9-13 March 2015, taught by David Gauthier and Hannah Perner-Wilson at the Copenhagen Institute for Interaction Design in Copenhagen, Denmark
How might we imagine and build electronics differently, if instead of thinking about electronics in terms of discrete components, we learn to control the flow of electricity through different materials?
Why are electronic devices all so similar? Buttons round, screens square, LEDs red, sounds beeping. As an interaction designer it does good to imagine far-out ways in which humans and computers will interact in the future. But when it comes to prototyping these phantasies, one reaches for off-the-shelf components: tested, ready-made solutions for anything from a power switch to a numeric display or a motor. What if building electronics entailed re-designing even these fundamental components? Sounds strenuous? Not at all, it’s liberating! Building your own components gives you control and creative freedom.
By showing how to create electronics from scratch, we hope to bring designers closer to realizing their far-out phantasies so that they can fill the world with more diverse and unique electronic devices.
In this introductory course, electronics are presented as materials. Students will dismantle and probe an existing electronic device to investigate what parts it is made of and how the parts themselves work. After grasping some basic electronic principles, students will build their own electronics from materials such as copper tape, carbon paint, pencil graphite and metalized threads and fabrics. The goal of the class is to empower students in devising their own circuitry and to treat electronic components as materials and materials as electronic components.
Five areas of exploration will be covered during this course: (1) Hacking open existing electronic devices, (2) Paper electronics, (3) Soft circuits and textile-based sensors, (4) Amplification of electronic signals, and (5) Capacitive sensing.
Each aforementioned area of exploration will be composed of multiple small exercises in which participants create electronic artefacts reflecting their learning as they go along. Our intention is to present the students various ways of crafting electronics using conductive materials such as copper tape, carbon paint, pencil graphite and metalled fabrics that will be used to cut, fold, paint and sew functioning electronics.
This course focuses not only on tools and materials, but on how these can become a part of the way students work, think, and design, enabling them to prototype and explore emerging ideas more quickly and more effectively using electronics.
“This example illustrates a frequent designer’s quandary, namely a choice between a complicated circuit that meets the strict worst-case design criterion, and is therefore guaranteed to work, and a simple circuit that doesn’t meet worst-case specifications, but is overwhelmingly likely to function without problems. There are times when you will find yourself choosing the latter, ignoring the little voice whispering into your ear.”
– Paul Horowitz and Winfield Hill, The Arts of Electronics
Following the ethos of this course, the central exploration of the course is based on developing electronics in an unconventional way. Using the various materials presented and knowledge acquired during the week, students are asked to devise their own brief and to work towards exemplifying a problematic or application of their own. This may include an exploration into certain electrical aspects of a specific material, devising a new method in developing circuitry, or composing a device with an heterogeneous set of components, etc. The goal is to have students develop an intuition in designing and experimenting with electric reactive materials.
Day 1: Hacking open a toy piano and re-making it in paper
Day 2: Introduction to electronic textiles, making soft circuits and textile sensors
Day 3: Free exploration and presentation of process
Day 4: Amplification and 555 timer sound circuit
Day 5: Project and presentation of process
Materials and Tools
Following are links to some of the more specific materials and tools used in this course.
* Karl-Grimm copper conductive thread (solderable)
* Silver plated nylon thread by Statex (not solderable) 235/34 dtex High Conductive
* Stainless steel thread by Bekaert (not solderable, good for heating) sold by Sparkfun
* Silver plated lycra (knit stretch ) by Statex, sold by LessEMF
* Silver plated rip-stop fabric (woven conductive fabric) by Statex, sold by LessEMF
* Copper tape (Amazon or some electronics shops)
* Eeonyx fabrics are not yet for sale in small quantities, but hopefully soon Sparkfun and Adafruit will be retailing them.
* Instead of Eeonyx fabrics you can use by 3M sold by LessEMF, Plug and Wear and many other online shops
* Stainless steel yarn (short stainless steel fibers spun with polyester) Nm10/3 sold by Plug and Wear
* Bare Conductive carbon paint (for painting sensors and heating elements) sold by Sparkfun
* Toy pianos >> http://www.amazon.de/dp/B0009JKDUO/ref=pe_386171_37038021_TE_M3T1_dp_1
* Neodymium magnets >> http://magnet-magnete.eu/
* Audio amp >> http://www.adafruit.com/product/2130
* Heat n Bond fusible interfacing ( heat glue for sticking fabrics together)
* Thermochromic pigment (becomes transparent when heated)
* Fabric medium for mixing thermochromic pigment (local craft shop)
LessEMF >> http://lessemf.com/
Plug and Wear >> http://plugandwear.com/
Sparkfun >> http://sparkfun.com/
Adafruit >> http://adafruit.com/
Arduino store >> http://store.arduino.cc/
Arduino distributors >> http://.cc/en/Main/Buy
Circular knitting machines (Amazon or local yarn/knitting shop)
Spool knitters (Amazon or local yarn/knitting shop)
References and Links
Horowitz and Hill (1989). The Arts of Electronics (2nd ed.). Cambridge UP.
III, Forrest M. Mims. Getting Started in Electronics. 3rd edition. Lincolnwood, Ill: Master Publishing, Inc., 2003.
How To Get What You Want >> http://www.kobakant.at/DIY
High-Low Tech >> http://hlt.media.mit.edu/
Jie Qi’s work >> http://web.media.mit.edu/~jieqi/
Open Materials >> http://openmaterials.org/
Fashioning Tech >> http://fashioningtech.com/
Talk2MyShirt >> http://www.talk2myshirt.com/blog/
>> piezoresistive effect