It’s pretty amazing how quickly light-emitting diodes went from physics lab curiosity to a mainstream commodity product made in the millions, if not billions. Everything about LEDs has gotten better, smaller, and cheaper over the years, going from an “any color you want as long as it’s red” phase to all the colors of the rainbow and beyond in a relatively short time. LEDs have worked their way into applications that just didn’t seem likely not that long ago, like architectural lighting, automotive applications, and even immense displays covering billboards, buildings, and sporting venues with multicolor, high-resolution displays.
It’s that latter application that seems to have provided a boon to electronics hobbyists, in the form of cheap and plentiful LED matrix modules. These are easily sourced at the usual places, and with their tightly packed pinpoints that can show any color at any intensity, they have a ton of fun and useful applications for the hacker. But how exactly do you put them to use? Usually the electronics end is pretty straightforward, but some of the math involved in figuring out how to address all these LEDs can be a little mind-bending.
To help us sort all this out, Garrett Mace will drop by the Hack Chat. You’ve probably seen Garrett’s cool LED matrix shades, which have gone through a ton of revisions and are a much-copied fashion accessory among the cool hackers. They look simple, but there are tricks to making them work right, and Garrett will share his secrets. Come with your questions on putting LED matrix modules to work, especially those odd-size modules and strange arrangements that defy simple Cartesian coordinates.
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 Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.
If playing with but a single laser pointer is fun, then playing with 500 laser pointers must be 500 times the fun, right? So by extension, training 500 laser pointers on a single point must be the pinnacle of pointless mirth. And indeed it is.
When we first spotted this project, we thought for sure it was yet another case of lockdown-induced boredom producing an over-the-top build. Mind you, we have no problem with that, but in this case, [nanoslavic] relates that this is actually a project from a few years back. It’s really as simple as it looks: 500 laser pointer modules arranged on a plate with a grid of holes in a 25 by 20 array. As he placed the laser modules on the board with a glob of hot glue, he carefully aimed each one to hit a single point about a meter and a half away. There are also a handful of blue LEDs nestled into the array, because what project is complete without blue LEDs?
The modules are wired in concentric circuits and controlled by a simple bank of toggle switches. Alas, 500 converging 150-mW 5 mW lasers do not a 75-W 2.5 W laser make; when fully powered, the effect at the focal point is reported to be only a bit warm. But it looks incredible, especially through smoke. Throwing mirrors and lenses into the beam results in some interesting patterns, too.
You’ll still need to take safety seriously if you build something like this, of course, but this one is really just for show. If you’re really serious about doing some damage with lasers, check out the long list of inadvisable laser builds that [Styropyro] has accumulated — from a high-powered “lightsaber” to a 200-Watt laser bazooka.
(Terminate your beams carefully, folks. We don’t want anyone going blind.)
Building cool things completely from scratch is undeniably satisfying and makes for excellent Hackaday posts, but usually involve a few unexpected speed humps, which often causes projects to be abandoned. If you just want to get something working, using off-the-shelf modules can drastically reduce frustration and increase the odds of the project being completed. This is exactly the approach that [GreatScott!] used to build the 3rd version of his electric longboard, and in the process created an excellent guide on how to design the system and selecting components.
Previous versions of his board were relatively complicated scratch built affairs. V2 even had a strain gauge build into the deck to detect when the rider falls off. This time almost everything, excluding the battery pack, was plug-and-play, or at least solder-and-play. The rear trucks have built in hub motors, the speed controllers are FSESC’s (VESC software compatible) and the remote control system is also an off the shelf system. All the electronics were housed in 3D printed PETG housing, and the battery pack is removable for charging. We just hope the velcro holding on the battery pack doesn’t decide to disengage mid-ride.
The beauty of this video lies in the simplicity and how [GreatScott!] covers the components selection and design calculations in detail. Sometimes we to step back from a project and ask ourselves if reinventing is the wheel is really necessary, or just an excuse to do some yak shaving. Electric long boards are extremely popular at the moment, you can even make a deck from cardboard or make a collapsible version if you’re a frequent flyer.
We know what it’s like to wait for newly released electronic parts. Clicking refresh every day at your favorite online retailers, reading reviews published by the press who got preview units, and maybe even daring to order implausibly cheap devices from foreign lands. The ESP32 has many of us playing the waiting game, and we’ll level with you — they’re out of stock most places. But, if you look hard enough you can find one. At least, you could find them before we wrote this quick roundup of ESP32 hardware. If hearing about parts that are just out of reach is your sort of thing, then read on, you masochist!
One reason it’s so terrible, is the Data Acquisition Modules cost well into the hundreds of dollars, yet the documentation and help resources are very scarce. By using an Arduino instead of the modules, the price and difficulty decrease a considerable amount. Which begs the question why has it taken so long to get a decent (and so simple) of a setup working?