Thursday, September 1, 2011

Shrunken Circuits and Reinforcement

Hey Everyone,

I am starting to get tired. Really tired. I'm so into this project that Im losing massive amounts of sleep slouching over a soldering iron inhaling some fine lead fumes in the middle of the night. But, I regret nothing. I've been thinking about this project for about a year now and there were times where I thought it wasn't going to happen due to cost or that it just wouldn't work. Seeing it get to a point where I can actually wear them and operate the electronics with a pair of gloves has made me more excited and determined than ever. And thats right, you heard me, they are developed enough that I can put them on and walk around! However, I'm not posting any pictures just yet. Not until they are more polished, I gotta build up a little bit of anticipation. I've been working at these for months, you guys can wait in suspense for a week :)

Last night, I spend a good amount of time reinforcing the wings, but more on that in a later post.

Most of my time, however, was spent moving the electronics from the purely-prototype stage into a more robust version that will actually go on the wings. Here's what the electronics looked like before without all the servos and gloves:

And here it is next to the gloves and servos for scale:

For those that don't know, a normal Arduino (the blue microcontroller thats doing all the thinking) and a "breadboard" (the white rectangle you put all the parts on) are a bit bulky because they are designed to be totally plug and play. Wires and pins can be pushed into slots and moved around very quickly to build a circuit and get a working prototype very quickly. However, because it's so easy to put together, it falls apart very easily and is a bit on the bulky size.

The next stage is moving all those components (like resistors, lights, switches, etc) onto a board you can hardwire them onto called a perfboard. Since theres much more flexibility regarding positioning on a perfboard, you can also make the whole circuit much smaller by routing the little connections more efficiently. Also, by using a different microcontroller, in this case the Arduino Pro Mini, thats designed to be hardwired (and not so plug and play) you can shrink it down to a fraction of the size. It took me hours, well into the wee hours of the morning, to optimize the arrangement and solder it onto the perfboard, but here is how it turned out:

With a new (and better) battery pack, servos and gloves for scale:

By itself with a sharpie (again for scale)

Considering it was my first time wiring anything onto a perfboard, I'm extremely proud of how it came out. Now its small enough to be concealed in a small space between the backplate and my back so everything but the servos will be completely hidden from view, giving the wings a very minimal tech-presence.

Thats it for now, next up will be a little bit of switch debugging and mounting everything onto the wings! Are you excited over there? Because I am kind of freaking out from the excitement over here.

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