Magic 8 Ball Business Card Will Answer All Your Questions

The PCB business card has long been a staple amongst the freelance EE set. It’s a way to show potential clients that you can do the job, as well as leave a great first impression. Some are simple blinkenlights devices, others have contact information on USB storage. We reckon that [Seamus] has really hit it out of the park with this one, though.

That’s right- this business card riffs on the classic Magic 8-ball toy. Ask a question, shake the card, and it’ll light an LED with the corresponding answer to your query. Use it as a desk toy, or break deadlocks in meetings by looking to the card for the correct course of action.

It’s a very tasteful build, showing off [Seamus]’s minimalist chops – consisting of just a decade counter, a tilt sensor, and some LEDs. When the card is shaken, the tilt sensor outputs a series of pulses to the clock line of the decade counter, whose outputs are the 8 LEDs. When the tilt sensor settles, it lands on the final answer.

We think it’s a great card, which shows off both fundamental technical skills as well as a certain flair and creativity which can be key to landing exciting projects. It doesn’t hurt that it’s good fun, to boot. For another take on the Magic 8-ball, check out this build that can give you a Yes/No answer on demand.

A Simple POV Business Card

The business card is an odd survivor from the past, when you think about it. When a salesman in a Mad Men style suit stepped out of his Studebaker and walked past a room full of typists to the boss’s wood-paneled office, he would have handed over a card as a matter of course. It would get filed away in the Rolodex.

These days, making your card stand out from the crowd of print-shop specials has become an art form. In our community this extends to cards with integrated electronics, such as this one with a persistence-of-vision display driven by an ATtiny from [James Cochrane], shown in the video below.  It’s by no means the first such card, but he takes us through its design and construction in great detail which makes the video below the break worth a look. If you have never made a toner transfer PCB for example, you can see how his was made.

He makes the point that while a POV spinner needs only to display in one direction, a card has to be waved back and forth. Thus it needs to change the direction of its display, and needs a tilt sensor to activate this. His construction method uses through-hole components, but is surface mount in that they are soldered to the top surface of the board. The result is a rather attractive POV card that maybe isn’t something you’d hand out to all and sundry, but perhaps that’s not the point.

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NFC Enabled Business Card

[Sjaak] is back at it again with the cool PCB business cards, this time alleviating the burden to physically type his contact information into your phone. But NFC isn’t the only cool thing on this PCB – as always, his aesthetics don’t disappoint.

When we see [Sjaak’s] card, the future seems to be the now – not only do we have business cards that can take our pulse, we have business cards that actively help facilitate the exchange of contact information. I know what you’re thinking. “Business cards made of paper do that already.” That’s true if you read them. You have to physically remember you have the card (aka not put it through the wash), and, if you’re like most folks, you’ll ultimately enter the information into your cell phone’s contact list. Why not skip the whole reading thing? You know, just zap your contact information into the contact list of people automatically?

Maybe this is exactly what [Sjaak] thought when he built his NFC enabled business card. Maybe not. Regardless, [Sjaak’s] card is beautiful – both in implementation and aesthetics. Powered by “a nice little NFC EEPROM from NXP”, (the NT3H1101) the business card even has an energy harvesting mode. Moreover, one can interact with the card via four buttons and an LED. The LED informs the user what mode the card is currently in, and the buttons choose which URL is sent to users via NFC. To add icing to the cake, the back of the PCB is decked out via [Sjaak’s] custom full-color decal process we covered back in August.

As great as it looks, the card still needs some improvement. “I still need to tackle the sharp and protruding components on the front, which will ruin your wallet.” But, in our eyes, the card is surely on its way to greatness, and we look forward to seeing its final form. However, if you’re anything like us, you might want to see some other rad PCB business cards while you wait. If that’s the case, we recommend this logic based finite machine and this card made by a hackaday author.

Full Color PCB Business Card

[Sjaak], in electronic hobbyist tradition, started to design a PCB business card. However, he quickly became disillusioned with the coloring options made available by the standard PCB manufacturing process. While most learn to work with a limited color palette, [Sjaak] had another idea. PCB decals for full-color control.

As [Sjaak] realized early in his PCB journey, the downside of all PCB business cards (and PCBs in general) is the limited number of colors you can use which are dictated by the layers you have to work with: FR4, soldermask, silkscreen and bare copper. Some people get crafty, creating new color combinations by stacking layers for hues, but even that technique doesn’t come close to a full palette.

The commercial off-the-shelf out of the box solution [Sjaak] found was decal slide paper. For those of you not prone to candle making or car decorating, decals are printable plastic film that can be used to decorate ceramics, glass or other smooth surfaces. Both clear and white versions can be found in most hobby stores. Once obtained, an inkjet or laser printer can print directly onto the photo paper-like material, lending the decals an infinite range of colors.

