Matrix Of Resistors Forms The Hot Hands Behind This Thermochromic Analog Clock

If you’re going to ditch work, you might as well go big. A 1,024-pixel thermochromic analog clock is probably on the high side of what most people would try, but apparently [Daniel Valuch] really didn’t want to go to work that day.

The idea here is simple: heat up a resistor by putting some current through it, lay a bit of thermochromic film over it, and you’ve got one pixel. The next part was not so simple: expanding that single pixel to a 32 by 32 matrix.

To make each pixel square-ish, [Daniel] chose to pair up the 220-ohm SMD resistors for a whopping 2,048 components. Adding to the complexity was the choice to drive them with a 1,024-bit shift register made from discrete 74LVC1G175 flip flops. With the Arduino Nano and all the other support components, that’s over 3,000 devices with the potential to draw 50 amps, were someone to be foolish or unlucky enough to turn on every pixel at once. Luckily, [Daniel] chose to emulate an analog clock here; that led to additional problems, like dealing with cool-down lag in the thermochromic film when animating the hands, which had to be dealt with in software.

We’ve seen other thermochromic displays before, including recently with this temperature and humidity display. This one may not be the highest resolution display out there, but it’s big and bold and slightly dangerous, and that makes it a win in our book.

Reverse Engineering A Saab’s In-Dash Display

For [Leigh Oliver], there’s something undeniably appealing about the green on black instrumentation of the 2003 Saab 9-3 Gen2. Perhaps it’s because the Infotainment Control Module 2 (ICM2) screen brings a bit of that classic Matrix vibe to the daily commute. Whatever the reason, it seemed the display deserved better than to be stuck showing the nearly 20 year old stock user interface. Luckily, you can control it via I2C.

Though as you might expect, that fact wasn’t obvious at first. [Leigh] had to start by taking the ICM2 apart and reverse engineering the display board. With a multimeter and high resolution photographs of both sides of the PCB, all of the traces were mapped out and recreated in KiCAD. This might not have been strictly necessary, but it did serve as good practice for using KiCAD; a worthwhile tip for anyone else looking to build practical experience creating schematics.

With everything mapped out, [Leigh] was able to connect a BusPirate V3 up to the board and pretty quickly determine it was using I2C to control the display. As far as figuring out how to repurpose existing displays goes, this was perhaps the best possible scenario. It even allowed for creating a display library based on Adafruit_GFX which offers graphical capabilities far beyond what the ICM2 module itself is capable of.

Even with so much progress made, this project is really just getting started. [Leigh] has managed to put some impressive imagery on the black and green Saab display, but the hardware side of things is still being worked on. For example, there’s some hope that an I2C multiplexer would allow the display to easily and quickly be switched between “stock” mode and whatever enhanced version comes about thanks to the new libraries and an ESP8266 hiding behind the dashboard.

If you don’t have a sufficiently vintage Saab to take advantage of this project, don’t worry. Tapping into the OBD port with an OLED display can get you similar results on a wide range of vehicles.

Bus Sniffing Leads To New Display For Vintage Casio

Despite his best efforts to repair the LCD on his Casio FX-702P, it soon became clear to [Andrew Menadue] that it was a dead-end. Rather than toss this relatively valuable device in the trash, he wondered if would be possible to replace the LCD with a more modern display. Knowing that reverse engineering the LCD panel itself would be quite a challenge, he decided instead to focus his efforts on decoding the communications between the calculator’s processor and display controller.

With his logic analyzer connected to the Casio’s four bit bus [Andrew] was able to capture a sequence of bytes during startup that looked promising, although it didn’t quite make sense at first. He had to reverse the order of each nibble, pair them back up into bytes, and then consult the FX-702P’s character map as the device doesn’t use ASCII. This allowed him to decode the message “READY”, and proved the concept was viable.

Of course a calculator with a logic analyzer permanently attached to it isn’t exactly ideal, so he started work on something a bit more compact. Armed with plenty of display controller data dumps, [Andrew] wrote some code for a STM32 “Blue Pill” ARM Cortex M3 microcontroller that would sniff and decode the data in near real-time. In the video after the break you can see there’s a slight delay between when he pushes a button and when the corresponding character comes up on the LCD below, but it’s certainly usable.

Unfortunately, the hardware he’s created for this hack is just slightly too large to fit inside the calculator proper. The new LCD is also nowhere near the size and shape that would be required to replace the original one. But none of that really matters. While [Andrew] says he could certainly make the electronics smaller, the goal was never to restore the calculator to like-new condition. Sometimes it’s more about the journey than the destination.

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DIY Monochrome LCD Hack Doesn’t Go As Planned

Manufacturers of low-cost 3D printers that use the masked stereolithography (MSLA) process are able to build their machines so cheaply because they’re using repurposed smartphone or tablet LCD panels to mask off the UV backlight. Considering the quality you get out of even the entry-level MSLA resin printers, we certainly aren’t complaining about this bit of thrift. But as [Jan Mr├ízek] explains in a recent blog post, there’s certainly room for improvement.

The problem is that those repurposed LCD panels are, as you’d expect, color displays. After all, even the bottom of the barrel mobile devices moved away from monochrome displays decades ago. But in this case, that’s not what you really want. Since the printer operates on a single wavelength of light, the color filters inside the LCD are actually absorbing light that could otherwise be curing the resin. So an MSLA printer with a monochrome screen would use less energy and print faster. There’s only one problem: it’s not very easy to find high-resolution monochrome displays in the year 2020.

