LED Vertical Blinds

dinofizz posted in the forums about the LED display based on the Peggy 2 he installed on his vertical blinds:

I had custom PCBs made to help daisy chain the vertical blinds (they’re sitting on top of the horizontal beam from which the blinds hang). 300 ft spool of 16-way ribbon cable completely used up. Around ~4000 individual solder joints, and I’m still using breadboard to hold things together at the moment! Took me forever.

He linked to a few more build photos over in the forum post, and he even posted some video of it in action:

OHS 2013 Highlights: NeoLucida

NeoLucida was the subject of one of the best presentations and demos at the 2013 Open Hardware Summit.

The NeoLucida is a drawing aid that allows you to trace what you see.  It’s the first portable, authentic camera lucida to be manufactured in nearly a century. We love camera lucidas, and we think they can help people understand art history in provocative new ways.

The NeoLucida is was launched in a wildly successful kickstarter campaign to make a modern version of a camera lucida available to a new generation of artists. It’s not a complicated device, but it is an extremely specialized one, and niche products like it are a place where open source hardware and crowdfunding can come together incredibly successfully. They were able to bring the cost of owning a camera lucida into the realm of possibility for artists who can’t afford antiques. By publishing how the device works and how they make it, they have increased understanding both of the device itself and of historical works of art made using it.

It was exciting to try out a NeoLucida during the demo session at the summit, especially after hearing about its history.

OHS 2013 Highlights: DropBot

DropBot is an open source Digital Microfluidic (DMF) automation system that was presented at the 2013 Open Hardware Summit by Ryan Fobel of Wheeler Microfluidics Laboratory at the University of Toronto.

In DMF, discrete fluidic droplets are manipulated on the surface of an array of electrodes coated with a hydrophobic insulator.

It extremely exciting to see the sciences embracing open hardware in new ways.

Open Medical Hardware: The Open Stent

The stent pictured above is an example of an Open Stent from NDC, makers of nitinol materials and devices, particularly for medical applications. In their introduction to the project, they write:

The first problem that we encounter when developing useful and practical educational resources for stent design is that every design we might want to use as an example is proprietary! That leaves us without much to talk about… So to solve this problem, the first step was to create a design to use as an example. The Open Stent is designed to be completely generic, but also realistic, and relatively easy to modify and extend to be useful for whatever purpose a designer intends.

In addition to publishing their draft of Open Stent Design, which they call “a practical guide and resource for design and analysis of a generic Nitinol stent,” NDC has provided extensive calculation tools and CAD files as well, to help others evaluate and create derivatives of the design.

The project is a fascinating open source hardware use case, where creating an open design provides a platform for education and discussion where none existed before.  It’s also very exciting to recognize this as an early example of open source hardware in the field of medical devices— one of the places where open hardware can potentially make a very big difference in the world.

Marking Klein Bottles with the Eggbot


We were lucky enough to have a visit from Cliff Stoll, geek celebrity and proprietor of Acme Klein Bottle. Acme is the finest source of Klein bottles on the internet.

Cliff came with an esoteric dilemma: how to engrave a glass Klein bottle. Acme Klein bottles are blown from borosilicate (Pyrex) glass, which has a low coefficient of thermal expansion, which means that the usual way of engraving a curved glass surface—laser engraving—doesn’t actually work.  With more common types of glass, you can use a laser engraver to etch anything you want into the surface. But with Pyrex, the surface simply melts unevenly rather than creating the microfractures that give an etched appearance.


So how would you etch the curved surface of a Klein bottle? It turns out, to our surprise, that it is remarkably easy to do it with an Ostrich Eggbot fitted with a diamond engraver attachment.

There was one complication, which is that a Klein bottle is a funny shaped object! In order to fixture the Klein bottle in the Eggbot, we made a couple of extra large couplers—much larger than the tiny pads normally used to hold the ends of an egg—with EVA foam rubber pads on their surfaces. The extra large couplers held the Klein bottle securely for rotation.



We did some initial tests with Sharpie and a medium sized Klein bottle to make sure our fixturing worked well.


And then we hooked up an engraver for a real test.


Here’s what the Klein bottle looked like after engraving. Not being particularly creative, we etched the word “KLEIN” into the side.  Because the Klein bottle is made from thick borosilicate glass, it takes engraving remarkably well. It is a much more sturdy object than the fragile Christmas ornaments that we have engraved in the past.


While we can’t imagine that it is a major market segment, the Eggbot seems to be ideal for working with Klein bottles (insomuch as anything can be perfect for working with a closed, non-orientable, boundary-free manifold). But regardless, it’s quite wonderful to find an unexpected application like this, where our little robot can solve a real-world problem that we had never even considered.