Laser Engraved Business Cards with LEDs

Plexiglass-LED-Lit-Business-Card-1

Regular paper business cards are boring. They are flimsy and easily forgettable for the most part, and when stacked together or thrown in a pile, it’s hard to locate a specific one; like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Plastic cards aren’t much better either because they still fall into that ‘who cares’ category. But plexiglas business cards with laser cut etchings beautifully lit up by an LED?! Yes please.

The design was developed by Romanian engraving company called Gravez Dotro who fixed the problem of simply glancing at a business card, putting it in a wallet, and causally forgetting about it later, never to contact the person that gave it out. If someone hands away one of these though, the receiver is definitely going to remember it. The solution isn’t that high-tech and just about anyone with access to a laser cutter can make their own. It will be interesting to see what people come up with. If you feel like creating one, be sure to send us pictures. We would love to see them. Video of the design comes up after the break.

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Ask Hackaday: Can Paper USB Business Cards Exist?

swivel business card

The swivelCard Kickstarter campaign recently received a lot of press coverage and makes some impressive claims as their goal is the development of USB and NFC business cards at a $3 unit price. While most USB-enabled business cards we featured on Hackaday were made of standard FR4, this particular card is made of paper as the project description states the team patented

a system for turning regular paper into a USB drive.

As you can guess this piqued our interest, as all paper based technologies we had seen until now mostly consisted of either printed PCBs or paper batteries. ‘Printing a USB drive on regular paper’ (as the video says) would therefore involve printing functional USB and NFC controllers.

Luckily enough a quick Google search for the patents shown in one of the pictures (patent1, patent2) taught us that a storage circuitry is embedded under the printed USB pads, which may imply that the team had an Application-Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) designed or that they simply found one they could use for their own purposes. From the video we learn that ‘each card has a unique ID and can individually be programmed’ (the card, not the UID) and that it can be setup to open any webpage URL. The latter can even be modified after the card has been handed out, hinting that the final recipient would go to a ‘www.swivelcard.com/XXXX” type of address. We therefore got confused by

Imagine giving your business card with pictures, videos, presentations, and websites for the recipient to interact with!

paragraph that the project description contains.

This leads us to one key question we have: what kind of USB drive can make a given user visit a particular website, given that he may have Linux, Windows, Mac or any other OS? They all have similar USB enumeration processes and different key strokes to launch a browser… our wild guess is that it may be detected as storage with a single html file in it. Unfortunately for us the USB detection process is not included in the video.

Our final question: Is it possible to embed both USB and NFC controllers in a thin piece of paper without worrying about broken ICs (see picture above)? NFC enabled passports have obviously been around for a long time but we couldn’t find the same for USB drives.

Possible or not, we would definitely love having one in our hands!

Edit: One of our kind readers pointed out that this campaign actually is a re-launch of a failed indiegogo one which provides more details about the technology and confirms our assumptions.

Designing the Second Version of my Business Card

At the end of the month my contract with my current employer (no, not Hackaday) will end. With the interviews starting to line up I therefore thought it’d be a nice opportunity to design the PCB business card you can see in the picture above.

It is made of two PCBs soldered together, the bottom one containing the SMD components while the top one only has holes to let most of them pass through. The design was mainly inspired by the first version we already featured on Hackaday although the microcontroller was changed for the (costly) ATMega32u4 and the top PCB was slightly milled so the LEDs may shine through the FR4. The LEDs are connected in groups of 2 (total of 8 groups) to PWM channels and a hidden flash memory allows the card to be recognized as an external 2MB storage using the LUFA library. All source files may be downloaded on my website.

A Business Card that plays Simon Says

BusinessCard_01_08

When your name is Simon and you want to build your own circuit board business card, it makes perfect sense to incorporate a game of Simon Says, and that’s exactly what [Simon] did with his Business Card.

You may see a resemblance to the Engineer’s Emergency Business Card; that’s because [Simon] took inspiration from that card to build his own.  The game of Simon Says is played via 4 low-profile pushbuttons and 4 0805 LEDs.  The microcontroller of choice to run the game is an ATtiny45 set up to work with the Arduino IDE.  But with only 5 pins available for I/O, [Simon] had to give up 4 pins to the LEDs and configure the remaining pin as an analog input.  The buttons are tied into a voltage divider that feeds the analog input, so depending which button is pressed, a different voltage is read in, thus a value from 0 to 1023 determines which button was pressed.

One of the great things about this write-up is that it goes through the process of etching PCBs at home using the toner-transfer method.  We’re not sure how many home-etched business cards he’s willing to pass out, but surely whoever does get the card, will never forget his name.

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An ARM Powered Business Card, Part Two

Card

While most microcontroller powered business cards opt for something small and cheap, [Brian] is going in an entirely different direction. His business card features an ARM processor, some Flash storage, a USB connection, and enough peripherals to do some really cool stuff.

This is the second iteration of [Brian]‘s business card. We saw the first version, but this new version makes up for a few mistakes in the previous version. The biggest improvement is the replacement of the Molex USB plug with bare traces on the board. [Brian] couldn’t find a board house that could fab a board with the proper thickness for a USB plug, but a few strips of masking tape did enough to beef up the thickness and make his plug nice and snug. Also, the earlier version had a few pins sticking out of the board for programming purposes. This wasn’t an idea solution for a business card where it would be carried around in a pocket, so these pins were replaced with a connectorless programming adapter. Just a few exposed pads gives [Brian] all the programming abilities of the last version, without all those prickly pins to catch on clothing.

With his new business card, [Brian] has an excellent display of his engineering prowess and a very cool toy; he has a project that will turn this card into a keyboard emulator, randomly activating the Caps Lock button for a few seconds every few minutes. A great prank, and a great board to give to future employers.

Business card draws [ch00f]‘s logo

card

[ch00f] is at it again, expanding the horizons of the art of PCB business cards. This one draws his logo on any computer over a USB port.

The physical design of the card is heavily inspired by [Frank Zhao]‘s card; both use an ATtiny85 and the V-USB package to handle the USB protocol and communications. Instead of typing words into a text editor like [Frank]‘s, [ch00f]‘s card draws the ch00ftech logo in MS Paint or other image editor.

There was a problem with simply emulating the mouse to draw a logo on the screen, though; because different computers have different mouse settings for acceleration, the ch00ftech logo was nearly always distorted. [ch00f] fixed that by emulating an absolute input device, basically turning his business card into a single-function pen tablet.

The logo was traced by hand and put into a few arrays in the firmware. Surprisingly, the logo didn’t take up much space – only 4k of the tiny85’s flash is used. There’s a lot more space for a more complicated drawing, but for now the simple ch00ftech logo (video after the break) will do.

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Capacitive touch business card

[Jay Kickliter] sent in his latest electronic business card. This time, his goal was to make it much cheaper so he could actually afford to give it away. He did pretty well considering the two week timeline he mentions. This card is using an MSP430 with the capsense library to light up some LEDs any time the card is handled. While he states that it is much cheaper than his last, it is still around $8 a card, so he won’t be tossing these into everyone’s hands.  He does point out though that it is always helpful to have hardware to show off at a hardware interview, and an electronic business card does that job very well.

As usual, you can read more details and download the files at his blog.

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