There are a range of different possibilities to connect conductive materials. One of the hardest and at this point very relevant one in textile electronics is the hard/soft connection between conductive textiles and traditional components and circuit boards. Most connections are a combination of permanent and plugable (de- and re- attachable) connections. Here we try to list some of the permanent connections that we frequently use in our own work.
Machine-sewable Hard/Soft Connections
Using zigzag stitch on sewing machine to sew top conductive thread over stripped ribbon cable wires.
Sewing to Plug and Wear’s knit breadboard fabric (right: with top thread conductive, left: with bottom thread conductive) and then soldering wires to the breadboard traces which are very thin wires.
Sewing down solderable conductive thread with a zig-zag stitch and then soldering LED lights to it (add hot-glue for strain relief):
Crimp beads are solderable, squishable and sewable, making them great hard/soft connectors.
Crimping crimp beads to conductive thread to then solder them to a copper tape circuit:
Leah Buechley solderes crimp beads to surface mount LEDs to then sew them into soft circuits:
Jie Qi crimps crimp beads to nition shape memory wire to then solder it to copper tape circuitry:
This is definitely one of the most reliable hard/soft connections i have found, but it is is very time intensive to sew. After sewing the connections it is good to isolate and protect the threads with a stretchy glue or silicone.
Metal machine popper/Conductive fabric
Pierce through conductive fabric tab. If working with conductive thread, sew with thread to this tab, otherwise continue with conductive fabric. Enforce fabric behind poppers, so that popper does not tear hole.
Hand sewable/Conductive thread
Wire/Conductive fabric (soldering)
Solderability tests >> http://www.kobakant.at/DIY/?p=1718
Wire/Conductive thread (soldering)
Solderability tests >> http://www.kobakant.at/DIY/?p=1720
Wire loop/Conductive thread
Wire loop/Conductive fabric
Use some squishy material underneath the LilyPad to help improve the electrical contact between soft thread and hard circuit board.
Magnet clasp/Conductive thread
IDC connector/Thin flexible wire
Perfboard/Conductive tape with conductive adhesive
There is a nice PDF from Dr. U. Möhring of the The Institute of Special Textiles and Flexible Materials at the TITV Greiz that contains some photos of hard/soft connections.
With the difficulty that comes with hard/soft connections, sometimes it can be nice to simply solder things together.
There are lots of nice permanent soft/soft connections available for use in soft circuitry. Many of these use conductive fabric, conductive thread and. Some are more durable, washable or strainable than others.
Conductive fabric/Conductive thread
Sewing machine or hand sewn.
Conductive fabric/Conductive fabric (overlap with fusible interfacing)
Overlapping conductive fabric traces with fusible interfacing in between, conductive connection goes through fusible interfacing.
Conductive thread/Conductive thread (knot)
It is good to use some glue or anti-fray on top of conductive thread knots as they really like to come undone.
Conductive fabric/Conductive paint
Conductive thread/Conductive paint
Conductive Velcro/Conductive thread
Most plugable connections require some soft of permanent connection that connect to the actual plugable part.
Conductive Velcro/Conductive Velcro
Conductive thread/Conductive thread (bow)
to lasercut fabric circuit
Crocodile clip on conductive fabric tab
Photos coming soon…
Wire soldered to header, loop on header sewn to fabric with conductive thread
Wire clamped between male and female metal poppers
Female header/Male header
Wire or header/Breadboard
Single female header/Single male header
Magnet snap/Magnet snap
4-6 connections. Nice because of stretchiness of the cable. Cheap because most 99cent stores carry phone cables and sockets. Although cheap sockets tend to be buggy.