Fab Lab Fast Cow

So week two in the Fab Lab brought with it an old friend – Fast Cow! He’s our unofficial, official team mascot and has been for several years; if you want to know the background to that story, feel free to ask me! I was excited for this week because I knew we were making patches with digital embroidery, and quite frankly you can never get too much of Fast Cow. Below is the image that I modified in order to create the patch, and as for a finished version – I’ll have to wait until I see the teammate that stole it from me.

The team’s unofficial mascot – Fast Cow

The whole process of digital embroidery was very straight-forward. It was far less intuitive, however. I’m used to using the Adobe Creative Suite of software: Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign, so the lack in program features and capabilities in the software that we were using was a little frustrating. Regardless, the end product came out far better than I thought it would have. I don’t think I’ll be dabbling in the world of digital embroidery anymore than making more patches, but I was incredibly thankful for the shot at learning how to sew.

Quick note about that: Monday was my first time ever using a sewing machine, so I had about 2 hours of experience after class was finished. That night, I came back to the FabLab and created a UofI themed body pillow for my friend’s birthday the next day! Be sure to check out my Twitter for a picture in the near future ūüôā

Week 7 was also very productive in regards to our semester project. Nick, Andrew, Pri, and Toheeb created a pressure sensor prototype for the glove.¬†Later in the week Toheeb and I met with Dr. Ian Rice who’s a professor in the Kinesiology department and he gave us some great ideas, and some inspiration to keep moving forward. I’m really looking forward to working with my team, and I am extremely glad that they are willing to help me tackle this task.


Week 7 Reflection

Due to some confusion, this post is a little bit late.

This past week we had returned to the FabLab and got to work in a different section than we had the week before. This week, I was able to work with the digital embroidery machines and discovered how to take an image and digitally stitch it. With Suzanne’s help, I was able to understand the software, SewArt, to be able to complete my design.

Here is a video of the digital sewing machines in action:

At first, I had accidentally selected the wrong areas to be printed which completely messed up my design. Thankfully, the software is so easy to use that I was able to go back and re-select everything to ensure it was “printed” properly. This worked, and you can see the before and after image below.

I had no idea how these detailed stitch-images were created until learning about them at the FabLab. These technologies must have revolutionized the textile industry in cutting costs, re-allocating labor, and increasing its production outputs. I didn’t even know that there were digital sewing machines like the ones we had used to create our designs (since I had only used my mom’s electric sewing machine before). These technologies allow people to further pursue their creativity without the obstacles of hand-stitching and improper design tools.

Going further, I don’t expect to use these technologies in my final project. Not because I don’t want to (since I really like them!) but because they just won’t be relevant for my specific project. However, I would still like to use the digital embroidery services for my own personal use and am interested in coming up with and printing unique designs.

How to… Arduinos

In this set of posts:
How to… Laser Cutting
How to… Arduino (this post)
How to… Soldering 
How to… Digital Embroidery
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The arduino is a micro controller. Its a hardware device that has a piece of code written to it, which it executes. External pieces of hardware like motors, LEDs, motion sensors, speakers etc are connected to the microcontroller using IO (input output) pins, and is controlled by the code.
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Schematic of the components on a standard Arduino board
In-depth knowledge of coding isn’t required because there is so much open source (free developed software) material available to cut something together to perform the function you want. It uses its own programming language which is similar to C++, and has its own IDE (integrated development environment).
There are different arduinos available, with different hardware components, and good for for different applications.
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The circular Lilypad is often used for clothing and fabric applications
For a clearer understanding of how an arduino works and where to get started, here is a step by step overview.

The general workflow process for using an Arduino is:

  • write/find online/adapt a piece of code to be run in the arduino IDE (link)
  • wire up the arduino to create a circuit, using components that the code is written for.
  • power up the device by connecting it through the USB port
  • ‚Äėupload‚Äô the code from the IDE to the arduino
  • watch it work!

In our short session playing around with Arduinos, we got some basic functionalities to work: LEDs, motors, and touch sensors.
Wired up Arduino for lighting an LED. And heres how to do it.
Using a combination of all 3, here’s an LED lighting up and motor stopping, on touch.
Arduinos open up  lot of scope for automated projects. If you can think it, then you can make it happen!
Some creative ideas that I’ve come across online that are all controlled by Arduinos:
3D printers
laser harps
lightning detectors
all kinds of home automation
autolacing shoes
greenhouse monitoring
twitter mood lights (changes colour based on the mood of tweets)
knock detecting door handle lock
tree climbing robots
fire breathing animatronic ponies….
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Its just a little programming and automation, all powered by Arduino!

Week 7: CU FABLAB Part 2!

Week 2 out of 3 for the CU FabLab!

This week, we worked on digital embroidery, which was cool and the key to so many things that I would like to work with when it comes to making patches!


