Ethernet-Powered Christmas Tree

Glen Atkins wrote a blog post about a recent project for the holidays:

It’s an Ethernet-Powered Christmas Tree!

The lighted tree in the video above gets both the power and data for its RGB LED pixels using a single Ethernet cable. Power for the pixels is supplied from an Ethernet switch using the 802.3at PoE+ standard. Data for the pixels comes from software running on a PC that generates Art-Net packets at 40 Hz. Each Art-Net packet contains the RGB levels for all the pixels on the tree. Let’s take a closer look at the technical details and how this tree came into existence.

EM-6khRU4AARNAr

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post where I reversed engineered some Philips Color Kinetics iColor Flex RGB LED string lights. These lights require an AC power data supply that supplies 24 volts to power the pixels and transforms DMX or UDP packets of pixel data into the protocol used by the pixels. In addition to the power supply, the pixels require a proprietary leader cable to connect them to the power supply.

IMG_20191207_120244-2000-1024x682

In a typical setup, you have to run AC mains power and Ethernet data to the power supply then run the leader cable to the pixels. To avoid having a large stack of power data supplies in larger setups, Color Kinetics makes a rack mount power supply that can power up to eight strings of lights. This rack mount power supply still requires a leader cable for each string of lights.

thumbnail-1024x576.jpg

I’ve been wanting to build an 802.3af/at/bt Power over Ethernet design for a few years now and have always come up short on ideas and then it hit me, what if the Ethernet cable could connect closer to the pixels in the photo above? With a small box of electronics between the Ethernet cable and the connector on the end of the pixels, the pixels could receive both power and data from the Ethernet switch. No more AC mains wiring and no more proprietary leader cables.

 

Ethernet-Powered Christmas Tree

KiCad round tracks

Want to make curved traces in KiCad?

1

The track rounder plugin from KiCad RF tools can help:

RF-tools-KiCAD

2

I learned about the plugin thanks to this post on Hackaday:

RF TOOLS FOR KICAD

Recently, [Maurice] has released RF Tools for KiCad which include a collection of plugin’s that address a long felt need for RF design. The suite includes footprint wizards for designing mitred bends, tapered track connectors, and arc tracks (radius bends) for RF layout. These tools work by creating footprints, so it isn’t perfect, but it’s a big step in the right direction.

Also included is a set of action plugins for arc track corners, track length measurement, and a mask expansion tool. The expansion tool lets you adjust mask clearances for tracks and is handy for RF layout and for high current applications where you want to layer up extra solder on top of exposed copper tracks. It may also appeal to the artistic folks who want more control over track layout and visual design. Rounded tracks will also be pretty handy when designing flex PCBs. It’s worth pointing out that the arc action plugin will create segmented arcs while the arc footprint wizard will produce a smooth arc, so both have their pros and cons. If you get stuck, there’s an active thread on the forum for help and assistance. Check out the demo video embedded below.

https://github.com/easyw/RF-tools-KiCAD

KiCad round tracks

Low Power ESP32 Handheld

Max.K on Hackaday.io has created a pocket sized ESP32 display board with 300µW Always On Display:

7327171577179362033.jpeg

Low Power ESP32 Handheld

This handheld board is powered by an ESP32 and features a transflective Sharp memory LCD.  Similar to my previous Chronio smartwatch the focus of this project is on low power consumption.  Using the ESP32’s ULP core, the board can go into deep sleep with an active display.   The software includes a menu interface with a simple RSS reader.

