Tag Archives: ColorLight

Comparing SMD Components

04.16.2015 – SMD In-House PCB Test & Truncated Icosahedron Paint

I painted the Truncated Icosahedron (I’ll call it by it’s shape name cuz I can’t think of anything else fancy to call it yet).  Yep – I got a supply of Metallic Blue, which glistens in the sunlight, for the outside, and painted the inside Titanium White.  What’s the result?  Well, it looks cool as hell, but now I gotta think what to do with it….

I wanna light it up soon, but I’m into 3 projects simultaneously right now and have a job, but, I’m thinking I’ll light this one up with those Philips Lumileds in series with a small dimmer control board.  We’ll see…  More thinking required.  Or, more appropriately, when I get the idea, I’ll start implementing it freely.

Truncated Icosahedron Brad Ormand


I’m trying to see if I can get the precision necessary to etch these micro-trace circuit boards with Ferric-Chloride, in-house.  I have a small lab set up for that, but I have no idea if the resolution from the etching phase will be sufficient.  In the past, I have had a hard time with small traces washing right away.  But, I think that’s an error in my photo-exposure process, not the chem bath.  That’s why I’m gonna try with this test.  I have my AD 654 Adapter (so I can breadboard with it), the RGB LED headers, and the MCU SMD board for my Honeycomb light all put onto a sheet that I’ll run through the process.  I might fail.

However it turns out, I’ll find out what capabilities I *do* have after it’s done.  And, perhaps, I’ll see where the bottleneck is and be able to overcome, we’ll see.  But, it could be awesome and hold electrical integrity just fine!  I hope that’ll be the case.  Then, I’ll be able to pump out usable products from this run.

Comparing Circuit PCB Components

At the top of this pic, I put in my old RGB LED header for comparison which is twice as big as the ones I have slated to make.  That’s good.  These will be nice and tidy.  Also, you can see in the pic, next to the quarter, the tiny TQFP chip that I have to be able to make precision traces for and be able to solder onto it.  And, then there are the SOIC-8 parts at the top left to go onto the other boards.  Most of the passives are 1206, but a few are 0805’s.  I bunched the rest of the packaging next to it because it sets the scene 🙂 .

I’m glad I did a test print on paper because the first one was crappy resolution @ 72 DPI (fixed it), and also, in this one, I left one of the soldermask layers on the design (fixed that, too).   BTW, the moisture test (Cobalt Dichloride Free) turned pink in a matter of minutes taking it out of the package, but was blue just before.  I’m not going to reflow these, but it’s interesting to see the effects, especially here in Texas.  Shipped from Mouser, also here in Texas.  It’s humid today – 89%, reported.

Comparing SMD Components

Anyeeewayees… We’ll see how everything comes together.  I see it like this: If I’m able to fabricate these SMD boards here, more power to me for testing prototypes with small surface-mount components – mainly the chip leads.  But, if I cannot get consistent results, then I’ll either go back to prototyping with through-hole parts, improve my fab process, or just get them made when I need ’em.  But, I *do* wanna find out if I have the resolution necessary, in-house.  Exciting!  I’ll report on what I find.

Honeycomb Light First Circuit BradOrmand

04.08.2015 – Synth, Job & Lights

New, in the sphere of my workings is a job that I will be starting at soon as a Sr. Software Engineer.  The recruiting process was long and pretty taxing due to just the management of all of the leads and people to stay in close contact with over the last few weeks.  My goal was to find a “match”, and that’s what I found.  The people are great, the job calls for what I have to offer, and it appeals to me as a developer, as well.  I’m ultra-excited about it!


In other news, I ordered some components to start building a real, accurate, and high-potential analog synth module!  I have the basics spec’d out and ready for a test setup.   So far, it’s going to feature the Analog Devices 654 Voltage-to-Frequency converter as the main oscillators and LFO, and Texas Instruments Active Filters throughout.  I just received them in today.

Synth Keys Idea - Brad Ormand

I posted my thoughts on an idea for a frequency mangler / modulator using digital logic (as an analog signal effect) a while back, and after I get them running, I’ll try to implement that idea with these as I go along.  It’ll produce a kind of ring-modulated effect.  So, there’s plenty to do before I get it up and running as I have to design circuits around them, but I imagine I’ll have something going pretty soon.

