Place the Foam Base

The large 12" x 36mm EVA foam rectangle forms the base of our collar. To start, we'll wrap it around the cylindrical "model" to give it the correct curvature.

Take a 3-4" piece of painters' or other low-tack tape and stick it onto the non-adhesive face of the EVA foam rectangle so that about half the tape extends past the edge of the foam. Then wrap the rectangle around the can with the sticky face of the painters' tape facing outwards. Push the other end of the rectangle firmly onto the free end of the tape so that the EVA foam is secured around your model.

Once the EVA foam is securely fastened in place and won't slide off, peel the protective paper away from the adhesive side of the foam.

Attach the Inner Vinyl Layer

The inner layer of holographic vinyl has tabs protruding from both its ends. Take this vinyl piece and peel off any protective paper that may be covering it.

Carefully - taking the time to get the alignment right - stick the vinyl to the EVA foam base. The tab at one end of the vinyl should overhang the foam completely so that the base of the tab, where the vinyl becomes wider, aligns with the end of the foam base. Be sure to center the vinyl vertically relative to the foam. The vinyl is narrower than the foam, leaving a margin of about 4-5 mm of EVA foam extending above and below the vinyl.

Wrap the vinyl completely around the EVA foam - keeping it as centered as possible. You'll want to perform this step slowly and carefully. The sticky face of the foam will hold the vinyl in place securely, but also makes it tricky to re-position once placed. It is helpful, when applying the vinyl over the foam, to hold the vinyl tautly out from the can as you wrap it around the foam piece. The vinyl is shorter than the foam and will not reach the end of the foam base when fully adhered.

Align the Electronics

Take the wired electronics without the LiPo battery, and place them near the base of the collar. Starting at the point where the two Side Light NeoPixel strips connect to each other, we'll wrap the LED strips around the foam so that they overlay the sticky exposed portions of the EVA foam extending just above and below the vinyl.

Align the electronics assembly so that hookup wires wires sit at the very end of the foam where the vinyl tab meets the foam base. Carefully bend the LED strips around the collar base, gently pressing them into the sticky foam. The outer edges of the NeoPixel strips should sit flush with or just a bit inside the outer edges of the foam.

When you reach the ItsyBitsy nRF52840 and the LiPoly backpack, press them into the sticky foam as well. The EVA foam adhesive should be strong enough to hold them in place without additional support.

Gently go back over the full lengths of the Side Light NeoPixel strips, pushing them into the foam with your fingertips, while smoothing them out to make sure that there are no wrinkles or bumps between the foam and the strips.

 

Stick the Foam Spacers

Locate the two skinny notched EVA foam strips. These pieces cover the LED strips and sit between the vinyl layers to keep them spaced a uniform distance apart. The EVA foam's adhesive backing will stick it to the inner vinyl layer, and we'll add a strip of 1/8" clear double-sided tape to the non-sticky side of each spacer so it can adhere to the outer vinyl layer as well.

It's easiest to attach the double-sided tape to the foam before the foam is attached to the collar. Peel a length of the 1/8" double sided tape and press the sticky side into the foam spacers. Run the tape along the entire straight (non-notched) edge of the foam. Leave the backing on the double-sided tape for now.

Once you've applied the double-sided tape to each EVA foam spacer, peel the paper backing from the EVA foam and carefully stick one spacer over each of the Side Light NeoPixel strips. Align the foam spacers with the Side Light NeoPixel strips so that each of the 12 pixels fits snugly in its own foam notch, as shown. When in position the ends of the spacer strips will overhang the foam base.

Attach the Outer Vinyl Cover

Take the last piece of holographic vinyl and peel off any protective paper it may have. Peel the backing from the double-sided tape on both of the foam spacers.

Carefully align and stick the vinyl to the spacers, starting at the side of the collar without the ItsyBitsy board. The vertical edge of the vinyl should line up closely with the edge of the foam base piece. Start by attaching the vinyl at this edge, then traverse the length of the collar pressing the holographic vinyl into the double-sided tape with your fingertips, smoothing it out as you go to avoid wrinkles.

When in place, the other end of the vinyl should extend approximately to the edge of the ItsyBitsy, as shown. If you find, after smoothing everything out, that part of the foam spacers extend past the edge of the vinyl at the top or bottom edge of the collar, you can carefully trim the foam overhang away with a sharp scissors or craft knife - being very careful not to cut into the LED strips.

The main body of the collar is now complete and you may remove it from the cylindrical "model" for the next steps. The collar should remain curved now, because of the way its layers are stuck together.

Gather the remaining pieces of EVA foam, shown in the first picture at left, as well as the 6" segments of Velcro. They'll be used to extend the length of the collar and create an adjustable fastener that will hold the collar around your neck.

Take the hook side of the Velcro (the scratchier and less soft of the two pieces) and one of the small EVA foam rectangles. Peel back the adhesive backing from one side of the foam rectangle, and attach the exposed sticky side of the foam rectangle to the end of the collar where the holographic vinyl tab juts out. When adhering the foam piece to the vinyl tab, be sure that the sticky face of the foam faces the outside of the collar, and that you align the edge of the foam rectangle with the edge of the collar's foam base as shown.

After the foam rectangle is attached to the collar, remove the rest of its paper backing. Next, remove the backing from the hook side of the Velcro to expose its sticky back side. Then, carefully position the hook side of the Velcro so that its end just meets the edge of the holographic vinyl and it is positioned in the middle of the sticky foam rectangle. Once aligned, press the Velcro into the EVA foam so that they stick together. Trim off any Velcro which extends past the very end of the sticky foam piece.

