Flexible PCB Earrings Put The Art In Art Deco

Earrings have been a hackers’ target for electronic attachment for quite a while, but combining the needed components into a package small enough to wear in that finicky location is quite a challenge. If [Sawaiz Syed]’s Art Deco Earrings are anything to go by, ear computers have a bright future ahead of them!

This is a project unusually well described by its name. It is in fact an earring, with art deco styling. But that sells it way too short. This sliver of a flex circuit board is double sided to host an ATtiny, accelerometer, LDO, and eight 2020 formfactor controller-integrated LEDs. Of course it’s motion sensitive, reacting to the wearer’s movement via LED pattern. [Sawaiz] makes reference to wearing it while dancing, and we can’t help but imagine an entire ballroom all aglow with tiny points of LED light.

The Art Deco Earrings are also set apart by the thoroughness of their documentation (have we mentioned how much we love detailed documentation?). [Sawaiz] not only drops the source in your lap, but the README in the Github repo linked at the top walks the reader through each component of the design in detail. Plus the PCBA render is so complete it includes a model of the wire loop to fit through the wearer’s ear; how cool is that? The single piece that’s still in progress is the battery. The earring itself hosts an LDO, so all that is required is stashing a battery somewhere discrete, perhaps in the user’s hair? We’re looking forward to seeing what [Sawaiz] works out.

For the full effect, check out the gif of an assembled unit in action after the break.

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Dyeing Fabric To Create Sensors

Fabrics with electrical functionality have been around for several years, but are very rarely used in mainstream clothing. The fabrics are very expensive and the supply can be unreliable. Frustrated by this, [Counter Chemists] developed PolySense, simple open-source technology to make any fibrous material into a conductive material that can be used to sense pressure, stretch, capacitive touch, humidity, or temperature.

PolySense uses a process called in-situ polymerization, effectively dying a fabric to become piezoelectric. This is done by first soaking the fabric in a mixture of water and the organic compound pyrrole, and then adding iron chloride to trigger a reaction. The polymerization process that takes place wraps the individual fibers of the fabric in conductive polymer chains.

Instead of just uniformly coating a fabric, various masking techniques can be used to dye patterns onto the fabric for various use cases. The video after the break shows a range of these applications, including using polymerized gloves and leggings for motion capture, a zipper that acts like a linear potentiometer, and touch-sensitive fabric. The project page lists sources for the required chemicals in both Europe and the US, and we look forward to seeing what other applications the community can come up with.

The project is very well documented, with a number of scientific papers covering all the details. [Counter Chemists] will also be presenting PolySense at the 2020 Virtual Maker Faire.

This technology can also be used to make a fabric piano with a lot less effort. On the more mechanical side of things, you can also 3D print on pre-stretched fabric to make it pop into 3D shapes.

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How Much Is That Plotter In The Window?

We live in a strange time indeed. People who once eschewed direct interactions with fellow humans now crave it, but to limited avail. Almost every cashier at the few stores deigned essential enough to maintain operations are sealed away behind plastic shields, with the implication that the less time one spends lingering, the better. It’s enough to turn an introvert into an extrovert, at least until the barriers are gone.

We get the idea that the need to reach out and touch someone is behind [Niklas Roy]’s “Please Leave a Message”, an interactive art installation he set up in the front window of his Berlin shop. Conveniently located on a downtown street, his shop is perfectly positioned to attract foot traffic, and his display is designed to catch the eye and perhaps crack a smile. The device consists of a large wooden easel holding the guts from an old X-Y pen plotter, an Arduino and an ESP-8266, and a couple of drivers for the plotter’s steppers. Passers-by are encouraged to scan a QR code that accesses a web page served up by the ESP-8266, where they can type in a brief message. The plotter dutifully spells it out on a scroll of paper for all to see, using a very nice font that [Niklas] designed to be both readable and easily plotted. The video below shows it in action with real people; it seems to be a crowd-pleaser.

[Niklas] has been incredibly prolific, and we’ve covered many of his interactive art installations. Just search for his name and you’ll find everything from a pressure-washer dancing waters display to a plus-sized pinball machine.

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A Twisted Tale Of Woven Wires

A little over a year ago, we ran a contest that challenged readers to leave the comfort of their PCBs and breadboards. We wanted to see circuits built in three dimensions, with extra points awarded for creativity and artistic flair. Truth be told there was initially some concern that the “Circuit Sculpture” contest was a bit too abstract for the Hackaday community, but the overwhelming number of absolutely gorgeous entries certainly put those doubts to rest.