I hung out with friends and family over the Easter holiday, and I probed some mechanically-minded acquaintances’ minds about putting together a wooden keyboard (with my electronics inside) to hook into the synth module.  I got plenty of ideas.  I’m visualizing a few scenarios: One, as an all-in-one solution for peeps to just get and start playing as a standalone fun-toy, and two, as a separate controller for hooking into various modules.  I’ll keep that on the back burner, but for now, I just wanna build something that works and makes awesome sound.  The first synth will be on the breadboard, and the first keyboard will probably just be a crazy in-shop, spring-loaded array of chopped wood hitting tac switches.


Honeycomb Light First Circuit BradOrmand

And, for the lights…  The thing I was waiting for was to write the software to be as fast as possible with the on-chip oscillator, and to see if it’d be fast enough for my scanning.  Well, I did that, and it’s not.  It falls short by at least a few MHz.  So, I have now, in-stock, an external oscillator that will push the MCU to 20MHz, and I’m waiting to see what kind of stability I can get with that.  As the experiments go forward, I’ll know if the solution I have already designed will work.  One more home-made PCB test, and I’ll have the answer.

Now that I have cleared the schedule a bit, I can begin to develop more projects.


Brad Ormand HoneycombLight Main MCU Board

03.25.2015 – Main MCU Board & ComCath RGB LED MaTRIX

After hours and hours of taxing my brain for what approach to use to streamline the “guts” of the HoneycombLight (for real – it deadened me for a bit from getting stuck several times and trying to overcome these obstacles.  I lost sleep.), I finally came to a conclusion for the architecture of the matrix routing (and then I was ok).


So, I figured, I’ll just place daughter boards, matrix mixer boards, every 4 pixels and let the pixel driver boards run straight to it, 4 at a time, raw, (R, G, B, and cathode) instead of “mixing upstream” by soldering wires together right on the drivers (like I did last time).  Mix as I go – 4 times downstream to the final MCU – it’ll all be prepared once it arrives there.   …Because the entire thing is really messy if done with twisting or soldering wires together onto connectors at the pixels, believe me.  It’s a “grid”, a Matrix, a mess.  I really needed the double-sided planes, here.  I did it in two “phases” (those 9 via holes in the center), alternating top and bottom copper.  Reminds me of the butterflies in Fast Fourier Transforms, but physical.

This allows the entire path to the MCU boards to be nice and clean with dedicated plugs for easy service and replacement, and I admit, also for the cleanliness of the way it looks – fresh, not cluttered.  I like that. 🙂  That was one of the tradeoffs I made.  The way that “under the hood” looks is important to me.

Brad Ormand RGB LED Matrix1x4 MixerBoard


And, as for the MCU board, most of its architecture is the same as the first through-hole rendition, but it’s just double-sided, solder-masked, and silk-screened, now.  Loads of improvement!  But, the concept is the same…  However, I can’t have it looking like it’s still a prototype.  (I have already built that and it worked (with wires all over the place), so now it’s time to do it for real).  So, every component is now surface-mount, minus the row and column connectors (for rigidity).  It’s not the *final*, final version – I have already thought of things that I’ll have to do to revise it, but it’s a good start.

I am yet to send it off to be manufactured, so I haven’t tested it yet, but I’m really excited to get a small batch back and run it through the ringer!  I mean, I’m almost as excited about how it’s going to *look* as I am about how it’s going to work!  Haha – to me, it’s like a work of art!  Especially with that ground plane in there surrounding the traces – looks dope.

Brad Ormand HoneycombLight Main MCU Board

I don’t know if putting “BradOrmand.com” on there is “forced” or not, actually.  I want a “maker’s mark” on there, but am still deciding if that’s the direction I wanna go or not.  I might put in a bitmap with my logo or even transfer it over to the company name I’m thinking about using for the marketing of the lights, etc.  I don’t know, yet.  Decisions, decisions.

