Retrotechtacular: Turn On the Magic of Colored Light

title cardChances are, you take color for granted. Whether or not you give it much thought, color is key to distinguishing your surroundings. It helps you identify fire, brown recluse spiders, and the right resistor for the job.

In the spotlight this week is a 1950s educational film called “This is Color“. It also happens to be a delightful time capsule of consumer packaging from the atomic age. This film was made by the Interchemical Corporation, an industrial research lab and manufacturer of printing inks. As the narrator explains, consistent replication of pigments is an essential part of mass production. In order to conjure a particular pigment in the first place, one must first understand the nature of color and the physical properties of visible light.

electromagnetic spectrumEach color that makes up the spectrum of visible rays has a particular wavelength. The five principal colors—red, yellow, green, blue, and violet—make possible thousands of shades and hues, but are only a small slice of the electromagnetic spectrum.

When light encounters a transparent material more dense than air, such as water or glass, it has to change direction and is bent by the surface. This is known as refraction. A straw placed in a glass of water will appear bent below the surface because the air and the water have different refractive indices. That is, the air and water will bend or refract different percentages of the light that permeates them. [Read more...]

Infinity Mirror Clock: There’s a Time Joke There Somewhere

Infinity Mirror Clock

We don’t think we’ve seen an Infinity Mirror Clock before, but we love this new twist on an old favorite. Different colors distinguish between seconds, minutes and hours, and an additional IR sensor detects when someone is directly in front of the clock and switches the LEDs off, allowing it to be used as a normal mirror. This build is the work of [Dushyant Ahuja], who is no stranger to hacking together clocks out of LEDs. You can tell how much progress he’s made with the mirror clock by taking a glance at his first project, which is an impressive creation held together by jumbles of wire and some glue.

[Dushyant] has stepped up his game for his new clock, attaching an LED strip along the inside of a circular frame to fashion the infinity mirror effect. The lights receive a signal from an attached homemade Arduino board, which is also connected to a real-time clock (RTC) module to keep time and to a Bluetooth module, which allows [Dushyant] to program the clock wirelessly rather than having to drag out some cords if the clock ever needs an adjustment.

Stick around after the jump for a quick demonstration video. The lights are dazzling to watch; [Dushyant] inserted a stainless steel plate at the center of the circle to reflect the outer rim of LEDs. After a quick rainbow effect, it looks like the mirror enters clock mode. See if you can figure out what time it is. For a more step-by-step overview of this project, swing by his Instructables page.

[Read more...]

PIC Up a NeoPixel Ring and C What You Can Do Using This Tutorial

lit ringAs [Shahriar] points out in the introductory matter to his latest video at The Signal Path, Arduinos are a great way for a beginner to dig into all kinds of electronic excitement, but they do so at the cost of isolating that beginner from the nitty gritty of microcontrollers. Here, [Shahriar] gives a very thorough walkthrough of a 60-neopixel ring starting with the guts and glory of a single RGB LED. He then shows how that ring can easily be programmed using a PIC and some C.

[Shahriar]‘s eval board is a simple setup that he’s used for other projects. It’s based on the PIC18F4550 which he’s programming with an ICD-U64. The PIC is powered through USB, but he’s using a separate switching supply to power the ring itself since he would need ~60mA per RGB to make them burn white at full brightness.

He’s written a simple header file that pulls in the 18F4550 library, sets the fuses, and defines some constants specific to the ring size. As he explains in the video, the PIC can create a 48MHz internal clock from a 20Mhz crystal and he sets up this delay in the header as well. The main code deals with waveform generation, and [Shahriar] does a great job explaining how this is handled with a single pin. Before he lights up the ring, he puts his scope on the assigned GPIO pin to show that although the datasheet is wrong about the un-delayed width of the low period for a zero bit, it still works to program the LEDs.

[Shahriar] has the code available on his site. He is also holding a giveaway open to US residents: simply comment on his blog post or on the video at YouTube and you could win either a TPI Scope Plus 440 with probes and a manual or a Tektronix TDS2232 with GPIB. He’ll even pay the shipping.

[Read more...]

Here Come the RGB LED Clones

ws2812 and clones timing

It seems like every third project on Hackaday uses WS2812 RGB LEDs in some way. We all love our blinkenlights, and bright, cheap, serial controlled RGB LEDs are the bees knees.