[Sjaak] bought clear film and designed his PCB with black soldermask and white silkscreen. Once the PCBs had come in, [Sjaak] got to work applying the decals with a transfer method by placing one into water, waiting a bit until the decal lets loose and then are carefully applied to a PCB. [Sjaak] reports that the process is a bit trickery because the film is very thin and is easily crinkled. But, difficulties overcome, the PCB then needs to dry for twenty-four hours. From there, it’s into the oven for 10 minutes at 248 degrees Fahrenheit (120 degrees Celsius) followed by an optional clear coating. Although the process is a bit involved, judging from his pictures we think the results are worth it, producing something that would stand out; which, in the end, is the goal of a PCB business card.

With all this in mind, we think that the logical progression is to incorporate digital logic or go full DIY and CNC or laser engrave your own business card.

CNC’ed Business Card

Hobby CNC mills have made rapid prototyping easier and faster for hackers. One really useful application is quickly fabricating your own milled PCB’s. [proto logical] built a Reference PCB Business Card using his CNC mill after repeatedly coming across other hackers who were not too convinced about the capabilities of CNC mills in routing PCB’s (also referred to as isolation milling). He thought of making a business card sized reference PCB to show around when he bumps into such folks.

To keep it useful, he included inch and centimetre scales, 0.1″ grid of holes, reference track widths from 16 mil to 66 mil, a few common drill holes and vias and some SMD foot prints. The single sided board is 50 mil thick, so it doesn’t bulk up his wallet. He’s posted the Eagle board file (direct download) and G-code (text file) for those interested in milling their own reference boards. The idea isn’t new – it’s been tried several times in different form factors in the past, generally using more traditional techniques. [proto logical] got inspiration from [Rohit Gupta’s] TinkerRule – The Maker’s Swiss Army Knife. Then there’s the very popular uRuler made by [Dave Jones] of EEVBlog fame. If you have any suggestions on improving the design, chime in with comments here.

Thanks to [ACG] for sending in this tip that he dug up while looking for CNC routed PCB’s.

Laser Engraved Business Cards with LEDs

Plexiglass-LED-Lit-Business-Card-1

Regular paper business cards are boring. They are flimsy and easily forgettable for the most part, and when stacked together or thrown in a pile, it’s hard to locate a specific one; like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Plastic cards aren’t much better either because they still fall into that ‘who cares’ category. But plexiglas business cards with laser cut etchings beautifully lit up by an LED?! Yes please.

The design was developed by Romanian engraving company called Gravez Dotro who fixed the problem of simply glancing at a business card, putting it in a wallet, and causally forgetting about it later, never to contact the person that gave it out. If someone hands away one of these though, the receiver is definitely going to remember it. The solution isn’t that high-tech and just about anyone with access to a laser cutter can make their own. It will be interesting to see what people come up with. If you feel like creating one, be sure to send us pictures. We would love to see them. Video of the design comes up after the break.

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Ask Hackaday: Can Paper USB Business Cards Exist?

swivel business card

The swivelCard Kickstarter campaign recently received a lot of press coverage and makes some impressive claims as their goal is the development of USB and NFC business cards at a $3 unit price. While most USB-enabled business cards we featured on Hackaday were made of standard FR4, this particular card is made of paper as the project description states the team patented

a system for turning regular paper into a USB drive.

As you can guess this piqued our interest, as all paper based technologies we had seen until now mostly consisted of either printed PCBs or paper batteries. ‘Printing a USB drive on regular paper’ (as the video says) would therefore involve printing functional USB and NFC controllers.

Luckily enough a quick Google search for the patents shown in one of the pictures (patent1, patent2) taught us that a storage circuitry is embedded under the printed USB pads, which may imply that the team had an Application-Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) designed or that they simply found one they could use for their own purposes. From the video we learn that ‘each card has a unique ID and can individually be programmed’ (the card, not the UID) and that it can be setup to open any webpage URL. The latter can even be modified after the card has been handed out, hinting that the final recipient would go to a ‘www.swivelcard.com/XXXX” type of address. We therefore got confused by

Imagine giving your business card with pictures, videos, presentations, and websites for the recipient to interact with!

paragraph that the project description contains.

This leads us to one key question we have: what kind of USB drive can make a given user visit a particular website, given that he may have Linux, Windows, Mac or any other OS? They all have similar USB enumeration processes and different key strokes to launch a browser… our wild guess is that it may be detected as storage with a single html file in it. Unfortunately for us the USB detection process is not included in the video.

Our final question: Is it possible to embed both USB and NFC controllers in a thin piece of paper without worrying about broken ICs (see picture above)? NFC enabled passports have obviously been around for a long time but we couldn’t find the same for USB drives.

Possible or not, we would definitely love having one in our hands!

Edit: One of our kind readers pointed out that this campaign actually is a re-launch of a failed indiegogo one which provides more details about the technology and confirms our assumptions.