Hardware Happy Hour Chicago tonight, KiCon tomorrow!

Exciting times for people in Chicago that like hardware!

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Tonight, Thursday, April 25th is Hardware Happy Hour (3H) Chicago at Ballast Point!  It’s an informal hardware show ‘n tell that is a lot of fun:

April 3H Chicago Meetup (KiCon eve!)

Thursday, Apr 25, 2019, 7:00 PM

Ballast Point Brewing Chicago
212 N Green St Chicago, il

38 Members Attending

Please bring your latest project with you! Anything you’re working on, electrical, mechanical or software works! We want to see the stuff that you’re interested in!

Check out this Meetup →

And KiCon 2019 begins tomorrow!  Come learn more about designing circuit boards with KiCad.

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There is also a party at Chicago hackerspace Pumping Station: One on Friday night and then a Bring-A-Hack party with Hackaday on Saturday night.

Look for our Drew Fustini (@pdp7) in purple at all the above events!

Hardware Happy Hour Chicago tonight, KiCon tomorrow!

PIC16F1459 USB Stack Light Controller

Glen Atkins writes controlling an industrial stack light over USB using a PIC16F1459 USB microcontroller and a PCA9685 I2C PWM LED controller:

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PIC16F1459 USB Stack Light Controller

After using the PIC16F1459 to build numerous USB HID input devices including a giant keyboarda tiny keyboard, and a big red button, it was time to see if the PIC16F1459 could be used to control outputs too. Sticking with the industrial theme, I chose to build a USB controller for a, um, stack of industrial stack lights.


Industrial stack lights are usually used to indicate the status of machines on production lines. Green could indicate all is functioning normally, yellow could mean the machine is running low on input material, and red could indicate the machine jammed and needs intervention.


For a simple, quick project such as this one, one does not want to have to write a custom USB driver for a Mac, PC, or Linux box. The best way to avoid writing a custom driver is to use an existing USB device class that lends itself to controlling custom hardware. The USB Human Interface Device (HID) and USB Communication Device Class (CDC) device classes both support controlling custom hardware.

PIC16F1459 USB Stack Light Controller

Next Week Is KiCon: Come For The Talks, Stay For The Parties

KiCad is the electronic design automation software that lives at the intersection of electronic design and open source software. It’s seen a huge push in development over the last few years which has grown the suite into a mountain of powerful tools. To help better navigate that mountain, the first ever KiCad conference, KiCon, is happening next week in Chicago and Hackaday is hosting one of the afterparties.

The two days of talks take place on April 26th and 27th covering a multitude of topics. KiCad’s project leader, Wayne Stambaugh, will discuss the state of the development effort. You’ll find talks on best practices for using the software as an individual and as a team, how to avoid common mistakes, and when you should actually try to use the auto-router. You can learn about automating your design process with programs that generate footprints, by connecting it through git, and through alternate user interfaces. KiCad has 3D modeling to make sure your boards will fit their intended enclosures and talks will cover generating models in FreeCAD and rendering designs in both Fusion360 and Blender. Dust off your dark arts with RF and microwave design tips as well as simulating KiCad circuits in SPICE. If you can do it in KiCad, you’ll learn about it at KiCon.

Of course there’s a ton of fun to be had as interesting hackers from all over the world come together in the Windy City. Hackaday’s own Anool Mahidharia and Kerry Scharfglass will be presenting talks, and Mike Szczys will be in the audience. We anticipate an excellent “lobby con” where the conversations away from the stages are as interesting as the formal talks. And of course there are afterparties!

  • Friday 4/26 Pumping Station: One, the popular Chicago hackerspace now celebrating its 10 year anniversary, is hosting an afterparty (details TBA)
  • Saturday 4/27: Hackaday is hosting an after party at Jefferson Tap from 6-8:30. We’re providing beverages and light food for all who attended the conference.

via Next Week Is KiCon: Come For The Talks, Stay For The Parties — Hackaday


Introducing the “Arduflexboy”

Alasdair Allan writes on the Hackster.io blog about an awesome project using our OSH Park 2 Layer Flexible PCB service:

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Introducing the “Arduflexboy”

The Arduboy is a fantastic 8-bit game handheld video game platform built around a Microchip ATmega32U4 micro-controller. It’s open source, and there is a bunch of documentation that will help you build your own games. Since it crowdfunded itself into the retro-gaming scene back in 2015, it has become a staple of the community — and we’ve seen some impressive hacks.

