Vinyl Cut Your Way Into An Edge-Lit Glass Display

The chances are you’ve seen the myriad cheap copyright-infringing edge-lit acrylic displays from Chinese suppliers everywhere on the internet, and indeed, etching acrylic with a modest CNC laser cutter has become easily viable to a lot of us in more recent years. However, if you want to kick things up a notch, [Michael Vieau] shows us how to build a plaque from scratch using not acrylic, but rather etched glass to make the finished product look that much more professional.

There are a few different steps to this build and each one is beautifully detailed for anyone who wants to follow along. First, the electronics driving the WS2812 lights are designed from scratch based on an ATtiny microcontroller on a PCB designed in Fritzing, and the sources necessary for replicating those at home are all available on [Michael’s] GitHub. He even notes how he custom-built a pogo-pin header at the end of the USBASP programmer to be able to easily use the same ICSP pinout in future projects.

But since a lot of you are likely all too familiar with the ins and outs of your basic Arduino projects, you’ll be more interested in the next steps, detailing how he milled the solid wood base and etched the glass that fits onto it. The process is actually surprisingly simple, all you need is to mask out the design you want through the use of a vinyl cutter and then pouring some etching solution over it. [Michael] recommends double-etching the design for a crisper look, and putting everything together is just as simple with his fastener of choice: hot glue.

Much as there was an age when Nixie displays adorned every piece of equipment, it seems like ease of manufacture is veering us towards an age of edge-lit displays. From word clocks to pendants and badges, we’re delighted to see this style of decoration emerge, including in replacing Nixies themselves!

Addressable LED Strings In Your USB

WS2812Bs, or NeoPixels, or whatever else you call them brought full-color LEDs to maker projects a meter at a time in recent years. Hooked up to a microcontroller, they make creating vibrant, full-color glowables a cinch. They won’t work on their own though, and a some point you want to ditch the dev board and let the blinking stand on its own two feet. Enter the USB LED Otter.

This small square of PCB lets you plug an LED strip directly into a USB port. The PCB itself has four traces on the back that mate with any USB port, and three pads for soldering the strip’s ground, 5 Volt line, and data. An STM32F072 microcontroller serves as the brains of the operation, packing plenty of horsepower and full compatibility with USB 2.0.

Code is flashed to the chip over USB using Device Firmware Upgrade (DFU) and once written the strip can then be driven by jamming the string into a suitably powerful USB wall charger. The man behind the build, [Jan Henrik], has mentioned that Open Pixel Control could be implemented but that may be an exercise left to the reader.

It’s a useful little tool, and one that promises to do even more with a little more development. Whipping up a few boards should be an easy task for anyone with a reflow oven and a free weekend. Oh, and if you’re tired of the WS2812? There’s other addressable LEDs out there, too!

Icosahedron Glows With The Best Of Them

Glowables come in all shapes and sizes, and we’re always keen to see the multitude of different ways hackers find to put great masses of LEDs to good use. [cabrera.101] wanted to get in on the action, and whipped up a rather flashy icosahedron.

The build uses high-density 144-LED-per-meter strips for the edges, with 60-LED-per-meter strips used for the tubes that connect to the stainless steel ball in the centre. An Arduino Mega controls the Neopixel strips, with the wiring carefully planned out to ensure all LEDs have adequate power and signal to operate correctly. Not one to skimp on the juice, [cabrera.101] outfitted the rig with a 5V, 60A power supply – something that would have seemed ridiculous in 1992, but barely raises an eyebrow today.

It’s a build that would make a perfect whatchamacallit for a science fiction film. The reflections of the edge lights on the central sphere are particularly scintilliating. If you’re new to the realm of glowables, it’s easy to start – there are plenty of tools to help, too. Video after the break.

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Mt Everest Lamp Recreates The Famous Peak

Anyone who has travelled to distant mountain peaks has marvelled at the beauty of the natural, rugged terrain. [apoorvas15] is no different, and created a lamp that celebrated the awe of the largest mountain on earth.

When it comes to reproducing an accurate geometrical representation of the landscape, the easiest approach is to reach for some variety of CNC machinery. Here, a 3D printer is used to create a translucent shell replicating the mountain. A reverse shell is then laced on the bottom to create an effect akin to that of a reflection in a lake. The assembly was fitted with WS2812 LEDs run by an Arduino Nano, and suspended from a stainless steel frame for an attractive floating look.

