Pressure Plate LED Coasters!

Looking to use up some more of his flexible LED strip, Hackaday alum and Tindie writer [Jeremy Cook] tried for a funky accent to his dinner or coffee table: light up coasters.

Using his CNC router to carve out two pieces of translucent plastic to house four 3V CR2032 batteries, four pieces of LED strip, and some wire, [Cook] had created a pressure plate circuit that activated once a drink is set on it. The original layout of the circuit, however, didn’t work, and the space for the LED strips proved to be too small. A quick redesign and some more time with his router resulted in an almost working product. Initially intending to use screws to secure the coaster, hot glue provided the perfect amount of spring once he had thinned out the coaster top to allow it to more easily flex and complete the circuit.

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Careful Crafting Makes DIY 7-Segment Display Shine

[MattB] decided to go the DIY route for some 7 segment displays that were several inches tall, but he had some particular requirements. He wanted precisely shaped elements that were as cleanly and evenly lit as possible, with no obvious points of illumination from LEDs and no visibly uneven edge lighting. To do this, he used the tools and materials he had on hand and carefully handcrafted each segment. The result is awfully close to his ideal!

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Bring Doping, Microfluidics, Photovoltaics, and More Into the Home

Can you make a spectrometer for your home lab all from materials you have sitting around? We might not believe it from a less credible source, but this MIT course does indeed build a spectrometer from foam board using two razor blades as the silt cover and a writable CD as the diffraction grating. The coolest part is removing the metal backing of the CD.

mit_experiments_thumbHackaday reader [gratian] tipped us off about the course available from MIT courseware called Nanomaker. It boils down some fairly complicated experiments to the kind one can do in the home lab without involving thousands of dollars of lab equipment. The whole point is to demystify what we think of as complicated devices and topics surrounding photovoltaics, organic photovoltaics, piezoelectricity and thermoelectricity.


Spectrometers are used to analyze the wavelengths of a light source. Now that you have a measurement tool in hand it’s time to build and experiment with some light sources of your own. Here you can see an LED that is the topic of one of the course labs.

If you have a bit of background in chemistry this is a good step-by-step guide for getting into these types of experiments at home. It reminds us of some of the really cool stuff [Jeri Ellsworth] was doing in her garage lab, like making her own EL panels.

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Hackaday Prize Entry: Characterizing LED and Laser Diodes

Needless to say, we’re fascinated by LEDs, laser diodes, and other blinkies. Although we can get just about any light emitting thing, the data sheets aren’t always accurate or available. For his Hackaday Prize entry, [Ted] is building a device to characterize the efficiency, I/V curve, and optical properties of all the blinkies. It’s a project to make glowy stuff better, and a great entry for the Hackaday Prize.

The inspiration for this project came from two of [Ted]’s projects, one requiring response curves for LEDs, and laser diodes for another. This would give him a graph of optical output vs. current, angular light output distribution, and the lasing threshold for laser diodes. This data isn’t always available in the datasheet, so a homebrew tool is the only option.

The high-level design of this tool is basically a voltmeter and ammeter measuring a glowy diode, producing IV curves and measuring optical output. That takes care of all the measurements except for the purely optical properties of a LED. This is measured by a goniometer, or basically putting the device under test on a carriage attached to a stepper motor and moving it past a fixed optical detector.

If you’re wondering why this device is needed and a simple datasheet is insufficient, check this out. [Ted] measured the efficiency of a Luxeon Z LED, and found the maximum efficiency is right around 10mA. The datasheet for this LED shows a nominal forward current of 500mA, and a maximum of 1000mA. If you just looked at the datasheet, you could easily assume a device powered for years by a coin cell would be impossible. It’s not, and [Ted]’s device gave us this information.

Water-Cooled LED Light

[Matt] wanted to drive a Yuji LED array. The LED requires 30 V and at 100 watts, it generates a lot of heat. He used a Corsair water cooling system made for a CPU cooler to carry away the heat. The parts list includes a microphone gooseneck, a boost converter, a buck converter (for the water cooler) and custom-made brackets (made from MDF). There’s also a lens and reflector that is made to go with the LED array.

This single LED probably doesn’t require water cooling. On the other hand, adding a fan would increase the bulk of the lighted part and the gooseneck along with the water cooling tubes looks pretty cool. This project is a good reminder that if you need to carry heat away from something with no fans, self-contained water cooling systems are fairly inexpensive now, thanks to the PC market.

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A Helmet to Make Daft Punk Jealous

If you’ve been paying even a little bit of attention to popular music over the past couple of decades, then you’re surely aware of the electronic music duo Daft Punk. Of course, their success isn’t just a result of their music – a big part of it is also their iconic costumes and persona. What makes those costumes iconic is the robot helmets that the musicians wear. What initially began as a desire to hide their faces ended up becoming their most distinctive trait.

The helmets that the duo wears have changed over the years, but an homage helmet created by [Mike Michelena] puts them all to shame. It maintains the aesthetic elements of Daft Punk’s helmets, while improving on the tech aspects in every way. 210 RGB LEDs, a microprocessor, and 14 amp hours worth of battery give it complete customizability and 5 hours of use.

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Rita’s Dolls Probably Live Better Than You Do

If it wasn’t for the weird Dutch-Norwegian techno you’d presumably have to listen to forever, [Gianni B.]’s doll house for his daughter, [Rita] makes living in a Barbie World seem like a worthwhile endeavor. True to modern form, it’s got LED lighting. It’s got IoT. It’s got an app and an elevator. It even has a tiny, working, miniature television.

It all started with a Christmas wish. [Rita] could no longer stand to bear the thought of her Barbie dolls living a homeless lifestyle on her floor, begging passing toys for enough monopoly money to buy a sock to sleep under. However, when [Gianni] visited the usual suspects to purchase a dollhouse he found them disappointing and expensive.

So, going with the traditional collaborating-with-Santa ruse, he and his family had the pleasure of collaborating on a dollhouse development project. Each room is lit by four ultra bright LEDs. There is an elevator that’s controlled by an H-bridge module, modified to have electronic braking. [Rita] doesn’t own a Dr. Barbie yet, so safety is paramount.

The brain of the home automation is a PIC micro with a Bluetooth module. He wrote some code for it, available here. He also went an extra step and used MIT’s scratch to make an app interface for the dollhouse. You can see it work in the video after the break. The last little hack was the TV. An old arduino, an SD Card shield, and a tiny 2.4 inch TFT combine to make what’s essentially a tiny digital picture frame.

His daughter’s are overjoyed with the elevation of their doll’s economic class and a proud father even got to show it off at a Maker Faire. Very nice!

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