Teardown: What’s Inside A Christmas Laser Projector?

In the world of big-box retail, December 26th is a very special day. The Christmas music playing on the overhead speakers switches back to the family friendly Top 40, the store’s decorations get tossed in the compactor, and everything that’s even remotely related to the holiday is put on steep clearance. No more money to be made on the most commercialized of all holidays, so back to business as usual.

It’s in this narrow corridor of time, between the Great Holiday Unloading and the new spring products coming in, that you can find some fantastic deals on Christmas decorations. Not that long ago, this would hardly be exciting news for the readers of Hackaday. But Christmas lights and decorations have really started pushing the envelope in terms of technology: addressable RGB LED strands, Bluetooth controlled effects, and as of the last couple years, friggin’ lasers.

That’s right, you’ve seen them all over the neighborhood, probably took a few stray beams to the eye, you might even own your own. Laser projectors have been one of the most popular Christmas decorations for the last couple of years, and it’s not hard to see why. Just set the projector up in front of your house, and you’re done. No need to get on a ladder and string lights on the roof when you can just blast some directed energy up there instead.

Given how popular they are, I was surprised to see a lone Home Accents Holiday Multi-Color Light Projector on the clearance rack at Home Depot for around $14 a few days after Christmas. This was a 75% price reduction from normal MSRP, and right in that sweet impulse-buy price range. Let’s see what’s hiding inside!

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Tis The Season For Terror With DIY Krampus

The holiday season is full of many sounds; walking through your neighborhood on a winter night you may hear time-honored songs, the tinkling of glasses, and the laughter of good company. But if the chilly wind also brings to your ear the panicked sounds of screaming children, you may have wandered a bit to close to [Tyler Garner]’s house.

Rather than old Saint Nick or a couple of reindeer, [Tyler] decided to top the roof of his home with a disturbingly well done rendition of everyone’s favorite��Austro-Bavarian goat-demon, Krampus. While he did finish the build off with a store-bought Krampus mask, every other component was made with about a 60/40 ratio of hardware to craft store scores. While your holiday decorations this year may not include any spawns of hell, the general construction techniques and resourcefulness [Tyler] shows in this build may come in handy when Halloween rolls around again.

The “skeleton” of Krampus is made up of PVC pipes and fittings mounted on an MDF base. Not only do the PVC fittings make it easy to recreate the rough anatomy of a humanoid figure, but if you don’t glue them all together, you can take it apart later for storage. We might have gone with something a little heartier than MDF for the base, but at least [Tyler] added a few pieces of galvanized pipe at the bottom to give it a little weight down low.

Things start to get interesting when [Tyler] adds sections of drainage pipe to his PVC skeleton to give it a more girth, as he was finding the bare PVC didn’t have a realistic presence when the robes were thrown over them. [Tyler] also uses expanding spray foam to soften up areas such as the hunched back, which may look messy but has the dual advantages of being cheap and fast.

The figure’s robes are made up of a patchwork of burlap, waterproofed with a spray on liner intended for pickup truck beds. With the application of red and black spray paint and the customary white fringe, it really nails the look.

A particularly nice detail is the hoof peeking out from beneath the robes, which [Tyler] made out of painted air-dry clay. It’s an awesome detail, though almost impossible to see once Krampus is mounted on the roof. Maybe it’s just us, but we think putting so much effort into a nearly hidden feature of a project is the true mark of a master craftsman; this is a secret little hoof that [Bob Ross] himself would be proud of.

While we can’t say we’ve played host to holiday scamps like Krampus or Belsnickle before, Hackaday has certainly seen its fair share of festive hacks over the years.

Massive Pixel Display Holiday Decoration

Decorating for the holidays is serious business! Finding themselves surrounded by neighbours who go big, redditor [wolfdoom] decided that this was the year to make a strong showing, and decided to build an oversized pixel LED display.

LED Pixel Holiday DisplayDemonstrating resourcefulness in their craft, [wolfdoom] found an old fluorescent light grid pattern to prevent bleed from one pixel to the next. Reusing this grid saves many hours of precision-cutting MDF — to be substituted with many hours of cutting the plastic with decidedly more room for error. Attaching the resulting grid to a sheet of plywood, and 576(!) drilled holes later, the LEDs were installed and laboriously wired together.

A Plastic light diffusing sheet to sell the pizel effect and a little help from their local maker space with the power circuit was enough to keep this project scrolling to completion — after the requisite period of basement-dwelling fabrication.

 

Despite some minor demotion attributed to a clumsy daughter, the massive 4×4 display remained a suitably festive decoration. For now the control system remains in [wolfdoom]’s basement, but with plans to incorporate it into the display’s frame down the road.

One of the more interesting LED matrix builds we saw this year is the one that uses 1575 beer bottles. For a more interactive holiday decorations, Halloween usually takes the cake — like this animated door knocker.

[via /r/DIY]

Christmas Bauble Is Neither Spherical Nor Runs Arduino

[Jordan Wills] was tasked by his company, Silicon Labs, to build some Christmas Baubles to give away to co-workers. While the commissioned units were designed to be simple battery and LED affairs, he decided to make one of his own with bells and whistles. His Mario themed Christmas Ornament uses a Silicon Labs FM972 micro controller, capacitive sensing, PWM controlled 8 bit audio, and blinky lights.

The interesting part is some of the construction techniques that he used. The finger-joint style cube is built from circuit boards. Electrical connections between panels were routed using solder wicking copper braid. That’s a interesting trick which we’ll keep in mind along with some of our favorite creative structural uses of PCB.

The top of the cube has four LED’s which light up the Mario “Question Mark” symbols on the four sides of the cube while the base contains all of the electronics. The outside of the base piece was a large copper plane to act as the capacitive sensing element. This meant all electronics needed to be surface mounted with tracks laid out on one side – which posed some layout challenges. Adding the Capacitive sense function was a cinch thanks to support from the in-house design team. PWM output from the micro controller takes care of audio, and the output is routed through a buffer to boost the signal. A bandpass filter then cleans up the PWM output before feeding it to the speaker.

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