Tag Archives: HexLight

Hexagon Craftworks Label 3x2 Black

06.04.2016 – Hexagon Craftworks

I’ve started a business!  I’ve been writing about my ideas in this blog for months about it, and the time has finally come.  I took care of all of the logistics and legal stuff, got set up with a great online platform, got some business partners / affiliates, and I did a lot of designing, coding, and talking.  It’s live.  I named it: Hexagon Craftworks, because of my love for geometry and also because of the geometrical usage in my artwork.

All of my in-progress projects will now be part of Hexagon Craftworks R&D, except for the software and music portions.  I’m dead serious about delivering great-quality and dead cool stuff – well, my idea of cool (which I think is very cool, of course 🙂 ).  And, there’s a market out there for that.  I’m serious about making this my full-time career – to put everything into it.  I have a Phase 1 (which we’re in now), a Phase 2 (about 6 months from now), and a Phase 3 (about a year from now) in my business plan, which will each mark new product lines, new buildings / moving / tooling, and revenue numbers to keep us afloat.  Once I get to that Phase 3, I’ll try to keep that rolling for at least 5 years, then reevaluate.

But, anyway, Hexagon Craftworks is an art and wood shop, predominately.  I’m the sole creator and innovator.  The art is formatted and sold at an online storefront as framed prints, on shirts, bags, accessories, and the wood art is also sold, packaged and, shipped.  Wood art is a phase 2 thing to be launched as soon as I develop the business system / procedure down for it.

Anyway, that’s a short writeup on what’s been going on with Hexagon, project-wise.  There are sooo many more projects to come now that this is set up.  And, this project log helped me come to many conclusions about what was possible.  Of course, structuring the business itself is a project on it’s own, but it’s also a formal outlet for the result of my physical projects.  I’m really excited about it and will make it succeed.

Hexagon Craftworks Label 3x2 Black

Hexagon Craftworks

In other news, just to resolve some of the other project threads I’ve had out in the past, since this is my personal blog…  The Audio Granulator has had some progress on it, but took the back seat while I formed this biz.  The Apple WWDC came and went – watched it, loved it…  Can’t wait to get back to it once things have settled down.

And, the guitar practice is staying constant and consistent into June.  I’m a far better player than I ever was.  I can run scales up and down the neck at 100bpm, sixteenth notes, no problem for every major and minor scale, these days – it just took 90 days of practice, though.  Haha.  But, the real marker of success would just be my ability to now improvise in a much better and more smooth fashion – over most keys.  I could already strum and knew chords (of course – listen to my recordings) before I started these 2016 practice sessions, but the goal of 2016 was to be able to solo and make riffs easier so that I could pull out whatever I needed when I needed it – it’s going well.  On to July with that!

And, lastly, it’s growing season again – I got more cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, basil, cilantro, ginger, greens, and a lot more going this year.  Can’t wait to see how they do, and even plan more for 2017.

Hex Light Prototype1 - Brad Ormand

12.15.2015 – Hex Light and Animation Controller

Recently, I have been making a light animation controller.  The prototype is on a breadboard and combined with a separate little 2 x 3 RGB LED matrix module I built last month.  I have the system running on 3.3v with a few test animations programmed in C on a 16-bit Pic24.

I’m excited about this project and I’m continually making it better – both in features and in the kinds of animations I’m writing.  It’s pretty wonderful to see it all come together!

I still need to mount the pieces together and stain them, but it’s taking shape.  I’m also going to carve the pieces with some more detail and perhaps put in some metal inlays – I’m still messin’ with it.  In the end, it’ll all be one piece, but I just have it sitting on the BB for the time being, to get a bearing.

Got some stills here:

Hex Light Prototype - Brad Ormand

Hex Light Prototype - Brad Ormand

I cut and sanded some wood last night and put a cut sheet of coated mylar underneath to let the colors diffuse and shine through a bit.  I thought of this design while falling asleep a few nights ago and got back up to draw it out on the wood.  So, it was nice to see it come to life.

