The phrase “Go big or go home” is clearly not lost on [Adam Haile] and [Dan Ternes] of Maniacal Labs. For years they’ve been thinking of creating a giant LED matrix where each “pixel” doubled as a physical push button. Now that they’ve built up experience working on other LED projects, they finally decided it was time to take the plunge and create their masterpiece: the Bixel.
Creating the Bixel (a portmanteau of button, and pixel) was no small feat. The epic build is documented in an exceptionally detailed write-up on the team’s site, in addition to the time-lapse video included after the break. [Adam] tells us the Bixel took around 100 hours of assembly, and we don’t doubt it. This is truly one of those labors of love which is unlikely to be duplicated, though all of the source files for both the hardware and software are available if you’re feeling brave enough.
The write-up contains a lot of fascinating detail about the design and construction of the Bixel, but perhaps the least surprising of all of them is that the final product ended up being very different from what they originally envisioned. The plan was to simply use lighted arcade buttons in a 16×16 grid, as they were purpose-built for exactly what the guys had in mind. But when they priced them out, the best they could do was $2 a pop. That’s $500 for just the buttons alone, before they even got into the enclosure or electronics. Like any good hackers, [Adam] and [Dan] decided to ditch the ready-made solution and come up with something of their own.
In the end, they cut the individual LEDs out of RGB strips, and soldered them down to their custom designed 500mmx500mm PCB. To the sides of each section of strip are two tactile switches, and above is a “sandwich” made of laser cut acrylic. The sheet closest to the LEDs has a 25mm hole, the top sheet has a 20mm hole, and between them is a circle of acrylic that acts as the “button”. Once it’s all screwed together, the button can’t fall out of the front or move from side to side, but it can be pushed down to contact the tactile switches.
To wire it all up they took a cue from the DIY keyboard scene and used a Teensy, some 595 shift registers, and 256 1N4148 diodes. A Raspberry Pi running their Python framework does the heavy computational lifting, leaving the Teensy to just handle talking to the hardware. Overall it’s a fantastic design to emulate if you’re looking to create large arrays of buttons on the cheap; such as whenever you get around to building that starship simulator.
Continue reading “Bixel, An Open Source 16×16 Interactive LED Array”
Resin casting lets you produce parts that would be otherwise impossible to make without a full CNC and injection molding set-up. It costs about as much as a 3d printer, 300 to 600 US dollars, to get a good set-up going. This is for raw material, resin, dye, pressure chamber, and an optional vacuum degassing set-up. A good resin casting set-up will let you produce parts which are stronger than injection molding, and with phenomenal accuracy, temperature resistance, and strength. I will be covering various techniques from the simple to advanced for using resin casting from a hacker’s perspective.
Continue reading “Learn Resin Casting Techniques: Duplicating Plastic Parts”
What a strange message to read on the digital dashboard display of your car. This is proof that [Kristoffer Smith] was able to control the ODB-II bus on his Eagle Grand Cherokee.
He’s not just doing this for the heck of it. It stems from his goal of adding an Android tablet on the dashboard which has been a popular hack as of late. This left [Kristoffer] with steering wheel controls that did nothing. They originally operated the radio, so he set out to make them control the tablet.
He had seen an Arduino used to control the CAN bus, but decided to go a different route. He grabbed a USB CAN bus interface for around $25. The first order of business was to use it with his computer to sniff the data available. From there he was able to decode the traffic and figure out the commands he needed to monitor. The last piece of the puzzle was to write his own Android code to watch for and react to the steering wheel buttons. You can check out the code at his repository and see the demo after the break.
Continue reading “ODB-II hacking using an Android tablet”
Here’s an LED and Button shield for the Stellaris Launchpad (translated) which you can fabricate at home. It gives you access to a 5×5 matrix of LEDs, and adds four more buttons. In order to cut down on the number of I/O pins required to operate the lights [Cosimo] is using the concept of Charlieplexing. This lets him get away with just six driver pins and four button pins.
It’s not just the finished product that interests us here. The fabrication itself is worth clicking through to his project post. What initially caught our eye is the use of Kapton tape as an insulator so that clipped off LEDs could be used as jumpers flat against the top side of the board before populating the LEDs themselves. After those are soldered in place he masks them off, as well as the button footprints, and uses spray paint to protect the top side of the board. The final look is more polished than most at-home project boards.
[Chris] has been going about his business, letting his interest guide him as it will. But always in the back of his mind is his Androcade project, and he’s spent the last year making improvements. It’s an arcade controller for playing games on an Android tablet. It connects to the device via Bluetooth, and includes a built-in stand.
His original version was featured here last year. It was made from wood (with a nice Android green finish) and included three buttons and a joystick. This time around he moved to some black laser-cut acrylic for the case, and has doubled up on the buttons. It also now enumerates as an HID Bluetooth device, whereas before it was pushing serial data over the BT connection.
He’s had enough interest from his friends to also create an iPad version all in white. It connects and works just the same as the Android flavor. Check out a bit of Donkey Kong gameplay after the break.
Continue reading “Update: Androcade 2.0”
[Aaron’s] arcade controller really makes us want to put in a button order. There aren’t any secrets hidden in his design or fabrication, but he did a remarkably clean job of putting it together.
The housing is a writing box he bought at the hardware store (but he also shows off an emtpy Xbox 360 case hosting the same control layout). It has a hinged cover which is perfect for getting at the components inside, and is also at a nice angle for your wrists during long gaming session.
An Xbox 360 controller provides the connectivity for the device. Obviously it will work with the Microsoft hardware, but all modern operating systems have methods available for interfacing with these controllers as well. In the video after the break you can see [Aaron] gut the controller, soldering wires to all of the button pads and connecting those to some terminal strips. This makes the wire organization inside quite clean. He uses crimp connectors to jumper the buttons and joy stick to the other side of the terminals. Add a nice paint job and you’ve got a controller that will look right at home in your living room.
Continue reading “Arcade controller will give you button envy”
We covered SparkFun’s new RGB button pad controller a few weeks ago. This is a full-color clone of the monome interface; a 4×4 grid of buttons with tri-color LEDs underneath. Each LED has 24bits of color control, for more than 16million color combinations. Up to 10 panels can be chained together to create huge button grids, like SparkFun’s Tetris table. We previously used a smaller version in our RGB combination lock.
We asked SparkFun to send us the SPI version of the button controller to test. This is a new product developed in-house at SparkFun, with open source hardware and software. Read about our experience interfacing this board below.
Continue reading “Parts: 4×4 RGB button pad controller SPI”