Creating Lookalike Valves With Resin Casting

Valves (tubes) certainly have a die hard fan base in the electronic community, praised for their warm sound, desirable distortion characteristics and attractive aesthetic. However, sometimes you just want the look of a valve for a prop or a toy, without actually needing the functionality. For those cases, this project from [Ajaxjones] might be just the ticket.

The build consists of taking an existing valve, combining it with a 3D printed base, and using this to create a silicone mould. 3D printed parts and dressmaker’s pins are then used to create the internal parts of the valve, and are inserted into the mould. Clear resin is then degassed, and poured into the mould to create the part. Once cured, the part is removed and the base painted to complete the look. An LED is then installed into a void in the base to give the piece a warm glow as you’d expect.

It’s a simple tutorial to producing high-quality clear plastic parts, and one that should prove useful to many prop builders and cosplayers alike. If you’re wanting to take your resin game to the next level, consider trying some overmolded parts. Video after the break.

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Peep These Ultra-Real 3D-Printed Eyeballs

For humans, life is in the eyes. Same deal with automatons. The more realistic the eyes, the more lifelike (and potentially disturbing) the automaton is. [lkkalebob] knows this. [lkkalebob] is so dedicated to ocular realism in his ultra-real eyeballs that he’s perfected a way to make the minuscule veins from a whisper of cotton thread.

First he prints an eyeball blank out of ABS. Why ABS, you ask? It has a semi-translucence that makes it look that much more real. Also, it’s easier to sand than PLA. After vigorous sanding, it’s time to paint the iris and the apply the veins. [lkkalebob] shaves strands of lint from red cotton thread and applies it with tweezers to smears of super glue.

Here comes our favorite part. To make the whole process easier, [lkkalebob] designed a jig system that takes the eyeballs all the way through the stages of fabrication and into the sockets of the automaton. The hollow eye cups pressure fit on to prongs that hold it in place. This also gives the eyeball a shaft that can be chucked into a drill for easy airbrushing. In the build video after the break, he uses the eye-jig to cast a silicone mold, which he then uses to seal the eyes in resin.

Don’t have a printer or any desire to make human automata? It doesn’t take much to make mesmerizing mechanisms.

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Giant LEDs, Ruby Lasers, Hologram Displays, And Other Cool Stuff Seen At Maker Faire Rome

Hackers from all over Europe descended upon Rome last weekend for the Maker Faire that calls itself the “European Edition”. This three-day event is one of the largest Maker Faires in the world — they had 27,000 school students from all over Italy and Europe attend on Friday alone.

This was held at Fiera Roma, a gigantic conference complex two train stops south of the Rome airport — kind of in the middle of nowhere. I was told anecdotally that this is the largest event the complex hosts but have no data to back up that claim. One thing’s for certain, three days just wasn’t enough for me to enjoy everything at the show. There was a huge concentration of really talented hardware hackers on hand, many who you’ll recognize as creators of awesome projects regularly seen around Hackaday.

Here’s a whirlwind tour of some of my favorites. On that list are a POV holographic display, giant cast-resin LEDs, an optical-pump ruby laser built out of parts from AliExpress, blinky goodness in cube-form, and the Italian audience’s appreciation for science lectures (in this case space-related). Let’s take a look.

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Epoxy LED Cube Looks Sleek, And Flashes To The Beat

If there’s one thing that’s universally popular in these polarizing times, it’s colorful glowing objects. LEDs reign supreme in this area, and we’re accustomed to seeing all manner of fun flashy devices hit the tips line. Today is no different, and we’ve been looking at [Modustrial Maker]’s stylish epoxy LED cube.

The build starts with the casting of a black epoxy cube, with a cutout near the top in which the LEDs will be installed. A melamine form is used, with aluminium foil tape, caulk and paste wax to help seal it up. After releasing the cast from the form, there were some unsightly voids which were swiftly dispatched, by trimming the block down with a table saw. With the block cut to size, LED strips were installed, and the light cavity sealed with hot glue before white epoxy was poured in as a diffuser. All that’s left was a simple matter of polishing the cube and installing electronics.

The cube runs from a single-cell LiPo battery, and there’s a wireless power receiver and charging module to keep the power flowing. The cube can be used on most wireless phone chargers, as well as its own dedicated charging base. The LEDs are controlled by an off-the-shelf module, which offers a variety of flashing displays as well as a music-reactive mode.

While the electronics side is done with off-the-shelf parts, the real art in this piece is in the build of the cube. Its glossy, attractive form would look stunning on any coffee table or bedside shelf.

LED cubes are a great rabbit hole to go down on your lunch break. This OpenGL-enabled build is particularly impressive. Video after the break.

