Making More Of Me Money

For the last few years, Hackaday has really been stepping up our game with marketing materials. Our t-shirts and swag are second to none, and last year we introduced the ‘Benchoff Buck’ (featured above), a bill replete with Jolly Wrencher EURions that is not yet legal currency. At least until we get a sweet compound in the desert, that is.

[Andrew Sowa] created the Benchoff Nickel. It’s a visage of yours truly emblazoned on a PCB, rendered in FR4, silkscreen, gold, and OSHPark’s royal purple. In doing so, [Andrew] has earned himself a field commission to the rank of lieutenant and can now reserve the dune buggy for a whole weekend.

The Benchoff Nickel was created in KiCad using the Bitmap2Component functionality. Planning this required a little bit of work; there are only five colors you can get on an OSH Park PCB, from white to gold to beige to purple (soldermask on top of copper) to black (soldermask with no copper). Luckily, the best picture we have of me renders very well in five colors.

The Bitmap2Component part of KiCad will only get you so far, though. It’s used mainly to put silkscreen logos on a board, and messing around with copper and mask layers is beyond its functionality. To import different layers of my face into different layers of a KiCad PCB, [Andrew] had to open up Notepad and make a few manual edits. It’s annoying, but yes, it can be done.

OSH Park’s fabs apparently use two different tones of FR4

The Benchoff Nickel can be found on Github and as a shared project on OSH Park ($22.55 for three copies). One little curiosity of the OSH Park fabrication process presented itself with [Andrew]’s second order of Benchoff Nickels. OSH Park uses at least two board houses to produce their PCBs, and one of them apparently uses a lighter shade of FR4. This resulted in a lighter skin tone for the second order of Benchoff Nickels.

This is truly tremendous work. I’ve never seen anything like this, and it’s one of the best ‘artistic’ PCBs I’ve ever held in my hands. It was a really great surprise when [Andrew] handed me one of these at the Hackaday Unconference in Chicago. I’ll be talking to [Andrew] again this week at the Midwest RepRap festival, and we’re going to try and figure out some way to do a small run of Benchoff Nickels.

Edit: OSH Park revealed why there are different tones of FR4. In short, there aren’t. The lighter shade of skintone is actually FR408, which is used on 4-layer boards.

28 thoughts on “Making More Of Me Money

    1. Or in GIMP using index colour with a custom pallet and no dither. There are heaps of ways to automate it and the only reason that people haven’t is that there is no real need to do it. Photo silkscreens are so 1962 or whatever, doing the same in enamel on metal is more like 1922. You can also use custom dithers if you really want more tones reproduced and the dither cells can even be little HAD logos, if you are skilled enough, but once you get it working you can automate it with scripting very easily in GIMP. The move over to vectors is dead easy in Inkscape, as you have pointed out.

      1. It’s rather straightforward. You prepare the image in Inkscape, then you group the different colors and name the groups “board”, “silkscreen”, “copper”, etc., save as a plain SVG and then in Fritzing in the PCB tab click on the PCB, select “load image” and point it to your SVG. Once you have that, just export it as gerbers, zip up and upload to OSHPark or whatever service you prefer.

          1. It can also do Bezier curve traces. It’s pretty good for those “fancy” PCB uses. Not as good for churning out “boring” PCBs, though — no automation and bulk commands, and quite a few quirks.

    2. I am working on adding a tutorial to use inkscape to prep the image, but I am having trouble with svg2mod. It keep hanging on me when I do complex shapes.

      Trace bitmap does work really well to convert any image to a couple colors.

  1. OMG!
    You can’t get more awesome than Brian but Brian can get even more awesome!
    Feels weird when your idol is younger than yourself. However for over 22 dollars I would get a tattoo instead.

  2. Benchoff in July, Benchoff in January!
    They look great! Great job [Andrew Sowa] in preserving the image quality! ;P
    Someone should make some Benchoff LED throwies with these; iclude a few into the next traveling hacker-box of course.

    1. You forgot the ATmega1284, ATtiny85, ESP8266, ESP32 and Pi Zero (hopefully it’s too big*).

      (*) The Pi Foundation will surely read this and release a smaller SBC, the Pi Minus One. No, it won’t have Benchoff’s face on the PCB, but it will have $(shuf /usr/share/dict/buzzwords | head -n 1). And it will require even more (proprietary) adapters for connection. It will boot a closed-source non-linux OS from onboard memory, and we won’t be able to reflash it because the Broadcom-branded black epoxy blob on the Pi’s PCB won’t allow booting anything with a SHA-256 hash that doesn’t match the one stored in internal mask ROM. Someone at the Pi Foundation will then say: “All fruit-branded electronic devices are using proprietary connectors and locked-down ROMs. We’re fruit too so we must follow that trend.”
      Anyone wants to pre-order a Pi Minus One?

  3. I work in a pcb fab house, and we once got a bit scolded by a client because the FR4 laminates were in 3 colors. It was just 3 different manufacturers laminates, all were using slightly different resins. One was dark yellow, 2 lighter. That’s the first time a customer has said it’s a fault that the color is not consistent, considering the fact that it is not listed as a requirement anywhere.

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