As with all products these days, competing manufacturers have discovered the huge market for these things, and clones are now available. [Tim] recently took a look at the PD9823, as well as three versions of the WS2812. [Tim] is considered something of a WS2812 guru here at Hackaday. You might remember him from his WS2812 driver optimization article, which should be required reading for any WS2812 hacker.

As many of us know, the timing characteristics for these LEDs can be a pain to work with. The values also differ between the WS2812S and WS2812B. [Tim] discovered that the new through hole WS2812D parts are different yet again, though rather close to the B parts. The PD9823’s designers must have studied the WS2812’s closely, as their 190ns time base falls directly between WS2812S 166ns time and the 208ns time of the WS2812B. The PD9823 also requires a slightly longer reset pulse.

The takeaway is that well written drivers such as [Tim's] should have no problem with the new parts, but compatibility is something to keep in mind as more clones hit the market.

Koch Lamp is 3D Printed with a Twist

Koch Lamp

[repkid] didn’t set out to build a lamp, but that’s what he ended up with, and what a lamp he built. If the above-pictured shapes look familiar, it’s because you can’t visit Thingiverse without tripping over one of several designs, all based on a fractal better known as the Koch snowflake. Typically, however, these models are intended as vases, but [repkid] saw an opportunity to bring a couple of them together as a housing for his lighting fixture.

Tinkering with an old IKEA dioder wasn’t enough of a challenge, so [repkid] fired up his 3D printer and churned out three smaller Koch vases to serve as “bulbs” for the lamp. Inside, he affixed each LED strip to a laser-cut acrylic housing with clear tape. The three bulbs attach around a wooden base, which also holds a larger, central Koch print at its center. The base also contains a PICAXE 14M2 controller to run the dioder while collecting input from an attached wireless receiver. The final component is a custom control box—comprised of both 3D-printed and laser-cut parts—to provide a 3-dial remote. A simple spin communicates the red, green, and blue values through another PICAXE controller to the transmitter. Swing by his site for a detailed build log and an assortment of progress pictures.

 

Blinding Shades Hide Wearer’s Four Eyes

 

We ran into [Garrett Mace] at Maker Faire. He wasn’t exhibiting, but in keeping with the fun he made something to show off. This pair of RGB LED Shades was assembled the night before. They may have been hacked together, but they were in no way a hack. Especially of interest to us is the hinge design which is made of PCB substrate and a few machine screws.

Our video above does a pretty good job of showing off the blinky patterns he coded. What’s surprising to us is that the wearer is almost no view of the light the specs are emitting. The slots aren’t that hard to see out of either, and they hide [Garrett's] prescription glasses quite nicely. This pair steps up from the single color version we saw a couple of years back. That set was also on display, but you really do need to get a closer look at the newer design. Luckily it took us so long to get this video edited that the Macetech blog now has complete details.

A Light-Up Dress for a New Year’s Dance Party

wearableLedress

Don’t let the above picture’s lack of blinking colors fool you, the light-up dress [Sam] fashioned for his girlfriend is rather eye-catching; we’d just rather talk about it than edit the gifs he’s provided. [Sam's] been a busy guy. His last project was a Raspberry Pi digital photo frame, which we featured just over a week ago, but wearable hacks allow him to combine his favored hobbies of sewing and electronics.

If you’re looking to get started with wearable electronics, then this project provides a great entry point. The bulk of the build is what you’d expect: some individually-addressable RGB LEDs, the ever-popular FLORA board from Adafruit, and a simple battery holder. [Sam] decided to only use around 40 of the LEDs, but the strips come 60 to a meter, so he simply tucked the extra away inside the dress and set his desired limits in the software, which will allow him to preserve the entire strip for future projects. If you’ve ever attempted a wearable hack, you’re probably familiar with how delicate the connections can be and how easily the slightest bend in the wiring can leave you stranded. Most opt for a conductive thread solution, but [Sam] tried something different and used 30 AWG wire, which was thin enough to be sewn into the fabric. As an added bonus, the 30 AWG wire is insulated, which permits him to run the wires close to (or perhaps over) each other while avoiding shorts. [Sam's] guide is detailed and approachable, so head over to his project page if you think you’ve caught wearables fever, and check out his GitHub for the source code.

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