But this one might beat them all, Kevin Bates has just built a flexible version.

A flexible Arduboy, the “Arduflexboy.” (📷: Kevin Bates)

While flexible PCBs have been around for a while, it’s only in the last few months that they’ve become readily available to the maker community with OSH Park introducing them as an option at the tail end of last year.

Bates made use of the OSH Park new flex service, and hiding all the Arduboy components behind the LCD screen, produced a flexible version that’s paper thin. Even the ‘bump’ of the screen is still only 2.5mm thick.

Introducing the “Arduflexboy”

Flexible PCB Contest with Digi-Key, Hackaday and OSH Park


Do you have an idea burning in the back of your mind; a design that you just want to get out? Well, flex those creative muscles with the “Flexible PCB Contest” – sponsored by OSH Park, Hackaday and Digi-Key Electronics.

Flexible PCBs have many uses; their small size letting them fit where rigid PCBs might not, and ensuring weight won’t be an issue on sensitive projects.

Design a flexible PCB project and enter to win anything from gift cards to complimentary boards. Digi-Key offers many options to assist with any design to help you with your project!

The rules and contest information can be found here. The contest ends on May 29th, 2019 at 7:00 am PDT, so be sure to create, share and send in your designs!

Flexible PCB Contest with Digi-Key, Hackaday and OSH Park

Eliminating Nixie Tube Cathode Poisoning, Bi-Quinary Digit Ghosting, and Heavily Oxidized Leads

From Mark Smith (@surfncircuits):

Eliminating Nixie Tube Cathode Poisoning, Bi-Quinary Digit Ghosting, and Heavily Oxidized Leads

Bi-quinary driven Nixie tubes have nice features by requiring a low bias current and minimized shift registers, but also are sensitive to digit ghosting and require a good level of cathode poison elimination. With the procedures and circuit tricks described above, this was successful for the ETA Nixie Tube Clocks. Good luck with your testing. Let me know if you have any comments or your own improvements.



Giving An Industrial Push Button USB, Elegantly

[Glen]’s project sounds perfectly straightforward: have a big industrial-style push button act as a one-key USB keyboard. He could have hacked something together in any number of ways, but instead he decided to create a truly elegant solution. His custom PCB mates to the factory parts perfectly, and the USB cable between the button and the computer even fits through the button enclosure’s lead hole.

It turns out that industrial push buttons have standardized components which can be assembled in an almost LEGO-like manner, with components mixed and matched to provide different switch actions, light indicators, and things of that nature. [Glen] decided to leverage this feature to make his custom PCB (the same design used in his one-key keyboard project) fit just like a factory component. With a 3D printed adapter, the PCB locks in just like any other component, and even lines up with the lead hole in the button’s enclosure for easy connecting of the USB cable.

via Giving An Industrial Push Button USB, Elegantly — Hackaday


2019 Hackaday Prize Begins Right Now

This is the 2019 Hackaday Prize, the worldwide hardware design contest focused on product development. We know you can build a working prototype, and we still want to see you do that. But a great idea should have reach beyond your own workshop. This year’s Hackaday Prize is about taking your product across the finish line, from concept to design for manufacture.


$125,000 and a Supplyframe DesignLab Residency await the Best Product winner. There are five focus categories this year, with the winner of each receiving a $10,000 prize. And to help encourage those early beginnings, we have another $10,000 in seed funding set aside which means up to $500 for each of the top 20 entries who get in and gather those “likes” before June first.

There are a few areas of focus you should have in mind as you work on your products. These are Concept, Design, Production, Benchmark, and Communication. All entries are eligible to receive prizes related to these, and in addition to the $50,000 we mentioned above for the winner in each area, we have another $3,000 for each set aside to recognize an honorable mention.

$200,000 is on the line and the final results will be revealed live on stage at the Hackaday Superconference in November. Your name should be in one of those sealed envelopes!

via 2019 Hackaday Prize Begins Right Now — Hackaday


Components Cut in Half Reveal their Inner Beauty

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

via Components Cut in Half Reveal their Inner Beauty — Hackaday