Fixing the control scheme for an aftermarket headlight assembly

The headlight enclosures on [Bill Porter's] 2004 Passat had yellowed with age and were not outputting the kind of light they should. He decided to replace them with some aftermarket modules that also incorporated LED strips. When they arrived he was surprised at how easy there were to drop into place. But when testing he was certainly not satisfied with how they worked. The day-driving mode used the HID bulbs at full power, where the factory assembly had dimmed them during the day. He set out to alter the electronics to work as he prefers.

Always the mad scientist, [Bill] started off by making a truth table showing how the lights reacted to the various states of the ignition and headlight switches. What he came up with is an AND gate built from a relay and diode. It allows him to have the LEDs on as the running lights (without the HIDs on at all), and leaves the rest of the functionality unaffected.

Experimenting with bridge rectifers for AC to DC power conversion

The folks over at Toymaker Television have put together another episode. This time they’re looking at bridge rectifiers and how they’re used in AC to DC converters.

This is a simple concept which is worth taking the time to study for those unfamiliar with it. Since Alternating Current is made up of cycles of positive and negative signals it must be converted before use in Direct Current circuits; a process called rectification. This is done using a series of 1-way gates (diodes) in a layout called a bridge rectifier. That’s the diamond shape seen in the diagram above.

This episode, which is embedded after the break, takes a good long look at the concept. One of the things we like best about the presentation is that the hosts of the show talk about actual electron flow. This is always a quagmire with those new to electronics, as schematics portray flow from positive to negative, but electron theory suggests that actual electron flow is the exact opposite. [Read more...]

RGB laser projector is a jaw-dropping build

We can think of no better way to describe this laser projector project than Epic. [C4r0] is a student at Gdansk University of Technology and he’s been working on this projector for at least a couple of years. It uses several different laser diodes pulled out of DVD burners, Blu-Ray drives, and entertainment equipment (the green diode is from a disco laser).

In order to direct the beams he built a series of brackets that hold dichroic filters which reflect some wavelengths of light while allowing others to pass straight through. Each diode also needs a driver, most of which he built from scratch. And once the hardware has been designed and tested, what does one do with it? If you’re [C4r0] you build it into a money case with professional-looking results.

Don’t miss the video demo after the break. And make sure you have a rag ready to wipe up the drool before you look at his forum post linked above.

[Read more...]

Laser light show comes to life from the junk bin

In a project that only spanned about three weeks [Lars] built this laser light show projector using parts scavenged from his junk bin. We’ve seen the concept many times before, all you need is a laser source and two mirrors mounted on a spinning bases. The laser diode for this project was pulled from a recordable DVD player. That beam passes through the optics from a laser printer to give it the focus necessary to get a good projected image.

[Lars] played around with the mirror angles until he achieved just the right look. The first mirror is mounted about 4 degrees from being flat with its motorized base; the second is off by about 6 degrees. This introduces slight oscillation in the beam direction when the motors are spinning. By adjusting the speed of each motor you get different patterns. Adjustments are happening completely at random thanks to the BasicStamp2 microcontroller which hadn’t been used in years. Fifteen lines of code were all it took.

Want a laser that’s not controlled at random? Check out this addressable galvanometer-based show.

Temperature sensing mug means never burning your mouth again

temp_sensing_mug

Some people tend to get awfully attached to their favorite mug. Like an old friend, the mug holds a special place in their hearts, and there’s a weird sadness when it finally gives up the ghost. Through the winter months [Ben’s] girlfriend is never without hers, and when it broke, he decided to give her a new one with some added functionality.

He built her a temperature sensing mug that uses a rather novel way of determining how hot or cold the contents are. Instead of using a thermistor to determine the drink’s temperature, he opted to use a simple diode since it is well known that a diode’s forward voltage varies with temperature. After determining the diode’s voltage range using hot and cold beverages, he hooked it up to the ADC of a PIC12F615 micro controller. The temperature is displayed via 10 LEDs, which are driven through a pair of 8-bit shift registers and buffers since his PIC did not have enough pins to control them on its own.

He had some PCBs made, and after a handful of setbacks got everything put together. He says the mug works pretty well, though the display changes a bit more slowly than he would like. He also mentions that if he builds a second version, he will be sure to select a different PIC that has enough I/O pins to do the job, as well as use a thermistor instead of a simple diode for sensing the temperature.

Continue reading to see a brief demo video [Ben] put together.

[Read more...]

Blu-ray laser plotter writes on glow-in-the-dark screen

This laser display is persistent thanks to a glow-in-the-dark screen. [Daniel] built it using a Blu-ray laser diode. As the laser dot traverses the screen, it charges the phosphors in the glow material, which stay charged long enough to show a full image.

The laser head is simple enough, two servo motors allow for X and Y axis control. A Micro Maestro 6-channel USB servo controller from Pololu drives the motors, and switches the diode on and off. This board offers .NET control, which [Daniel] uses to feed the graphics data to the unit. Check out the video demonstration below the fold to see a few different images being plotted. It’s shot using a night-vision camera so that you can really see where the laser dot is on the display. It takes time to charge the glow material so speeding up the plotting process could actually reduce the persistent image quality.

This is yet another project that makes you use those geometry and trigonometry skills.

[Read more...]

Fixing the Rovio battery charging circuit

[Chris] was unhappy with the battery performance of his Rovio. It seems that he’s not alone, so he set out to reverse engineer the battery charging circuit to see if there was a fix. Boy is there, what he found is the diode above, apparently installed backwards when compared to the silk screen diode symbol. Now it’s entirely possible that the silk screen is wrong and this was fixed during assembly. We think that’s unlikely because if the closer of the two diodes was supposed to have the same polarity as the one next to it there should have been room to install them both in exactly the same orientation. [Chris] pulled out a soldering iron and changed the diode to match the silk screen. That fixed his problem and he’s now getting better performance than he ever has.

[From our comments section]