Lamp Becomes Rotating, Illuminated Sign For Festival Table

Two things we love are economical solutions to problems, and clever ways to use things for other than their intended purpose. [CelGenStudios] hits both bases with a simple illuminated and spinning sign made from a lamp and a couple economical pieces of hardware: an LED bulb, and a solar-powered product spinner. Both are readily and cheaply available from your favorite overseas source.

The first step in making a cheap illuminated sign is to not buy one, but instead make do with a standing lamp. Plug a bright LED bulb into the socket, decorate the lampshade with whatever logos or signs one wishes to display, and one has an economical illuminated sign suitable for jazzing up a table at an event. But what really kicks it up a notch is making it rotate, and to do that is where the clever bit comes in.

Mounting the lampshade to the solar turntable body yields a simple, rotating, illuminated sign.

The first attempt used a BBQ rotisserie motor to turn the whole lamp, but it was too loud and not especially stable. The second attempt used a “disco ball effect” LED bulb with a motorized top; it worked but turned too quickly and projected light upward instead of into the lampshade.

The winning combination is LED bulb plus a little solar-powered turntable onto which the lampshade mounts. As a result, the lampshade spins slowly when the lamp is turned on. It might not be the most durable thing to ever come out of a workshop, but as [CelGenStudios] says, it only needs to last for a weekend.

The basic concept is far more simple than it might sound, so check it out in the video (embedded below) to see it in action. Curious about what’s inside those little solar spinners? Skip to 5:55 in the video to see how they work. And if you’re intrigued by the idea of using solar power for motive force but want to get more hands-on with the electrical part, we have just the resource for turning tiny motors with tiny solar cells.

Thanks to [Bike Forever] for the tip!

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A Look At 3D Printed Professional LED Signage

Customer perception is everything when you’re running a business, particularly in retail. High-quality signage can go a long way into creating a good impression in this respect. [king process] decided to show us how professional-grade LED signage is made in a Korean shop that specializes in the work.

The signs we’re shown are custom builds that are matched to the shape of a company’s logo. No rectangular printed lightboxes here, this is fully custom stuff. To that end, a 3D printer is the perfect tool for the job, as it lets the shop produce signs in any shape desired with no need for custom tooling.

The 3D printers that build up the signs have seriously large build volumes, though more so in the X and Y dimensions rather than the Z. We see a whole fleet of printers working away to allow multiple signs to be produced quickly. The first step is to produce the outline of a sign, which serves as a base for the build. Cavities in the sign are then filled with a translucent silicone solution to act as diffuser material. Once cured, these various sections are colored by hand as required. LED strips are then installed on a backing plate to illuminate the sections of the sign.

The final result is a sign with clean, bright glowing lines. It’s vaguely reminiscent of a neon sign, but without any of the limitations of the glass tubes influencing how it looks. It’s also neat to see the techniques a professional shop uses to make things right the first time, without dinging or marring any of the parts along the way.

Indeed, it seems the classical neon sign is, these days, bested by a variety of alternative technologies.

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Building An Edge Lit Sign From The Scrap Pile

Whether in a shop window or mounted to the top of consoles in NASA’s Mission Control Center, edge lit acrylic is a popular choice for making high visibility signs. Partly because of their striking hologram-like appearance, but also because they’re exceptionally cheap and easy to produce. Just how cheap and easy? Take a look at this recent video from [Hack Modular] for a perfect example.

Now you might think you’d need something like a CNC router to produce a sign like this, and for more complex images, that’s arguably the case. But if you’re only concerned with text, and have a fairly steady hand, you can pull off the etching step with nothing more exotic than a printed template and a razor blade. Of course, the LCD style font that [Hack Modular] picked for this sign is particularly well suited to hand cutting — if you’re interested in edge lit calligraphy, this method probably isn’t what you’re looking for.

This linear LED provides a more consistent light.

With the text carved into the acrylic, the only missing ingredient is light. For that, [Hack Modular] is using a 12 volt linear LED strip light. That is, instead of being dotted with individual LEDs like traditional strips, it provides a continuous band of light that’s perfect for this application. That gets stuck down to a scrap piece of wood, and a rusty angle bracket from an old Meccano set is used to hold the acrylic right on the center-line. If you think the final product looks like something that was created from trash, don’t feel bad, that was the intent.

The end result looks great. In fact, if we’re being honest, it’s a lot better than we would have thought was possible using hand tools. Granted the choice of font has a lot to do with that, but then again, we wouldn’t mind if all our edge lit acrylic signs ended up looking like big seven-segment displays either.

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Fail Of The Week: Bright Idea For LED Signs Goes Bad

Typically when we select a project for “Fail to the Week” honors, it’s because something went wrong with the technology of the project. But the tech of [Leo Fernekes]’ innovative LED sign system was never the problem; it was the realities of scaling up to production as well as the broken patent process that put a nail in this promising project’s coffin, which [Leo] sums up succinctly as “The Inventor’s Paradox” in the video below.