All-in-all, though, this board was weeks in the making and took a lot out of me.  I didn’t think I could do it there for a while…  But, I was also kind of stressed out with all of the Portfolio and job stuff, recently.  But, I have it quite in-hand, now.  Let’s hope the electrical connections all check out and that those tiny-ass traces can handle the current I’ll give it.  It’ll be multiplexed, but still only milliseconds between blasts.  We’ll see.  This is all part of the learning.  I’m determined to do this.


Last thing…  The main thing I am concerned about right now with this is soldering the central ground pad underneath the 0.8mm pin pitch TQPF without a reflow oven or a good heat station.  I don’t know how that’ll work.  I’ll be thinking about it.  In fact, I think it has solder-mask under it right now.  I’m going to have to investigate, but the datasheet *does* recommend tying it to ground.  Onward we go…


Hex Light - Stills Of Animation 2 - Brad Ormand

02.12.2015 – Lights & Devices

During the last few days, I have written several animations for the Hex Light, improved the animation library and software utilities I have going for all of my lights, and have swapped animations one after another trying to find the right sequence.  I also got blended colors going.  **I really need to start producing video to go with these log entries…

And, in the interim, I’ve been doing a lot of research into prices of parts, chips, and supplies to make the boards and art.  Basically, I’m trying to design REV B of the board and enable part- and code-sharing among as many of them as possible.  Actually, it’s pretty exciting.  I like doing it.  It’s like a little game.  🙂

Hex Light - Stills Of Animation 3 - Brad Ormand

I showed the Hex Light and other projects to friends and family this weekend and it was a hit, I think!  And, plus, we talked about all kinds of possibilities for the future, such as limited editions, knotted wood, inset screws, and wall-sized art.   Plus, I got advice from some business veterans about marketing and product design.  That gets me excited for the future.  I like this.

But, for now, I want to focus on making a good selection of the lights – large, medium, and small – all price ranges, and making the prototypes as cool as they can be 🙂  Also, I’ll be in business with the Dodecahedrons and my paintings, as well.  I’ll have an album and a synth instrument, as well, upcoming.  It’s thrilling to me to design these and come up with stuff that people get excited about!  I get excited about them, too!

Hex Light - Stills Of Animation 2 - Brad Ormand

That being said, there’s only so much I can do at a time.  Plus, I have a full-time engineering job.  But, every night and on the weekends (if I’m not venturing out), I chip a piece of the shroud away from the form of the dream.  Right now, as I said, I’m designing products.  I’m implementing the ideas that inspire me.  I did a Hex Light prototype all the way from an idea to done and working.  This REV B board for it is going to be what I’ll try to put into production.  I’ll keep working on it as I continue to get the other lights caught up to the “working prototype” stage.  As I said, they’ll all share some common parts and production methods.

For instance, I’ll probably go with a 44-pin TQFP MCU, get them in bulk and flash the appropriate program on them for the application.  It seems like I could save money by getting 3 or 4 different processors, specific for each application (like if I only needed 2 full ports and 2 ADC’s for one thing, instead of 4 full ports and 6 ADC’s), but really, I can’t save that much, because getting bulk means that I already save cash on the one model, in bulk.  If an MCU costs $8 each for under quantity 10 and $5 each for 500 or more, I get the discount, overall.  And, as for the labor, I’d like to work with a common port pinout and register layout for the common libraries I’m writing.  That’s the kind of thing I’m spending the most time on now.  Haha – who knows what will end up being “the right thing”, but I’ll learn as I go along.

REV B for the board will halve the size and be labeled much better with a proper soldermask, silkscreen, and two layers – plus it will use SMD parts.  Mounting it on the art will be much easier, and I can use that same board in a few products.  I’ll have to make other boards, say, for the Tri-Light and single hex “mini” lights, but my direction now is to get the more complex board settled and then use the techniques learned from that to create the mini ones.

Hex Light - Stills Of Animation 1 - Brad Ormand

Anyway…  I could go on and on…  It’s fun to try to get these pieces going for production.  It’s not stressful, but it’s not easy, either.  I want to see these pieces come alive and be in good form, so I’ll do what I have to and just see what I got after they’re done.  Then, I can move on to other projects, like the synth and metal dodecahedron.

