Dynamic Map Of Italy On A PCB

While most PCBs stick to tried-and-true methods of passing electrons through their layers of carefully-etched copper, modern construction methods allow for a large degree of customization of most aspects of these boards. From solder mask to number of layers, and even the shape of the board itself, everything is open for artistic license and experimentation now. [Luca] shows off some of these features with his PCB which acts as a live map of Italy.

The PCB is cut out in the shape of the famous boot, with an LED strategically placed in each of 20 regions in the country. This turns the PCB into a map with the RGB LEDs having the ability to be programmed to show any data that one might want. It’s powered by a Wemos D1 Mini (based on an ESP8266) which makes programming it straightforward. [Luca] has some sample programs which fetch live data from various sources, with it currently gathering daily COVID infection rates reported for each of the 20 regions.

The ability to turn a seemingly boring way to easily attach electronic parts together into a work of art without needing too much specialized equipment is a fantastic development in PCBs. We’ve seen them turned into full-color art installations with all the mask colors available, too, so the possibilities for interesting-looking (as well as interesting-behaving) circuits are really opening up.

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Solid Oak Arcade Cabinet: When Particle Board Won’t Do

Having an arcade cabinet of one’s own is a common dream among those who grew up during the video game arcade heyday of the 80s and early 90s. It’s a fairly common build that doesn’t take too much specialized knowledge to build. This cabinet, on the other hand, pulled out all of the stops for the cabinet itself, demonstrating an impressive level of woodworking expertise.

The cabinet enclosure is made with red oak boards, which the creator [Obstreperuss] sawed and planed and then glued together to create the various panels (more details are available on his Imgur album). The Mario artwork on the sides and front aren’t just vinyl stickers, either. He used various hardwoods cut into small squares to create pixel art inlays in the oak faces. After the fancy woodwork was completed, the build was finished out with some USB arcade controllers, a flat-panel screen, and a Raspberry Pi to run the games.

While the internals are pretty standard, we have to commend the incredible quality of the woodworking. It’s an impressive homage to classic arcade machines and we wouldn’t mind a similar one in our own homes. If you’re lacking the woodworking equipment, though, it’s possible to get a refined (yet smaller) arcade cabinet for yourself with a 3D printer instead.

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CNC Router Frame Repurposed For Colorful String Art Bot

Pandemic lockdowns have been brutal, but they’ve had the side-effect of spurring creativity and undertaking projects that are involved enough and complex enough to keep from going stir crazy. This CNC string art robot is a great example of what’s possible with a little imagination and a lot of time. (Video, embedded below.)

According to [knezuld11], the robot creates its art through mathematical algorithms via a Python program that translates them into nail positions and string paths. The modified CNC router frame, constructed of laser-cut plywood, has two interchangeable tool heads. The first places the nails, which are held in a small hopper. After being picked up by a servo-controlled magnetic arm and held vertically, a gear-driven ram pushes each nail into a board at just the right coordinates. After changing to a different tool, the robot is able to pick up one of nine different thread dispensers. A laser sensor verifies the thread nozzle position, and the thread starts its long journey around the nails. It’s a little mesmerizing to watch, and the art looks great, with a vibe that brings us right back to the 70s. Groovy, man.

This reminds us a little of a recent [Barton Dring] project that makes art from overlapping strings. That one was pretty cool for what it accomplished with just one thread color, while this one really brings color to the party. Take your pick, place your nails, and get stringing.

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Hackaday Links: November 29, 2020

While concerns over COVID-19 probably kept many a guest room empty this Thanksgiving, things were a little different aboard the International Space Station. The four-seat SpaceX Crew Dragon is able to carry one more occupant to the orbiting outpost than the Russian Soyuz, which has lead to a somewhat awkward sleeping arrangement: there are currently seven people aboard a Station that only has six crew cabins. To remedy the situation, Commander Michael Hopkins has decided to sleep inside the Crew Dragon itself, technically giving himself the most spacious personal accommodations on the Station. This might seem a little hokey, but it’s actually not without precedent; when the Shuttle used to dock with the ISS, the Commander would customarily sleep in the cockpit so they would be ready to handle any potential emergency.

Speaking of off-world visitation, the Hayabusa2 spacecraft is nearly home after six years in space. It won’t be staying long though, the deep-space probe is only in the neighborhood to drop off a sample of material collected from the asteroid Ryugu. If all goes according to plan, the small capsule carrying the samples will renter the atmosphere and land in the South Australian desert on December 6th, while Hayabusa2 heads back into the black for an extended mission that would have it chasing down new asteroids into the 2030s.

Moving on to a story that almost certainly didn’t come from space, a crew from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources recently discovered a strange metal monolith hidden in the desert. While authorities were careful not to disclose the exact coordinates of the object, it didn’t take Internet sleuths long to determine its location, in part thanks to radar data that allowed them to plot the flight path of a government helicopters. Up close inspections that popped up on social media revealed that the object seemed to be hollow, was held together with rivets, and was likely made of aluminum. It’s almost certainly a guerrilla art piece, though there are also theories that it could have been a movie or TV prop (several productions are known to have filmed nearby) or even some kind of military IR/radar target. We may never know for sure though, as the object disappeared soon after.

