An ESP32 Clock With A Transforming LED Matrix

Over the years we’ve seen countless ways of displaying the current time, and judging by how many new clock projects that hit the tip line, it seems as though there’s no end in sight. Not that we’re complaining, of course. The latest entry into the pantheon of unusual timepieces is this ESP32-powered desk clock from [Alejandro Wurts] that features a folding LED matrix display.

The clock uses eight individual 8 x 8 LED arrays contained in a 3D printed enclosure that hinges in the middle. When opened up the clock has a usable resolution of 8 x 64, and when its folded onto itself the resolution becomes 16 x 32.

This variable physical resolution allows for alternate display modes. When the hardware detects that its been folded into the double-height arrangement, it goes into a so-called “Big Clock” mode that makes it easier to see the time from a distance. But while in single-height mode, there’s more horizontal real estate for adding the current temperature or other custom data. Eventually [Alejandro] wants to use MQTT to push messages to the display, but for now it just shows his name as a placeholder.

The key to the whole project is the hinged enclosure and the reed switch used to detect what position it’s currently in. Beyond that, there’s just an ESP32 an some clever code developed with the help of the MD_Parola library written for MAX7219 and MAX7221 LED matrix controllers. [Alejandro] has published the code for his clock, which should be helpful for anyone who’s suddenly decided that they also need a folding LED matrix in their life.

Now if the ESP32 LED matrix project you have in mind requires full color and high refresh rates, don’t worry, we’ve got a solution for that.
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Turn Failed Prints Into Office Fun With A Paper Airplane Maker

If you’re anything like us, you feel slightly guilty when you send a job to a printer only to find that twenty pages have printed wrong. Maybe it’s a typo, maybe it’s the dreaded landscape versus portrait issue. Whatever it is, trees died for your mistake, and there’s nothing you can do about it except to recycle the waste. But first, wipe that guilt away by using this one-stroke paper airplane maker to equip the whole office for an epic air battle.

We have to admit, automated paper handling has always fascinated us. The idea that a printer can reliably (sometimes) feed individual sheets of a stack is a testament to good design, and don’t even get us started about automatic paper folding. [Jerry de Vos]’ paper airplane maker doesn’t drive the sheets through the folder — that’s up to the user. But the laser-cut plywood jig does all the dirty work of creating a paper airplane. The sheet is clipped to an arm that pulls the paper through a series of ramps and slots that force the paper gently into the five folds needed for the classic paper dart. It’s fascinating to watch, and even though everyone seems to be using it very gingerly lest the paper tear, we can see how adding some rollers and motors from a scrapped printer could entirely automate the process. Think of the fun a ream of paper could provide around the office then.

Oh, wait…

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CNC Turns Empty Cans Into Action Figures

[apollocrowe] at Carbide 3D (a company that does desktop CNC machines) shared a project of his that spent years being not-quite-there, but recently got dusted off and carried past the finish line. His soda can robot action figures were originally made by gluing a paper design to aluminum from a soda can, but [apollocrowe] was never really able to cut the pieces as reliably or as accurately as he wanted and the idea got shelved. With a desktop CNC machine to take care of accurate cutting, the next issue was how to best hold down a thin piece of uneven metal during the process. His preferred solution is to stick the metal to an acrylic wasteboard with hot glue, zero high enough and cut deep enough to account for any unevenness, and afterwards release the hot glue bond with the help of some rubbing alcohol.

Assembly involves minor soldering and using a few spare resistors. A small spring (for example from a retractable pen) provides the legs with enough tension for the figure to stand by itself. The results look great, and are made entirely from a few cents worth of spare parts and recycled materials. A video of the process is embedded below, and the project page contains the design files.

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Ask Hackaday: What Can You Do With Origami?

At some point, most of us have learned a little of the ancient art of origami. It’s a fascinating art form, and being able to create a recognizable model by simply folding paper in the right order can be hugely satisfying. Most of us move on to other pursuits once we master the classic crane model, but the mathematics behind origami can lead some practitioners past the pure art to more practical structures, like this folding ballistic barrier for law enforcement use.

The fifty-pound Kevlar and aluminum structure comes from Brigham Young University’s College of Mechanical Engineering, specifically from the Compliant Mechanisms Research program. Compliant mechanisms move by bending or deflecting rather than joints between discrete parts, and this ballistic shield is a great example. The mechanism is based on the Yoshimura crease pattern, which can be quickly modeled with a piece of paper. Scaling that up to a full-sized structure, light enough to be fielded but strong enough to stop a .44 Magnum round, was no mean feat. But as the video below shows, the prototype has a lot of potential.

Now it’s your turn: what applications have you seen for compliant mechanisms? Potential applications range in scale from MEMS linkages for microinjecting cells to huge antennas that unfurl in orbit. We’ve featured a few origami-like structures before, like this self-assembling robot or a folding quadcopter, but neither of these really rates as compliant. This elegant parabolic satellite antenna is more like it, though. There are applications for designing origami and a mathematical basis for the field; has anyone tried using these tools to design compliant structures? Sound off in the comments below.

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Programmable Origami


Researchers at MIT have come up with this slick demo of, what they call,  programmable matter. This flat sheet covered in tiny foil actuators can be programmed to fold into specific shapes. Shown in the video above is a boat and an airplane.  Using the concepts set down by origami through the years, they can divide the sheet into triangles in specific arrangements to make certain shapes possible. This one is fairly simple, but judging by some of the insane origami we’ve seen around, this could get pretty cool.

[via slashdot]