Electronics On Ice

We see all manner of electronics enclosures pass through these hallowed pages. Lasercut wooden builds with fancy kerf bending, expertly prepared acrylic boxes, and even the occasional device cast in concrete. [Mike Kohn] decided that all of these were too permanent, however, and chose a different material – ice.

[Mike] shares the ups and downs of his experiments with electronics and frozen water. Initial tests with a circuit sealed in DAP Ultra Clear were largely successful.  A tilt sensor was installed to allow the batteries to remain undrained during the freezing process, and once freed after a few hours of thawing, the circuit was operational. Later builds required some more work – the RC car in particular took a few attempts to avoid the mold leaking. The ice hands are a particular highlight, though – created with rubber gloves, these would be a remarkably spooky decoration come Halloween.

It’s a study in the techniques required to work with this ephemeral material, and there’s a few lessons to learn. Sealing electronics is good, and the best results are with simple circuits with a few LEDs that make everything glow nicely.

If you’re looking for other ideas, you could always create a frozen lens for photographical purposes. Video after the break.

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Components Cut in Half Reveal their Inner Beauty

We rarely take a moment to consider the beauty of the components we use in electronic designs. Too often they are simply commodities, bought in bulk on reels or in bags, stashed in a drawer until they’re needed, and then unceremoniously soldered to a board. Granted, little scraps of black plastic with silver leads don’t exactly deserve paeans sung to their great beauty – at least not until you cut them in half to reveal the beauty within.

We’ve seen a little of what [Tube Time] has accomplished here; recall this lapped-down surface-mount inductor that [electronupdate] did a while back. The current work is more extensive and probably somewhat easier to accomplish because [TubeTime] focused mainly on larger through-hole components such as resistors and capacitors. It’s not clear how the sections were created, but it is clear that extreme care was taken to lap down the components with enough precision that the inner structures are clearly visible, and indeed, carefully enough that some, most notably the LED, still actually work. For our money, though, the best looking cross-sections are the capacitors, especially the electrolytic, for which [Tube Time] thoughtfully provides both radial and axial sections. The little inductor is pretty cool too. Some of the component diagrams are annotated, too, which makes for fascinating reading.

Honestly, we could look at stuff like this all day.

Thanks to [Stuart Rogers] for the tip.

The Enlightenment Turns Light And Noise Into Sound

We’re all familiar with the subtle sounds of electrical equipment present in daily life. There’s the high-pitched whine of a CRT, the mains hum of a poorly isolated audio amplifier, and the wailing screams of inductors. Typically these sounds go unnoticed unless something is malfunctioning or otherwise wrong. However, Quiet Ensemble decided to capture these noises and turned them into a performance they call The Enlightenment.

The basic setup consists of a series of lights, most of which are theatrical in nature. There are spotlights, a series of neons, and even a few bright strobes. Copper coils are used to pick up the stray electrical noises generated by these lights in operation. These noises are then fed to mixers, amplifiers, and other audio equipment to allow the performers to control the audio as they wish.

The end result is a mechanical, and at times, brutal soundscape that wouldn’t sound out of place on the Homeworld soundtrack. Flashing strobes contribute rhythm while the rest of the lights lend their droning and whining to fill out the ensemble.

If it’s a little too niche for your tastes, the Triforium may be more to your liking. Video after the break.

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Polygonia Helps You Laser Cut Beautiful Patterns

Lasercutters are amazingly versatile tools that can help you build all manner of complicated structures if you can break them down into a series of planar parts. [David] had spotted artworks at the Smithsonian which caught his eye, using planar shapes with interesting repeating patterns. Wanting to make similar works himself, he set out to create software to help make it possible. 

The tool makes it easy to generate complex profiles and export them for lasercutting.

