Electronic Catan Game Board Is Modular

Plenty of gamers around these parts require an expensive PC to play games, often spending thousands of dollars for a gaming machine. Believe it or not, though, there are entire classes of games that don’t require any electronics at all, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t benefit from the addition of some neat gadgets. This Settlers of Catan game uses custom LCD tiles with a built-in custom mesh network.

The tiles for the game board themselves are hexagonal and snap together using magnetic pogo pins in order to form a board of any size or shape. The pogo pins also allow communication for a pseudo-mesh network to operate with each tile’s built-in PCB to allow the game board to know exactly which tiles are placed where and to display the correct image on each one. Each tile contains it own RP2040 microcontroller, keeping the overall cost of each tile to a minimum.

For those regularly hosting game night, a project like this could really change the traditionally analog game’s dynamic for the better. It was mostly a project that [Colin Iuliano] built just for fun, and if he ever builds a second one he does plan on some improvements, but we’d say that it looks like a success already. For other Catan-based electronic design inspiration, take a look at this complete and non-modular electronic game board.

Vacuum Forming With 3D Printer Filament

Even if they don’t have one themselves, we’d wager the average Hackaday reader is at least vaguely aware of how a vacuum former works on a fundamental level. You heat up a plastic sheet until it’s soft, then use a vacuum pump to pull the ductile material down onto an object and hold it there while it cools off. It’s easy to build a vacuum forming rig yourself, but small commercial units are cheap enough that it might not be worth your time. If everything goes to plan, the technique is a quick and effective way of duplicating items around the home and shop.

But we were recently tipped off to a variation of this classic technique that’s certainly worth further research. As demonstrated in a recent video, [Nathan Martinez] shows how 3D printed sheets can be used in place of the 5″ x 5″ squares of thermoplastic film that his imported vacuum former was designed to use. It’s easy enough to do: just model up a square with the appropriate 2D dimensions in your CAD package of choice, and extrude it to a height of about .5 mm.

A printed mesh pattern could be used to form custom shaped filters or strainers.

So what’s the advantage? Well for one thing, it’s cheaper. Though admittedly, not by much. Going rate on Amazon seems to be about 90 cents per sheet for the real stuff, and some back of the envelope math shows the printed version coming in at around 30 cents given nominal filament costs. Whether or not those savings are worth the extra effort is certainly debatable.

But that’s not really the most interesting part. With printed sheets loaded into the vacuum former, you’ve got access to a much wider array of materials to work with. For example, [Nathan] shows off some very interesting flexible pieces he was able to produce using sheets of TPU. You can also experiment with different surface textures. These can not only be used to give your vacuum formed pieces a bit of interesting visual flair, but could actually have some practical applications. In the video we see how a printed mesh could be formed over a piece to create a conformal air vent or filter.

To be sure, there’s some room for improvement here. Not all the pulls were successes, and [Nathan] says getting the printed sheets up to the proper temperature can be tricky. But when it works, it works quite well, and we think there could be some untapped potential in this unexpected melding of new and old methods of at-home plastic production.

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Add Mycelium To Your Mesh Networks

In many parts of the world, days after a good rainfall, it’s fairly common to see various species of mushrooms popping up out of the ground. These mysterious organisms aren’t the whole story, though. The living being is a vast network of hidden fibers, called mycelium, spreading through the ground and into any other organic material it can colonize. Its air of mystery and its vast reach are the inspiration for entire Star Trek shows and, of course, projects like this LoRa-based mesh network called Mycelium.

Mycelium is the invention of [Catamine] and includes many novel features compared to more typical mesh networks. For one, it is intended to be used in low power applications to give users the ability to send messages over a distributed network rather than a centralized network like a cell phone service provider. For another, the messages are able to be encrypted and authenticated, which is not currently possible with other mesh networks such as APRS. The idea is that a large network of people with nothing more complicated than an ESP32, an antenna, and this software would be able to communicate securely in situations where a centralized network is not available, whether that is from something like a natural disaster or from a governmental organization disabling the Internet during a political upheval.

The mesh network is currently in active development, and while messages can not yet be sent, the network is able to recognize nodes and maintain a keybase. There are certainly plenty of instances where something like this would be useful as we’ve seen before from other (non-encrypted) LoRa-based network solutions which are built around similar principles.

Thanks to [dearuserhron] for the tip!

An Anti-Tamper Mesh Plugin For KiCad

Physical access to electronics generally means all bets are off when it comes to information security. But in special cases this is just unacceptable and a better solution must be found. Consider the encryption keys used by point of sale machines. To protect them, the devices incorporate anti-tamper mechanisms that will wipe the keys from memory if the device is opened. One such technique is to use a mesh of traces on a circuit board that are monitored for any changes in resistance or capacitance. [Sebastian Götte] has been researching in this area and wrote a KiCad plugin to automatically generate tamper-detection mesh.

