Failed 3D Print Saved with Manual Coding

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Arduino Powered Arcade Button Lighting Effects

As if you already weren’t agonizing over whether or not you should build your own arcade cabinet, add this one to the list of compelling reasons why you should dedicate an unreasonable amount of physical space to playing games you’ve probably already got emulated on your phone. [Rodrigo] writes in to show off his project to add some flair to the lighted buttons on his arcade controller. (Google Translate)

The wiring for this project is about as easy as you’d expect: the buttons connect to the digital inputs on the Arduino, and the LEDs on the digital outputs. When the Arduino code sees the button getting pressed, it brings the corresponding LED pin high and starts a fade out timer using the SoftPWM library by [Brett Hagman].

It’s worth noting that the actual USB interface is being done with a stand-alone controller, so the Arduino here is being used purely to drive the lighting effects. The more critical reader might argue that you could do both with a single microcontroller, but [Rodrigo] was in a classic “Use what you’ve got” situation, and already had a USB controller on hand.

Of course, fancy lit arcade buttons won’t do you much good without something to put them in. Luckily we’ve covered some fantastic looking arcade cabinets to get you inspired.

Posted in arcade, arduino, Arduino Hacks, Games, led, led hacks, lighting effect, pwm | Leave a comment

Bucky Glow: Have a Ball While You Practice Coding

About a year ago, [Jonathan Bumstead] built a giant, touch-sensitive, interactive RGB LED geodesic dome that somehow escaped our attention entirely. For this year’s Hackaday Prize, he’s designed a smaller version that’s just as awesome, but a lot faster and easier to build.

The Bucky Glow is great way for hackers of all ages to expand their coding and problem solving skills. This interactive dodecahedron consists of 11 RGB LEDs and a Nano inside 12-sided laser-cut MDF sculpture. The breakout header means you’re free to add interactive bits like a DIY capacitive touch keyboard, IR sensor/emitter pairs, motors, or whatever you want.

When it’s time to relax, Bucky Glow puts on a light show. It comes ready to party without any programming necessary, but if you wanna put on some Pink Floyd and get your hands dirty, [Jonathan]’s custom Processing app makes it easy to program complex light shows.

[Jonathan] is currently working on some different Bucky Glow dissemination methods, such as a kit version. For now, you can buy a fully assembled Bucky Glow through the One Bit Kit store. Interact with the break to try it before you buy it.

Posted in 2018 Hackaday Prize, arduino nano, dodecahedron, midi controller, RGB LEDs, The Hackaday Prize | Leave a comment

Belgrade Badge Hacks

We’re still coming off the Hackaday Belgrade conference right now. If you were there, you know it was the greatest hardware conference ever. If you weren’t there, you missed out. Sorry. (Make sure you get in on the Hackaday Superconference in November.)

One of the many highlights of the Belgrade conference was, of course, the badge. The 2018 Hackaday Belgrade Badge is a masterpiece of hardware with a 55-key keyboard, RGB TFT LED, speaker, and a BASIC interpreter.

This badge is a masterpiece of electronic design by Voja Antonic. Just to take one small example from the design, check out the placement of the buttons. Think the slightly rotated buttons that make up the keyboard is only a stylistic choice? It’s not; by carefully rotating each button, the legs of each switch can fit in between each other. It’s brilliant.

Starting hardware this good, adding amazing software by Jaromir Sukuba to bring it to life, and distributing a badge to each hacker through the door is the perfect recipe for some amazing hacks. What were the best badge hacking tricks we saw at the 2018 Hackaday Belgrade conference? Check out the video of the badge hacking ceremonies and then join us below for a few of our favorites.

Demoscene!

After decades, the demoscene has been elevated to an art. This is the community built around pushing pixels, blitting blitters, and generally squeezing every last bit of performance out of a computer system, for the sole purpose of making really cool graphics and awesome music.

The Hackaday Belgrade badge has an enormous display with full color, so it only makes sense there would be a few demoscene entries to our badge hacking competition. One of the best comes from [kory.io], who made a demo featuring high-resolution images and real-time rendered plasma effects along with pre-rendered animation.

Of course, this requires a video, so dig into this spectacular demo posted to Kory’s Twitter feed.

A Modem!