Brad Ormand - ProTools Shot - Strike1

01.26.2015 – Song Submissions & Hex Light

I have been feeling under the weather lately.  (ugh).  I had to take a break for a bit, and I don’t have any fancy craft pics to share this time 🙁  I replayed Far Cry 3 and watched a few movies. I had to take a few days off of work.  It wasn’t a picnic.  It really set me back, actually.

But, since then, I have been feeling better ( a LOT better), I returned to my job and have been tweaking a few songs to be at their best – namely, “Strike” and “The Crew’s In The Kitchen”.  I submitted a few songs to labels and libraries.  Even though they aren’t “done” for production, they are really, really good demos.  And, I feel confident submitting some of them that are near their mark.

Brad Ormand - In Studio

I ran them by friends and saw that this was some of my best work (engineering-wise and songwriting) to date.  The rest, I’ll keep working on.  Once they are all ready for production, I’ll release.  I estimate, maybe June, for the drop – if I don’t have any under contract, I’ll drop ’em, that is.  If not, I’ll have an album that I can use to represent my work from 2013 to early 2015.  I’ll drop somethin’ down regardless, and promote it in the first half of 2015.

But, I am considering moving on to making production music for a while after that.  Music royalties have been good to me over the years, and I think the whole process is exciting.  So, I feel like I wanna try that road again.  I write and produce for “scenes” anyway when it comes down to it…  And plus, I have much better material now than I did when I was successful in music, before, so…  let’s go!

Let’s talk about “Strike” for a minute.  For metal fans out there, I think you’ll love it…  But, for those on the fence, I don’t want it to get misunderstood.  It’s not about fighting (between humans).  Haha. Let me say that I want you to envision a caveman that is facing an unintended encounter with a tiger.  The tiger knows you are there and that you are tasty, and moves in for the take.  It’s at that moment that you want to put on the headphones to listen to “Strike”.  No headphones for the caveman, of course, but that’s the attitude it portrays:  Survive this.  Put your brows down into position.  You’re going to have to pull out all that you’ve got!  And, maybe even have tiger for dinner, I say.  Ha. “Strike.  Hit back!  Yo, grab ahold and get that!” (not playing) and “Take control and bring back”.  Seriously.

Brad Ormand - ProTools Shot - Strike1

The big takeaway for me with “Strike” is that there’s no guitar recorded, but it sounds very metal-like.  It’s the way I mixed it and tweaked the mod wheel during recording to make it sound like pinch harmonics.  That’s just what I set out to do.  It was an experiment.  I wanted to go SUPER heavy on the main instrument and provide a full spectrum bandwidth during the chorus, with the sub bass and accessory instruments, but with my closest synth approximation of what it is that makes those famous molten metal songs work.  There’s a gap or lull in the shore for the pre-chorus, then BOOM – full wave bandwidth chorus.  White noise like crest smashing.  I like this direction.  I want to do more.

And, in other news, I started another painting, recorded a snippet for a new song, painted the existing Dodecahedron (I hate it lol), and started a possible collaboration for a metal (like steel or aluminum) version of the Dodecahedron!  That will be nice…  Also, I realized a fatal fault in the Hex Light.  Yes.  Port PD6 was crossed over (by design in my circuit layout) with PB6, because it would lay out just right, but it makes it super unreasonable for the software to have to split PORT D over my ROW 3 of Common-Cathode RGB’s, in which 1 of 3 is at PORT B.  I’m not going to go all into it, but saying: ROW_3_PORT |= (1<<ROW_3_B)… would fail since ROW_3_B would be of a different PORT than ROW_3_G and ROW_3_R . It’s not clean.  It’s not what I really want.  I’d rather have a top jumper on the board than to have this major compromise / hardship in the firmware.

Ok, so, I’ll fix that, and hopefully get the thing working, now that I’m back and active on the project again.  It’s so damn close!  Happy Monday to you. 🙂



Hex Light - Front Assembly - Brad Ormand

01.18.2015 – Hex Light Wiring

I made some progress with the wiring for the Hex Light.  I have ’em set up in Common-Cathode-Column configuration, with RGB rows, and started the wiring on the art itself (like I said before, instead of routing all of this on the circuit board 🙂 ).  There are 16 mini-PCBs mounted to house the light, the passives, and the connector headers.

