Fail of the Week: Ferrofluid

It’s more of a half-fail than a full fail, but [Basti] is accustomed to getting things right (eventually) so it sticks in his craw that he wasn’t able to fully realize his ferrofluid dreams (German, translated here). Anyway, fail or demi-fail, the project is certainly a lesson in the reality of ferrofluid.


We’ve all seen amazing things done with ferrofluid and magnets. How hard can it be to make an interactive ferrofluid wedding present for his sister? Where ferrofluid spikes climb up a beautifully cut steel heart in a jar? (Answer: very hard.)

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Interactive WeddingBots Built Into Nespresso Capsules

Today is a very special day for [Mandy and Sebastian], as they conclude the sacred solder joint of marriage. We send our sincerest congratulations and best wishes to the bridal couple, and can’t help but envy the guests of their ceremony, who received a very special wedding favor: A WeddingBot.

img_3337For their wedding party, [Mandy and Sebastian] created a little game on their own (translated). Each guest would receive a unique, little WeddingBot. Each of these is individually tailored for a certain guest and features a fitting look, a characteristic behavior and would play a special melody or jingle meaningful to this guest. However, the guests don’t get their WeddingBot, they get the WeddingBot of another guest – and the challenge to find this guest on the party. Guests would then exchange their WeddingBots, which also makes a great occasion to introduce themselves to each other. If the clues given by the WeddingBots themselves would not suffice to find the right owner, guest could place a WeddingBot on a clue station, which then would provide further hints by displaying images, texts or even riddles.

The design is based on the ATtiny45 microcontroller, with LEDs for the eyes, a light sensor, and a piezo disc for the sound as the main components. As an enclosure, they chose to repurpose empty Nespresso® capsules, which look nice and adds volume to the PCBs. The smiley face silk screen on the PCBs was then individualized with a black marker and packed in a beautiful hand-crafted box. The little fellows communicate with the Raspberry Pi based clue station by flashing their LEDs in a certain pattern. A light sensor hooked up to the Pi lets the station identify the bot and display the corresponding clue on a screen. Check out the video below to see how it works:

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Trivia Lock Box Spices up Wedding Reception

Any hardware hacker will tell you, a significant other who embraces your passion is a keeper. [Nathan] found a keeper in [Jessica] – they even worked together on a hardware hack for their own wedding. The couple wanted an interactive element for their guests. Disposable cameras are getting a bit hard to find these days, so the solution was a trivia powered lock box designed and built by [Nathan] himself. Guests arrived at their tables to find locked boxes and cards with trivia questions about the couple. Only by answering the questions correctly would they unlock the box to access the prizes inside.

Each box consists of a Really Bare Bones Board, which is essentially an ATmega328 breakout board. The user interface consists of five tactile switches and a 16×2 character based LCD. The box is a clear Vaultz pencil box (Yes, the same brand Ahmed used for his clock). The final element is of course the locking mechanism. One of [Nathan’s] friends noticed that the Vaultz box latch was riveted in, and was spring loaded. It only took a bit of work to flip the latch from the outside to the inside. Cheap 9g micro servos from the far east pull the latch open with a string. The only thing we haven’t figured out is how [Nathan] closed the latches while they were inside the box. Obviously some black magic was involved! [Jessica] decorated the box with circuit traces created on her vinyl cutter.

On the eve of the big day, [Nathan] realized that his tactile switches were… not really switching. The superglue he had used to mount them had seeped into the switch body, freezing it solid. Nathan saved the project with a herculean effort of soldering 5 switches on each of 12 boxes the night before his own wedding.

What was in the box? Alka-Seltzer tablets. When added to vases filled with oil and water, the fizzy tablets turned the vases into mini lava lamps. The boxes also contained coins which were redeemable for Hawaiian Leis.

Click past the break to see the boxes in action on [Nathan] and [Jessica’s] big day and if you’re looking to build a fleet of hardware for your own wedding, take a look at the centerpieces [Bill Porter] created a couple of years ago.