[bosko]’s ‘modem’ for the Belgrade BadgeThe 2018 Belgrade Badge is designed to be a wearable version of a home computer. With the inclusion of an expansion header, it’s begging to have more hardware connected. The badge has a full BASIC interpreter, and the TX and RX lines of a serial port are just sitting there. What could this possibly mean?

For [bosko], home computers meant connecting to the world through BBSes. Is that even possible with this badge? Of course it is, all you need is a modem.

Since acoustic couplers don’t fit smartphones, [bosko]’s ‘modem’ is actually a NodeMCU board with an ESP8266. Yes, it’s a WiFi to serial port adapter, pieced together out of three dollars worth of hardware and a few jumper leads. The code running on the badge is extremely simple, and basically just pushes bytes to the serial port. For the modem, [bosko] is just using the AT command set found in every ESP.

[bosko] did manage to connect his modem to a network, and even managed to pull up a BBS on the badge. It’s slow, yes, but really, what did you expect.

It’s a great proof of concept, and given that WiFi to serial adapters literally only cost two dollars, we can’t wait to see what else this badge can do. Is it possible to write a browser? We have just the website for that, and another one of the hacks shown during the badge hacking ceremony did manage to load up our retro page!

Shoot My Valentine

When you think of multiplayer games, Fortnite is probably the first thing that comes to mind. Actually, it’s probably not, but throwing the word ‘Fortnite’ into any post really helps out with SEO. Multiplayer games have been around for decades, but in the olden days they were a pain to configure. Does anyone remember IPX? Yeah, exactly.

With a home computer on a badge and a convenient serial port, it’s entirely possible to write a multiplayer game using a null modem cable made out of Dupont connectors. That’s exactly what [kramarb] did with his badge hack, Shoot My Valentine and the results are way more fun that might first think.

The game is extremely simple — it’s just a spaceship from Space Invaders shooting pixels up the screen. Two badges can play this game, and each badge tries to kill the other player by sending bullets over the serial port.

This is brilliant. It’s a real multiplayer game played over a serial port, all coded in just a few hours at the Hackaday Belgrade conference. Going further, it wouldn’t be too hard to make this game run wirelessly, possibly using a few IR LEDs. It would be amazing, and probably almost as reliable as the multiplayer on those old DOS games.

This Isn’t the End of our Retrocomputer Badge

The 2018 Hackaday Belgrade badge was a smashing success, and the best example yet we’ve had for what can be done with electronic conference badges. We’re planning a gigantic conference this November, the fourth annual Hackaday Superconference. The badge for the Supercon? All we can say now is that it will be based heavily on the best of the Belgrade badge. First, though, we need to buy the entire world’s supply of one particular brand of tact switches — there were over 20,000 of them in the room at Belgrade!

What does this mean? It means more opportunities to hack this badge. It might just be possible to add a floppy drive to this badge, and we want to see you try. We know it’s possible to get this badge on the Internet, and we want to see where people can take that. The entire purpose of this badge is to do something really fun with it during the three days of the con, and we can’t wait to see the other astonishing badge hacks that will be developed around this platform.

Posted in badge hacking, badgelife, badges, basic badge, cons, Hackaday Belgrade 2018, Hackaday Columns | Leave a comment

A Slightly Scientific Examination Of Epoxies

Two-part epoxy is one of those must-have items in your toolbox, albeit kept in a ziploc bag to keep all that goo off the rest of your tools. It’s a glue with a million uses, but which brand is best? Should you keep some cheap five-minute epoxy around, or should you splurge for the fancy, long-setting JB Weld. It’s not a perfect analysis, but at least [Project Farm] has done the experiment. This is a test of which two-part epoxy you can find at your local home supply store is strongest.

The epoxies tested include Gorilla epoxy, Devcon Plastic Steel, Loctite Epoxy Weld, JB Weld original, JB Weld Kwik Weld, and JB ExtremeHeat. This more or less covers the entire gamut of epoxies you would find in the glue aisle of your local home supply store; the Gorilla epoxy is your basic 5-minute epoxy that comes in a double barrel syringe, and the JB Welds are the cream of the crop.