Hex Light - Mini-PCBs on the art - Brad Ormand


After a few days of work, and with some in-situation design, I got the whole board wired and connected up to the main MCU board.  I continuity tested all of the connections, and lit each up with voltage at their respective addresses. I found a short and some mechanical failure, fixed those, and then it tested out perfectly.  I think it’s go for a test with the MCU!   But, that’ll be for another day – Whew!  I’m beat…

Once I test it out with the whole system, I’ll get the wires all harnessed correctly, mount the main PCB, put some standoffs on there, clean it up a bit, and start experimenting with writing nice animation programs.  I programmed a test pattern, flashing each on and off individually every 200ms, but I’m yet to hook it up to the real system –  I did that from a breadboard with a sub-sample of 12 lights.  On the system, there are 48.  We’ll, see if it scales up…

By doing all of this, I clearly see that I could optimize several things – from wire routes, to PCB size and routing, to channels for each harness, etc.  Just had to set this prototype up first to see where I’m gonna have to take it in the future.  Gonna make a lot more. 😉

Hex Light - Initial Wiring - Brad Ormand

But, yeah – despite the ideas for optimization and all of the underlying engineering stuff – I don’t get too hung up on it… I just want to create awesome art and programs and fun products!  In the end, the kinks will work themselves out if I just treat it all with love, care, and patience.

… And, the front view…  ( looks a lot better than the back – Haha )

Hex Light - Front Assembly - Brad Ormand


Hex Light Chassis and PCB Transparency - Brad Ormand

01.13.2015 – Hex Light

The Hex Light is in the spotlight today.  I mentioned that I ran the RGB LED CC boards through and that I had fun doing it.  And now, I have assembled 12 of 16.  It takes a bit of time.  Plus I have job stuff all day to do…

Hex Light Chassis and PCB Transparency - Brad Ormand

Hex Light RGB LED CC PCBs - Brad Ormand

I cut ’em and drilled them.  My smallest drill was actually too big to accommodate what I needed.  It was about a millimeter and a half, but I’m gonna need about a millimeter.  I did have a circular end bit that was about a half mm, but that was too small.  So, I’ll need to reconfigure my tooling.  I need the precise size because soldering to holes with no copper pads is horrible (because the too-big drill bit cut right through the pads), and not being able to get the component leads through is also horrible because.. well, they can’t get mounted at all! 😉

So, another trip to the Depot is warranted.  I have a list.  Plus, I love my trips there. Just wanted to say…  It’s probably my favorite place to go (And, then I hit up the grocery store next door for that grubbbz, yum – tacos, lettuce, noodles, sparkling water, pears, beef jerky – all an essential part of the dev process for damn sure 🙂 ).

Soldering the RGB LED CC Boards - Brad Ormand

And then, I soldered these small boards – 12 of them of 16, and stuck them on the Hex Light.  Next will be getting the remaining 4 (when I get the time) and then testing the shit out of all of them.  And then, then next step would be, of course, applying the main board that I fabricated a few days ago to the entire install.

I have almost got the firmware written already, but I’ll need a few more tests and tweaks.  It builds on everything I have ever done before of this nature.  I’m going to make it sing and, yeah, of course, shine. 😉 (light)

I’ll get the remaining boards and apply them to the chassis in the coming days.  I’ll be nearly 80% there.  Once I get all of this rolling, I’ll have the beta to move on to determining a good way to smooth out the entire process for future builds.  But, for now, it’s going intensely well, and I’m lovin’ it, mon.  Irie!  Life is good in the shop.


Brad Ormand Circuit Board Panel

01.12.2015 – Philosophy & Hex Light

What a great deal this is.  I mean: The deal of life.  I was just realizing the angle of the heater vent in my bathroom and how it pointed toward the shower.   And, that it warms people up when they get out of the shower.  Maybe it’s because I don’t know anything about housing architecture and that that is the “standard way” that people do it.  But, I gotta say… I am really fortunate to live in such a time that we have automatic hot air blowing towards you when you might be at your coldest.

