Persistence of Vision Clock on a Propeller

If you have a spare DC motor, a PIC16F84A microcontroller, and a lot of patience, then [Jon] has a great guide for building a persistence of vision clock that is sure to brighten up any room. For those who are unfamiliar with this type of clock, the principle is simple: a “propeller” with LEDs spins, and at just the right moment the LEDs turn on and display the time.

We’ve featured persistence of vision projects before (many times), and have even featured [Jon]’s older clocks, but the thing that makes this POV clock different is the detail of the project log. [Jon] wasn’t satisfied with the documentation of existing projects, and went through great pains to write up absolutely everything about his clock. The project log goes through four major versions of the hardware and goes into great depth about the software as well, making it easy for anyone to recreate this robust clock.

As for the clock itself, the final revision of the hardware has a PCB for all of the components, and uses a PC fan motor to spin the propeller. Power delivery eliminates slip rings or brushes in favor of wireless power transfer, which is an impressive feat on its own. Indeed, the quality of the clock is only surpassed by the extreme level of detail!

Building The Slimmest Raspi


[Colin], AKA [Domipheus], was working on a project to monitor a thermostat with a wall mounted Raspberry Pi and a touchscreen. Simple enough, but the Pi has a problem: The plugs are all around the perimeter of the board, and with a TFT touch screen shield, it’s a bit too thick to be wall mounted. What followed is a hack in the purest sense: [Domipheus] removed and relocated components on the Pi until the entire Pi/display stack was just a hair over 10mm tall.

A Raspberry Pi Model A was used for this build, meaning the Ethernet jack was gone, and there was only a single USB port to deal with. Still, the highest components – the RCA and audio jacks – were too tall and needed to be removed; they weren’t going to be used anyway.

After these components were gone, [Domipheus] turned his attention to the next tallest parts on the board: fuses, caps, and the HDMI port. For fear of damaging the surrounding components when removing the HDMI connector the right way, this part was simply hacked off. The large tantalum cap near the USB power connector was removed (it’s just a filter cap) and the large protection diode was moved elsewhere.

Slimming down a Pi is no good without a display, and for that [Domipheus] used this touchscreen thing from Adafruit. Things got a little complicated when the project required the ability to remove the LCD, but you can do amazing things with a DIP socket and a file.

The end result is a Raspberry Pi with touchscreen display that’s just a smidgen thicker than a CD case. It’ll fit right up against a wall in its repurposed enclosure, and the end result looks very professional.

[Thanks Luke via reddit]

The Hovering, Holographic, Star Wars Display


While we’re still a long way off from the Star Wars telepresence holographic displays, this build over on the Projects site is the closest we’ve seen yet. Even better, it can be built in a garage for not much money.

Inside the Hoverlay are a few fans and a pair of ultrasonic atomizers that turn water into an extremely fine mist. The fans pull this vapor up through the base of the display and through simple drinking straws to create a laminar sheet of water vapor. Put a projector behind this thin sheet of vapor, and you have a display, seemingly floating in mid-air.

The base of the display can be scaled up, simply by putting several units together in a line. It’s still just a prototype – future versions will improve the stability and reduce the thickness of the fog layer – but it’s still a very cool build for a custom holographic display.

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504 Segment Clock


Trying to reinvent the clock has been done over and over again, but it’s always fun to see how over-engineered and complex these designs can get. [Bertho’s] last working clock in his house was the built-in clock on the VCR, so he decided it was finally time to build his own 504 Segment clock.

Yep, that’s right, 504 Segments! This clock uses 72 7-Segment displays to tell time. The video after the break shows the clock in action, but time is read by looking at each ring of displays: outer=seconds, middle=minutes, and inner=hour. [Bertho] could’ve just stopped there, but he decided to load the display up with sensors, so hand-waiving can change modes, and brightness can be regulated based on ambient light conditions. And since he has individual control over each segment, he has implemented some pretty cool mind-melting animations. Oh, and did we mention that the display synchronizes with an NTP server?

The display is divided into 4 quadrants, each containing 18 7-Segment displays. The control architecture is interesting because each quadrant is controlled by its own PIC microcontroller, which handles the continuous multiplexing and modulation of the 18 7-Segment displays.  A main control board contains another (more powerful) PIC to update the 4 quadrants via a serial bus. This board also handles the Ethernet connection, sensor interface, and local RTC(real time clock). This isn’t the first time we’ve seen [Bertho’s] amazing work, so make sure you check out his useless machine and executive decision maker.

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Easy Multi-Touch Table

Screen Shot 2013-12-31 at 1.53.13 PM

[2bigbros] put up an Instructable on his multi-touch table build. It’s a nice setup, using the typical frustrated total internal reflection method for touch sensing. Tinkerman’s Method was used for the screen itself, which involves rolling silicon onto vellum with a paint roller to improve the bond. [2bigbros] then built a nice aluminum and wooden frame for the whole thing. He’s light on some details, but most people with a basic understanding and Google will be able to figure it out.

This is a very accessible project for most builders. If you’re interested in getting into it, there are plenty of projects to reference. We previously covered the basics, as well as a more involved build. We’ve even seen an interactive tower defense game using multi-touch. If you decide to build one of your own, don’t forget the excellent resource at TUIO for finding frameworks and example implementations.

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Controlling High Voltage 7-Segment Displays


The MAX7219 is one of those parts in your bin that has a “done and done” attitude. In case you’re unfamiliar, this chip can be used to control 7-Segment displays, 8×8 Matrix displays, or even a pile of random LEDs. You talk to it via a simple serial interface and it handles the tasks you don’t want to fuss with, such as multiplexing and modulation. Not all displays are alike, however, so [Raj] wrote in to show how he used the MAX7219 to control high voltage 7-segment displays.

The spec on the MAX7219 only allows an input voltage of 5V, which limits the driver output to around 4V and can cause problems when using large displays that series-connect LEDs internally. [Raj’s] solution allows the MAX7219 to control displays with combined forward voltages of up to 24V, and as an added bonus, the circuit maintains compatibility with existing microcontroller libraries. We imagine this could be a nifty trick to keep on hand the next time you need to control large scoreboard displays.

The circuit works with the help of intermediate drivers to essentially level-shift the voltage to the display, which both provides the high voltage and protects the MAX7219’s inputs. One of the drawbacks of this circuit is losing the MAX7219’s constant current feature, requiring that each segment connection includes a current-limiting resistor. We appreciate this design’s attention to default states, because you wouldn’t want all of your LEDs turning ON during boot-up!

Building Mosaic LEGO Lamps


Looking for a throw back to your childhood, or maybe you just appreciate things that light up and look amazing? Well, [Baron] has a really impressive project for you. Not only does it look stunning and incorporate all of the things we love, it’s actually a pretty novel design. These lamps are built completely out of LEGO Technic pieces, the brand of LEGO that have holes drilled through them so you can build more advanced creations.

[Baron] used these parts with the drilled holes to create a dot matrix in which he placed colored transparent LEGO dots in the holes. The method of creating patterns is very similar to the way it’s done on the “Lite-Brite”. We especially love the theme of these lamps and they would match well with your LEGO mystery box. What’s really great about this tutorial is that it lays down the foundation for LEGO-built lamps that could be more interactive, involve more control (like RGB LEDs), or even introduce some LEGO mechanics!