The testing protocol for this experiment consisted of grinding a piece of steel clean, applying a liberal blob of each epoxy, and placing three bolts, head down, in each puddle. The first test was simply suspending weights in 2.5-pound increments to each bolt as a quick test of shear strength. Here, the losers in order were the JB Weld ExtremeHeat, JB Weld KwikWeld, Loctite, Gorilla Epoxy, Devcon Plastic Steel, and finally the JB Weld Original. Your suspicions are confirmed: those fancy new versions of JB Weld aren’t as good as the original. The fact that they’re worse than 5-minute epoxy is surprising, though. The second test — torquing the bolts out of the epoxy — gave similar results, with Devcon Plastic Steel beating the JB Weld Original just barely.

So, what do these results tell us? Cheap five-minute epoxy isn’t terrible, and actually better than the fancy new versions of JB Weld. Loctite is okay, and the Devcon and original JB Weld are at the top of their game. That’s not that surprising, as you can cast cylinder heads for engines out of JB Weld.

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Thinking Inside The (Cardboard) Box With Nintendo Labo Hacks

Cardboard is one of the easiest ways to build something physical, far easier than the 3D printing and laser cutting we usually write about here. So when Nintendo released their Labo line of cardboard accessories, it doesn’t take a genius to predict the official product would be followed by a ton of user creations. Nintendo were smart enough to provide not only an internet forum for this creativity to gather, they also hold contests to highlight some of the best works.

The most impressive projects in the winner’s circle combined the one-of-a-kind cardboard creations with custom software written using Toy-Con Garage, the visual software development environment built into the Nintendo Switch console. Access to the garage is granted after a user runs through Nintendo Labo’s “Discover” activities, which walk the user behind the scenes of how their purchased Labo accessories work. This learning and discovery process thus also serves as an introductory programming tutorial, teaching its user how to create software to light up their custom cardboard creations.

It’s pretty cool that Nintendo opened up a bit of the mechanism behind Labo activities for users to create their own, but this is only a tiny subset of Nintendo Switch functionality. We have different hacks for different folks. Some of us enjoy reverse engineering details of how those little Joy-Cons work. Others hack up something to avoid a game puzzle that’s more frustrating than fun. And then there are those who are not satisfied until they have broken completely outside the sandbox.

[via Engadget]

Here’s one of the winners, see the contest winner page for the rest.

Posted in cardboard, cardboard box, contest, contests, joy-con, Labo, nintendo, nintendo hacks, Nintendo Switch, switch | Leave a comment

Mario Candy Machine Gamifies Halloween

Picture it: Halloween, 2018. You want to go to a party or take the kids out trick-or-treating, but remember what happened last year when you weren’t there to answer the door? A pack of wild children blew their allowances on 48 rolls of the cheapest toilet paper ever printed, and it took you four full hours to get all the sodden, dew-laden wads out of your rose bushes.

Halloween is a time to fear things like hobgoblins and the possibility of The Purge becoming a thing, not sugar-fueled children who are upset that you left out a bowl of Sixlets, wax lips, and alt-flavored Tootsie Rolls. So how do you take back the night? Do what [Randall Hendrix] did: build a Super Mario-themed candy-dispensing machine.

No customer, not one tiny [Thanos] or [Tony Stark] will be able to resist the giant, blinking, green start button. Pushing it cues the music and the spinning drum, which tumbles the candy around like a clothes dryer. Gravity and chance will drop one or three pieces onto a conveyor belt that runs under Mario’s feet, but it’s up to you to press the jump button at the right time.  Otherwise, he knocks your prize back into the barrel.

There’s no micro here, just woodworking, relays, motors, a sound FX board, and the amp from an old pair of PC speakers. Mario’s candy-securing jump was originally pneumatic, but now it’s powered by a 240:1 gear motor that lifts him up with a cam. Grab a fun size Snickers and slap that break button to see this marvelous machine in action.

Concerned that they’ll play until the candy is gone? Add a sinister element like the Candy-or-Death machine we saw a few years ago.

Posted in candy dispenser, candy machine, Games, gear motor, halloween, Holiday Hacks, lifehacks, relay, super mario bros | Leave a comment

Energy Harvesting Design Doesn’t Need Sleep

Every scrap of power is precious when it comes to power harvesting, and working with such designs usually means getting cozy with a microcontroller’s low-power tricks and sleep modes. But in the case of the Ultra Low Power Energy Harvester design by [bobricius], the attached microcontroller doesn’t need to worry about managing power at all — as long as it can finish its job fast enough.