I mean, it’s really cold outside.  In January.  And, heat when it is cold is like gold for the poor;  sugar for the hungry; a relief of no compare.  It’s just:  In doing all of this engineering and trying to bring something pleasurable to human life in my ventures, sometimes I forget that we already have it pretty damn great right now.  The winter especially spells that out.  We got luxury.  Cars to go far in a quick time, even over ice, the internet gets fast facts, and phones provide quick communication to the peeps we care about, and even emergency services.  Damn.  It’s worth it to reflect on these little details – the depth of it all.  The converse is jadedness or apathy, I guess – Not being able to recognize our disposition as raw, vulnerable human beings.  The flip side, being pretty grateful for it all.

Sure, I have been watching some sci-fi movies of the ridden future and have been experiencing heat in the freezing cold, and maybe I got some perspective on matters recently, and yeah, I have been making some pretty great progress in my projects…  But, wow.  I’m grateful for all of this.  We don’t have hyperdrives to take us to alternate galaxies yet, or have super-ultra clothes to make one temperature all year long, but damn, when we do, will we appreciate that on a daily basis – It’s human nature, I guess.  All good.  It’s just…  I felt really blessed, just now.

I thought of this concept as I was driving to my parking space at work this morning (in the freezing, raining cold).  I park on the roof every day.  I like the sun hitting my face when I get out of the car, and I like looking at the landscape around me – trees, hills, colors….  And, I was thinking:  Why don’t I park on a lower floor where I’d be “covered”?  Well, it’s just that… If I park on a lower floor, I’d be “covered”…

Yeah…. I’d be covered… Covered over.  For better or for worse.  No sun, no landscape views.  Sure, I could park there on rainy days, and not on sunny days, but nah – I have a tendency to park there every day.  And, there’s a great view of downtown from 6 floors up, and I get to see it in it’s various forms..  Habit, I guess.  But, a habit that has benefits, I think.  I can see the way the landscape looks for miles and miles around, not just downtown.  And, on rainy, freezing, cloudy days, it look absolutely awesome, too!  The planet is doing something in this region and it’s doing *this*, what it’s doing now.  Cool!  So yeah, rock on.  I want to see it all from the best vantage point that I can.

But, anyway, to cap this off before I talk about the Hex Light….  It’s just a reminder to me that we have vulnerabilities as humans, as organisms on this planet (like to cold temperatures and to the taste of food / water-like substances), and that most of those things have been solved.  We can relax.  Haha.  I mean, if I (or you) get worked up about other things in life, welll…  Chill.  Go back to the basics and love it!  Right down to it, it’s being grateful for what we have.  Basically, working with whatever we have (even, have *left*) in life to work with and using it well.  It’s an attitude, a perspective…  a centering.  I just felt that today.

And, now…   The Hex Light.  For the Hex Light, I created the circuit layout, printed the transparency, exposed the photoresist to it, etched it, cut it, drilled it, and busted out 25 little circuit boards!  Haha.  I loved it.  It’s done.  Finally.  Now, I can assemble them and set them up on the light.

Brad Ormand Circuit Board Panel

I only needed 16 of them for this project (I amended it from 18), but I’ll use them to fill the light out and wire up the matrix.  I am choosing to wire the matrix part of it on the installation instead of the circuit board itself.  I went through great pains to decide which way I wanted to do it.  But, I think the modular board wins, instead of the installation itself.  Any installation can have alternate wirings, but the board will remain the same.  Plus, you’re talking 16 inputs as opposed to 48.  So, quite a bit of board savings there.  I might change it later, but REV A has it at 16 inputs, and already wired matrix inputs.

I’ll post the rest tomorrow.  I’ll have a little more room from my philosophy speakings, and the Hex Light will have its own spotlight.  🙂


Brad Ormand PCB Fab REV A for the Hex Light

01.11.2015 – Hex Light & PCB Fab

Wow – I have done quite a lot of work on the Hex Light since the 6th.  I’ve managed to cut and assemble the top pieces, paint the backing board, I designed circuit boards for the whole thing, started manufacturing them, and then testing and assembling them.