So [Jan] decided to see if he could take a replacement screen intended for his Elegoo Mars MSLA printer and convert it from color to monochrome by disassembling it and manually removing the color filters. If this sounds a bit crazy, that’s because it is. Turns out taking apart an LCD, modifying its internal layout, and putting it all back together in working order is just as difficult as you’d think.

But it was still worth a try. [Jan] pulls the display apart, removes the liquid crystals, scrapes off the color filters, and then puts it all back together again. His first attempt got him a monochrome display that actually worked, but with debris trapped inside the screen, the image was too poor to be useful. He tried again, this time trying harder to keep foreign material out of the crystals. But when he got it back together a second time, he found it no longer functioned. He thinks it’s possible that his attempt to clean up the inside of the display was too aggressive, but really there are so many things that could go wrong here it’s hard to pin down just one.

Long story short, manually creating monochrome displays for low-cost MSLA printers might not be a viable option. Until a better solution comes along, you might be interested in seeing some slightly less invasive ways of improving your resin print quality.

Transparent LCD Makes Everything Look Futuristic

According to [Kelsey], transparent displays are guaranteed to make “everything feel like the future.” Unfortunately they’re hard to find, and the ones typically available are OLED and can’t make solid black colors. But as luck would have it, it’s possible to repurpose a common LCD to be sort of transparent.

A LCD uses nematic crystals that can polarize light, with the amount of polarization changing based on the electric field applied to the crystal. Light enters the front of the panel through a polarizing film, passes through the display, and then bounces off a reflective back coating. The display itself usually polarizes light in a way that matches the front polarizer. That means if you do nothing you get reflected light. However, if a part of the LCD gets an electric field, it will repolarize in such a way as to block the reflected light making the display look black in that area.

[Kelsey’s] trick is to peel off the reflector and replace it with polarizing film taken from another display. The new polarizer needs to be bigger than the display for one reason: you need to match the polarizing angle of the front film with the new back film. That means if the new film is exactly the right size, it won’t be able to rotate without leaving gaps. By starting with a larger piece, you’ll be able to rotate for maximum transparency before you stick it on.

We’ve seen some homemade transparent numeric displays. The transparent wood, though, has usually left something to be desired.

Improving Exposure On A Masked SLA Printer

It’s taken longer than some might have thought, but we’re finally at the point where you can pick up an SLA 3D printer for a few hundred bucks. These machines, which use light to cure a resin, are capable of far higher resolution than their more common FDM counterparts, though they do bring along their own unique issues and annoyances. Especially on the lower end of the price spectrum.

[FlorianH] recently picked up the $380 SparkMaker FHD, and while he’s happy with the printer overall, he’s identified a rather annoying design flaw. It seems that the upgraded UV backlight in the FHD version of the SparkMaker produces somewhat irregular light, which in turn manifests itself as artifacts on the final print. Due to hot spots on the panel, large objects printed on the SparkMaker show fairly obvious scarring.

Now you might expect the fix for this problem to be in the hardware, but he’s taken it in a different direction. These printers use an LCD panel to block off areas of the UV backlight, thereby controlling how much of the resin is exposed. This is technique is officially known as “masked SLA”, and is the technology used in most of these new entry level resin printers.

As luck would have it, the SparkMaker FHD allows showing various levels of grayscale on the LCD rather than a simple binary value for each pixel. At least in theory, this allows [FlorianH] to compensate for the irregular backlight by adjusting how much the UV is attenuated by the LCD panel. He’s focusing on the printer he personally owns, but the idea should work on any masked SLA printer that accepts grayscale values.

The first step was to map the backlight, which [FlorianH] did by soaking thin pieces of paper in a UV reactant chemical, and draping them over the backlight. He then photographed the illumination pattern, and came up with some OpenCV code that takes this images and uses the light intensity data to compensate for the local UV brightness underneath the sliced model.

So far, this method has allowed [FlorianH] to noticeably reduce the scarring, but he thinks it’s still possible to do better. He’s released the code for this backlight compensation script, and welcomes anyone who might wish to take a look at see how it could be improved.

An uneven backlight is just one of the potential new headaches these low-cost “masked” SLA printers give you. While they’re certainly very compelling, you should understand what you’re getting into before you pull the trigger on one.

LCD Panel Lamp Shade Makes For Eye-Catching Lighting

At first sight, [Kyle]’s Elroy lamp is simply an attractive piece of modern-styled interior furnishing; its clean lines, wood grain, and contemporary patterning being an asset to the room. But when he pulls out his phone, things change. Because this lamp hides a secret: at its heart may be a standard LED bulb, but the shade conceals four LCD screens driven by an Nvidia Jetson. These can be controlled through a web app to display a variety of textures, completing the effect.

This is not however simply a set of laptop screens bolted to a lampshade. The screens started life in laptops sure enough, but have since had their reflective backing removed to create a transparent LCD panel. Then an appropriate diffuser had to be found, which after much experimentation became a composite including more than one textured paper. Finally the whole was enclosed in an attractive wooden lamp frame and became part of the furniture. We like it, both as an aesthetically pleasing lamp and as a genuine departure from the norm.

This isn’t the first eye-catching lampshade we’ve brought you, but it’s certainly raised the bar. You can see it in action in the video below the break.

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