The result of [David]’s work is the Polygonia Design Suite. It’s a tool that aims to make creating geometric patterns for lasercutting easy and simple. The web interface designer has a wide variety of options for drawing shapes and patterns, and the frame size can also be controlled. [David] demonstrates these features with all manner of creations. The project’s Instagram page features basic rectangular panels with inset cubic and triangular motifs, all the way up to an ornate octahedron built from many panels held together with 3D printed clips.

It’s all whipped up in Javascript, handrolled CSS and HTML. Cloud storage and authentication is all handled via Amazon Web Services, which makes handling such features easy. [David] made a special effort to create a separate test site so code experiments won’t effect the live site – crucial for any commercial endeavor.

If you’re in the mood to create some geometric lasercut artworks, check out the tool online. The first 3 exports are free, with a variety of subscription models available for heavy users. We fully expect to see an explosion in fancy lasercut homewares at the weekend markets in years to come.

If your thirst for lasercut art isn’t yet satiated, check out this colorful edgelit acrylic technique.

3D Printing Photos Is Slow But Awesome

Historically speaking, lithophanes are images made in porcelain with an etching or moulding process, in which an image is visible when backlit due to the varying thickness of the material. Porcelain isn’t the easiest thing to work with, but thankfully for those of us in the present, 3D printers are here to make everything better. [RCLifeOn] has been experimenting with printing lithophanes with great results.

The trick to printing a good lithophane is all in the preparation. It’s important to pick an image that looks good in greyscale, as this is not a process that reproduces color in any way. [RCLifeOn] then discusses the finer points of printer setup to get a nice looking print. Layer heights should be as small as possible to avoid visible vertical bands, and the lithophane should be printed in a vertical orientation, to avoid the print sagging due to a lack of support.  Infill is best set to 100%. Most importantly, the printer should avoid crossing the outline of the print to avoid any stringy plastic artifacts spoiling the final product.

It’s a great guide that should help even a 3D printing novice create a great print with the minimum of fuss. A lithophane can make a wonderful gift and is also a good test of a printer’s capabilities, due to the fine detail required. We’ve seen them produced before too, in a wonderful lightbox configuration. Video after the break.

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Hackaday Podcast Ep8 – The Art Episode: Joe Kim, Strings And CRTs, Hydrogen Done 2-Ways

We know you love the original art on Hackaday. Those fantastic illustrations are the work of Joe Kim, and he joins us as a guest on this week’s episode to talk about his background, what inspires him, and how he pulls it all off.

This episode is still packed with hacks. Editors Mike Szczys and Elliot Williams somehow stumble into two projects that end up generating hydrogen (despite that not being their purpose). But that art angle this week goes beyond Joe’s guest appearance as we look at a hack to add green curve tracing goodness on a black and white CRT, and an incredible take on a string art building machine. We get a look at interesting hardware that landed on the clearance rack, ultralight robots that move with flex PCB actuators, a throwback to mechanical computing, and giving up control of your home heating and cooling to a Raspberry Pi.

Links for all discussed on the show are found below. As always, join in the comments below as we’ll be watching those as we work on next week’s episode!

Direct download (64.9 MB)

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Mayak Turns WiFi Traffic Into Sound

Dial-up modems were well known for their screeching soundtrack during the connection process. Modern networking eschews audio based communication methods, so we no longer have to deal with such things. However, all is not lost. [::vtol::]’s Mayak installation brings us a new sound, all its own.

The installation consists of four WiFi routers, connected to four LTE modems. These are configured as open hotspots that anyone can connect to. [::vtol::] was careful to select routers that had highly responsive activity LEDs. The activity LEDs are wired to an Arduino, which processes the inputs, using them to trigger various sounds from an attached synthesizer.

As users connect to the routers and go about their business on the Internet, the activity LEDs flash and the synthesizer translates this into an otherworldly soundtrack. The hardware is all hung on a beautiful metal and acrylic frame, which stands as a striking form in the sparse gallery.

The piece creates a very electronic soundscape, but you may prefer your installations to have a more mechanical racket. Video after the break.

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