The idea is pretty simple, place traces very close to one another and it makes it impossible to drill into the case of a device without upsetting the apple cart. There are other uses as well, such as embedding them in adhesives that destroy the traces when pried apart. For [Sebastian’s] experiments he’s sticking with PCBs because of the ease of manufacture. His plugin lays down a footprint that has four pads to begin and end two loops in the mesh. The plugin looks for an outline to fence in the area, then uses a space filling curve to generate the path. This proof of concept works, but it sounds like there are some quirks that can crash KiCad. Consider taking a look at the code if you have the expertise to help make it more stable.

We’ve seen these anti-tamper meshes in practice in the VeriFone payment terminal that [Tom Nardi] tore down a couple of years ago. The approach that [Sabastian] took with the plugin actually produces a more complex mesh than was in use there as it only really used vertical lines for the traces.

Handheld 3D Scanning, Using Raspberry Pi 4 And Intel RealSense Camera

Raspberry Pi 4 (with USB 3.0) and Intel RealSense D415 depth sensing camera.

When the Raspberry Pi 4 came out, [Frank Zhao] saw the potential to make a realtime 3D scanner that was completely handheld and self-contained. The device has an Intel RealSense D415 depth-sensing camera as the main sensor, which uses two IR cameras and an RGB camera along with the Raspberry Pi 4. The Pi uses a piece of software called RTAB-Map — intended for robotic applications — to take care of using the data from the camera to map the environment in 3D and localize itself within that 3D space. Everything gets recorded in realtime.

This handheld device can act as a 3D scanner because the data gathered by RTAB-Map consists of a point cloud of an area as well as depth information. When combined with the origin of the sensing unit (i.e. the location of the camera within that area) it can export a point cloud into a mesh and even apply a texture derived from the camera footage. An example is shown below the break.
Continue reading “Handheld 3D Scanning, Using Raspberry Pi 4 And Intel RealSense Camera”

3D Printed Fan Filter Takes Cues From Costume Scene

This custom fan filter created by [Kolomanschell] is a clever application of a technique used to create wearable 3D printed “fabrics”, which consist of printed objects embedded into a fine mesh like a nylon weave. The procedure itself is unchanged, but in this case it’s done not to embed 3D printed objects into a mesh, but to embed a mesh into a 3D printed object.

The basic idea is that a 3D print is started, then paused after a few layers. A fine fabric mesh (like tulle, commonly used for bridal veils) is then stretched taut across the print bed, and printing is resumed. If all goes well, the result is 3D printed elements embedded into a flexible, wearable sheet.

The beauty of this technique is that the 3D printer doesn’t need to be told a thing, because other than a pause and resume, the 3D print is nothing out of the ordinary. You don’t need to be shy about turning up the speed or layer height settings either, making this a relatively quick print. Cheap and accessible, this technique has gotten some traction in the costume and cosplay scene.

As [Kolomanschell] shows, the concept works great for creating bespoke filters, and the final result looks very professional. Don’t let the lack of a 3D model for your particular fan stop you from trying it for yourself, we’ve already shared a great resource for customizable fan covers. So if you’ve got a 3D printer and a bit of tulle, you have everything you need for a quick afternoon project.

Friday Hack Chat: Making Modular Hardware

The future of wireless is decentralized. Mesh-type networks are slowly making their way into the WiFi standard, and soon enough we’ll be dealing with decentralized phones. That’s wireless, but what about electronics? For most embedded work, we’re dealing with masters and slaves, but what if we didn’t have to deal with that? This is the challenge of modular electronics, and this week’s Hack Chat is going to be talking all about that.

Our guest for this week’s Hack Chat is [Asaad Kaadan], an electronics engineer from Seattle. [Asaad] holds a Masters and PhD in Electrical Engineering from the University of Oklahoma. For his day job, he builds high-end camera controllers for Freefly Systems. By night, he designs Hexabitz electronics prototyping modules. What are Hexabitz? That’s where this is about to get interesting.

Hexabitz are, as you would expect, tiny little hexagons packed with electronics. Every hexagon has a microcontroller on board, and these hexagons connect together through solder pad connectors along the edges of the board. Before you ask, yes, there are pentagonal Hexabitz, so yeah, you can do that.

During this Hack Chat, we’re going to be talking all about modular electronics and [Assad]’s Hexabits. We’re going to be covering questions like:

  • How to design connectors for testing boards
  • What the protocol for mesh electronics looks like
  • How to use modular electronics together in a system

You are, of course, encouraged to add your own questions to the discussion. You can do that by leaving a comment on the Hack Chat Event Page and we’ll put that in the queue for the Hack Chat discussion.join-hack-chat

Our Hack Chats are live community events on the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week is just like any other, and we’ll be gathering ’round our video terminals at noon, Pacific, on Friday, July 27th.  Need a countdown timer? Yes you do.

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io.

You don’t have to wait until Friday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.