Shot of CubeTouch, a six sided cube built out of PCBs with each of the top PCB allowing for diffusion of the LEDs on the inside to shine through

Keyboard Shortcuts At The Touch Of A Planetary Cube

[Noteolvides] creates the CubeTouch, a cube made of six PCBs soldered together that creates a functional and interactive piece of art through its inlaid LEDs and capacitive touch sensors.

The device itself is connected through a USB-C connector that powers the device and allows it to send custom keyboard shortcuts, depending on which face is touched.

Finger touching the top of a CubeTouch device

The CubeTouch is illuminated on the inside with six WS2812 LEDs that take advantage of the diffusion properties of the underlying FR4 material to shine through the PCBs. The central microprocessor is a CH552 that has native USB support and is Arduino compatible. Each “planet” on the the five outward facing sides acts as a capacitive touch sensor that can be programmed to produce a custom key combination.

Assembling the device involves soldering the connections at two joints for each edge connecting the faces.

We’re no strangers to building enclosures from FR4, nor are we strangers to merging art and functionality. The CubeTouch offers a further exploration of these ideas in a sweet package.

The CubeTouch is Open Source Hardware Certified with all documentation, source code and other relevant digital artifacts available under a libre/free license.

Continue reading “Keyboard Shortcuts At The Touch Of A Planetary Cube”

Washington, DC Finally Gets Its Own PCB Metro Map

There was a time, not so long ago, when folks who wanted to make their own custom PCBs would have found themselves in the market for a bucket of acid and a second-hand laser printer. These days, all you have to do is click a few buttons in your EDA program of choice and send the files off for fabrication. It’s easy, cheap, and nobody ends up with chemical burns.

This has obviously had a transformative effect on the electronics hobby — when you can place traces on a PCB like an artist using a brush, it’s only a matter of time before you get projects like [Logan Arkema]’s DCTransistor. This open source board uses carefully arranged RGB LEDs to recreate the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) metro map, and thanks to an ESP8266 connected to their API, can display the positions of trains in real-time.

If you’re getting a sense of déjà vu here, it’s not just in your head. We’ve seen similar maps created for other major metropolitan areas, and [Logan] certainly isn’t trying to take credit for the idea. In fact, he was a bit surprised to find that nobody had ever made one for the DC area — so he decided to take on the challenge himself. He reasoned it would be a good way to hone his PCB design skills and become more comfortable with embedded development. We’d say the end result proves his theory correct, and makes one more city that can boast about its IoT cartography.

Looking to hang a DCTransistor on your own wall? [Logan] says he’ll be dropping the board design files and schematics into the project’s GitHub repository soon, and he also plans on selling pre-made boards in the near future.

We covered this London “tube” map back in 2020, and were impressed by the attention to detail that went into similar displays for Tokyo, Singapore, and the San Francisco Bay Area a year later. Perhaps it’s time to map out your own hometown in LEDs?

Three pendants that the article is describing, on a drafting mat.They're heart-shaped red PCBs with LEDs all around its perimeter, two CR2032-like batteries in its center.

Heart-Shaped Heartwarming Valentine’s Day Pendant

This is no ordinary heart-shaped PCB pendant project! To us, it’s also symbol representing the striking amount of love that [SaltyPaws] has put into its design and documentation. He tells us that he designed it for the two daughters he is raising, as an electronics and general STEAM introduction – with outstanding educational and aesthetic qualities, giving insights into a wide range of topics while looking . The PCB is mostly through-hole, making for easy soldering and quick return on the effort investment. The project is thought-out beyond the PCB, however – this pendant is designed to be wearable day-to-day, which is why it’s accompanied by a 3D-printed frame, protecting its wearer from sharp PCB edges and through-hole lead ends!

Open-sourcing things is a gift, and today, we are also the recipients. [SaltyPaws] has open-sourced everything involved – PCB files, 3D cover files, firmware, BOM, everything you would need to build your own version. All of this is in a GitHub repository, with detailed sourcing and assembly instructions in the README.md – we couldn’t ask for more! If you have loved ones that would take delight in putting such a pretty pendant together, you have about a week to order the PCBs – after that, Chinese New Year will likely thwart your plans!

Looking for more accessories that double as electronics projects? We’ve covered a wide variety, even when it comes to pendants alone – check out this edge-lit fluorescent acrylic educational Maker Faire accessory, or this circuit sculpture BEAM-inspired bird-imitating one, or this tiny SAMD21-powered pendant with an IPS LCD!

Remoticon 2021 // Debra Ansell Connects PCB In Ways You Didn’t Expect

“LEDs improve everything.” Words to live by. Most everything that Debra Ansell of [GeekMomProjects] makes is bright, bold, and blinky. But if you’re looking for a simple string of WS2812s, you’re barking up the wrong tree. In the last few years, Debra has been making larger and more complicated assemblies, and that has meant diving into the mechanical design of modular PCBs. In the process Debra has come up with some great techniques that you’ll be able to use in your own builds, which she shared with us in a presentation during the 2021 Hackaday Remoticon.