I spent a few days designing the main board as I wanted to get as close to production values as possible.  I still have a few things to work out (like drill bit size and some trace widths ), but I had to go through it to see what errors would pop up.  Now I know, and now I can move forward.

Brad Ormand Designing a Circuit

Next, I went ahead and set up the manufacturing process in the workshop.  I have always had all of the parts and chemistry for it, but haven’t set it all up in years.  But, now it’s rolling again for board fab.  I printed the traces and pads out to a transparency,  exposed the photo-sensitive board to fluorescent light through the traces, removed the resist with the photo-developer, and etched the copper right off the fiberglass with ease.  Went very smoothly.  All of the techniques I used to do are coming back to me – like how long to agitate the board in the Ferric Chloride bath and how crucial it is for the transparent ink to lay *exactly* flat when being exposed.

Brad Ormand Circuit Board PCB Fabrication

Then, I drilled and populated the board with the components I specified.  There were a few complications along the way, but I was prepared and I adapted.  I tested that board up and down, with and without power.  And, in the coming days, I’ll take the rest of the daughter boards through the exact same process and test and populate them as well.  Then, it’ll be system hook-up time.  The moments of truth.  🙂

I also managed to put a hex design on the PCB and experimented with a few trace widths and logos and labeling.

Brad Ormand PCB Fab REV A for the Hex Light


The breadboard had all of that clutter on it, hooked up in a small space (+the 1×4 Matrix), and so half of that clutter was reduced to the clean board, half the size – Haha.  Cool to see a comparison and nice clean header connectors instead of a nest of wires.

Brad Ormand - Circuit Comparison


Sure, there are a few things I am going to do differently for the final version, but this setup is functional and will allow me to test the system in-situ.  And, when I go back to design the next one, I’ll know just what to do.  I know I can get a little closer with the traces, I can go bigger on some of the labeling, and I have to get a smaller drill bit for some of those holes- whew! I’m already drilling pretty small.  And, of course, down the road, I can start on some of the SMD versions, single-sided, for now.  If I get a really rocking design, I’ll double side it and send them off for fab with silkscreen and everything.  But, that’ll be when I come up with a rock solid REV A or REV B.

So, stepping back a few hundred meters….  I’m making this piece of art (that happens to have electronics in it).  And, I want it to look and feel and act right, first and foremost.  So, that’s a “project requirement”, but also, the engineering side of me wants the parts to be replaceable and serviceable and modular, too.  I’m trying to make the craftsmanship very tidy and tight, but while also making it cost-effective and modular.  Haha – I’m feeling the pull between the two.  But…  That’s the game.  That’s what I like about it.  It’s engaging and requires some thought, over time.  And, it’s something I want to become as expert as possible in.  But, all-in-all, I’m delighted to switch back and forth between roles and processes – getting both the art stuff and the tech stuff in.  I require them both.  It has really been a great exercise in balancing those points.

Until next time…

Brad Ormand - Animated Color Light Fixture

12.24.2014 – Holiday & Tri-Wing Light

Whew! I am officially on holiday!  I had to work a half day today, but I have 8 upcoming days off.  Luvvit.  I go see family and friends tomorrow, eat some good grub, play more football, talk shop with my bros, and see what conversations pop up with everybody there.  Damn.  I love it.  It’s also just about freezing here in Austin, Texas – I read 33 F on the thermo just now.  Good enough for the south.  Fine with me.

So, I put together a prototype yesterday and today, extending my work from the other light fixture projects.  Right now, I’m really loving the love I’m getting from this piece!  And, there are just so many things I’m going to be able to do with it!  It’s just one of those moments…

Emitting color in slow fades and then fast bursts, the driver board I designed for the fixture is custom to the application.  It’s angled just right and fits right in to the center, measured and cut just right.  I’m liking this.  🙂  It looks great in real life.  Gotta get some vid up soon to document this.  I have a few prototype products ready to use this driver already.  Same birch wood as the painting from a few days ago, and I’m going to decide on a stain and a gloss during my vacay.  Here’s the working proto pic:

