Circuit Board Origami Puts You Face-to-Face With Low-Poly Electronics

Paper craft has been around almost as long as paper itself. It’s fun to mimic paper craft and origami with low-poly 3D prints, and [Stephen Hawes] wondered whether it could be done with copper-clad PCBs. Two years after the question arose, we have the answer in the form of a fantastical mask with light-up eyes. Check it out in the video below.

[Stephen] started with a model (Update: [kongorilla’s] 2012 low poly mask model from back in 2012 was the starting point for this hack) from the papercraft program Pepakura Designer, then milled out dozens of boards. Only a few of them support circuitry, but it was still quite the time-consuming process. The ATMega32u4 on the forehead along with the fold-traversing circuitry serve to light up the WS2812B eyes. Power runs up the copper tube, which doubles as a handy mounting rod to connect to the 3D-printed base.

To be fair, eighteen months out of the two years this project took was spent hand-sanding a chamfer on every edge of every panel so that they could be glued together. Soldering the edges together didn’t work as well as you might think, so [Stephen] used Superglue mixed with baking soda to give it body and make it dry faster. The result is a low-poly human face of shiny copper with TQFP-44 chip package a the all-seeing eye in the middle of its forehead like something from Tron come to life.

Just a reminder — we have a circuit sculpture contest running now until Tuesday, November 10, 2020 at 12:00 pm PST. We’d love to see what you can do, whether it’s in brass rod, copper clad, or a combination of the two. Take a look at the submissions we’ve received so far, and then show us what you’ve got.

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The Most Expensive D20 You’ll See Today

Roll your negotiation skill, because this d20 is a hefty one. The Tweet is also below. We are charmed by [Greg Davill]’s twenty-sided LED contraption, but what do we call it? Is it a device? A sculpture? A die? Even though “d20” is right on his custom controller PCB, we don’t think this will grace the table at the next elf campaign since it is rather like taking a Rolls Royce to the grocery store. Our builder estimates the price tag at $350 USD and that includes twenty custom PCB light panels with their components, a controller board, one battery pack, and the 3D printed chassis that has to friction-fit the light faces.

Power and communication for all the panels rely on twenty ribbon cables daisy-chained throughout the printed scaffolding, which you can see in the picture above. [Greg] made a six-sided LED cube last year, and there are more details for it, but we suspect he learned his lesson about soldering thousands of lights by hand. There are one-hundred-twenty LEDs per panel, times twenty, that is over two-thousand blinkenlights. We don’t yet have specs on the controller, but last time he used a SAMD51 processor to support over three-thousand lights. We don’t know where he’ll go next, but we’re game if he wants to make a chandelier for Hackaday’s secret underground lair.

(Editor’s Note: If you were at Supercon last year, and you got to play with this thing in the flesh, it’s worth it!)

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Playing The Pixelflut

Every hacker gathering needs as many pixels as its hackers can get their hands on. Get a group together and you’ll be blinded by the amount of light on display. (We propose “a blinkenlights” as the taxonomic name for such a group.) At a large gathering, what better way to show of your elite hacking ability than a “competition” over who can paint an LED canvas the best? Enter Pixelflut, the multiplayer drawing canvas.

Pixelflut has been around since at least 2012, but it came to this author’s attention after editor [Jenny List] noted it in her review of SHA 2017. What was that beguiling display behind the central bar? It turns out it was a display driven by a server running Pixelflut. A Pixelflut server exposes a display which can be drawn on by sending commands over the network in an extremely simple protocol. There are just four ASCII commands supported by every server — essentially get pixel, set pixel, screen size, and help — so implementing either a client or server is a snap, and that’s sort of the point.

While the original implementations appear to be written by [defnull] at the link at the top, in some sense Pixelflut is more of a common protocol than an implementation. In a sense, one “plays” one of a variety of Pixelflut minigames. When there is a display in a shared space the game is who can control the most area by drawing the fastest, either by being clever or by consuming as much bandwidth as possible.

Then there is the game of who can write the fastest more battle-hardened server possible in order to handle all that traffic without collapsing. To give a sense of scale, one installation at 36c3 reported that a truly gargantuan 0.5 petabytes of data were spent at a peak of rate of more than 30 gigabits/second, just painting pixels! That’s bound to bog down all but the most lithe server implementation. (“Flut” is “flood” in German.)