Even if you’re not a fan of Apple, it’s hard not to be interested in the company’s new M1 chip. Hackers have been clamoring for more ARM laptops and desktops for years, and with such a major player getting in the game, it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing less luxurious brands taking the idea seriously. After the recent discovery that the ARM version of Ubuntu can run on the new M1 Macs with a simple virtualization layer, it looks like we won’t have to wait too long before folks start chipping away at the Walled Garden.

In the market for a three phase servo controller? A reader who’s working on a robotics project worth as much as a nice house recently wrote in to tell us about an imported driver that goes for just $35. Technically it’s designed for driving stepper motors, but it can also (somewhat inefficiently) run servos. Our informant tells us that you’d pay at least $2,000 for a similar servo driver from Allen-Bradley, so the price difference certainly seems to make up for the hit in performance.

Finally, some bittersweet news as we’ve recently learned that Universal Radio is closing. After nearly 40 years, proprietors Fred and Barbara Osterman have decided it’s time to start winding things down. The physical store in Worthington, Ohio will be shuttered on Monday, but the online site will remain up for awhile longer to sell off the remaining stock. The Ostermans have generously supported many radio clubs and organizations over the years, and they’ll certainly be missed. Still, it’s a well-deserved retirement and the community wishes them the best.

The Art Of Nixies Hack Chat

Join us on Wednesday, October 28th at noon Pacific for The Art of Nixies Hack Chat with Dalibor Farný!

When they were invented in the 1950s, Nixie tubes were a huge leap forward in display technology. In the days before affordable LEDs made seven-segment displays a commodity, there were few alternatives to the charming glow of the clear and legible characters inside Nixies. Sturdy and reliable, the cold-cathode displays found their way into everything from scientific instruments to test equipment, and even some of the earliest computers and the equipment that formed the foundation of the Space Race sported the venerable tubes.

But time marches on, and a display that requires high voltage and special driver circuits isn’t long for a world where LEDs are cheap and easy to design with. Nixies fell from favor through the late 1960s and 1970s, to the point where new tubes were only being made by the Russians, until that supply dried up as well. Rediscovered by hobbyists for use in quirky clocks and other displays, any stock left over from the Nixie’s heyday are quickly being snapped up, putting the tubes on the fast track to unobtainium status.

That’s not to say that you can’t get brand new Nixie tubes, of course. Artisanal manufacturers like Dalibor Farný have taken the Nixie to a whole new level, with big, beautiful tubes that are handcrafted from the best materials. Reviving the somewhat lost art of Nixie manufacturing wasn’t easy, but the tubes that Dalibor makes in a castle in the Czech Republic now find their way into cool clocks and other builds around the world. He’ll join us on the Hack Chat to dive into the art and science of Nixies, and what’s going on with his mysterious “Project H”.

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events in the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, October 28 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones baffle you as much as us, we have a handy time zone converter.

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io. You don’t have to wait until Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

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Receipt Printers End It All In Moving Art Piece

Art is something that is always hard to classify, but by and large is most celebrated when it stimulates an emotional response for the intended audience. We’d say [Alexander Miller] achieved that in spades, with his elegant piece The Emergence and Decay of Computation.

An installation piece done for The School for Poetic Computation’s 2019 spring showcase, it consists of a series of receipt printers suspended from a height by their own paper. The thermal printers output a pattern from a cellular automata — a mathematical simulation that generates patterns that emerge from initial conditions, of which Conway’s Game of Life is perhaps the most popular. Fed data by an attached Raspberry Pi, as printing continues, the printers gradually lower themselves into a tank of water, permanently killing the hardware.

Watching a proud, brave printer slowly work itself into a watery grave is a sobering experience to any lover of stout commercial hardware, and one we won’t soon forget. What a shame to see them sacrificed so. We love a good art piece around these parts, after all. Especially when the hardware can be used in another project once the excitement of this one has waned. Video after the break. Continue reading “Receipt Printers End It All In Moving Art Piece”

Cerebral Palsy Tool Assistant

We all deserve to create. Some people seem to have the muses hidden in their pocket, but everyone benefits when they express themselves in their chose art form. Each of us has tools, from Dremels to paintbrushes, and many folks here build their own implements. Even if we don’t have our macro-enabled mechanical keyboard or a dual-extrusion printer, we can make due. But what if you couldn’t operate your drill, or mouse, or even a pencil? To us, that would be excruciating and is the reality for some. [Laura Roth] and [Christopher Sweeney] are art teachers designing a tool holder for their students with cerebral palsy so that they can express themselves independently.

On either side of this banner image, you can see pencil drawings from [Sara], who has spastic cerebral palsy. She made these drawings while wearing the tool holder modeled after her hand. Now, that design serves other students and is part of the 2020 Hackaday Prize. The tool holder wraps around the wrist like a wide bracelet. Ribbing keeps its shape, and a tube accepts cylindrical objects, like pencils, styluses, and paintbrushes.The result is that the tip of the pencil is not far from where it would have been if held in the hand, but this sidesteps issues with grip and fine control in hands and fingers.

The print is available as an STL and should be printed with flexible filament to ensure it’s comfortable to wear. Be mindful of digital styluses which may need something conductive between the barrel and user.

Hackers are familiar with the challenges of cerebral palsy, and we’ve enjoyed seeing a variety of solutions over the years like door openers, camera gimbals, and just being altogether supportive.