was hard to adjust to Inkscape since there were so many small things that I had to consider. The hardest part for me was visualizing the end product compared to what was one the screen. The first time I attempted my name tag, I accidentally cut out parts of the panda’s eyes so that it ended up with a giant hole. This “before to after” mindset required a lot of time and effort to change the way my brain worked.

Actually lasering the project wasn’t hard at all, since so many people were willing to help me out. I just followed the instructions on the paper and watched the printer go! It was cool seeing the laser in progress, and being able to see the project come alive under the laser. 

I’d like to be able to draw my own outlines and then transfer that onto the name tag next time, but overall I’m really happy with the way my name tag turned out! It there was some way to add color, or create more depth, I would definitely do that.

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