^ The machine that we used.

While this process was seemingly straightforward, there are multiple steps that require delicate handling and work. To start off, first, find a picture that you would like to embroider. Next, upload it into a proprietary software, SewArt, and reduce the number of colors on it through the ‘Merge’ function as well as trim so that it is within 4in by 4in. Any larger than that the machine would not be able to print it.


^Back view of the machine in action.

Once all those were done, just upload the file to the machine and select the threads that you would like to use! Choose wisely if not your embroidery is going to come out weirdly colored!


^ The start of my Neko Atsume print

Since I’ve been crazy about Neko Atsume (a cat collecting game), I decided to print out one of the cats from the collection! It was a relatively simple print, with six colors.


The tricky thing with these machines is that they have a tendency to scramble your thread if it is not placed correctly, so keep an eye out while it’s working its way through!


It is important to cut away all the excess thread when the machine goes from one part to another since it might be overlapping another color’s area!



Final products! I had a bit of time left after finishing up the first one, so I did a Mr. Tubbs one as well~

Honestly, before this class, I have never thought of fabrications as something that can be digitalized. My impression of fabrics is always the traditional hand sewing or a person using the sewing machine. This embroidery machine works almost like a 3D printing machine, just with different materials and techniques. One good thing about these machines is that if an error was made, one can just lift up the needle and backtrack it so that the machine reembroiders that part. Maybe 3D printings might have this function one day too? A failsafe in case something happens!

Now that I’ve learned how to use this machine, I’m going to explore more into it and see if I could potentially add this to my project! Maybe one day I might be able to justify buying one of these machines to use on my fashion projects.

Week 7 Reflection: CU Fab Lab Pt. 2

Before this past week’s session, I wanted to research more about the three different areas of CU’s Fab Lab. As I was perusing through their website, I found great resources to further my knowledge on the Fab Lab. In fact, CU’s Fab Lab has a YouTube channel! Check out their awesome videos here. After utilizing these outlets to learn more, I was more than thrilled to head back!

For the first workshop, I was placed in the embroidery area amongst several of my classmates. We learned the basic functions of the software and how to thread the sewing machine. For this past week’s workshop, our group relocated to the laser-cutting/design area. Duncan, who is employed at CU’s Fab Lab, lead our workshop. He ran through how to properly utilize the Inkscape software, the two types of laser engravers, and the differences between rastering and cutting.

I was having difficulty finding a design to raster onto a notebook. So, I decided to walk around and see what cool things my classmates were up to in order to gain some inspiration! By doing this, I got some great advice from Gwen, who told me to keep the design minimalistic and simple. In the end, this is what I chose to design:

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I shared a picture of my newly-designed notebook via Twitter and received positive feedback. Check out one of the responses below:

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This interaction led me to think about a variety of things such as personalized design/customization, production, and mass markets. Going forward, I hope to continually visit CU’s Fab Lab and expand my knowledge on all of its facets.


Week 2 in the Lab…

Well, my semester project took a full 180 after messing around in the Fab Lab a second week…the place seems like it oozes creativity. After learning how arduinos work,¬†I decided to start helping Stephen, Andrew, Toheeb, and Pri with the pressure pad for their wheelchair smart glove idea. It is a really interesting concept that is constantly evolving, but basically we are trying to pair an accelerometer with a pressure pad so that the wheelchair racing team can gather data on touches and speed to see how to race more effectively. After just meeting together in the lab that one day, I can tell that we will work well together. Going into the lab with no knowledge of arduinos, and teaching ourselves in a matter of hours how to make a pressure sensor makes me think that we will be able to do some pretty big things with the project. I am excited to get back in the lab tomorrow, and use the sewing area¬†so that we can figure out a way to sew the sensor into the glove…..Also I ripped a hole in my backpack this weekend and I am going to attempt to patch it up myself. Lastly, if you are reading this and not following me on twitter, please follow @NickHans55 because myself account for this class still only has 3 followers!



Reflection Week 7: Digital Embroidery (Fab Lab)

Mission: We switched from electronics station with Arduinos to digital embroidery station. I cannot wait to use the sewing machine to a small piece of artwork. Basically, the sew machine works like a 3D printing machine that helps users transfer electronic version of art designs to physical textiles on a sheet of fabric. There are more steps that are required than I thought before making the machine work.

How it Works: The first step is having a completed picture/design ready on the computer. Then, we need to use a software called SewArt to modify the original picture file in order to get rid of unnecessary colors. The SewArt works like Photoshop or drawing software to allow user fix the shapes, adjust the size of pictures, eliminate/change the printing colors in implementing “Merge” function or trim any details depending on the user requirements. The software is very flexible and customized tool to tailor design ideas. When I modify my selected picture, I found that there are lots of hidden colors that I might not¬†print existing on my work file. It is indispensable to clear the design before moving forward to the next step.

