Low-Power SMD Fireflies

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[Tyson's] family went with creating rather than buying Christmas presents last month, which gave him the opportunity to build some electronic fireflies for gifts. He drew inspiration from a similar firefly project we featured last year, but expanded on the original model by designing dedicated PCBs and housings for each of his firefly pieces.

Although he’d settled on using ATTiny85’s for this project, [Tyson] was fresh out of through-hole versions. He decided to skip the prototyping phase and go right for fabrication, cranking up the laser-jet printer for some toner-transfer, which successfully produced 4 functioning boards (and 3 failures). The fireflies were [Tyson's] first attempt at SMD soldering, and we’d have to say it’s a job well done; he reflowed each board with a cheap-o heatgun from Harbor Freight.

After some hiccups with fuse programming, [Tyson] got the code uploaded and the fireflies illuminated.  Swing by his site for the nuts and bolts on construction, then snag the project files here. (Direct .zip download)

ASync-Firefly

[dev_dsp] wanted to try his hand at creating a purely analog implementation of multiple synchronizing fireflies powered by a single battery and built from off-the shelf, through-hole components on inexpensive protoboard. In theory, even your local Radio Shack should still carry all of this stuff. He was obviously inspired by [alex]‘s fireflies that we’ve covered in the past, but he wanted to see how far it could be taken without the use of a microprocessor.

In the end, [dev_dsp] relied on one crucial piece of digital ware, the ever-popular 555 timer IC, but he’s using analog discrete components to do the grunt work of adjusting the phase of each firefly by feeding a little extra current to the trigger capacitor whenever the flash of a nearby firefly is detected. After the jump, you’ll find schematics and a video demo of three ASync-Firefly modules in various stages of assembly playing with one another while [dev_dsp] discusses their operation.

64 Synchronizing Fireflies

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[Alex] of tinkerlog created a set of 64 RGB fireflies that synchronize to blink all at once. We covered the kit earlier, but he has assembled a set of 64. Each firefly is independently controlled by an ATtiny13 that reads a phototransistor and lights up an RGB LED. The fireflies are programmed to blink a certain rate, but blink faster if they detect other blinks. After a few cycles, the fireflies begin to blink in unison. When the fireflies are arranged in different configurations, different patterns emerge. He is selling kits and has instructions for building your own. Videos of the fireflies after the jump.

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Jar of fireflies

[Randomskk] has been attempting to make electronic fireflies for quite some time and finally settled on a design he liked. His jar of fireflies uses an ATtiny13 to control a set of 12 matrixed LEDs. The green SMD LEDs are each soldered to a pair of thin wires that hang down into the jar. The software picks an LED at random to flash and then flashes it 1-3 times. The random seed is incremented each time the jar is turned on, so you’ll get 255 different patterns. The power is just a standard coin cell. The project is fairly simple electrically, but the LED soldering could prove difficult. It was inspired by this firefly jar project. Check out [Alex]‘s synchronizing fireflies too. A video of the jar is available below. [Read more...]

Synchronizing Fireflies NG


[Alex] from Tinkerlog has revisited an old project with Synchronizing Fireflies NG. Fascinated by how fireflies blink at same rate and synchronize with each other, he built a digital version. Each board has an RGB LED and a phototransistor or photoresistor. A ping-pong ball is used as a diffuser. The blink rate is controlled by an ATtiny13v. The board power can be daisy chained, but each firefly mote operates independently of the others. The microcontroller has a fixed flash rate and monitors for other flashes. It attempts to sync by flashing earlier. The color of the LED expresses how satisfied the firefly is with its current sync. You can see a video of eight fireflies attempting to self organize embedded below.

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