Dots and Dashes… on a Roll!

morse code device

Morse code was once a staple of the communications industry, but with advancing technology it has become relegated almost exclusively to movies and a niche group of ham radio operators. [Jan] has created a device which might not put a stop to this trend, but will at least educate children on the basics of how Morse code works by visually displaying Morse code as it’s generated.

The setup is fairly simple. An old momentary switch (which could easily be used in an actual Morse code setup) activates two pieces of circuitry. The first is a 555 timer circuit that creates an audible tone when the switch is pressed so the user can hear exactly what an operator would hear when decoding a real Morse code message.

The second piece of circuitry is where the real genius lies: a continuously spinning roll of glow-in-the-dark tape is placed in front of a white LED. When the switch is pressed, the LED turns on, which produces dots and dashes on the roll of tape as it passes by. This eliminates the need for rolls of paper or a more complicated moving pen/pencil setup to draw on the paper which might also be less child-proof.

While [Jan] built this as a toy, the children who used it thoroughly enjoyed it! They even decoded some Morse code messages and used the device to practice on it. After a while they’ll easily be able to master the Morse code trainer!

Laser charged glowing display

Here’s one of the best takes on a glowing display that we’ve ever seen. Currently [H] is using his creation as a fuzzy clock, but it is certainly capable of displaying just about any messages.

The project uses a wheel of luminous paper as the display surface. This has a glow-in-the-dark quality to it which can be charged up using a bright light source. In this case a UV laser diode was used. This is perhaps the best possible source as its intensity will allow for very quick charging. The innovation here is the use of a second disk as a stencil. Look closely in the image above and you will see that the laser diode is mounted perpendicular to the display surface itself. A mirror reflects — and we believe slightly spreads — the laser dot. It then passes through a cut-out on the black wheel which is shaped as the desired character. As you can see in the video after the break, this results in a crisp and clear glowing letter.

Compare this project to the one that moves the diode itself like a plotter and we think you’ll agree this is a simpler implementation which still looks great!

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Laser-charged glow in the dark message board

This entry in the Red Bull Creation contest uses a laser to charge up a glow-in-the-dark message board. The concept is something we’ve seen several times before. Since light can excite a phosphorescent surface, moving pixels of light over that surface leaves a fading trail. Most recently we saw a spinning ring message board. This contest entry is different in that the board is stationary and the print head moves.

It’s basically a two-wheeled robot with a laser diode which can swivel perpendicular to the direction of travel. In this way, the laser prints the rows, and the motion of the robot takes care of advancing the columns. Since laser light has incredible intensity it is able to excite the phosphors much more thoroughly than LEDs. So the message will last longer than that spinning ring project or this awesome turntable hack. Don’t miss the video after the break that shows off the hack along with a bag full of theatrics.

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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.

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Phosphorescent Laser Painting

Here’s a simple and interesting idea that increases the visual persistence of a laser scanner image. Using glow-in-the-dark paint, [Daito Manabe] prepares a surface so that the intense light of a laser leaves a trace that fades slowly over time. He’s using the idea to print monochromatic images onto the treated surface, starting with the darkest areas and ending with the lightest. The effect is quite interesting, as the image starts out seeming quite abstract but reveals its self with more detail over time.

As evidenced in the test videos, the bursts of laser scanning are matched to the fade rate of the paint. Therefore it would seem that the time taken to “write” an image is directly proportional to the desired visual persistence of the final image. We wonder, by combining clever timing and variable laser intensity could you write images much more quickly? How hard would it be to use this for moving pictures? With the ability to create your own tiny laser projector, and even an RGB scanner, there must be a lot of potential in this idea for mind-blowing visual effects. Add portability by using a phosphor-treated projection screen!

Share your ideas and check out the test videos after the break.

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