Friday, April 24, 2015

Day 90 - Learning about EL Wire

Every time I see EL Wire on a project, I'm mesmerized by the glow.  So I naturally assumed it was complicated.  Turns out its one of the simplest ways to electrify a piece of textile.

EL wire stands for electroluminescent wire. This wire can easily be attached to clothing or other materials that bend or have moving parts.  And it comes in fun colors and shapes. 

To add that that EL  glow to your projects, you basically need 3 things

1)  a long strip of EL wire

2) an EL Inverter Battery Pack

3) an some batteries

Or consider getting a starter kit with both the wire and the battery pack.

The first think you need to  know is that YOU CANNOT USE just a standard battery like you do with most LED eTextile project.   You MUST get an INVERTER battery pack.   This makes the power source for your eTextile project a little harder to conceal (and in the case of my hat a little clunkier)

Sparkfun has an inexpensive inverter and lots of fun colors available in its selection of EL wire .

In my project, I ended up creating a design that used the whole length of the green wire I happen to have handy.   However, you can cut it any size you want, as long as you reseal the end with hot glue or other similar substance.

But it must be powered by AC (alternating current) -- the same type of power that comes out of the electrical outlets in your house.  But since it would not be practical to have your e-Textile projects plugged into an outlet,  you can get portable power but using an inverter battery pack.  The inverter changes the direct current power that batteries produce and 'inverts' or changes it to AC power needed by your EL wire.

Your EL inverter/battery pack will include a JST connector that connects with the JST connector on your EL wire.   Most EL inverter/battery packs contain a button that changes the look of the EL wire from 'ON'  glowing, to  'Chasing"  or "Blinking", to OFF, every time you press the button.

 Here is a short video demonstration from SparkFun.

The geek in me wanted to do more with this cool looking wire.  With a little more research I read that Sparkfun carries two boards that can help me gain some control over the EL Wire ( the EL Sequencer and the EL Escudo Dos).

I also found a few EL Wire hacks that allow you to control the ON OFF of the inverter without having to manually press the button.  I started to think about how I could use this Hack (which uses an Arduino to control a Relay that controls the power to the inverter) in some of my projects.  This made me feel that the despite its simple on/off switch power option,  that I could control how and when my EL Wire turns on with an Arduino, if I learned to use a relay.

 Guess what's next on my list of Arduino skills to learn!  Stay tuned!

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