Edge-Lit 7-Segments Clock The New Normal

People keep saying that time has lost all meaning now, but we’re still over here divvying up the days with hacks. Most of the hacks you see here are open source. But if you want something even more transparent to meter out the meaninglessness, we invite you to make one of these clearly awesome see-through clocks, which happens to be both.

A word of warning though — according to [GeekMomProjects], this is an incredibly fiddly build with tight tolerances everywhere that acrylic meets acrylic or an LED strip. We can see how it might be like forcing fragile puzzle pieces together. Since the whole thing is crystal clear acrylic, light is going to go everywhere.

[GeekMomProjects] cleverly blocked the escaping light by painstakingly applying non-conductive adhesive foil to the edges of all the smaller pieces. In spite of all that work, we think it would be worth it to have such a fantastic timepiece glowing away the hours somewhere in the house.

Electronically speaking, this beauty is pretty simple. The lights run off of an ItsyBitsy M4 Express, and the time is separately fetched with an ESP8266. [GeekMomProjects] had so much fun that she made one with seconds and one without. Check out their RGB dance routine after the break.

If you prefer your blinky 7-segment clocks a bit more utilitarian, here’s a clock made of shelves.

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Acrylic Mold Makes For Professional-Looking Silicone Keyboards

The border between consumer electronics and DIY projects is getting harder and harder to define. First it was PCBs, which quickly went from homemade to professional with quick-turn services. Then low-cost CAD/CAM packages and high-end fabrication services gave us access to enclosures that were more than black plastic boxes with aluminum covers. Where will it end?

That’s a question [arturo182] begins to answer with this custom-molded silicone keyboard for a handheld device. There’s no formal writeup, but the Twitter thread goes into some detail about the process he used to make the tiny qwerty keypad. The build started by milling a two-part mold from acrylic. Silicone rubber was tinted and degassed before injecting into the mold with a baster. The keys are connected by a thin membrane of silicone, and each has a small nub on the back for actuating a switch.

There’s clearly room for improvement in this proof of concept – tool marks from the milling process mar the finish of the keys slightly, for instance. There may be tips to be had from this article on silicone keyboard refurbishment to improve the process, but overall, we’d say [arturo182] is well on his way here.

Water Switch Lamp Illuminates Current Flow

They always told you not to mix water and electricity. And while yes, that is good general advice regarding the two, you won’t rip a hole in the fabric of space-time should you go about it responsibly. Water will conduct electricity, so why not use it to switch on a lamp?

[Manvith Subraya]’s Hydro Lamp is, among other things, a reminder not to let Big Switch dim your idea of what’s possible with simple components. Switches don’t have to be complex, and some of the most reliable switches are pretty simple — the reed switch and the mercury tilt switch are good examples. By salinating the water at a ratio of 1:1, [Manvith] ensures power will flow through the acrylic tank, completing the circuit and lighting the 20W LEDs in both ends.

The brief demo video after the break sheds light on an interesting aspect of using water as a tilt switch — it’s not instantaneous. As he slowly moves the lamp from vertical to horizontal and back again, the light brightens and dims with the tide of electrons. We think it would be interesting to build a motorized frame that takes advantage of this for mood lighting purposes, especially if there were a few LEDs positioned behind the water.

Water is often used to explain the basic principle of current flow and the relationship dynamics of voltage, current, and resistance. As we saw in this water computer, the concept flows all the way into logic gates.

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Edge-Lit Ping Pong Paddle Lights Up The Fight

[George] and his coworkers like to blow off a little lunchtime steam on the company ping pong table. We might do the same, except it’d just be us versus the wall, and most of the exercise would consist of bending over to pick the ball up off the floor. When he found a scrap piece of acrylic out in their shop, [George] got the bright idea to make an edge-lit paddle featuring the company’s logo.

Not only does the paddle look cool, it works pretty well, too, even though it’s heavier and has smooth surfaces compared to a standard paddle. To begin, [George] found a regulation-size paddle outline and imported it into SolidWorks, then designed all the necessary cuts for the LEDs and other electronics. He also designed and printed ergonomic grips to protect the goods.