The idea [Leo] had a few years back was pretty smart. He noticed that there was no middle ground between cheap, pre-made LED signs and expensive programmable signboards, so he sought to fill the gap. The result was an ingenious “LED pin”, a tiny module with an RGB LED and a microcontroller along with a small number of support components. The big idea is that each pin would store its own part of a display-wide animation in flash memory. Each pin has two terminals that connect to metal cladding on either side of the board they attach to. These two conductors supply not only power but synchronization for all the pins with a low-frequency square wave. [Leo]’s method for programming the animations — using a light sensor on each pin to receive signals from a video projector — is perhaps even more ingenious than the pins themselves.

[Leo]’s idea seemed destined for greatness, but alas, the cruel realities of scaling up struck hard. Each prototype pin had a low part count, but to be manufactured economically, the entire BOM would have to be reduced to almost nothing. That means an ASIC, but the time and expense involved in tooling up for that were too much to bear. [Leo] has nothing good to say about the patent game, either, which his business partners in this venture insisted on playing. There’s plenty of detail in the video, but he sums it up with a pithy proclamation: “Patents suck.”

Watching this video, it’s hard not to feel sorry for [Leo] for all the time he spent getting the tech right only to have no feasible way to get a return on that investment. It’s a sobering tale for those of us who fancy ourselves to be inventors, and a cautionary tale about the perils of participating in a patent system that clearly operates for the benefit of the corporations rather than the solo inventor. It’s not impossible to win at this game, as our own [Bob Baddeley] shows us, but it is easy to fail.

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Wire Wrapping Skills Put To Use For Sign Making

We don’t see many wire wrapped circuits these days, and you could be forgiven for thinking it was nearly a lost art at this point. But that doesn’t mean the technique can’t be applied elsewhere. [MiHu-Works] recently wrote in to share a sign they recently made for a client’s restaurant that looks an awful lot like the back panel of a homebrew computer to us.

Before you get a chance to scroll down and complain about it in the comments, we admit this one is fairly deep into the crafts side of the spectrum. But it’s also a gorgeous piece that we’d be happy to hang up in the hackerspace, so we don’t care. There might not be any angry pixies zipping around through all that lovingly wrapped copper wire, but it certainly¬†feels like you’re looking at the internals of some complex machine.

To make it, [MiHu-Works] first printed out the lettering on paper and put it on the wood to serve as a guide. Roofing nails were then driven into the wood to create the outline of the text. A simple tool made from a forked piece of wood was placed under the head of each nail as it was hammered in to make sure the depth was consistent. It also made sure there was adequate room underneath to wrap the copper wires through them. Then it was time for the wrapping…so much wrapping. (Who is going to come through with the robot to do this?)

A few years back we asked the Hackaday readers if they thought the days of wire wrapped circuits were over. It generated a lot of discussion and interesting ideas, but looking at projects like this, perhaps we were asking the wrong question.

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EL Wire Makes For A Great Faux-Neon Sign

Neon signs are attractive, but require specialised tools and skills for their manufacture. If you don’t have time to learn glass blowing and source the right gasses, you’re pretty much out of luck. However, EL wire can give a similar aesthetic, and with an off-the-shelf power supply it is easy to hook up and get working. [sjm4306] combined this with 3D printing for a quick and easy build.

The project starts by selecting a Nintendo 64 neon sign as a basis for the design. An image of the sign was traced in Inkscape, and an outline imported into CAD software. From there, a frame was designed with posts for the EL wire to wrap around, and holes for it to pass through to the back of the sign. The frame was then 3D printed, and laced with EL wires in the requisite colors.

The final result is impressive, with the EL wire serving as a great small-scale simulacrum of neon tubes. It’s a construction method that should scale as large as your 3D printed assemblies can go, too. If you need to get to grips with how it works, there’s a tutorial available for working with EL wire. Video after the break.

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Clicky Signspinner Works Just Like A Retractable Pen

[u407]’s 3D printed Signspinner was created as a clean/dirty indicator for a dishwasher, and at its heart is a mechanism that works a lot like that of a retractable ballpoint pen. Every click of the plunger spins the circular label inside by one-quarter of a rotation. In [u407]’s case it only needs to alternate between showing “clean” and “dirty”, but there are in fact four total label positions.

The entire mechanism including the spring is 3D printed, but the spring is PETG and the rest is PLA. [u407] doubts PLA would work for the spring because of how much it gets compressed, but suggests that ABS might work as an alternative.

If you’re having trouble visualizing how this mechanism works, we covered [Bill Hammack] explaining exactly how retractable ballpoint pens work which should make it perfectly clear. It’s fundamentally the same principle.

[via Reddit]