Mainly, my workstation has been my pool table (lol), and it’s a pretty awesome little surface.  I clean it off and play pool in between projects, but yeah, it’s central and in the main room and it’s a great place to work.  Also, I have some of my other in-progress projects in the background there that I brought out to be inspired by 🙂  This captures the scene for the end of 2015, for me to look back on…

Hex Light Circuit - Brad Ormand

Hex Light Breadboard - Brad Ormand

The pins talk to multiplexer-inverter chip pairs that gives each anode and cathode of the matrix a 3-bit address that I take advantage of when I control the sequence in code.  I like this way of doing things – the complexity has been offloaded to the hardware.  I handle the current load by never having two or more LEDs on at the same time – it’s just very fast switching that makes it look “on”.  I have a rotary encoder switching the animations, properly debounced, feels great, and integrated into the user event loop to provide more features.

As I go along this month, I’ll be closer to deciding on an arrangement for a reproducible product.  I’m currently investigating putting in an OLED or Chip-on-Glass display to show the current animation and battery state, etc.  Some smaller products won’t have this, but I want other, larger ones, to have that visual piece in there.

All-in-all, I have been busy with software engineering at my day job, but when I have the time, I like to work most on this project – it’s an offshoot, or simplification, of the honeycomb light I worked on earlier this year.

I have been doing a little painting lately using a “crackle” technique, and I have been drawing and carving more human faces, too – gettin’ better with both.  One day, I’ll integrate all of them into my professional projects as well.  The practice in those other disciplines, though, also helps me come up with designs like this to do this project:

Hex Light Prototype1 - Brad Ormand

And, the next step on this Hex Light project is to design the SMD boards and get those etched and tested.  Once they work and I have the kinks worked out, I’ll send off for some properly solder-masked, dark green and gold boards (fancy), and drop my logo on it for a real nice-looking internal product.  And, yeah, I’m going to make the board a hex shape, too. 🙂   Until next time…

Brad Ormand Holding Truncated Icosahedron

04.11.2015 – Truncated Icosahedron Model!

This week, I spent a few days on a detour project.  It was something that I had been wanting to do for a reeeeally long time, but didn’t think I had the chops or resources for.  But, I just went into it, and it turned out that it was possible!

Cutting The Hex Parts - Brad Ormand

I created a wood model of a Truncated Icosahedron.  It’s a geometric shape that has 20 hexagons and 12 pentagons forming it’s faces, in the shape of a ball.  The soccer ball is based of of this model.  Icosahedrons are made of all triangles, and Truncated Icosahedrons are the shape left over after the points of the triangle are shaved off by a certain amount.  It’s very interesting how these shapes form and interlock together as even-sided 5 and 6 edge shapes.  I had built paper and 3D computer models of it before, but never something that you could hold that’s rigid and big.  It was a lot of fun.  To me, it’s the most interesting shape there is, on account of it’s pleasing aesthetics.

Brad Ormand Sanding The Hex Parts

Hex Parts Assembly - Brad Ormand

Right now, I left the pentagons out as space, as I’m considering wiring the thing up to make it into a nice light!  Ha. That’s gonna be really fun.  I’ll paint it.  For this one, I’ll use acrylic paint, but in the future I can see a really nice dark stain going on it.  Animated RGB, or just white light…  Many, many options…

I love geometry.  I love seeing shapes in nature.  I like how the mathematics reveal certain commonalities in things, like the golden ratio.  It’s intriguing to me.

Brad Ormand Holding Truncated Icosahedron

 

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!

SYNTH

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.

LIGHTS

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).

MATRIX BOARD

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

MCU BOARD

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.

FINAL THOUGHTS

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…

 

BradOrmand_WoodPiecesAfterStain

03.18.2015 – Honeycomb Light Wood Stain

I have changed the name of the “Hex Light” to the “Honeycomb Light” because I am making single hexagon lights as well, and I wanna call *them* the Hex Lights, instead.  Ha – So, the animated light with the integrated 16 hexagons on them will become the “Honeycomb Light”…  cuz the name fits a little better.

