See Actual Microwaves — No More Faking It

Last week we saw a lot of interest in faux visualization of wireless signals. It used a tablet as an interface device to show you what the wireless signals around you looked like and was kind of impressive if you squinted your eyes and didn’t think too much about it. But for me it was disappointing because I know it is actually possible to see what radio waves look like. In this post I will show you how to actually do it by modifying a coffee can radar which you can build at home.

The late great Prof. David Staelin from MIT once told me once that, ‘if you make a new instrument and point it at nature you will learn something new.’ Of all the things I’ve pointed Coffee Can Radars at, one of the most interesting thus far is the direct measurement and visualization of 2.4 GHz radiation which is in use in our WiFi, cordless phones (if you still have one) and many other consumer goods. There is no need to fool yourself with fake visualizations when you can do it for real.

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Color Light Painting With A 3D Printer

Light painting, or taking a few RGB LEDs, a camera with a long exposure, and turning the world into Tron, has been around for a while. We haven’t seen many people using their household CNC machines for the same effect. [ekaggrat] is the exception. He’s already used a 3D printer to do some light painting, and now he’s doing it in color.

This build is an extension of an earlier project we saw that used a white LED to draw pictures within the build volume of a delta printer. Just like the last time, [ekaggrat] wired LEDs up to a RAMPS board and toggled pins with the M42 command. This build merely triples the complexity of the wiring; the RGB LED is wired to pins 4,5, and 6 of the controller board, and the shutter release button of his camera is wired up to pin 11 with an optoisolator.

The ability to blink out Gcode is one thing, getting his two-year-old daughter to stand still for 3D scanning is another thing entirely. With the data in hand, [ekaggrat] was able to run this model through a script that would generate a light painting of his daughter. You can grab the script for that on GitHub, or check out the video below.

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Motion Through Time Painted in Light

Photographer [Stephen Orlando] has an awesome body of work that focuses on human motion. The images he captures with colored light and a camera set up in a setting of choice tell a story of time in a way that’s visually stunning.

[Stephen] has experimented with various types of action. He’s attached LED strips onto props like oars in order to capture the rhythmic movements of rowing, or directly onto parts of the body to visualize more chaotic gestures, like the forms of a martial artist. His camera is set up to take long exposures, soaking in the light as it plots itself through space over time.


Though this isn’t a hack directly in itself, [Stephen’s] experimentation with time and light is a great case of technology being added to the arsenal of traditional mediums we’re accustomed to seeing in the production of artistic work. The clean execution of his idea to tell a story about what we don’t typically get to see by use of light should inspire all of us who love to play around with LEDs in our projects. Sometimes the more interesting aspects of our work are created in the negative space we forget to consider.

The next time you find yourself working on a hack, look at what you’re creating from a perspective beyond its original context. For example, 3D printing with a delta robot is a bit of a departure from it’s original purpose as a pick and place machine. Even further yet is the concept of using one to draw images in space with light. Often the process of somethings creation, as well as the byproduct of what it took to make it, is just as worthy of investigation. Don’t forget to search between the lines… that’s where the magic is.

How a Maker Proposes


[Sefi Attias] just sent us a heartwarming little video of how he proposed to his girlfriend [Tania] — using a little help from technology and other makers.

As a maker, [Sefi] was always building things which impressed [Tania], so he thought it was only fitting to make the proposal a one-of-a-kind maker experience.

He started by designing the engagement ring himself, to be 3D printed. It’s an amazingly complex little thing made up of the repeating words of the quote “I will betroth you to me forever”. It was almost too complex in order to print — but they managed to do it in wax, which allowed them to create a mold and then cast the final part in white gold. Once complete, they set a diamond in place to cap it all off.

The second step was the proposal, which was made possible using a quadrotor, a strip of RGB LEDs, and a long camera exposure. To show it off in real-time to [Tania] they setup a projector and screen on the side of the street, providing a surreal window into the park behind them. It was all made possible with the help from over 20 people from the XLN Makerspace and SkyLens (the quadrotor people).

Oh yeah, and she said yes.

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Automated Light Painting Makes It Easy


What can we say — we’re a sucker for projects that feature our favorite logo. This is the Parallax Propeller Automated Light Painting Machine  — and no, it’s not a persistence of vision setup.

[Daniel], [Nathan], and the folks over at Embedded Aesthetics are big fans of Hack a Day and are very excited to share their new project. It’s a fully automated light painting setup that features an X-axis slide, a strip of RGB LEDs, a Parallax Propeller (microcontroller), and a DSLR — all you have to do is choose an image, and press start.

They first started light painting with their LED Paint Brush, an equally awesome, but slightly less automated tool. They’ve created this one to be a bit more interactive — in fact, you can actually go on their website, upload an image, and it will paint you a picture! But… it’s not available right now.

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Finally, An Animated GIF Light Painter


Light painting, or taking a picture of a moving RGB LED strip with a very long exposure, is the application du jour of Arduinos, photography, and bright, glowey, colorful things. Hackaday alumnus [Phil Burgess] has come up with the best tutorial for light painting we’ve seen. It’s such a good setup, it can be used to create animated .gifs using multiple camera exposures.

The build uses an Arduino Uno, SD card shield, and Adafruit’s new NeoPixel strip with 144 RGB LEDs per meter. Despite a potentially huge mess of wires for this project, [Phil] kept everything very, very neat. He’s using an Altoids case for the ‘duino, an 8 AA-cell battery holder and 3A UBEC  for the power, and a wooden frame made out of pine trim.

Part of the art of light painting involves a lot of luck, exponentially so if you’re trying to make a light painted animated .gif. To solve this problem, [Phil] came up with a very clever solution: using a rotary encoder attached to a bicycle. With the rotary encoder pressed up against the wheel of a bike, [Phil] can get a very precise measurement of where the light strip is along one dimension, to ensure the right pixels are lit up at the right time and in the right place.

It’s a wonderful build, and if Santa brings you some gift certificates to your favorite electronics retailer, we couldn’t think of a better way to bring animated .gifs into the real world.

If You Own a Camera You Need to Try Light Graffiti

Do you have a camera that’s capable of controlling how long of an exposure it takes?  With this and any small light source, you can make a really awesome illuminated image like the one featured above.  Combine this with the hacking skills that you’ve hopefully learned from reading Hackaday, and the visual possibilities are endless.

Let’s look at the background of this entertaining light hacking technique, and how you can make images like this yourself!

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