Here’s How Hard It Is To Produce A Conference Badge

Making an event badge is hard work. Making a single prototype badge is hard enough, but the whole process of sourcing components and coordinating manufacture for hundreds of badges on a shoestring budget with the looming deadline of the event and its expectant attendees is a Herculean task.

[Uri Shaked] is one who bears the scars of producing an event badge, and he’s written a fascinating account of his experience. The conference in question was Aramcon 2019, a private tech event in Israel, and the badge has an nRF52840 driving an e-ink display, multi-colour LED, and an audio codec, with a set of full-size keyboard keys as user input. Since the nRF chip supports mesh networking, the idea was to produce a badge capable of streaming audio across the entire event.

A clothes-pin as a programming jig, we like it!
A clothes-pin as a programming jig, we like it!

We follow the team through nail-biting months of prototype boards, reversed connectors with last-minute cable bodges, compatible parts that didn’t turn out to be quite so compatible, and wrong footprints, and see them arriving at a badge which worked, but without the audio they’d hoped for. Along the way they came up with a clothes-pin-based programming jig which would surely have merited its own Hackaday write-up had they covered it on its own. Demonstrating the mesh networking by turning a whole auditorium’s worth of badges LEDs yellow was their reward, and we can see they’ve produced a very creditable badge. We particularly like the use of keyboard key switches, and we commend them for planning a life for the badge after the event.

Our Hackaday colleague [Brian Benchoff] is a veteran of badge production, read his write-ups of the genesis of our Superconference 2017 badge and the Tindie dog badge. Meanwhile the keen-eyed among you may recognise the nRF52840 as the guts of the latest generation of Particle boards.

10 thoughts on “Here’s How Hard It Is To Produce A Conference Badge

  1. “I have never studied Electrical Engineering” he forgot to insert the words “at a school”. there are more ways to Rome, and this side is one of them.

  2. Interesting read, but as an engineering manager responsible for P/L accounting for an entire department (and thus the jobs of a large group of engineers), how much profit did you guys make off the badge ? I find it hard to believe that it would be given away for free (or close to it) – since there was no mention of the financials in the write up. Unless you guys had some charitiable benefactor donating material and goods, no one in a capitalist economy puts in R&D time for free and at the same time expect to put food on the table and pay their daily bills.

  3. Lots of mistakes could have been avoided but given that it worked out in the end the experience gained is invaluable. Thank you for sharing your story with us. As an aside, I want to say that the people working with you at the PCBA factory really saved the day by suggesting a solution to the backwards facing screen and sourcing the correct part.

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