After the editing process was finished, I was assigned to a sewing machine finally. Suzanne Linder¬†helped me connect my working document on a USB drive to once of the sewing machines.The machine automatically generates working steps on the screen, and it reminds users to change the colors when one color are completed the printing process. The most difficult thing for me is threading. I was frustrated¬†at the beginning to follow the steps on the machine to thread the needle. Fortunately, I got help¬†from lab instructors and classmates. Ultimately, the needle starts to “print” shapes with various colors on the fabric.

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Thoughts: exciting and special experience! I love the class design of BADM 395, which it allows us to experience and explore on different making tools. Simple sewing machine could have huge impacts on fashion design because fashion designers are able to “print” complex patterns.¬†Digital embroidery might not mean/help too much for my project design, but it does expand my eyes on digital making. Furthermore, as I mentioned in my previous reflection blog, the downside of 3D printer is restarting the whole printing process if we fail in the progress, which it will be time-consuming for designer and increase material waste. Comparing to 3D printer at the MakerLab, sewing machine allows users to stop the work anytime and take off fabric from the platform once printing issues happen. I think the design of sewing machine should provide some ideas for 3D printer designers to improve the weaknesses and the quality of user experience.

Digital Embroidery


This week was a bit different as I wasn’t necessarily tinkering with electronics and ardiunos as the past week, however, it was still a very interesting time.

This week, I worked with the Digital Embroidery. Essentially, I got to play with a sewing machine times like 100. Machine embroidery is an embroidery process whereby a sewing machine or embroidery machine is used to create patterns on textiles. It is used commercially in product branding, corporate advertising, and uniform adornment. Hobbyists also machine embroider for personal sewing and craft projects. In the scope of the Fab Lab, the machine are more for hobbyists.

So this is how the process went. We started on computers and were instructed to find a picture. However, we had to do this with wisdom. We needed to make sure that our pictures weren’t composed of a lot of colors as when the picture is loaded into the machine, each color recognized by the machine will mean a swap of thread. So in order to make sure our images were simplified, we used the Sew Art software to deprecate the colors of our images to just a few. After doing our edits in Sew Art, we then pushed things to a USB drive and headed for the sewing machine. We loaded the image into the machine via a wired connection and here comes the hard part–threading the sewing machine. To thread the sewing machine, we had to follow a very simple, but important, 7 step process which compared to threading a simple needle, was a lot more… different.

After we threaded the machine and push our fabric down, I was only a button press away from my awesome design. Below are some interesting images and videos of what the machine looks like and how the machine works.

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What does Digital Embroidery mean for me? I don’t know if it means much for me as I’m not sure if I would be interacting with such technology on a regular basis, however I think this could¬†mean a world of a difference for the maker. I feel that this expands the domain of what a maker is. I think that this technology can also have a huge effect on design as it would allow for intricate designs to be created and produced in a very quick manner. Small time designers or hobbyists would find it very easy to put their designs on different products.

With that being said, though I don’t see myself being a regular user or enthusiast in this technology, however, I would say that I am definitely an ally for the increased popularity of this technology!

0 to 100 with Arduinos

This week was quite interesting, by far my favorite week–thus far (hoping next week will top this).

This week we got to go to the Fab Lab over on the Urbana side of campus. The Fab Lab (short for fabrication laboratory), is specific kind of makerspace. The Fab Lab in an advanced workshop for rapid prototyping and designing using various machinery and computer-aided designing tools. The space is community driven by people referred to as Makers. The Fab Lab encourages people to become makers by exploring the entire design process.

This was my first time visiting the fab lab and it was amazing. Our visit started off with an overview on what the Fab Lab is about and all the services and opportunities it provides. From there we were split into groups of 3 and given tours of the space. The space is sectioned into roughly 3 areas; electronics, fabrics, and computers. After given tours of the space we were able to work in the area of our choice. Given the nature of my project and because of my general interests, I ended up in the electronics section.


In this section, our instructor Colton was able to teach us all things arduino. Through the session we were able to interact with the Arduino Interactive Development Environment, actual arudinos, lightbulbs, and other bits of electronics.  The result of our session was a arduino powered lightbulb and motor that functioned with responses to our touch. I LOVED IT.

I loved it for a couple of reasons, firstly, because I’ve never really interacted with hardware before. I’ve written code which eventually interacted with hardware before (haha), but I haven’t had the opportunity to work directly with the hardware. The other reason why I loved it is because of the potential learning more about this topic would holds!

Project Outlook

From this session, I gained the confidence to go ahead with my semester project and even felt comfortable with joining in another project with my fellow classmate Steve Koziel! I am excited with what the next couple weeks will bring and produce!

Here are some pictures of the Fab Lab and my work.

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