Some of the key features are:
– 400x240px 2.7″ SHARP memory display
– 350 mAh LiPo battery with USB charging
– Always On Display with 300 µW power consumption
– 4-way joystick and buttons
– Date and time using built in RTC with NTP sync
– RSS Feed / Website parser

Layout files and Code on GitHub: https://github.com/CoretechR/ESP32-Handheld


Low Power ESP32 Handheld

Hackaday at the 36th Chaos Communication Congress (36c3)

Drew (@pdp7) is at the Chaos Communication Congress (36c3) and so is the Hackaday community:

ccc-34c3-featured.jpg

It’s that time of year again here in Germany. The mulled wine flows all night long at the Christmas markets, the Krampus runs wild in the streets, and hackers are perched frantically behind their keyboards and soldering irons, trying to get their last minute projects “finished” for the 36th annual Chaos Communication Congress (36C3) in Leipzig.

We’ll have an assembly for all fans and friends of the Jolly Wrencher, so if you’re coming to Congress, you can come join us or at least stop by and say hi. [Elliot] and [Sven] and a number of Hackaday.io luminaries will be on hand. (Ask us about secret stickers and an as-yet unannounced upcoming Hackaday conference.)

Even if you’re not able to make it, you should keep your eyes on Hackaday from the 27th to the 30th, because we’ll be reporting on the best of Congress. But you don’t have to take our word for it: the Chaos Computer Club makes all of the talks available on livestream during the event, many with simultaneous translation, and final edited versions often appearing just a few hours afterwards.

We’ve looked through the schedule, and it’s going to be a hum-dinger! Gather ’round the glowing box with your friends at your own local hackerspace, or call in sick from work and make yourself some popcorn. This is must-see nerd TV.

Whether you’ve been naughty or nice, swing by our assembly if you’re going to be in Leipzig for the last few days of 2019. See you there!

via Hackaday is Going to the 36th Chaos Communication Congress — Hackaday

Quote

Talk about Open Source Hardware tonight at Chaos Communication Congress (36c3)

I am speaking tonight 19:45 at the Chaos Communication Congress (36c3) in Leipzig, Germany, on the Critical Decentralization Cluster stage:

Introduction to Open Source Hardware, OSHWA and the Open Hardware Summit

Screenshot from 2019-12-27 15-22-55.png
PDF of the slides is available for download from GitHub.

 

Talk about Open Source Hardware tonight at Chaos Communication Congress (36c3)

KiCad teardop plugin and flexible PCBs

Screenshot from 2019-12-06 21-04-05

Thanks to Anool posting on Hackaday about KiCad plugins.  I decided to try out the Teardrop plugin by NilujePerchut:

Screenshot from 2019-12-11 14-51-09

KiCad Teardrop Plugin

This action plugin adds and deletes teardrops to a PCB.

This implementation uses zones instead of arcs. This allows to comply with DRC rules by simply rebuild all zones. You can also modify their shape by simply modifying the zone outline (like any other zone). Teardrops created with this script use a specific priority (0x4242) to be recognized as teardrops.

Here is the result of my first experiment to use the Teardrop plugin on a flexible PCB to reduce the mechanical stress of flexing the trace:

The board is available as an OSH Park shared project and the KiCad design files are on GitHub.

The author of the plugin was very responsive to GitHub issues and I was able to get better results on my next flex design which is currently being manufactured:

My flex “business card” will fold over a coin cell battery to light a 0603 LED.

Curious how the plugin works?  It creates zones next to the vias and pads.  Here are the two teardrop zones that connect traces to a via:

Warning: you need create a schematic and generate a netlist before starting the PCB layout.  Otherwise the the zones the plugin creates won’t be filled:

You also need to be careful that there is not copper on the same layer too close to the zone.  For example, the text was too close to the teardrop zone on this via, so I moved the text down and the zone now fills correctly:

An open GitHub issue is that the teardrop zone does not align perfectly for SMD pads that are not circles (like rectangles, squares, rounded rectangles).  The work around I used was to move the zone after it is filled to align with my SMD pad:

I hope you have fun with this plugin and leave a comment if you use it your own design!

UPDATE: I joined Adafruit Show-n-Tell to talk about flex PCBs and the teardrop plugin at 10 min 51 sec mark

KiCad teardop plugin and flexible PCBs