Using zipper as a switch in e-Textile projects always catches my attention as zippers offer many possibility to interact in the most simplest way with the wearer – zippers are used since … like forever.
An example of the simplicity of a zipper switch is Rebecca Stern‘s latest project, the TV-B-GoneHoodie. She uses a sweatshirt to integrate a TV-B-Gone function, a kind of IR control to switch off TVs around you for example in a restaurant to be able to talk to your friends.
TV-B-Gone devices are available but people getting suspicious when you hold up such device and point it around, switching off their TV. Here is where Rebecca’s TV-B-GoneHoodie comes to action: concealed in a hoodie the TV-B-Gone is out of sight and you only need to face the TV to switch it off with a pull on your zipper.
The concept is fairly simple: the push button leads of a standard TV-B-Gone device are connected to conductive threads sewn from a pocket to the edge of the zipper which has to have a metal pull otherwise the is no electrical contact. Two little pads next to the zipper teeth made of the conductive tread ends form the contact points which will be closed once the zipper pull slides over them.
To activate the TV turning-off action the zip in the sweatshirt has to be moved up or down. Simple – cool.
Check out Rebecca’s Instructables for full details.
Metallic zipper have been used in various wearable electronic project although I haven’t seen them on a commercial product yet. Zips are a ‘natural’ part of clothing, using them as switch or as a more complex sensor seems logical to me. Slide the zipper pull up or down to increase or decrease the volume of an connected audio player or adjust the brightness of illuminated clothing or switch on the lights inside a bag when the bags zipper is open, the uses are endless.
ITP student Joo Youn Paek designed a zipper sensor using the same principle as above to make connections between lines of conductive yarns sewn along the zipper. The conductive lines are then connected to difference resistor values. When the zipper pull slides up or down, the resister value changes and triggers various actions programmed into the circuit.
It’s a simple concept and as zipper are around for a long time they are available in high quality, they are proven to be very durable and anyone, anywhere knows how to operate a zipper. Simple as that.