Rather than work with an original NES, [kevtris] chose to instead work with the NT Mini, an FPGA-based clone of his own design. Having picked up an EL640.480-AA1 screen, formerly from a DEK 265LT pick-and-place machine, he hunted down a data sheet and got to work. With the document outlining the required video input specifications, it was a simple matter of whipping up some Verilog and an adapter cable to get things working.
Mario, Kirby and friends can now run around, looking resplendent in the 9 colors of the red/green EL display. [kevtris] notes that the screen performs well with fast motion, and estimates the refresh rate to be in the vicinity of 60Hz. For those of you playing along at home, such screens are available online, though they’re not exactly cheap.
The effect is achieved with specially designed jacket patches. Nylon fabric is lasercut with artwork or lettering, and then placed over an electroluminescent panel. The fabric acts as a mask and is glued onto the EL panel, and the assembly is then attached to the back of the jacket with velcro.
It’s a build that focuses on more than just a cool visual effect. The attention to detail pays off in robustness and usability – wires are neatly fed through the lining of the jacket, and special strain relief devices are used to avoid wires breaking off the EL panels. The extra effort means this is a jacket that can withstand real-world use, rather than falling apart in the middle of a posed photo shoot.
Everything is well documented, from artwork creation to final assembly, so there’s no reason you can’t replicate this at home – and the final results are stunning. Our take is that electroluminescent technology is the way to go for retro and cyberpunk looks, but LEDs can be fun too – like in this high-powered Burning Man build.
Elecrolumiscent displays have seen a huge swing in popularity recently, but only in limited forms like EL wire or flat EL panels. You can, of course, cut and bend these wires and panels to suit any purpose, but custom shaped EL displays are just the bee’s knees. They’re not hard to fabricate, either: with cheap custom PCBs, all it takes to make custom EL panels is just a few chemicals.
[Nick]’s method of fabricating custom EL displays uses an exposed copper layer on a PCB you’d pick up from OSHpark or any of the random board houses in China. The process consists of designing a display – be it a few letters, pixels, or a seven-segment arrangement. The display ‘stack’ is a layer of painted-on dialectric, a phospor, and finally a translucent conductive ink that connects the display segments to ground. It looks like an extremely easy process, and from the pictures it looks like [Nick] is making some EL displays of reasonable quality.
[Nick]’s work was inspired by the grand poobah of homebrew electrolumiscent displays, [Jeri Ellsworth], who managed to make a similar EL pixel on a PCB. [Nick]’s display looks great, though, and with a little work some custom segment displays should be very possible.
As you can see from the picture above, the wife opted for LEDs while the husband preferred Electro Luminescent (EL) wires/panels. The ATtiny based platform LilyTiny was picked to control all the LEDs, and charlieplexing was implemented as only 4 IO pins were available. Animations were made using Vixen and exported via a python script.
To power the EL wires, [Bill] hacked a Sparkfun EL battery pack/inverter. He removed the shell and took out the inverter part, reverse engineered the design enough to figure out how to bypass the onboard microcontroller that generated the on/off/blink function. Finally, he 3D printed enclosures to pack the electronics with one Li-Ion battery pack. A boost regulator was used to supply the 12v required by the EL panel power supply.
Way back in March [Ch00f] took on a for-hire project to make a suit that lights up to the music. He decided to build something based around a pulsating EL panel. He’s put a lot of time and tried of a few different techniques, but he finally has a working EL panel dimmer.
This is a saga we’ve kept our eye on. The fall seems to have been good to him, after a failure using TRIACS he managed to adjust the brightness of some EL wire by messing with the current going to the driver’s oscillator. Standing on the shoulders of that success he designed the board seen above by getting serious about audio signal processing. There’s a microphone on the board which picks up sound which is then processed into a signal responsible for the brightness of the EL panel.
There’s a demo video after the break, but you’ll want to dig into his article to get all the gritty details.
[Ch00f] finally made a breakthrough with his efforts dimming EL wire. He’s been at it for months and the last we heard his TRIAC idea had sputtered out. Not to be discouraged and with an determination we have to admire he has been hard at work reverse engineering others’ and developing his own methods. He put all of this knowledge to task helping a friend of his with a sleeping disorder, and made a dream-catcher that pulses at the approximate rate of an average person’s breathing (as determined by Apple for their pulsing power button lights).
Essentially the whole thing boils down to simply using a transistor to limit the current to the oscillator. A 555 timer is used to pass a triangle wave to the current limiting transistor at approximately the same rate as the Apple button (1/5 Hz). [Ch00f] notes that this isn’t the sinusoidal wave that apple uses, but it’s good enough. Finally a timeout power off is built in to the night light using a decade counter to monitor the number of triangles from the 555. This should keep the EL wire from wearing down faster, though we are hard pressed to think of a project we used EL on that has lasted anywhere near the 7 year service life of the wire.
Check out [Ch00f]’s page as he walks us through the process, or just watch his circuit in action after the jump!