While hacker camps may be on pause for the foreseeable future, writing a performant Pixelflut client or server seems like an excellent way to sharpen one’s skills while we wait for their return. For a video example check out the embed after the break. Have a favorite implementation? Tell us about it in the comments!

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Hex Matrix Clock Is Spellbinding

Just when we think we’ve seen all possible combinations of 3D printing, microcontrollers, and pretty blinkenlights coming together to form DIY clocks, [Mukesh_Sankhla] goes and builds this geometric beauty. It’s kaleidoscopic, it’s mosaic, and it sorta resembles stained glass, but is way cheaper and easier.

The crucial part of the print does two jobs — it combines a plate full of holes for a string of addressable RGB LEDs with the light-dividing walls that turn the LEDs into triangular pixels. [Mukesh] designed digits for a clock that each use ten triangles. You’d need an ESP8266 to run the clock code, or if you’d rather sit and admire the rainbow light show unabated by the passing of time, just use an Arduino Uno or something similar.

Most of the aesthetic magic here is in the printed pieces and the FastLED library. It has a bunch of really cool animations baked in that look great with this design. Check out the demo video after the break. The audio is really quiet until the very end of the video, so be warned. In our opinion, the audio isn’t necessary to follow along with the build.

The humble clock takes many lovely forms around here, including pop art.

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Color Your Workspace, Calm Your Mind

Every day, it seems to get harder and harder to relax and unwind. A person can only take so many lava-hot showers before they start cutting into work time. Listening to music is a wonderful option, but it can be difficult to find something to listen to that’s soothing without being disruptive. So what else can we try? Oh yes, blinkenlights. Frosted, glowing blinkenlights that bathe the room in color. Ahhhh.

There’s something about those enclosures that completes these so well. [ChrisParkerTech] used Alder wood sprayed with clear coat, which gives them a delightfully clean mid-century look. We also dig the lack of ceiling and unfinished top edge, because it gives the leaking light a bit of infinity pool mystique.

Of course, these wouldn’t be much of a relaxation tool if you have to get up up from your couch, chair, or bean bag every time you want to adjust them. Each strip is connected to a Wemos D1 mini, so [Chris] can control them with his phone via WLED, or make Alexa do it. Check out the build video after the break.

If you really love LEDs, don’t leave home without them. Show the world how you feel with a stylish LED hat.

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Light Up The Night With A Tetrahedral LED Hat

People get into electronics for all kinds of reasons, but we would guess that the ability to blink the blinkenlights is probably pretty high on the survey results. [Kuchbert] has been going to Deichkind shows for the last decade and has wanted to build one of the German techno-rap band’s signature tetrahedral LED hats for about as long.

Up inside the hat is an Arduino Nano driving WS2812B LEDs and a portable battery to power everything. Thanks to an HC-05 Bluetooth module, the show can be controlled with an Android app. The many, many holes in the acrylic panels were milled out, but they could just as easily be laser-cut, or if you have infinite patience, drilled by hand. The code is coming once it has been cleaned up a bit. Everything else you’d need is already there waiting. This helmet even has its own lil’ music video, which we’ve carefully beat-matched in after the break.

Naturally, this makes us think of all the Daft Punk helms that have blinked by on this blog over the years. This hand-soldered one might be the most meticulously made.

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Thunder Pack Is A Bolt Of Lightning For Wearables

Do you need portable power that packs a punch? Sure you do, especially if you want to light up the night by mummifying yourself with a ton of LED strips. You aren’t limited to that, of course, but it’s what we pictured when we read about [Jeremy]’s Thunder Pack. With four PWM channels at 2.3 A each, why not go nuts? [Jeremy] has already proven the Thunder Pack out by putting it through its paces all week at Burning Man.

Click to embiggen!

After a few iterations, [Jeremy] has landed on the STM32 microcontroller family and is currently working to upgrade to one with enough flash memory to run CircuitPython.

The original version was designed to run on a single 18650 cell, but [Jeremy] now has three boards that support similar but smaller rechargeable cells for projects that don’t need quite as much power.

We love how small and powerful this is, and the dongle hole is a great touch because it opens up options for building it into a wearable. [Jeremy] made a fantastic pinout diagram and has a ton of code examples in the repo. If you want to wade into the waters of wearables, let whimsical wearables wizard [Angela Sheehan] walk you through the waves.