In a recent video, [Michael Aichlmayr] walks viewers through the creation of his mesmerizing entry Wonderlandscape, which ended up taking honorable mention in the Circuit Sculpture contest for Best Metalworks. Though this is much more than just a simple walk-through of a project. Sure you’ll see how brass bar stock was artfully twisted and wrapped to create a metallic winterscape that looks like it could have come from Bob Ross’s hitherto unknown cyberpunk period, but that’s only half the story.

The brass bar was twisted by hand with pliers.

In the video, [Michael] recalls how he discovered the burgeoning electronic sculpture community, and points to a few exceptional examples that got him hooked on finding the beauty that’s usually hidden inside of a plastic enclosure. Eventually he heard about the Circuit Sculpture contest, and decided it was the perfect opportunity to build something of his own. That’s right, Wonderlandscape is his very first attempt at turning electronics into art.

But the best may be yet to come. [Michael] explains that, due to the time constraints of the contest, he had to use metal stock purchased from the crafts store. But his ultimate goal is actually to melt down salvaged brass and bronze components and make his own wire and rods. We can’t wait to see what he’ll be able to accomplish when he starts working with his own custom made metal, and are eagerly awaiting the future video that he says will go over the techniques he’s been working on.

This story is a great reminder of how stepping out of your comfort zone once and awhile can be a good thing. Entering the contest with no previous experience was a risk to be sure, but [Michael] came out the other side more experienced and with a few new friends in the community. So why not enter our latest contest and see where it takes you?

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Making A Gorgeously-Twisty Sculpture, Using Only Flat Pieces

Closeup of unique pieces that make up the final scuplture.

The sculpture shown here is called Puzzle Cell Complex and was created by [Nervous System] as an art piece intended to be collaboratively constructed by conference attendees. The sculpture consists of sixty-nine unique flat panel pieces, each made from wood, which are then connected together without the need for tools by using plastic rivets. Everything fits into a suitcase and assembly documentation is a single page of simple instructions. The result is the wonderfully-curved gyroid pattern you see here.

The sculpture has numerous layers of design, not the least of which was determining how to make such an organically-curved shape using only flat panels. The five-foot assembled sculpture has a compelling shape, which results from the sixty-nine individual panels and how they fit together. These individual panel shapes have each been designed using a technique called variational surface cutting to minimize distortion, resulting in their meandering, puzzle-piece-like outlines. Each panel also has its own unique pattern of cutouts within itself, which makes the panels lighter and easier to bend without sacrificing strength. The short video embedded below shows the finished sculpture in all its glory.

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Making Art With Keycap Bots

Robots come in all shapes and sizes, from remote landers on distant planets to assembly arms working hard in auto plants. Of course, the definition is broad and can contain more frivolous entities, too. [smdavee]’s watercoloring ‘bots may not be particularly complex or sentient, but they’re a fun creative build.

The design is akin to that of the BristleBot, with a pager vibration motor allowing the ‘bot to wobble about on unsteady feet. In this case, a keyboard cap is used, with cottontips inserted in the base to act as legs. These are then dipped in watercolor paints, and the attached motor is then switched on to vibrate the ‘bot around the page.

It’s an easy build, and one that would be particularly well-suited to teaching young children basic electronic concepts. Plus, there’s the added fun of getting to make a mess with watercolors, too. If you’ve got a fun art robot hiding away in your garage, be sure to let us know. Video after the break.

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A Jaw-Dropping Demo In Only 256 Bytes

“Revision” is probably the Olympics of the demoscene. The world’s best tiny graphics coders assemble, show off their works, and learn new tricks to pack as much awesome into as few bytes as possible or make unheard-of effects on limited hardware. And of course, there’s a competition. Winning this year’s 256-byte (byte!) competition, and then taking the overall crowd favorite award, was [HellMood]’s Memories.

If you watch it in the live-stream from Revision, you’ll hear the crowd going (virtually) wild, and the announcer losing his grip and gasping for words. It’s that amazing. Not only are more effects put into 28 bytes than we thought possible, but there’s a full generative MIDI score to go with it. What?!?

But almost as amazing is [HellMood]’s generous writeup of how he pulled it off. If you’re at all interested in demos, minimal graphics effects, or just plain old sweet hacks, you have your weekend’s reading laid out for you. [HellMood] has all of his references and influences linked in as well. You’re about to go down a very deep rabbit hole.

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