Low-Resolution Display Provides High-Nostalgia Animations

High-definition displays are the de facto standard today, and we’ve come to expect displays that show every pore, blemish, and bead of sweat on everything from phones to stadium-sized Jumbotrons. Despite this,  low-resolution displays continue to have a nostalgic charm all their own.

Take this 32 x 16 display, dubbed PixelTimes, for instance. [Dominic Buchstaller] has gone a step beyond his previous PixelTime, a minimalist weather clock and home hub built around the same P10 RGB matrix. The previous build was a little involved, though, with a nice wood frame that took some time and skill to create.

Building your own version of PixelTimes is really approachable. The case is mostly 3D-printed, and the acrylic parts [Dominic] laser cut could just as easily be cut with a saw. And that P10 board can be source for peanuts direct from Chine. The software for the project has been upgraded since the original version, supporting flicker-free animations. Everything runs on a NodeMCU, and there are even scripts to convert your favorite GIF to an animation. Oh, and it still displays the weather too.

This looks great and seems like a lot of fun, and [Dominic] kindly provides all the files you’ll need to build your own. It shouldn’t take more than an hour to build once you’ve got all the parts.

LED Illusion Makes Colorful Water Drops Defy Gravity

The 60s and 70s were a great time for kitschy lighting accessories. Lava lamps, strobes, color organs, black light posters — we had it all. One particularly groovy device was an artificial rain display, where a small pump dripped mineral oil over vertical monofilament lines surrounding a small statue, with the whole thing lighted from above in dramatic fashion. If it sounds appalling, it was, and only got worse as the oil got gummy by accumulating dust and debris.

While this levitating water drops display looks somewhat similar, it has nothing to do with that greasy lamp of yore. [isaac879]’s “RGB time fountain” is actually a lot more sophisticated and pretty entrancing to watch. The time fountain idea is simple — drip water from a pump nozzle to a lower receptacle along a path that can be illuminated with flashing LEDs. Synchronizing the flashes to the PWM controlling pump speed can freeze the drops in place, or even make them appear to drip up. [isaac879] took the time fountain idea a step further by experimenting with RGB illumination, and he found that all sorts of neat effects are possible. The video below shows all the coolness, like alternating drops of different colors that look like falling — or rising — paint drops, and drops that merge together to form a new color. And behold, the mysterious antigravity cup that drips up and yet gets filled!

Allowances must be made for videos of projects that use strobes, of course. The effect of this time fountain and similar ones we’ve featured before is hard to capture, but this one still looks great to us.

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RGB Disk Goes Interactive with Bluetooth; Shows Impressive Plastic Work

[smash_hand] had a clear goal: a big, featureless, white plastic disk with RGB LEDs concealed around its edge. So what is it? A big ornament that could glow any color or trippy mixture of colors one desires. It’s an object whose sole purpose is to be a frame for soft, glowing light patterns to admire. The disk can be controlled with a simple smartphone app that communicates over Bluetooth, allowing anyone (or in theory anything) to play with the display.

The disk is made from 1/4″ clear plastic, which [smash_hand] describes as plexiglass, but might be acrylic or polycarbonate. [smash_hands] describes some trial and error in the process of cutting the circle; it was saw-cut with some 3-in-1 oil as cutting fluid first, then the final shape cut with a bandsaw.

The saw left the edge very rough, so it was polished with glass polishing compound. This restores the optical properties required for the edge-lighting technique. The back of the disc was sanded then painted white, and the RGB LEDs spaced evenly around the edge, pointing inwards.

The physical build is almost always the difficult part in a project like this — achieving good diffusion of LEDs is a topic we talk about often. [smash_hands] did an impressive job and there are never any “hot spots” where an LED sticks out to your eye. With this taken care of, the electronics came together with much less effort. An Arduino with an HC-05 Bluetooth adapter took care of driving the LEDs and wireless communications, respectively. A wooden frame later, and the whole thing is ready to go.

[smash_hands] provides details like a wiring diagram as well as the smartphone app for anyone who is interested. There’s the Arduino program as well, but interestingly it’s only available in assembly or as a raw .hex file. A video of the disk in action is embedded below.

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A Clear Christmas Tree Means More Lights!

