Ikea have been known for years as a purveyor of inexpensive yet stylish homewares, but it’s fair to say that sometimes their affordability is reflected in their insubstantial construction. Such is the case with the Sjöpenna lamp, whose construction relies on rubber bands. On [Tony]’s lamp these bands degraded with age, causing it to fall apart. The solution? A set of cleverly-designed laser-cut clips to replace them.
The challenge to replacing a stretchy material with a rigid one is that it must have enough ability to bend without snapping as it is put in place. For this he selected PETG, with 0.04″ (about 1 mm thick) hitting the sweet spot. His photos demonstrate with some green tape added for visibility, how the clip bends backwards just far enough to fit over where the rubber band once located, and then flips back neatly to hold it all in place.
If you have a collapsing Ikea lamp then this will be just what you need, but this hack goes further than that. A frequent requirement for repairs is some kind of clip, because clips are always the first to break, This technique for laser cutting them is a handy one to remember, next time your design needs a springy bit of plastic.
[Joshua Coleman] likes to design his own computers. Sometimes, that means drawing up bus architectures, memory maps and I/O port pinouts. Other times, he can focus his efforts more on the general aesthetics, as well as on building a great set of peripherals, as he shows in his latest ColemanZ80 project. Thanks to the RC2014 architecture defining most of the essential features of a classic Z80 computing platform, [Joshua] was able to design a modern retrocomputer that’s not only genuinely useful, but also looks as if it came off a production line yesterday.
The external design is a sight to behold: bright red laser-cut acrylic pieces form a neat, semi-transparent case with ventilation slots on the sides and lots of blinkenlights on the front. Inspired by 1970s classics like the Altair 8800, the front panel gives the user a direct view of the machine’s internal state and allows simple command inputs through a series of tumbler switches. The CPU, RAM and other basic devices are housed in one case, with all the expansion modules in a second one, linked to the mainboard through a 40-wire flatcable.
Although the mainboard closely follows the RC2014 design, [Joshua] went through a lot of effort to tune the system to his specific needs. The expansion boards he built include an NS16550 UART to replace the default 68B50, a battery-backed real-time clock, a YM2149-based sound card and even a speech synthesizer module built around the classic SP0256 chip, of Speak & Spell fame. An even more unusual feature is the presence of an AM9511, one of the earliest math coprocessors ever made, to speed up floating-point calculations. All of these modules were built entirely by hand on prototype boards: we can barely imagine how much time this must have taken.
Output devices include a VGA adapter courtesy of a Raspberry Pi Pico as well as a regular 4-digit 7-segment LED display and a set of classic HP “bubble” LEDs. [Joshua] runs several demos in his video (embedded below), ranging from computing the Mandelbrot set to playing chiptunes on the YM2149. There’s plenty of scope for further expansion, too: [Joshua] plans to build more peripherals including a floppy drive interface and a module to operate a robotic car.
Visual cryptography is one of those unusual cases that kind of looks like a good idea, but it turns out is fraught with problems. The idea is straightforward enough — an image to encrypt is sampled and a series of sub-pixel patterns are produced which are distributed to multiple separate images. When individual images are printed to transparent film, and all films in the set are brought into alignment, an image appears out of the randomness. Without at least a minimum number of such images, the original image cannot be resolved. Well, sort of. [anfractuosity] wanted to play with the concept of visual cryptography in a slightly different medium, that of a set of metal plates, shaped as a set of keyrings.
Metal blanks were laser cut, with the image being formed by transmitted light through coincident holes in both plate pairs, when correctly aligned. What, we hear you ask, is the problem with this cryptography technique? Well, one issue is that of faking messages. It is possible for a malicious third party, given either one of the keys in a pair, to construct a matching key composing an entirely different message, and then substitute this for the second key, duping both original parties. Obviously this would need both parties to be physically compromised, but neither would necessarily notice the substitution, if neither party knew the originally encrypted message. For those interested in digging in a little deeper, do checkout this classic paper by Naor and Shamir [pdf] of the Wiezmann Institute. Still, despite the issues, for a visual hack it’s still a pretty fun technique!
