How to grow your own EL wire DNA helix lamp

el-wire-helix-lamp

[LucidMovement] was looking for some crystal-based artwork and just couldn’t seem to find anything that fit the bill, so he decided to build something himself.

The inspiration for his desk lamp came from something we’re all familiar with, a DNA double-helix. To grow the crystals he built a helix-shaped growing substrate out of nichrome and EL wires, submerging them in a warm alum solution. Once he had a nice set of crystals, he mounted it in an acrylic tube, filling the air space with clear silicone to seal off the display. He then mounted the silicone-filled tube on top of a rotating acrylic stand that he had cut for the project. The stand is made from several sheets of acrylic and contains both the gearing for movement as well as RGB LEDs to light the display from the bottom.

The lamp looks great when sitting idle, but when he powers it on it really shines (no pun intended). [LucidMovement] put a ton of work into the lamp, and offers up all sorts of tips, tricks, and considerations for anyone looking to build their own. Be sure to check out his writeup for plenty more details, and stick around to see a short video of the lamp in action.

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Lighted acrylic Christmas ornaments

If you’ve gone to the trouble of building your own CNC mill we know you’re always on the lookout for things to use it for. [Boris Landoni] wrote in with just the thing for the holiday season; a set of lighted acrylic Christmas ornaments.

One of the interesting properties of acrylic is how it reacts when edge-lit. The material pipes the light, until it bounces off of a disturbance in the surface. The first step is to design the outline of the ornament as all cut edges will glow. Next, [Boris] uses artCAM to design the internal parts to be cut. This application translates the relief cuts necessary to really make your design shine (sorry, we couldn’t resist). The best examples of this are the angel and candle seen above.

Each of these acrylic pieces has a slot cut on the bottom to hug an LED. [Boris] used small project boxes with a PCB for that diode, as well as a button battery for power.

Hone your skills by building control modules

If you ask us, there’s no substitute for learning by doing. But often the hardest part of acquiring new skills is coming up with the idea for a project that utilizes them. [Mike Rankin] wanted to develop a project using laser cut acrylic, and settled on building a control box for an RGB LED strip. He got some practice modeling objects in SolidWorks and seeing the process through to the final build. But it also let him explore an area of microcontroller programming in which he had little experience.

The LED strip he’s using depends on the HL1606. This is an SPI addressable chip that we see popping up in a lot of projects these days. It’s pretty simple to send red, green, and blue values through the data bus, and it allowed [Mike] to try his hand at programming menus and sub-menus. The controller takes input from a clickable rotary encoder. The settings are displayed on an OLED screen, with all the hardware nestled comfortably in his custom-cut enclosure.

Don’t miss the demo video embedded after the break.

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Electro-active polymers

What’s that you say? You’ve got rigid materials that change their shape when exposed to electric current? Sign us up for some! Although the fabrication process looks a bit daunting, we love the results of working with electro-active polymers. These are sheets of plastic that can flex by contracting in one direction when the juice is turned on. It has an effect very similar to muscle wire but distributed over a larger area.

From what we saw in the video after the break it looks like this is not the most resilient of materials. Several of the test shots have broken panes, but we’re sure that will improve with time. It looks like there is some info out there about fabricating your own EAP but the processes seem no easier than what’s going on at the research level. We might stick to building our own air muscles until EAP is easier to source for projects.

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Converting a laptop computer into a desktop machine

[Michael Chen] found himself in possession of a thoroughly broken laptop. The hinges connecting the screen to the body of the computer were shot, and the battery was non-functional. After a bit of thinking he decided that it wouldn’t take much to resurrect the hardware by turning it into a desktop machine.

At the core of this hack is the hardware that you must keep for the computer to function. That is, the LCD screen, the motherboard, hard drive, and the AC/DC brick that powers it. [Michael] ditched everything else; the case, keyboard, trackpad, webcam, etc. Next he started building his own enclsure out of acrylic. First he sandwiched the LCD screen between a full sheet of acrylic and a bezel that was one inch wide on each side. Next, another full sheet was used to mount the motherboard and hard drive. You can see how the three sheets are connected by nuts and bolts in the image above. It looks like the only other alteration he made was to relocate the power button to a more convenient spot.

Once a USB keyboard and mouse are added he’s back up and running. We’ve got our eye on an old XP laptop that might end up seeing this conversion to become a dedicated shop computer. We just need to build in some more dust protection.

The basics of building a multitouch table

Here is a bare-bones multitouch table setup. We looked in on [Seth Sandler's] multitouch work a few years ago when he completed the MTmini build. He’s scaling up the size a bit with the MTbiggie, and showing you how easy it is to put together. The demo rig seen above is just a couple of chairs, a sheet of acrylic, a mirror, a projector, a computer, and a diy infrared webcam.

The rig uses ambient infrared light to detect the outlines of your fingers when they touch the acrylic surface. A webcam with an exposed camera film filter feeds an image of the infrared light received below the surface to the computer. The incoming video is processed using Community Core Vision, where each individual point is isolated and mapped. Once the data is available the sky’s the limit on what you can develop. [Seth's] demo packages include a mouse driver, some physics applications, an Angry Birds implementation, and a few others. See for yourself in the video after the break.

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PC case using CNC router and home building products

[Reinventing Science] needed a project that he could use to test out his skills on a new CNC routing machine he recently acquire. He settled on building a PC case using easily obtained materials. What he ended up with is the clean-looking case seen above that was machined from materials you can pick up at the home store.

The bulk of the case is made from extruded PVC which is designed to perform like solid wood trim. He picked up one piece of the ‘lumber’ and cut out the front, back, top, bottom, and drive bay bezel. We expected the joints between the horizontal and vertical pieces to either be butt joints, or rabbits. But [Reinventing Science] wanted a cleaner look and managed to mill mortise and tenon joints. These are strong joints that leave a very nice finished look. Since the material is designed as a lumber replacement it shouldn’t be too surprising to see drywall screws used as the fasteners.

In addition to joinery, some other CNC tricks were used. The sides of the case were cut from clear acrylic, with a decorative bead milled in the surface. There’s also fan ports cut in the top and vents on the bottom, as well as some engraving with the name of the project just above the optical drive. The wood-grain embossing makes for an interesting final look; we’d like to see how this takes a few careful coats of paint.

If you’re interested in the CNC hardware used, take a look at the unboxing post that shares a few details.