Add the First Velcro Connector

Secure and Cover the Velcro

Now we'll use EVA foam piece shaped like the Greek π symbol to reinforce the connection between the collar body and Velcro strip extension. Peel the paper backing off the top and "arms" of the π-shaped piece as shown, leaving the paper on its "legs" so it will be a bit easier to handle.

Place the foam piece on the front of the collar so that its widest edge overlaps the holographic vinyl by about 5 mm, and it is centered vertically along the collar. Next turn the collar around to view its interior surface. You'll see that the protruding "arms" of the foam piece are inline with the join between the main collar body and the EVA foam piece with the Velcro. Fold the two sticky arms over the top and bottom collar edges so that they cover the join. Press them firmly in place with your fingertips.

Now turn the collar back around so that you are viewing it from the outside. Carefully peel the remaining paper cover from the legs of the Pi-shaped foam piece and stick them to the rectangular foam piece holding the Velcro. The Velcro strip should fit nicely inside the gap between the foam legs.

Attach the LiPo Battery

Next, we'll add the battery to the electronics. Since LiPo batteries can be fragile, and our battery will be sitting in sticky EVA foam, we want to avoid damaging it if it needs to be removed or repositioned. Before adding it to the collar we'll cover it with a layer of electrical tape. Cut two or three lengths of electrical tape which are just long enough to wrap around the battery, and wrap the battery in them. When wrapping lay the JST connector wires across the body of the battery and wrap the tape around them, leaving about an inch of the connector wires extending from the tape.

Once it is wrapped, slide the battery connector into the LiPoly backpack and stick the battery to the adhesive EVA foam as shown at left. Orient the battery so that it is centered vertically in the foam and does not extend past the top or bottom edges of the collar.

Complete the Velcro Connection

The remaining rectangular foam piece will hold the loop (soft) side of the adhesive Velcro strip to the collar. Leave the paper backing on the EVA foam rectangle to start. Peel the backing from the loop side of the velcro, and stick it to the *non-adhesive* side of the EVA foam. Position the Velcro strip so that one end aligns with a short edge of the foam rectangle and it runs along the center of the foam piece. The loop side of the Velcro strip will overhang the foam by about two inches.

Next, we'll attach the foam rectangle to the side of the collar containing the battery using the sticky back of the overhanging Velcro. Hold the foam rectangle and Velcro strip next to the edge of the collar with the Velcro on the collar's interior. Line up the short edge of the EVA foam rectangle so that it meets but does not overlap the edge of the collar. Once aligned, press the Velcro to the interior of the collar to connect the EVA foam rectangle to the main collar. Once firmly attached, turn the collar so you are viewing its outside surface and peel the paper backing from the foam rectangle you just attached.

Wrap it Up

The final piece of EVA foam wraps around the electronics to help secure and protect them. This foam piece has a number of notches and tabs which will wrap around the collar's top and bottom edges. Two of the notches on one side of this foam piece are a bit deeper than the others. Peel the protective paper off just the side of the foam piece containing the long notches, as shown at left.

Carefully position the foam piece over the collar so that the first notch is centered around the Itsy Bitsy nRF52840's micro USB connector and sits below the RST and SW pushbuttons. The second long notch is situated around the LiPoly Backpack's slide switch and JST connector as shown. The base of the short notches on both sides of this foam piece should just line up with the top and bottom edges of the collar, and the widest side of the piece should overlap the outer layer of holographic vinyl by a few mm.

When this foam piece is positioned correctly, press the portion of the piece without the paper backing over the electronics to stick it down. Wrap the long tabs around the top and bottom of the collar pressing them down to stick them to the collar's interior.

Remove the rest of the paper backing from the foam piece and stick it to the exterior of the collar. The sticky side of this foam piece will stick firmly to the sticky side of the rectangular foam piece holding the velcro.

Turn the collar around so that you can see the interior. One at a time, fold each of the tabs over the top or bottom edge of the collar and push them to the interior side of the collar to stick them down. The tabs should extend just to the edge of the Velcro. If they overlap a bit, cut them back with scissors so that no foam is covering the Velcro strip.

Trim It Down

The collar structure is complete, but, depending on your neck size, will likely be a bit too long to wear comfortably. You may shorten it by trimming the ends with a sharp scissors. Before trimming, test the sizing by wearing the collar around your neck. If it feels too bulky, then place the collar around your cylindrical "model" and a little bit at a time, trim equal length pieces from both ends until it fits your neck comfortably.

Wrap Up Loose Ends

Depending on the strength of the EVA foam's adhesive backing, you may find that some tabs which wrap around the edges of the collar start to lift up. If this happens, you can fasten them more securely with glue that is formulated to hold foam.

There are a number of foam glues on the market. This clear Gorilla Glue works well. Simply apply a very small drop of glue to the tab's inner surface, and secure it down with a clip while it dries. It will stay in place permanently after that.

Glow, Baby, Glow!

Now that the collar's construction is complete, you can test it out by connecting the ItsyBitsy nRF52840 to your computer and loading a simple CircuitPython LED demo program to see the curved infinity mirror in action. Remember to edit  the program to account for the 24 LEDs connected to pin D5.

Despite the collar's thinness, the rainbow LED reflections appear to stretch infinitely far beyond the surface, making for a mesmerizing visual effect.

In the next section of this Guide, we'll take advantage of the ItsyBitsy nRF52840's fast, CircuitPython-capable processor and its Bluetooth capabilities to create a variety of fun animations which can be controlled remotely.

This guide was first published on Feb 02, 2021. It was last updated on Feb 02, 2021.

This page (Construct the Collar) was last updated on Mar 26, 2021.

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