We rarely take a moment to consider the beauty of the components we use in electronic designs. Too often they are simply commodities, bought in bulk on reels or in bags, stashed in a drawer until they’re needed, and then unceremoniously soldered to a board. Granted, little scraps of black plastic with silver leads don’t exactly deserve paeans sung to their great beauty – at least not until you cut them in half to reveal the beauty within.
We’ve seen a little of what [Tube Time] has accomplished here; recall this lapped-down surface-mount inductor that [electronupdate] did a while back. The current work is more extensive and probably somewhat easier to accomplish because [TubeTime] focused mainly on larger through-hole components such as resistors and capacitors
What if there were something like a KVM switch for your micro programmer, logic analyzer, and other various tools? There was a time when KVM switches (keyboard, video, and mouse, by the way) were metal enclosures surrounding an absurdly complicated rotary switch.
ToorCamp is a five-day open air tech camping event held every two years somewhere around the northwest corner of Washington state. Think of it as something like Burning Man, except you can survive for three hours without water, there aren’t a whole bunch of scenesters and Instagram celebs flying in on private planes, and everyone there can actually build something. Oh, and ToorCamp has delivery drones that will send you creme brulee. These mini creme brulees were probably made with the hot air gun hanging off a soldering station. Don’t worry, you’re getting fresh air that’ll balance out the heavy metal poisoning.
For last year’s ToorCamp, the biggest welcome sign was a 40-foot-long illuminated ToorCamp sign. This was designed, built and coded by Zach Archer, and he was at the 2018 Hackaday Superconference to give us the details on how he made it and how it was coded.
Sporting a new wristwatch to school for the first time is a great moment in a kid’s life. When it’s a custom digital-analog watch made by your dad, it’s another thing altogether.
As [Chris O’Riley] relates, the watch he built for his son [Vlad] started out as a simple timer for daily toothbrushing, a chore to which any busy lad pays short shrift unless given the proper incentive. That morphed into an idea for a general purpose analog timepiece with LEDs taking the place of hands. [Chris] decided that five-minute resolution was enough for a nine-year-old, which greatly reduced the number of LEDs needed. An ATtiny841 tells a 28-channel I2C driver which LEDs to light up, and an RTC chip keeps [Vlad] on schedule. The beautiful PCB lives inside a CNC machined aluminum case; we actually commented to [Chris] that the acrylic prototype looked great by itself, but [Vlad] wanted metal. The watch has no external buttons; rather, the slightly flexible polycarbonate crystal bears against a PCB-mounted pushbutton to control functions.
We are excited to see what people create in this new flexible PCB design contest on Hackaday.io:
The now-humble PCB was revolutionary when it came along, and the whole ecosystem that evolved around it has been a game changer in electronic design. But the PCB is just so… flat. Planar. Two-dimensional. As useful as it is, it gets a little dull sometimes.
Here’s your chance to break out of Flatland and explore the third dimension of circuit design with our brand new Flexible PCB Contest.
We’ve teamed up with Digi-Key for this contest. Digi-Key’s generous sponsorship means 60 contest winners will receive free fabrication of three copies of their flexible PCB design, manufactured through the expertise of OSH Park. So now you can get your flex on with wearables, sensors, or whatever else you can think of that needs a flexible PCB.
HOW TO ENTER
Go over to Hackaday.io and create a project with images of your flexible circuit board design, and be sure to tell the story of how and why you came up with it. When the project is published, look for the “Submit project to…” link in the left sidebar and submit it to the Flexible PCB contest.
- 60 contest winners will receive an OSH Park code for 3 complimentary boards from OSH Park shipped to them (there’s a size limitation detailed below). Please allow 8 weeks after the close of this contest.
- 3 Tindie gift certificates of $100 each will be awarded for:
- Best Project
- Best Social Media Picture or Video
- You can post a picture or video of your device, of you working on your device, or anything related on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, or any other social platform. You must post a link to the video in the comments on this page.
- Best Documentation
Here’s the small print on those free flexible PCB awards: If you’re one of the lucky 60 (yay, that’s a lot!) winners, you’ll receive a coupon that will cover the cost of a PCB up to 2 square inches (13 square centimeters) in size. If your design is larger you can still use this coupon and choose to pay the portion of the cost beyond that size. The best part is that OSH Park delivers three copies of the board from each order! See the contest page for complete rules.
WHAT SHOULD I BUILD?
Pretty much anything that needs a flexible PCB qualifies. Use your imagination! Folding cell phones are all the rage now, so use that for inspiration. Perhaps you’re into wearables, which are begging to be made from flexible materials. Repair a wonky laptop display with a new flexible connector? That counts. Working on something so small that a traditional PCB is just too bulky? We want to hear about it.
We’ve lined up some resources to help you get started. Check out OSH Park’s Flex PCB FAQ for all the technical details on flexible PCBs. If you’re new to PCB design, Brian Benchoff’s excellent Creating a PCB in Everything series covers everything you need to know.
Still stuck? Here are a few recent projects featuring flexible PCBs that might get the creative juices flowing (not all of which would necessarily fit the qualifications):
Are you bored of your traditional bow tie? Do you wish it had RGB LEDs, WiFi, and a web interface that you could access from your smartphone? If you’re like us at Hackaday…maybe not. But that hasn’t stopped [Stephen Hawes] from creating the Glowtie, an admittedly very slick piece of open source electronic neckwear that you can build yourself or even purchase as an assembled unit. Truly we’re living in the future.
While we’re hardly experts on fashion around these parts (please see the “About” page for evidence), we can absolutely appreciate the amount of time and effort [Stephen] has put into its design. Especially considering his decision to release the hardware and software as open source while still putting the device up on Kickstarter. We seen far too many Kickstarters promising to open the source up after they get the money, so we’re always glad to see a project that’s willing to put everything out there from the start.
For the hardware, [Stephen] has gone with the ever popular ESP8266 module and an array of WS2812B LEDs around the edge of the PCB. There’s also a tiny power switch on the bottom, and a USB port for charging the two 1S 300mAh lipo batteries on the backside of the Glowtie. The 3D printed rear panel gives the board some support, and features an integrated bracket that allows it to clip onto the top button of your shirt. For those that aren’t necessarily a fan of the bare PCB look or blinding people with exposed LEDs, there’s a cloth panel that covers the front of the Glowtie to not only diffuse the light but make it look a bit more like a real tie.
When you go to a hacker conference, you always hope there’s going to be a hardware badge. This is an interactive piece of custom electronics that gets you in the door while also delighting and entertaining during the con (and hopefully far beyond it).
Hot off the presses then is the Hacker Hotel badge, from the comfortable weekend hacker camp of that name in a Netherlands hotel. As we have already noted, this badge comes from the same team that created the SHA2017 hacker camp’s offering, and shares that badge’s display, ESP32 processor, battery, and firmware. The evolution of that firmware into the badge.team platform is an exciting development in its own right, but in the context of this badge it lends a very familiar feel to the interface for those attendees who were also at the 2017 event.