The idea is to use solar energy to fill a capacitor, then turn on the microcontroller and let it run normally until the power runs out. As a result, a microcontroller may only have a runtime in the range of dozens of microseconds, but that’s just fine if it’s enough time to, for example, read a sensor and transmit a packet. In early tests, [bobricius] was able to reliably transmit a 16-bit value wirelessly every 30 minutes using a small array of photodiodes as the power supply. That’s the other interesting thing; [bobricius] uses an array of BPW34 photodiodes to gather solar power. The datasheet describes them as silicon photodiodes, but they can be effectively used as tiny plastic-enclosed solar cells. They are readily available and can be arranged in a variety of configurations, while also being fairly durable.

Charging a capacitor then running a load for a short amount of time is one of the simplest ways to manage solar energy, and it requires no unusual components or fancy charge controllers. As long as the load doesn’t mind a short runtime, it can be an effective way to turn even indoor light into a figuratively free power source.

Posted in 2018 Hackaday Prize, arduino, attiny85, bpw34, energy harvesting, Microcontrollers, photodiode, Power Harvesting, solar cell, solar hacks, solar power, The Hackaday Prize | Leave a comment

Using Pad Printers To Add Color To Artistic PCBs

I’ve done a few experiments in adding color to printed circuit boards. These experiments used a process known as pad printing, and so far all indications are that pad printing is a viable process for truly multicolor artistic PCBs. For this year’s DEF CON, I’m stepping things up and taking them to their logical conclusion. I’m making true multicolor PCBs with orange and blue ink. This is, I believe, the first time this has ever been done with printed circuit board art, and it is certainly the first time it has ever been documented.

You may be wondering why I need more color on my boards. It’s that time of year again where PCB artisans all around the world are gearing up for badgecon DEF CON. For the last few years, independent badge makers have come together to form a demoscene of hardware creation. This year, add-ons for badges are a thing, and everyone is getting in on the game. Tindie is filled with amazing electronic badges and add-ons that will be found at this year’s DEF CON. There are badges featuring the Cromulon from Rick and Morty, baby Benders from Futurama, pikachus, and glowing tacos.

This is all about badge art, but when it comes to rendering an image in fiberglass and soldermask, everyone is working with a limited palette. Yes, you can get pink and orange soldermask, but I can’t find a place that will do it inexpensively. For any PCB, your choice of colors are only green, red, yellow, blue, purple, black, or white. No, you can’t mix them.

But I want both orange and blue, on the same board, cheaply and easily — here’s how I did it.

The Idea Behind The Tide Pod Add-On

If there’s one thing Millennials like, it’s avocado toast. And student loan debt. And smartphones, they can’t get their faces out of those damn smartphones. Most of all, Millennials can’t get enough Tide Pods. The Tide Pod Challenge is the biggest fad of the last few years, surpassing even fidget spinners as the most culturally relevant trend of this decade.

For this year’s DEF CON, I decided to turn the Tide Pod Challenge into a game. The goal is to eat as many Tide Pods as you can. You do this by plugging a Tide Pod into a badge that supports the Shitty Add-On spec. Each Tide Pod has an EPROM soldered to it, and this memory chip stores a unique serial number. When you plug the Tide Pod into a badge, this serial number is stored in a linked list where every item in the list contains the serial number and a hash of all the previous items in the list. This is a blockchain, by the way. I made a blockchain of people eating Tide Pods.

Since the Shitty Add-On spec provides power, ground, and an I2C bus, the implementation was very simple. All I needed was a small I2C EPROM. This is a 24C32, available from multiple manufacturers for $0.20, and is very close to being a jellybean part. The only other required part was the PCB itself. I quickly whipped up a design in Illustrator, taking care to make sure the blue and orange ‘swirls’ of the Tide Pod were identical and rotated 180 degrees from each other:

With the Tide Pod sketched out in Illustrator, turned into a simple PCB with Eagle, and a quick order from a Board House, I had a few hundred blank Tide Pods. The only thing left to do was add some color.

How to Buy and Operate a Manual Pad Printing Machine

I’ve written about the use of pad printers and their application to PCB art before, but the explanation of what a pad printer is and does was woefully incomplete. There was also no ‘guide’ to using pad printers, something I hope to correct with this post. For around $600 I ordered my pad printer as a ‘starter package’ from All American Manufacturing & Supply. This is not an endorsement of this company, and if anyone can find one, I’d really like a recommendation for a company that supplies instructions for their pad printing machines.