Continuing the stuff-on-hand theme, [George] used through-hole LEDs and dug into the abundance of battery clips and springs they have lying around for designing prototypes, instead of making it all fancy with SMT LEDs and a rechargeable battery pack. Slip on those sweatbands, because we’re serving up the build video after the break.

We see more ping pong balls than paddles around here, and that’s probably because they make great LED diffusers.

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Simple Acrylic Plates Make Kirlian Photography A Breeze

We know, we know – “Kirlian photography” is a term loaded with pseudoscientific baggage. Paranormal researchers have longed claimed that Kirlian photography can explore the mood or emotional state of a subject through the “aura”, an energy field said to surround and emanate from all living things. It’s straight-up nonsense, of course, but that doesn’t detract from the beauty of plasma aficionado [Jay Bowles]’ images produced by capacitive coupling and corona discharge.

Technically, what [Jay] is doing here is not quite Kirlian photography. The classic setup for “electrophotography” is a sandwich of photographic film, a glass plate, and a metal ground plate. An object with a high-voltage, high-frequency power supply attached is placed on top of the sandwich, and the resulting corona discharge exposes the film. [Jay]’s version is a thin chamber made of two pieces of solvent-welded acrylic and filled with water. A bolt between the acrylic panes conducts current from a Tesla coil – perhaps this one that we’ve featured before – into the water. When something is placed on the acrylic, a beautiful purple corona discharge streams out from the object.

It’s an eerie effect, and it’s easy to see how people can see an aura and attribute mystical properties to it. In the end, though, it’s not much different than touching a plasma globe, and just about as safe. Feeling a bit more destructive? Corona discharge is a great way to make art, both in wood and in acrylic.

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Basic Acrylic Bending, No Special Tools Needed

Acrylic sheets are relatively inexpensive, pretty, and can be heat-shaped very effectively. There are blades and tools made specifically for cutting, heating, and bending acrylic but [Marija] shows that even without them acrylic can be cut and bent with a bit of care and patience.

Acrylic sheets are brittle and crack easily, but a hacksaw is a good way to cut it by hand. After cutting, [Marija] uses a small portable gas stove at its lowest setting to provide gentle heat until the acrylic becomes soft, then it can be formed into different shapes using common shop and household items. It’s a process that requires patience and practice, so she shares some useful tips:

  • Remove the protective film after cutting, but before heat forming. Otherwise the film will be much harder to remove.
  • Heating too aggressively will result in bubbles that ruin the acrylic.
  • Uneven heating will result in a bad bend, or “hot spots” which can result in bubbles as mentioned above.
  • This heating method naturally softens a wide area, but it’s still possible to get straight and flat bends by using wood forms and letting the acrylic cool before moving it.

[Marija] used this method of heating and bending acrylic to complete an earlier lamp project of hers that we featured in the past. Acrylic might laser-cut beautifully, and there may be inexpensive tools for heating and bending it, but it’s always nice to have some tried and true techniques that don’t require anything special.

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Edge Lit Pendant, Is, Well… Lit

Acrylic is a great material. It’s not cheap, but it comes in a wide variety of colours and styles and can be used to make some very attractive projects. [Geek Mom Projects] is a big fan, and whipped up some fun pendants for a high school Maker Faire.

[Geek Mom] has long been a fan of edge-lighting, as it’s a great way to make beautiful glowy projects out of acrylic. In this case a fluorescent acrylic is used with white LEDs to generate an eerie green glow, though it’s also noted that the project can be done with clear acrylic and color-shifting LEDs instead for an equally cool look. If you’re filming a low-budget sci-fi film, this could be just what you need.

The pendants made a great project for young makers to learn about LEDs, electronics, and technologies such as lasercutting that were used to produce the parts. With copper tape used instead of soldering and a CR2032 battery used to eliminate the need for a current limiting resistor, it’s a very accessible project that most teens were able to complete without assistance.

It’s not the first time we’ve seen edge-lit pendants, either. Alternatively, if you need your acrylic bent, there’s a tool for that, too.