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Reproducing Vintage Plastic Parts In Top-Notch Quality

Plastic is a highly useful material, but one that can also be a pain as it ages. Owners of vintage equipment the world over are suffering, as knobs break off, bezels get cracked and parts warp, discolor and fail. Oftentimes, the strategy has been to rob good parts from other broken hardware and cross your fingers that the supply doesn’t dry up. [Eric Strebel] shows us that’s not the only solution – you can replicate vintage plastic parts yourself, with the right tools.

In the recording industry there’s simply no substitute for vintage gear, so a cottage industry has formed around keeping old hardware going. [Eric] was tasked with reproducing VU meter bezels for a classic Neve audio console, as replacement parts haven’t been produced since the 1970s.

The first step is to secure a good quality master for replication. An original bezel is removed, and polished up to remove scratches and blemishes from 40+ years of wear and tear. A silicone mold is then created in a plywood box. Lasercut parts are used to create the base, runner, and vents quickly and easily. The mold is then filled with resin to produce the final part. [Eric] demonstrates the whole process, using a clear silicone and dyed resin to make it more visible for the viewer.

Initial results were unfortunately poor, due to the silicone and hardener used. The parts were usable dimensionally, but had a hazy surface finish giving very poor optical qualities. This was rectified by returning to a known-good silicone compound, which was able to produce perfectly clear parts first time. Impressively, the only finishing required is to snap off the runner and vents. The part is then ready for installation. As a final piece of showmanship, [Eric] then ships the parts in a custom laser-engraved cardboard case. As they say, presentation is everything.

With modern equipment, reproducing vintage parts like knobs and emblems is easier than ever. Video after the break.

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Epoxy Embedded Electronic Art Running On Pyramid Power

We sometimes get our inspirations from art. When [kodera2t] saw some Japanese art of fish drawings embedded in clear epoxy he just had to make his own. But while skilled in electronics, he wasn’t skilled at drawing. We’d still call him an artist, though, after seeing what he came up with in his electronics embedded in crystal clear epoxy.

Controlling epoxy-empedded leds through BluetoothHis first works of electronic art were a couple of transistors and some ICs, including an 80386, encased in epoxy. But then he realized that he wanted the electronics to do something interesting. However, once encased in epoxy, how do you keep the electronics powered forever?

He tried a solar cell charging a battery which then powered an LED but he didn’t like the idea of chemical batteries encased in epoxy for a long time.

He then switched to wireless power transmission with a receiving coil in the base of epoxy pyramids. For one of them, the coil powers a BLE board with an attached LED which he can control from his phone. And his latest contains an ESP32-PICO with an OLED display. The code allows him to upload new firmware over the air but on his Hackaday.io page, he shows the difference between code which can brick the ESP32 versus code which won’t. But don’t take our word for it. Check out the video below to see his artistry for yourself.

While embedding electronics in epoxy is new to [kodera2t], we’ve seen it a few times before. once in the form of an amplifier circuit done beautifully, dead bug style, and a more experimental attempt with a solar lantern.

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Get Nostalgic With These GameCube Themed Joy-Cons

There are a lot of good reasons to think fondly of the Nintendo GameCube. Metroid Prime and Rogue Leader knocked it out of the park. The Game Boy Player was cool. There’s even something to be said for having a convenient carrying handle on a system designed for couch multiplayer. But if you ask anyone who played Nintendo’s sixth generation console what part they missed the least, it would probably be the controller. With all the visual flair of a Little Tikes playset and ergonomics designed for an octopus, it’s a controller that works well for first-party Nintendo titles and little else.

So it’s probably for the best that these Switch Joy-Cons created by [Madmorda] focus on recreating the aesthetics of the GameCube controller for Nintendo’s latest money-printing machine rather than its feel. With a surprising amount of work required to create them, these definitely count as a labor of love by someone who yearns for the days when gaming was more…cubic.

To start with, nobody makes Joy-Con cases in that signature GameCube purple so [Madmorda] had to paint them herself. The longevity of a painted controller is somewhat debatable, but the finish certainly looks fantastic right now.

For the left analog stick [Madmorda] was able to use the cap from a real GameCube controller, which fit perfectly. Apparently, Nintendo has been pretty happy with their analog stick sizing decisions for the last two decades or so. The right analog stick was another story, however, and she had to cut the shaft down to size with a Dremel to get the cap to fit.

Finally, molds were made of the original face buttons, which were then used to cast new buttons with colored resin to match the GameCube color scheme. Since the original Switch buttons don’t have indented lettering to get picked up by the mold, she had to laser etch them. This little detail goes a long way to selling the overall look.

The final result looks great, and compared to previous attempts we’ve seen to bring some of that early 2000’s Nintendo style to the Switch, this one is certainly less destructive. Check them out in action after the break!

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