With that said, this is what a pad printer is, how it works, and how to use it.

A basic, hand-operated pad printer.

The pad printer I bought is a basic hand-operated system. There are four main parts — the platen, ink cup, silicone pad, and printing plate — all held together by a vast amount of cast aluminum.

  • The ink cup: a steel cup with a ceramic lip that holds the ink against a printing plate.
  • The printing plate: while not shown in the above image, is simply a photopolymer plate with a small impression of the desired image.
  • The silicone pad: a flexible pad that transfers the ink
  • The platen: a platform that holds the item to be printed

This is a clever and uncomplicated machine. The ink cup is attached to a moving arm that also holds a silicone pad. When the ink cup slides over the printing plate it deposits the ink. The silicone pad then presses against the plate, picks up the ink, and is moved over to the platen where it’s pressed against the object that will be printed on.

Step 1: Creating The Printing Plate

The printing plate, or ‘cliche’ in pad printing parlance, is a steel plate coated with a UV-sensitive photopolymer resin. There are two types of pad printing plates available from my supplier: water wash and alcohol wash. Water wash plates use water to wash away the unexposed photopolymer. Alcohol plates are washed in alcohol to remove unexposed photopolymer.

Simply for ease of developing, I’m using water wash plates, although this does have a few downsides: according to some documentation, water wash plates scratch more easily than alcohol wash plates. Also, water wash plates do not last as long; they’re only good for tens of thousands of impressions, whereas alcohol wash plates are good for a hundred thousand. In your home workshop, your arm is going to wear out before a water wash plate will.

To get the design onto the plate, I first printed the desired image on laser transparency film. I ran this through my laser printer three times to make sure it was sufficiently dark. After this, I peeled the protective sheet off the photopolymer plate, set down the laser printed mask, and put it in the UV plate exposure unit for 120 seconds. This plate exposure unit is simply a few UV fluorescent bulbs in a box with a timer; I’m certain you could also expose a plate with a few UV LEDs.

The instructions I found on the Internet told me to then expose the plate with the halftone pattern sheet. I don’t have experience in photolithography or printing technology otherwise, so I just put the halftone screen over the plate and put it back in the exposure unit for 30 seconds.

After the halftone screening, the plate was washed in warm running water for 2-3 minutes. The plate was then dried in a toaster oven set on ‘low’, and put back in the UV exposure unit for another 15 minutes. The result is the best plate I’ve ever made with this setup, and something that was good enough to make a few Tide pods.

Step 2: Printing With Pads

With the plate made, it’s time to mix some ink and fill the ink cup. The ink I’m using is Marabu Tampastar TPR. This ink comes in a wide variety of colors, and for future experiments, I can get this ink in Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black. I plan to experiment with color mixing too, I just need to figure out what I want to print on a PCB.

Mixing up the ink is simple — Tampastar TPR ink is a ‘one component’ ink, that only requires thinner. I got out my scale and a paper cup, and mixed 25 grams of ink with three grams of thinner. This would have been enough for a thousand Tide Pods.

With a printing plate that was etched to the proper depth, printing went smoothly. There are a number of adjustments that have to be made to the pressure of the pad on the plate, the pressure of the pad on the tide pod, but this is a capable system that can easily transfer ink onto a PCB.

Is Pad Printing The Way Forward For Multicolor PCBs?

This is not a fast process. I ended up with about 250 Tide Pods printed with both colors, and about fifty more that I only printed in blue. The total time to get through 300 printings of blue was about three hours, or about 30 seconds per PCB. Since I was doing two colors, the total time was doubled, and I should have let the blue ink cure for at least 24 hours. Of course, this was a manual machine, and most pad printers are automatic. If you’re contracting this out, they will absolutely use an automatic machine.

For small production runs, this is a viable solution to the problem of creating multicolor PCBs. This was only my second time adding color to PCBs via pad printing, and even though I can see the mistakes — I didn’t let the blue dry long enough, I should have etched the pad a little deeper, and I should have laid these Tide Pods out to dry instead of throwing them in a bucket — I can see the promise here. If you’re looking for a viable way to add color to a PCB, pad printing can do it, and it can do it at a very low unit cost.

Posted in badgelife, color pcb, Hackaday Columns, lithography, manufacturing, pad printing, photolithography, Skills | Leave a comment