She starts off with a quick overview of the state of play in PCB art, specifically of the style that she’s into these days: three dimensional constructions where the physical PCB itself is a sculptural element of the project. She’s crossing that with the popular triangle-style wall hanging sculpture, and her own fascination with “inner glow” — side-illuminated acrylic diffusers. Then she starts taking us down the path of creating her own wall art in detail, and this is where you need to listen up. Continue reading “Remoticon 2021 // Debra Ansell Connects PCB In Ways You Didn’t Expect”

Jigglypuff Sensor Breathes CO2 So You Don’t Have To

We’ve seen a lot of environmental monitoring projects here at Hackaday. Seriously, a lot. They usually take the form of a microcontroller, a couple sensors, and maybe a 3D printed case to keep it all protected. They’re pretty similar functionally as well, with the only variation usually coming in the protocol used to communicate their bits of collected data.

But even when compared with such an extensive body of previous work, this Jigglypuff IoT environmental monitor created by [Kutluhan Aktar] is pretty unusual. Sure, the highlights are familiar. Its MH-Z14A NDIR CO2 sensor and GP2Y1010AU0F optical dust detector are read by a WiFi-enabled microcontroller, this time the Arduino Nano RP2040 Connect, which ultimately reports its findings to the user via Telegram bot. There’s even a common SSD1306 OLED display on the unit to show the data locally. All things we’ve seen in some form or another in the past.

Testing the electronics on a bread board.

So what’s different? Well, it’s all been mounted to a huge Pokémon PCB, obviously. Even if you aren’t a fan of the pocket monsters, you’ve got to appreciate that bright pink solder mask. Honestly, the whole presentation is a great example of the sort of PCB artwork we rarely see outside of the BadgeLife scene.

Admittedly, there’s a lot easier ways to get notified about the air quality inside your house. We’re also not saying that haphazardly mounting your electronics onto a PCB designed to look like a character from a nearly 20+ year old Game Boy game is necessarily a great idea from a reliability standpoint. But if you were going to do something like that, then this project is certainly the one to beat.

PCB Metro Maps Are A Gorgeous Labor Of Love

Is your love of public transportation matched only by your passion for designing custom PCBs? If so, then you’re going to love these phenomenal transit maps created by [Chai Jia Xun]. Using the painstakingly refined principles outlined in his detailed write-up, he’s created versions for Tokyo, Singapore, and the comparatively spartan San Francisco Bay Area. All you need to make one up for your home town is an incredible amount of patience and dedication. No problem, right?

As [Xun] explains, the first part of creating one of these maps isn’t unlike generating a normal PCB. Just make a footprint for the stations, consult with Google Maps as to where they should be placed on the board, and then connect them all up with traces to stand in for the rail lines. A little silkscreen work, and you’re done.

Well…unless you want them to light up, anyway. To pull that off, [Xun] created a second PCB that places an LED behind each station hole drilled in the previous board. With a microcontroller and shift register, he’s able to selectively illuminate individual lines and run through different patterns. To combat light bleeding through the PCB, a CNC-cut piece of 3 mm MDF sits between the two boards to make sure each LED is only visible through the respective hole in the top surface.

You could call the map finished here as well, assuming you don’t mind all the stations lighting up white. If you want them to be different colors, you’ll need to insert some colored diffusers. [Xun] went through several different approaches here, but in the end, the idea that seemed to work best was to simply print out all the colored dots on a piece of transparency paper and use a second sheet of tracing paper to soften the light. Alignment here is critical, but once everything is dialed in, the results are quite impressive.

It’s quite a bit of work, and we haven’t even mentioned the fact that [Xun] had to modify the circuit when it came time to do the Tokyo map, as some MOSFETs had to be added into the mix for the microcontroller to reliably control 350+ LEDs. So there’s certainly no shame in simply buying one of them when they go on sale instead of trying to recreate it from scratch. Assuming you live in one of the cities he’s offering, anyway. Otherwise, you might want to take a look at our HackadayU class on KiCad and get yourself a comfortable chair.

Hiding Behind The Silkscreen: The Carolinacon 2021 Badge Has A Secret

The pandemic may have taken away many of our real-world events, but as they’ve gone online their badge teams have often carried on regardless. One of these comes from Carolinacon, and it’s decided to eschew the bleeding edge of electronic wizardry and instead push slightly at the boundaries of PCB art. It contains a hidden message in a copper layer behind a band of white silkscreen, which is revealed by a set of LEDs on the reverse of the board shining through the translucent FR4.

Electronics-wise it’s a pretty simple design, sporting only an ATtiny microcontroller and a photoresistor alongside the LEDs, and with the secret message being triggered when the badge is placed in the dark. The conference’s pig logo is eye-catching, but it has no pretences towards being a dev board or similar. The technique of LEDs behind copper and silkscreen is an interesting one though, and something that we think could bear more investigation in future designs. It’s pleasing to see that there are still new avenues to be taken in the world of PCB-based art.

This isn’t the first time this event has had an eye-catching badge, we’ve covered one of their previous offerings.