The finished lamp shade is spherical, but is made entirely from flat-packed pieces of laser-cut wood that have been specifically designed to minimize distortion when assembled into a curved shape. The pieces themselves are reminiscent of puzzle cells; complex, interlocking cellular shapes found in many plants.
As usual, [Nervous System] applied a hefty dose of math and computational design to arrive at a solution. Each unique panel of the lamp is the result of a process that in part implements a technique called variation surface cutting for the shape of the pieces. They also provide a couple of nifty animations that illustrate generating both the piece boundaries as well as the hole patterns in each of the 18 unique pieces that make up each lamp.
As for making the pieces themselves, they are laser-cut from wood veneer, and assembly by the end user takes an hour or two. Watch a video overview, embedded just below under the page break.
We’re glad [Nervous System] takes the time to share details like this, just like the time they figured out the very best type of wood for laser-cutting their unique puzzles and didn’t keep it to themselves.
Who are you? No, who are you really? You’re an amalgamation of influences from your family, your friends, the media, and the parasocial relationships you have with fictional characters. It’s okay; we all are. It can’t be helped that there’s a lot of it about.
In this case, the light comes from a hacked camping headlamp that was past its prime. [Kim] laser-cut the letters from acrylic and submerged them in water, which can be manipulated to enhance the effect and mimic the turmoil of life. For added effect, [Kim] held prisms in the light’s path to refract it and cause the patterns to dance. Be sure to check it out after the break, and don’t forget to turn on the sound so you can hear [Kim]’s original composition.
Inside a modern laptop there is surprisingly little in the way of parts, now that removable media drives are largely a thing of the past and once the battery has been removed from the equation. When the keyboard and trackpad are subtracted and replaced with USB equivalents the inner workings are reduced to a relatively compact motherboard and hard drive alongside the screen.
The screen is encased in a lasercut frame that also mounts the motherboard. It includes a lasercut cover that folds over the top in a living hinge to create an A-frame case that also holds the power supply. As an extra bonus the centre of the A provides handy storage for a keyboard.
[Jesse]’s modification doesn’t affect the laser beam itself; it is an improvement on the air assist, which is the name for a constant stream of air that blows away smoke and debris as the laser burns and vaporizes material. An efficient air assist is one of the keys to getting nice clean laser cuts, but [Jesse] points out that a good quality air assist isn’t just about how hard the air blows, it’s also about how smoothly it does so. A turbulent air assist can make scorch marks worse, not better.
As an experiment to improve the quality of the air flowing out the laser nozzle, [Jesse] researched ways to avoid turbulence by creating laminar flow. Laminar flow is the quality of a liquid having layers flowing past one another with little or no mixing. One way to do this is to force liquid through individual, parallel channels as it progresses towards a sharply-defined exit nozzle. While [Jesse] found no reference designs of laminar flow nozzles for air assists, there were definitely resources on making laminar flow nozzles for water. It turns out that interest in such a nozzle exists mainly as a means of modifying Lonnie Johnson’s brilliant invention, the Super Soaker.
Working from such a design, [Jesse] created a custom nozzle to help promote laminar flow. Sadly, a laser cutter head carries design constraints that make some compromises unavoidable; one is limited space, and another is the need to keep the laser’s path unobstructed. Still, after 3D printing it in rigid heat-resistant resin, [Jesse] found a dramatic improvement in the feel of the air exiting the nozzle. Some test cuts confirmed a difference in performance, which results in a noticeably cleaner kerf without scorching around the edges.
One of the things [Nervous System] does is make their own custom puzzles, so any improvement to laser cutting helps reliability and quality. When production is involved, just about everything matters; a lesson [Nervous System] shared when they discussed making the best plywood for creating their puzzles.