Advent Calendar – ‘Tis the CNSeason

CNC machines are powerful tools when used correctly, but it’s often necessary to test a new machine before getting into serious production work. This advent calendar is a great festive project that was designed to put a CNC through its paces.

The calendar is made primarily from wood. This is an excellent choice for test machining projects, as it is softer and less likely to cause tool or machine damage when compared to steel or aluminum. The calendar base was first milled out using end mills, while a 30-degree V-bit was used to engrave the days of the week. Brass brazing rod was then used to create hangers for the calendar tags.

Thanks to the clever use of chalkboard paint and removable tags, the calendar can be reconfigured to work for any given year and month combination — just in case you wish to have an advent calendar year round. Overall, it’s a good low-intensity machining project that would also be a fun craft project for kids.

As it’s that time of year, you might like this blinky advent calendar, too. Video after the break.

[Thanks to Michael for the tip!]

Continue reading “Advent Calendar – ‘Tis the CNSeason”

A Christmas Tree for your Lab

It seems like holiday decorations come up earlier and earlier every year. You might not have room for a full-blown tree in your lab, but if you have an arbitrary waveform generator and a scope, Tektronix has a way for you to show your spirit electronically.

You can see the video below. Naturally, it features Tektronix gear, but we are pretty sure you could make it work with any arbitrary waveform generator that has at least two channels and a scope with an XY mode.

Continue reading “A Christmas Tree for your Lab”

Giving Stranger Things For Christmas

[rudolph] was at a loss on what to get his niece for Christmas. It turns out she’s a huge fan of Stranger Things, so the answer was obvious: make her an alphabet wall she can control!

Downsizing the scale to fit inside a document frame, [rudolph] calls their gift rudLights, and a key parameter of this build was to make it able to display any phrases sent from their niece’s Amazon Fire tablet instead of constantly displaying hard-coded phrases. To do so, it has a HC-05 Bluetooth module to forward the commands to the NeoPixel LEDs running on a 5V DC power supply.

[rudolph] enlisted the help of their son to draw up the alphabet display — printed straight onto thematically decorative wallpaper — and cut out holes in the light bulbs for the LEDs.  Next up was cut some fibre board as a firm backing to mount the electronics inside the frame and drill holes for the NeoPixels. It was a small odyssey to cut and solder all the wires to the LEDs, but once done, [rudolph] divided their rudLight alphabet into three rows and added capacitors to receive power directly.

Continue reading “Giving Stranger Things For Christmas”

An IoT Christmas Tree For Your Hacker-Mas Celebrations

Smart Christmas trees may soon come to mean something more than a fashionably decorated tree. Forging ahead with this new definition, [Ayan Pahwa], with help from [Akshay Kumar], [Anshul Katta], and [Abhishek Maurya] turned their office’s Christmas Tree into an IoT device you can watch live!

As an IoT device, the tree relies on the ever-popular ESP8266 NodeMCU — activated and controlled by Alexa, as well as from a web page. The LEDs for the tree — and the offline-only tree-topper controlled by an Arduino Pro Mini — are the similarly popular Neopixels.

For those viewing online, a Raspberry Pi and camera have been attached to this project to check out the tree’s lighting. To make that possible, [Pahwa] had to enlist the use of ngrok to make the Pi’s –normally — LAN-only camera server accessible over the internet. The aforementioned web page was coded in Javascript/CSS and hosted on a server running an instance of Ubuntu 16.04.

Continue reading “An IoT Christmas Tree For Your Hacker-Mas Celebrations”

A Clear Christmas Tree Means More Lights!

For all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, people still find ways to make time for their passions. In the lead up to Christmas, [Edwin Mol] and a few co-workers built themselves an LED Christmas tree that adds a maker’s touch to any festive decor.

Before going too far, they cut out a cardboard mock-up of the tree. This an easy step to skip, but it can save headaches later! Once happy with the prototype, they printed off the design stencils and cut the chunks of clear acrylic using power tools — you don’t need a laser cutter to produce good stuff — and drilled dozens of holes in the plastic to mount LEDs, and run wires.

A Raspberry Pi 3 and Arduino Uno make this in league with some pretty smart Christmas trees. MAX6968 5.5V constant-current LED driver chips and MOFSETs round out the control circuit. During the build, the central LED column provided a significant challenge — how often do you build a custom jig to solder LEDs? That done, it’s time for a good ol’-fashioned assembly montage! The final product can cycle through several different lighting animations in a rainbow of colours — perfect for a festive build. Continue reading “A Clear Christmas Tree Means More Lights!”

Bringing A Christmas Lights Show Inside

Instructables user [Osprey22] has been building towards this Christmas for years. Why? This year, he has brought an impressive musical Christmas light display inside, and at a fraction of the cost too!

An box at the tree’s base hides the power supply and the controller boards — a Raspberry Pi and a SanDevices e682 Pixel controller for the 400 WS2811 RGB LEDs — with an added router to connect them to the main network. The Pi is running Falcon Pi Player and a projector somewhere in the region of $100 complements the light show.

As far as mapping out the LEDs, Xlights is the program of choice, locating the LEDs in space with the help of a cell phone video recording. [Osprey22] had to write a quick program in C to fix the LED overlaps in the grid. (A spreadsheet would work just as well, here). Oh, and the gifts at the bottom of the tree double as a projector screen!

Continue reading “Bringing A Christmas Lights Show Inside”

Make Christmas Commercial Again with this Tiny TV Ornament

Readers of a certain age will remember a time when the Christmas season in the US officially kicked off after Thanksgiving. That was when advertisers began saturation bombing the communal mind with holiday-themed TV commercials night and day. Broadcast TV no longer holds sway like it did back then, and advertisers now start their onslaught in September, but you can put a little retro-commercialism back to Christmas with this 90s Christmas commercial-playing ornament for your tree.

The idea came to [SeanHodgins] after stumbling upon a collection of Christmas commercials from the 1990s on YouTube. With his content identified, he set about building a tree-worthy display from a Pi Zero W and a TFT LCD display. An audio amp and tiny speaker from an old tablet and a LiPo battery and charger form the guts of [Sean]’s TV, which were stuffed into a 3D-printed TV case, appropriately modeled after the TV from The Simpsons. The small fresnel lens that mimics the curved screens of yore is a nice touch. The software has some neat tricks, such as an HTTP server that accepts the slug of a YouTube video, fetches the MP4, and automatically plays it. We prefer our Christmas tree ornaments a little quieter, so a volume control would have been nice, but aside from that this looks like a ton of fun.

This isn’t [Sean]’s first foray into tricked-out ornaments, of course; readers might recall his IoT cheer-measuring Christmas ornaments from last season.

Continue reading “Make Christmas Commercial Again with this Tiny TV Ornament”