Brad Ormand - Animated Color Light Fixture

I’ve just about got the SMD Eagle PCB design rolling for a V1 semi-production-test version, but I’m going to etch a few on my own with Ferric Chloride from that design first to see what variances I want to make. I made this proto with thru-hole parts I had laying around the shop.  The birch is light, but durable, and it’s easy to work with.  Plus, the grain is super beautiful.  I like working with it.  As soon as I get time (upcoming), I’m going to make a few more embellishments to the Tri-Wing design and fly with it 😉 .  Right now, though, it’s about producing these animations and putting the touch buttons together for the control.  I’ll make some more headway and then toggle back to the V1 driver after I have more information on what API I want to give it and what protocol I want to communicate to it with.  Still in dev…

Brad Ormand - TriWing RGB Driver

I’m really excited right now about this.  I mean, I know lighting like this has been done before, but this is a huge stepping stone for me – I have been wanting to produce my own flavor of these for YeaRs – since at least 2008 when my boss at JPL had a similar fixture in the hallway to his office that entranced me.  There are a few things that I think will make a product like this successful, and I want to prove the concept and add my special Renegade touch.  And, plus, I can combine my handmade art and painting with it.  What a great thing to get excited about.  That’s half of the fun of it.

Brad Ormand - Prototype Fixture Designs

So, as I go along, I’ll be trying to integrate aluminum and acrylic “glass” into the designs.  I have experiments in the lab right now, but that are not ready for prime time.  As soon as I drop those, I think I’ll have some firm ledges to stand on for what I’ll be able to produce in the future with products like this.  Onward we go.  I’m beat.  Time for bed.  Merry Christmas!


Brad Ormand UI Painting

12.23.2014 – UI Painting & Home Depot

Well, I had an idea that I sketched out earlier this week with pencil on wood and I went ahead and fleshed it out and painted it.  I want to eventually make these things into real user interfaces that control the animations built in to them.  Maybe not this one, but ones just like it.  It’s in  Brad Ormand Research & Development right now…

This particular painting is on a sheet of nice birch plywood with only about 16 inches of width and 8 inches of height.  Which means that it was tight as hell in there painting the thinnest lines.  I tried to stay within a millimeter of precision with the brush (meaning I wanted my “outside the lines” brush error to be no more than a millimeter).  I used a 5mm flat brush for most of it, crooking it up on the edges, longways, for the precision bits.  It challenged me quite a bit!  But, it was fun.  And, I can use the skills I learned from this to do other ones in the future.  It took about 14 hours over two days to produce, all-in-all.

Brad Ormand UI Painting

I routed out the wood in several places before painting it to provide a natural depth from shadows, and it feels pretty cool to run your fingers over it, too.  I still need a little more practice with the router.  It’s a tricky thing to get it to depth without it burning out the wood or slipping under pressure.  You can see I slipped in a critical manner at the top left under the main mast where I was digging in and the bit caught – whooop.. Zzzzshh – outside the parallel lines I drew.  Haha.  But, no big deal.  It’s a good story and part of the process of getting good at doing this.

So, beforehand, I visited Home Depot to buy some XMas gifts and the wood and necessary supplies I’d need for my upcoming projects.  I reached for one of the buckets they had in the store – those orange buckets so that I could carry all of my loose bolts, nuts, washers, and tape and stuff, all together.  I wasn’t gonna buy it, really, but it turned out that it was cheap and it had this bad-ass saying on it:  “Let’s DO This.”!  Whaaat!?  I mean, shit, I can’t turn that down, that’s awesome.  So, I got it, brought it all home in the bucket and went to work on the painting, the measuring, the cutting, the drilling, etc., for several different projects.  Here it is in the pic:

Working After a Home Depot run

So, I am working on this tri-wing light fixture that will animate RGB light, spilling over the edges and onto the wall it’s hanging on as well, hopefully.  Still working on the circuit prototype.  I transitioned over from that other LED-9-Matrix prototype when I realized that I had to have a high-voltage programmer to use all 6 ports of the ATTiny.  Redirect… But, anywaeeys…  Here we are.  Next best thing.  Creativity comes, and I fo||ow.  It’s all working towards the same thing, and I only have so much time, so I have to pick what’s inspiring me most.  This one will trump anything I was working on before anyway 🙂