Wearables, Burning Man, and leveling up my game

Jumpsuit V3

Hey people! After 10+ years of making wearable LED and sound projects, I finally found a forum of my people :slight_smile:

The latest project has shown me the limitations I’m running into, and I’d love to get knowledge and ideas from you all on how to do this better.

The jumpsuit has 50 dotstar LEDs on each arm, three rows of 10 up top, and then one row of 20 down the arm. I hand sew the leds with the silicone sleeve into place, and then use hot glue and wire to connect the end points. These then get connected to an esp32 feather in the top pocket, and down in a leg pocket I have my power bank that connects to the LEDs and controller (each has a dedicated usb line to the battery).

This had a few issues that I’d love to figure out how to do better:

  1. The connection points at each end of the strips was very brittle and not reliable (one arm only half worked most of the time)
  2. Sewing the led strips into the fabric is time consuming and makes it difficult to replace leds or strips that break
  3. I would like the leds to move organically without wires going everywhere, and ideally it looks halfway decent in the light (not something that looks like I’m wearing a homemade bomb).

My thoughts on how to make this more reliable, easier to build, and more fun to program would be to start 3d printing “pucks” or small pieces similar to motocross armor that have indents for the led strips, and a second 3d printed top piece that I can snap or glue on top to lock the leds in place. If I use a material like ninjaflex, then the parts can move and flex, but still keep the end of the strips well secured. I could then add small holes at the edges to use and sew onto clothing. I have 0 experience with 3d printing, so this would be a bit of a time and money investment, but I think it could work really well.

The part that I am still struggling to figure out, is how to make the ends of each strip segment more robust. One would be to solder and then use silicone end caps or the 3d printed segment with just 3 wire holes to keep things from bending or moving too much. The down side here is that if a connection breaks, it’s then hard to fix, but it can be relatively slim compared to a screwed in option.

Excited to play around with the pixel blaze controller and build some fun projects this year!

Hi @hex337 ,

There are many ways to solve these things, but here is what I’ve done:

  1. Tie down the strip itself to something rigid that is secured. A zip-tie or rigid wire twist can be used between LEDs. This way the strip and tube provide some strain relief, and the wires + solder joints won’t get stressed.
  2. Safety pins. I designed and printed decorative covers, but there are other ways to hide them. If you do make more of an armor, they could be hidden inside while still providing a quick and easy way to detach things.
  3. Most LED strips don’t like bending and certain angles. There are LED strip designs that are more flexible, like a chain of wobbly S curves.

3D printing opens up a lot of options! It is a bit of a learning curve, but being able to make just about anything you can imagine is powerful stuff.

I would caution against glue, you’ll need to replace LED strips at some point. You could plan on replacing the whole assembly. RTV silicone is what you want if you are trying to actually glue to those silicone tubes and can be handy if you need to cut and replace a segment and reseal the tube or add end caps to cut strips.

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I’ve just posted some details on how I made an LED dress and I went in to some detail on how I managed to make the solder joints at the ends of the strips pretty robust. Have a read and let me know if that’s useful, or you have any more questions.

Another approach I’ve used very successfully is to back the LED strips with a thin (but still fairly rigid) plastic strip, like this. This worked wonders for me on the arms of an LED suit I made. My first version didn’t have any backing strips and the strips on the arms would break very easily. Since I added the strips they haven’t broken once, after maybe 15 hours of use. I don’t think this approach meets your criteria for organic movement though, the end result is of course reasonably stiff.


Oh, thank you both for the suggestions. Lots to try out here. I like the dress solution. Hardening the solder points is fine to have a little section that isn’t as organic for movement.

@ChrisNZ for that LED suit, how did you attach all of those LEDs to the jacket and pants?!?!

The jacket I made quite some time ago. It’s a heavyish cotton jacket with an inner lining (that hides all the wiring), and the strips are just glued directly on with E8000 or similar type glue. The strips on the arms also have the plastic backing I mentioned, glued on the same way. It’s not as bad as it sounds, when the strips do get damaged it’s pretty easy to pull them off and replace them (or even individual LEDs). The trousers were added later, and the LEDs on those are held in place by a mesh covering, exactly the same as I described for the dress. So far nothing has broken with the mesh covered strips but I imagine it’s going to be pretty easy to slide out a strip and repair/replace it if I need to.

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