Seamless Seams: Machine sewing shape-changing and colour changing threads
Traditional crafting methods such as stitching, embroidering, dyeing and machine sewing can be enhanced to create novel techniques for embedding shape-changing and colour changing actuation into soft fabrics.
In this paper, we show how embedding Shape-Memory Alloy (SMA) wire, copper wire and thermochromic thread into needles and bobbins, we were able to successfully machine sew interactive morphological capabilities into textiles.
We describe the results of extensive design experiments, which detail how differing actuations can be achieved through a matrix of parameters that directly influence a fabric’s deformational behaviours.
We contribute new techniques for creating soft-interfaces, imbued with actuation through tactile and self-morphing capabilities without motors or LEDs. We draw insights from this on the potential of the proposed techniques for crafting interactive artefacts.
This paper is an exploration of machine-sewing actuation seamlessly and the impacts of doing this. We have introduced a range of novel techniques of machine sewing and physically programming actuating threads/wires into fabrics.
Our techniques enabled both the colour change of seams and soft shape-changes such as bend/unbend, swirl, twist, roll/unroll, curl, crumple and crease.
From observations of experiments sewing SMA to fabrics, ten parameters were realized as the impacting factors that control the deformation intensity: fabric type, thread type, stitch type, sewing pattern, wire type, wire austenite, wire martensite, fabric orientation, wire length and its distance to the fabric edge.
Evolutionary step for sewing shape-changing and colour-changing threads
In developing these 10 techniques for machine sewing actuation, we have productively built upon previous work on e-textiles that generally focused on LEDs and motor-based actuation by sewing conductive threads.
Thus, our techniques for sewing shape-changing and colour-changing threads represent an evolutionary step towards the ultimate goal of providing a high fidelity experience to users, designers and researchers.
This paper also extends previous work on SMA shape-change by examining deformational parameters affecting the fabric’s morphological effect.
Creating aesthetic artefacts with colour-changing and shape-changing capabilities
Finally, we designed and exhibited a case study evaluated by members of the public, which shows the potential of creating aesthetic artefacts with colour-changing and shape-changing capabilities, crafted in seamless ways, moving beyond intrusive technology and mass produced devices.
These findings evoke design opportunities that pave the way for a vast amount of future work on actuating everyday soft objects, contrasting previous notions that argued for a need to create novel computational composites and peculiar materialities.
Applications include shape-changing, colour-changing and haptic soft interfaces ranging from wearables and garments to interactive soft furnishing. Machine-sewing actuating threads
will change the topology of how such interfaces are designed, crafted and manufactured, on a scalable level.
A brave new world of interactive possibilities
Designers and researchers can now use such techniques to create predictable, replicable and scalable rapid prototypes and designs. In addition, this should also inspire crafters and tech-makers to develop “sewing books” of different seamless seams that can change their colours or shapes using various sewing patterns in an array of real-world artefacts.
Once non-technical designers learn and understand how smart threads can be sewn into their designs (not just wearables, but also soft furnishings such as a chair arm or a pillow case), this might bring us to a brave new world of interactive possibilities.
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