Jun 25, 2017 | By David

North Carolina’s Duke University is one of the U.S’s leading educational institutions in 3D printing technology, with over 40 3D printers in its Innovation Co-Lab Studio, which opened in 2015. A recent Instructables post by a user of the studio will enable people to constantly monitor in real-time the status of these 3D printers in a unique way- by making their very own fluorescent jacket, which is fitted with LEDs to indicate the status of each machine.

The Instructables user Sally Hall posted this step-by-step guide in the ‘wearables’ category of the site, which hosts a number of other similarly imaginative ways to modify clothing and accessories. Her own customized jacket seems remarkably simple to put together, with just a few alterations to the fabric required. Some basic programming and electrical engineering knowledge is also necessary, although this is also probably a pre-requisite for wanting one of these jackets in the first place.

A PowerBoost 500 charger designed by 3D printing hobbyist favorite Adafruit is used to power the system, as well as a 3.7v 2000mAh Lithium Ion battery. These can be easily attatched to the jacket by sewing on pockets made from small pieces of fabric. This subtly hidden power supply then needs to be hooked up to a series of power rails, which can be sewn on to trail around the surface of the jacket.

As for the main LED display itself, the ideal solution has been provided by Adafruit, as its range of Flora NeoPixels is specifically designed for creating wearables like this jacket. The tiny smart pixels are easy to attatch to fabric of all kinds, and their technology is also impressive yet simple to set up. They have an integrated constant-current driver and they are also chainable, which means there’s much less likelihood of getting crossing threads and short-circuiting your whole system.

Once the LEDs and power supply are hooked up, all that is required is a photon and a photon shield to initialize the lights, and of course a data line to communicate the printer status to these outputs. The printer status API data from Duke’s Innovation Co-Lab Studio is publicly accessible online, so with a little coding know-how it can be directly linked up to your jacket. Details of how to create the particle webhook program as well as the photon code are available on Hall’s Instructables page.

Hall’s finished jacket is a remarkable thing to behold, with an array of flashing multi-color lights displaying the latest developments in all 40 of the Duke Innovation Co-Lab’s collection of 3D printers, most of which are Ultimaker 2 FDM machines. A blue light indicates a 3D printer in use, a green indicates an available 3D printer, and a red light shows a machine that is currently offline. Just above this LED display, her jacket has the following sage advice printed on it: ‘The Work You Do When You Should Be Working Is The Work You Should Be Doing’. This is indicative of someone who is not just a maker but a philosopher, life coach and visionary, and this cross-disciplinary approach is exactly what 3D printing technology is all about.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Joe K. wrote at 7/8/2017 5:55:30 PM:

Hello, I am looking into wiring a status light to my printers that works just like yours, I just want the design to be closer to a CNC Mill or Lathe, with a controller board on some sort of swivel, with a status light above normally. I cannot find documentation about this anywhere else, is there anyway you could help me figure this out? obviously I need some LEDs and a printer, how do i make the board tell the lights when to light though? Thank you for any help you can offer me.

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