January 4, 2017 AT 3:00 am

How to Make Flex Sensors on the Cheap for Your Wearables #WearableWednesday #wearabletech

People love making Arduino powered gloves that can trigger actions, especially at hackathons. However, the one part that is often forgotten is the flex sensor which alters in resistance based on how far it is bent. I happened upon a video from Mert Kiliç that shows a great method for DIYing your own sensors with simple materials like aluminum foil, paper, cardboard or plastic, a pencil and solder. It’s all about creating a flexible piece using the carbon from the pencil as the conductive agent.

This got me thinking about a version that would be even more comfortable for gloves than the standard flex sensor. What if you could make a fabric sensor? I decided to scope out my fave site for home-made sensors—Plusea. Sure enough, they have created an Instructable on how to make a fabric bend sensor. This sensor utilizes neoprene, conductive thread and velostat for a chic, yet bendy trigger. Notice the snaps that allow the sensor to be incorporated into a garment.

Fabric Bend Sensor

Here’s how it works:

This bend sensor actually reacts (decreases in resistance) to pressure, not specifically to bend. But because it is sandwiched between two layers of neoprene (rather sturdy fabric), pressure is exerted while bending, thus allowing one to measure bend (angle) via pressure.

So, these are two great methods for creating sensors that have a softer touch. Need to create flexible circuits? We not only have flex sensors in our shop, but we also have Flex Perma-Proto PCBs. They look so much more comfortable for those bulky connections when you are bringing together multiple sensors in a wearable. Do you have a trick for making wearables? Let us know because we are all about the open source love.

Flex Proto Board

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