As electronics hobbyists, we live in a somewhat two-dimensional world. Our craft is so centered around the printed circuit board that our design tools are specifically geared to spit out files tailored to the board house, who can then ship us a study in fiberglass and copper. We daub on flux and solder, add components, apply heat, and like magic, our circuits come to life, all within a few millimeters above and below the PCB.
Breaking out of this self-imposed Flatland can be therapeutic. At least that’s how Mohit Bhoite sees his free-form circuit sculptures, which he spoke about at length at the Hackaday Superconference this year. By way of disclosure, I have to admit to being a longtime fan of Mohit’s work, both at his day job as a designer at Particle, and with his spare time hobby of creating sculptures from electronic components and brass wire which can be followed on his Twitter feed. He ended up joining us for a circuit sculpture Hack Chat just before heading to Supercon, too, so not only was I looking forward to meeting him, I was sure his talk would reveal the secrets of his art and give me the inspiration to start doing some of my own. I wasn’t disappointed on either score.
If this sounds familiar, it’s with good reason: we covered [Stefan]’s last stab at assessing threaded inserts back in March. Then, he was primarily interested in determining if threaded inserts are better than threads cut or printed directly into parts. The current work is concerned with the relative value of different designs of threaded inserts. He looked at three different styles of press-in inserts, ranging in price from pennies apiece to a princely 25 cents. The complexity of the outside knurling seems not to be correlated with the price; the inserts with opposed helical knurls seem like they’d be harder to manufacture than the ones with simple barbs on the outside of the barrel, but cost less. And in fact, the mid-price insert outperformed the expensive one in pull-out tests. Surprisingly, the cheapest inserts were actually far worse at pull-out resistance than printing undersized holes and threading an M3 screw directly into the plastic.
[Stefan] also looked at torque resistance, and found no substantial difference between the three insert types. Indeed, none of the inserts proved to be the weak point, as the failure mode of all the torque tests was the M3 bolt itself. This didn’t hold with the bolt threaded directly into the plastic, of course; any insert is better than none for torque resistance.
We enjoyed seeing [Stefan]’s tests, and appreciate the data that can help us be informed consumers. [John] over at Project Farm does similar head-to-head tests, like this test of different epoxy adhesives.
For all the effort engineers put into electronic design, very few people ever get to appreciate it. All the hard work that goes into laying out a good PCB and carefully selecting just the right components is hidden the moment the board is slipped into an enclosure, only to be interacted with again through a user interface that gets all the credit for the look and feel of the product.
And yet there are some who design circuits purely as works of art. They may do something interesting or useful, but function is generally secondary to form for these circuit sculptors. Often consisting of skeletons of brass wire bent at precise angles to form intricate structures, circuit sculptures are the zen garden of electronic design: they’re where the designer turns to quiet the madness of making deadlines and meeting specs by focusing on the beauty of components themselves and putting them on display for all to enjoy.
By day, our host Mohit designs and builds hardware at Particle. By night, however, the wires and pliers come out, and he makes circuit sculptures that come alive. Check out his portfolio; you won’t be disappointed. This Hack Chat will be your chance to find out everything that goes into making these sculptures. Find out where Mohit gets his inspiration, learn his secrets for such precise, satisfyingly crisp wire-bending, and see what it takes to turn silicon into art.
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. Continue reading “Circuit Sculpture Hack Chat”→
Normal people throw away stuff when it breaks. But not people like us. Or, apparently, [NanoRobotGeek]. A cheap robotic dragonfly died, and he cannibalized it for robot parts. But he kept the gearbox hoping to build a new dragonfly and, using some brass rod, he did just that.
The dragonfly’s circuitry uses a solar panel for power and a couple of flashing LEDs. This is a BEAM robot, so not a microcontroller in sight. You can see a brief video of how the dragonfly moves.
Don’t have a tiny dovetail bit on hand, so make that as well.
Of course, do it all without CNC in free-machining style.
Whoops the brass stock is smaller than expected, so find a clever solution.
That birthday? It’s tomorrow, by the way.
The project was a success, and a few small learning experiences presented themselves. One is that the shape of a dovetail plays tricks on the human eye. Geometrically speaking, the two halves are even but it seems as though one side is slightly larger than the other. [mitxela] says that if he were to do it again, he’d make the aluminum side slightly larger to compensate for this visual effect. Also, deburring with a knife edge on such a small piece flattened the edges ever so slightly, causing the fit to appear less precise than it actually is.
Digging a little deeper, [Chris] offered to make this card press for [Chris Ramsay], a magician who specializes in cardistry, or the art of illusions with cards. The feel of playing cards is crucial to performing with them, and a card press keeps a deck of cards in shape. Not a commonly available device, [Clickspring Chris] designed one in an elaborate style that brought in elements from [Chris Ramsay]’s logo.
Like all Clickspring videos, this one is a joy to watch, but in a departure, there’s no narration — just 30 minutes of precision machining and metal finishing. [Chris] has gotten into metal engraving in a big way, and used his skills to add details to everything from the stylized acorn at the top to the intricate press plate, all of which was done freehand. And those snakes! Made from brass rod and bent into shape by hand, they wrap around the side supports to form [Chris Ramsay]’s logo. All the brass ended up gold plated, while all the screws ended up with a heat-blued finish. Settle in and enjoy the video below.
It’s been a while since the Clickspring skeleton clock was finished, in which time [Chris] has been working on a reproduction of the Antikythera mechanism. His video output slowed considerably, though, when he made a new finding about the mechanism, an observation worthy of writing up as a scholarly paper. We can’t begrudge him the time needed to pursue that, and we’re glad he found time for this project too.
In our search for big-box convenience, we tend to forget that locksmiths once not only copied keys but also created complex locks and other intricate mechanisms from scratch. [my mechanics] hasn’t forgotten, and building a lock is his way of celebrating of the locksmith’s skill. Building a combination lock from a single stainless bolt is probably also showing off just a little, and we’re completely fine with that.
Granted, the bolt is a rather large one – an M20x70 – and a few other materials such as brass rod and spring wire were needed to complete the lock. But being able to look at a single bolt and slice it up into most of the stock needed for the lock is simply amazing. The head became the two endplates, while the shank was split in half lengthwise and crosswise after the threads were turned off; those pieces were later turned down into the tubes and pins needed to create the lock mechanism. The combination wheels probably could have come from another – or longer – bolt, but we like the look of the brass against the polished stainless, as well as the etched numbers and subtle knurling. The whole thing is a locksmithing tour de force, and the video below captures all of it without any fluff or nonsense.