Let's take a look at different power solutions for your garments and props!
One of the biggest challenges for wearables and cosplay projects with electronics is adding power to your creation. Batteries and power solutions can often be bulky and awkward. Whether you are powering a single LED or a robust interactive costume full of sensors, actuators and microcontrollers, you will need to make some decisions about how to add power to your costume. Let’s look at some of the options available to you.
COIN CELL BATTERY OPTIONS
Coin cell batteries are a great option for wearables and cosplay because they are very small and thin, making it easy to hide them within a garment. The limitations of a small coin cell battery lie in the voltage and current. At 3V and 250mAh, a coin cell is perfect for powering low-voltage, low-current circuits, like a low-power processor or a few LEDs.
One of my favorite boards for using a coin cell battery in a wearable circuit is the LilyPad Coin Cell Battery Holder - Switched. This is an excellent and convenient board because it includes an on/off switch, making it super easy for you to turn your project on and off without any extra components. It also features two + and two - sew tabs on either side of the board, making it super easy to connect to your projects via conductive thread or traditional wire. You can also use the extra tabs to arrange two holders in parallel or in series to up the current or the voltage.
Another wonderful option for putting two coin cell batteries in series is the Coin Cell Battery Holder - 2xCR2032. This sleek and compact battery holder contains your batteries in a plastic enclosure, making sure that all conductive part are covered. It also features an on/off switch making it simple and easy for you to include a power switch to your project.
A smaller option for adding coin cell batteries to your wearables or cosplay is the Coin Cell Battery Holder - 20mm (Sewable). This little guy is extremely basic, making it wonderful for discreetly fitting into small spaces. Its + and - tabs feature a small hole, making it easily sewable, as well as usable with traditional hardware. While this battery holder does not feature a switch, you can certainly add one to your circuit using the LilyPad Slide Switch.
LiPo BATTERY OPTIONS
Lithium ion batteries are a fantastic option for wearables and cosplay because they are extremely lightweight and super slim. These batteries vary in size and current depending on your circuit’s needs - our smallest option is super tiny at only 40mAh, while our largest option is a heck of a lot bulkier, but reaches 6Ah! These batteries are also rechargeable, making it easy for you to create a chargeable project. These LiPo batteries come with a 2-pin JST connector, which interfaces with several power connection boards. If you are planing to use conductive thread in your project that uses a LiPo battery, you should be extra careful about shorts in the thread - as this can cause a spark (LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES!!). Let’s take a look at the different ways to include LiPo batteries in your projects.
The LilyPad Simple Power board is a great way to add a LiPo battery to your wearable or cosplay project, AND it includes a USB port for easy charging of your battery. Like the LilyPad Coin Cell Battery Holder, the Simple Power Board also includes an on/off switch for controlling the power on your project. This board features one + and one - conductive sew tab, which can be sewn with conductive thread or used with traditional hardware.
Some of the LilyPad microcontroller boards include a JST connector on the board for powering your project. If you plan to use these boards, you will likely not need a separate power connector board. For example, the LilyPad USB Plus includes a JST connector for LiPo batteries, recharge circuit, as well as an on/off switch. This is definitely something to consider when planning your project because you can save a lot of room and time by using a board with included power connections and switches.
If you are looking for a smaller option to connect your LiPo battery, you may be interested in the SparkFun LiPo Charger Basic - Micro-USB. I often use this board on its own to charge my LiPo batteries, but I have also used it in projects when I’m trying to save on space. This board includes a JST connector for your LiPo battery and a Micro-USB connector for charging purposes. There is one + and one - solder pad connection available to power your projects. The + and - connections are pretty close together though, so I would recommend using wires and solder to create the power connection over conductive thread, to avoid shorts.
If you need more than 3.3-3.7V, you may want to consider the Lithium Ion Battery Pack - 2.2AH (USB). This rechargeable battery pack runs at 5V and 2200 mAh. It is easy to connect to your projects using a USB micro-B port, like that on the LilyPad Simple Power board discussed above. The battery pack includes an on/off button and a 7-segment display to let you know how much charge you have left at all times. I often hide this power source inside a pocket where I can remove it for charging.
Let us know about how you power your wearables and cosplay in the comments below!