It’s a great piece, one that would look suitably impressive on any desk or coffee table. The 3D printer has served many makers well when it comes to producing attractive home lighting. We’ve seen many great builds — from the 8-bit to the floral-inspired. Video after the break.

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Neopixels Recreate Pinball Color Wheel That Never Was

With what pinball aficionados pay for the machines they so lovingly restore, it’s hard to imagine that these devices were once built to a price point. They had to make money, and whatever it took to attract attention and separate the customer from their hard-earned coins was usually included in the design. But only up to a point.

Take the 1967 Williams classic, “Magic City.” As pinball collector [Mark Gibson] explains it, the original design called for a rotating color filter behind a fountain motif in the back-glass, to change the color of the waters in an attractive way. Due to its cost, Williams never implemented the color wheel, so rather than settle for a boring fountain, [Mark] built a virtual color wheel with Neopixels. He went through several prototypes before settling on a pattern with even light distribution and building a PCB. The software is more complex than it might seem; it turns out to require a little color theory to get the transitions to look good, and it also provides a chance for a little razzle-dazzle. He implemented a spiral effect in code, and added a few random white sparkles to the fountain. [Mark] has a few videos of the fountain in action, and it ended up looking quite nice.

We’ve featured [Mark]’s pinball builds before, including his atomic pinball clock, We even celebrated his wizardry in song at one point.

Unique Clock Keeps Time The Fibonacci Way

You say your binary clock no longer has the obfuscation level needed to earn the proper nerd street cred? Feel like you need something a little more mathematically challenging to make sure only the cool kids can tell the time? Then this Fibonacci clock might be just the thing to build.

Granted, [TecnoProfesor]’s clock is a somewhat simplified version of an earlier version that was nigh impossible to decode. But with its color coding and [Piet Mondrian]-esque grids, it’s still satisfyingly difficult to get the time from a quick glance. The area of the blocks represents the Fibonacci sequence 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, and adding up which blocks are illuminated by the RGB LEDs behind the frosted front panel. That lets you tally up to 12 intervals; for the minutes and seconds, there are indicators for the powers multiples of 12 up to 48. Put it all together and you’ve got a unique and attractive graphical time display that’s sure to start interesting conversations when the mathematically disinclined try to use it. Check out the video below as the clock goes from 12:28:01 to 12:28:46. We think.

If this doesn’t scratch your itch for obfuscated clocks, we’ve got plenty of them. From random four-letter words to an analog digital clock to an epic epoch clock, we’ve got them all.

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New Part Day: Two Millimeter Addressable LEDs

The WS2812, or “Neopixels”, or whatever you want to call them, are the standard when it comes to adding blinky to anything. These chips are individually addressable RGB LEDs, which you’ve seen in many LED strips and a thousand other products. These LEDs are rather big compared to normal, dumb LEDs, measuring 5 mm on each side. Here are WS2812s packed into a 2 mm x 2 mm square package. It’s the smallest and brightest blinky that works the same as the WS2812s you know and love.

This is the latest product from Worldsemi. We’ve heard of these before, but damned if we could find a supplier or even a price. Now they’re on AliExpress, at a price of $8 USD per 100, shipping not included.

Electrically, these appear to have the same properties of the normal, 5050-size WS2812 LEDs. Apply power and ground to two pins, send data in on one pin, and connect the next LED in the strand to the remaining pin. Yes, it requires a bit of work to turn this into a display, but microcontrollers are very fast now and have plenty of RAM. Attach a BeagleBone and you’ll be able to drive as many as your glowing heart desires.

If you’re wondering what the coolest project imaginable for these LEDs is, here’s the math: the largest (common) PCB panel for your random board house is 16 by 22 inches. Assuming a 3 mm pixel pitch, that means the largest PCB display you can make with these LEDs is 135 by 186 pixels, call it 120 by 180 just to make things easy. That’s 21,600 LEDs, at a cost of about $2,000. I would not recommend reflowing these, and assuming soldering a LED every thirty seconds, it will take about a month to solder them all by hand. There’s your project, now get to it.