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The Unity ‘Candle’ With A 30 Foot Flame


[Quinn]’s friends were getting married, and while the couple wanted something like a ‘unity candle’ ceremony, they though simple candles were entirely unimpressive and ultimately not very entertaining for the guests. They decided a unity fireball would be a much better representation of their relationship, and were lucky enough to have a good friend that could build one.

The design of [Quinn]’s unity candle consisted of a control box with two key switches, a giant button, and the gigantic propane fueled candle set well back from the bride, groom, and guests at the ceremony. The candle itself releases the entire contents of an accumulator tank over a hot surface igniter, creating a thirty foot fireball without a visible pilot light, or the loud jet-like sound you would get from a traditional ‘poofer’.

As with all giant fireballs in front of an audience, safety was of the highest concern. [Quinn] didn’t use a full propane tank for this build, instead, a new, purged, and never used tank was used as an accumulator, storing just enough propane for one giant fireball. All the valves, regulators, and plumbing were rated for LP, and [Quinn] even filled out the proper forms and got the local fire department to sign off on it. It’s safer than [Caleb]’s Mario fire flower, but you still shouldn’t try this at home.

Video of the ceremony below.

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GPS Engagement Ring Box


[James] got engaged recently, in part thanks to his clever GPS Engagement Ring Box, and he sent us a brief overview of how he brought this project to life. The exterior of the box is rather simple: one button and an LCD. Upon pressing the button, the LCD would indicate how far it needed to be taken to reach a pre-selected destination. After carrying it to the correct location, the box would open, revealing the ring (and a bit of electronics).

Inside is a GPS antenna and a Stellaris Launchpad, which are powered by three Energizer lithium batteries to ensure the box didn’t run out of juice during the walk. To keep the lid closed, [James] 3D printed a small latch and glued it to the top of the box, which is held in place by a micro servo. Once the box reaches its destination, the microcontroller tells the servo to swing out of the way, and the box can then open. As a failsafe, [James] added a reed switch to trigger an interrupt to open the box regardless of location. It seems this was a wise choice, because the GPS was a bit off and the box didn’t think it was in the correct place.

Swing by his blog for more information on the box’s construction and the wiring. We wish [James] the best and look forward seeing his future hacks; perhaps he’ll come up with some clever ones for the wedding like our friend Bill Porter.

Backlit PCB Panel as Wall Art

For his buddy’s wedding [Saar Drimer] wanted a one-of-a-kind gift, and what’s more unique than a piece of art? He set out to design something that would speak to his geeky game-loving friend. This full-panel PCB is what he came up with. It’s a wall hanging that uses addressable LEDs and a PCB for the enclosure and as a diffuser.

On the right you can see the panel as it was delivered to him. He used routed slots to separate the main body of the enclosure from the four side pieces and the mounting bracket. This design lets him snap off the parts and solder them in place. The only thing you need to add to it is a pair of screws (well, and the components that make it light up).

We’re shocked by how well the PCB works as a diffuser. The substrate is translucent when not covered with silk screen or the copper layers. The outline of the letters uses that, as well as circular areas along the side pieces. The letters themselves are copper fills that have artistic patterns removed from them. This really adds to the visual appeal when the piece is illuminated by 42 WS2812B LEDs. The video below shows the piece in action. It really takes PCB as art to the next level

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Centerpieces for a geeky wedding

[Bill Porter] is a married man now, and evidently his new wife, [Mara], is awesome. They put together one of the geekiest weddings that included custom side-lit LED centerpieces.

Instead of laser engraving the dozens of plastic panels for each centerpiece, [Bill] tricked [Mara]’s Silhouette Cameo home vinyl cutter – the same one they made their invitations with – into engraving acrylic panels. They’re made out of very thin plastic, but the fact that the couple were able to snap apart the engraved plasic after putting sheets though the machine is very impressive for something that’s generally used for scrapbooking.

As for the base of each centerpiece, [Bill] whipped up a few enclosures on his 3D printer and built a few battery packs out of 18650 lithium ion cells. The nine LEDs in each base were leftovers from a previous project involving LED strips, perfectly suited to run for a few hours in a reception hall.

It’s a great build for a wonderful occasion, and we’re really impressed with the plastic cutting ability of the Sihouette Cameo. Very nice work there.