For all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, people still find ways to make time for their passions. In the lead up to Christmas, [Edwin Mol] and a few co-workers built themselves an LED Christmas tree that adds a maker’s touch to any festive decor.

Before going too far, they cut out a cardboard mock-up of the tree. This an easy step to skip, but it can save headaches later! Once happy with the prototype, they printed off the design stencils and cut the chunks of clear acrylic using power tools — you don’t need a laser cutter to produce good stuff — and drilled dozens of holes in the plastic to mount LEDs, and run wires.

A Raspberry Pi 3 and Arduino Uno make this in league with some pretty smart Christmas trees. MAX6968 5.5V constant-current LED driver chips and MOFSETs round out the control circuit. During the build, the central LED column provided a significant challenge — how often do you build a custom jig to solder LEDs? That done, it’s time for a good ol’-fashioned assembly montage! The final product can cycle through several different lighting animations in a rainbow of colours — perfect for a festive build. Continue reading “A Clear Christmas Tree Means More Lights!”

Driver Board Makes Nixie Projects Easier than Ever

We know, we know — yet another Nixie clock. But really, this one has a neat trick: an easy to use, feature packed driver for Nixies that makes good-looking projects a snap.

As cool as Nixies are — we’ll admit that to a certain degree, familiarity breeds contempt — they can be tricky to integrate. [dekuNukem] notes that aside from the high voltages, laying hands on vintage driver chips like the 7441 can be challenging and expensive. The problem was solved with about $3 worth of parts, including an STM32 microcontroller and some high-voltage transistors. The PCBs come in two flavors, one for the IN-12 and one for the IN-14, and connections for the SPI interface and both high- and low-voltage supplies are brought out to header pins. That makes the module easy to plug into a motherboard or riser card. The driver supports overdriving to accommodate poisoned cathodes, 127 brightness levels for smooth dimming, and a fully adjustable RBG backlight under the tube. See the boards in action in the video below, which features a nicely styled, high-accuracy clock.

From Nixie tachs to Nixie IoT clocks, [dekuNukem]’s boards should make creative Nixie projects even easier. But if you’re trying to drive a Nixie Darth Vader, you’re probably on your own.

A Minimalist Weather Clock with a Unique Display

If you’re looking for a home hub to display weather, time, and important family information, the formula is pretty simple: build yet another “magic mirror” project. We’re not complaining — magic mirrors look great. But if all you need is time and weather, this elegant pixel display is something just a little bit different.

Among his many criteria for the perfect hack, [Dominic] lists usefulness, visual appeal, and low cost. We’ll agree that his minimalist weather clock hits all those marks, and with the careful selection of a 16 x 32-pixel RGB display module, [Dominic] ended up giving back to the community by developing an Arduino driver for it. He points out that strips of Neopixels could have been used for the display, but they’d have ended up costing more, so the LED matrix was a sensible choice. A 3D-printed separator grid and a paper diffuser provide the proper pixelated look, and some simple animated icons display the two-day weather forecast. We find the time and temperature numerals a little hard to read, but it’s not bad considering the limited resolution of the display. And the case is a nice bit of woodworking too. Not a bad result for only €43.

We’re intrigued by the P10 LED matrix module [Dominic] used for this one. It might be a good choice for a word clock and weather station, or with his driver, a display for just about anything.

A Lightsaber, With Rave Mode

How often after being exposed to Star Wars did you dream of having your own working lightsaber? These days — well, we don’t quite have the technology to build crystal-based weapons, but tailor-made lightsabers like redditor [interweber]’s are very much real.

Piggybacking off the Korbanth Graflex 2.0 kit — a sort of bare-bones lightsaber ready to personalize — [interweber] is using a Teensy 3.5 to handle things under the hilt. Instead of taking the easy route and cramming everything into said handle, a 3D printed a cradle for the electronics and speaker keep things secure. The blade is made up of two meters of APA102 LEDs.

As well as all the sound effects appropriate to ‘an elegant weapon for a more civilized age’, a cluster of buttons handle the various functions; , playing and cycling through music(more on that in a second), changing the color of the lightsaber — Jedi today, Sith tomorrow — enabling a flickering effect that mimics Kylo Ren’s lightsaber, color cycling, and a…. rave mode?

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