Speaking of the Hex Light (errr…)  Honeycomb Light!…. (my bad)…  I stained a whole bunch of different birch wood panels using 4 different stains this weekend.  I had never stained wood before (that I can remember).  It was a pretty cool experience – except for the dangers of the exothermic reaction / spontaneous combustion taking place with the oily rags after you’re finished.  The care and maintenance during the cleanup and after-care was a bit of a pain.  The guy at the Home Depot skooled me in the basics when I bought the gear.  But, nothing caught fire, though.  And, it was fun.

TriLight-CoffeeWoodStain

Anyways, I tried water-based and oil-based stains, along with a clear coat, to treat the new cutouts of my light frames.  They’re lookin’ good!  It’s another step toward making the case holding the electronics look super good!  Or, in other words, it’s starting to finally look like art augmented by electronics 🙂

I have already cut another set of wood panels for a second Honeycomb Light.  This one features a deep, dark stain on the backing panel and front hexes with their edges sanded down.  It’s kind of a nice effect.  I’m also making this one look and act much better than the first one I built.  The backing wires are now nice, clean ribbon cable, the switching mechanism is a rotary encoder with a massively good feel to it – that “clicking” action when you turn it.  And, the individual hexes are cut with much more precision this time.  That’s the thing I had hoped would happen – I’d learn each time I did a revision and make the next ones consistently better.  It requires a lot of thinking and planning – especially for the electronics, but it’s fun, and worth it.  I’m having fun with this. 😉

Brad Ormand - HexLightWoodStain

I’m working on a few circuit boards for the whole bunch – the Arrow Light, the Hex Lights (the single ones [micro, mini, and macro]), the Tri-Wing Light, and the Honeycomb Light.  I want them to be able to share modules and components as much as possible.  I’m talking about matrix combiner boards, RGB LED driver boards, main MCU boards with optional modules, electronic components, common C libraries, bulk part orders, etc – I’m ramping up to build like 20 of each.  Plus it’s a chance for me to write and design the stuff as I come up with it.    As I get the PCBs ready, I’ll assemble the lights and see if any other improvements can be made and try to get some good stock, and to get in a “rhythm” with the refined process so that it’s easy and fun.

BradOrmand_WoodPiecesAfterStain

It’s exciting.  Soon enough, I’ll have the experience required to get even more creative with them, and to practice up for more involved projects as well.

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.

Hex Light - First Colors - Brad Ormand

01.29.2015 – Hex Light

Alright.  I got the first animation loaded into the piece after fixing the critical circuit board layout problem.  I’m glad I did it this way.  For REV B, I’ll connect the board up in the way I modified it to be just now.

I got red, green, and blue coming through on all pixels, with the 200 millisecond PWM test pattern at 3.3 volts.  So, now, it’s time for testing it to the max.  There’ll never be two pixels on at a time, but…  will the RMS voltage be so high as to drain the battery too quickly when I increase the pulse frequency? Or, even make the device heat up?  I don’t know.  Damn, I’d like this to be a portable app, but my upcoming tests will determine if that’ll be feasible. May have to reconsider my 2200mWh power supply, then, but let’s see.  I’d like to run it as quickly as possible – for video / photography, and for getting the max out of the chip.  I’ll get stats / test data and then go from there… I think it’ll be ok.

Hex Light - First Colors 2 - Brad Ormand

So, what I’m doing now is writing a few killer animations (ha, maybe a bit dramatic, but I *hope* so lol) that will shift ani’s after a given time frame or a user button press, whichever is first.  I’m thinking…  maybe…  8 animations.  Just thought of that now.  Good round number.  I’d like to implement my touch sensors with this, but I don’t feel they’re ready for prime time right now.  More testing needed.  So, I’ll drop in a few momentaries and do it like that right now.

Hex Light - First Colors - Brad Ormand

This will be similar to what I did with the SSD1306 in the programming, in a way, and similar to what I do with any animated display / canvas, but just with a 4 x 4 pixel “screen”.  I’ll abstract out the display, then write useful particle effects, but with an added dimension from the 1306 – Color.  I’m thinking…  slow fades in 4 quadrants, separately, with all of the colors in my power deliberately, slowly cycling through…   I’m thinking – perimeter tracing with trails.  I’m thinking… something smart…  like, maybe using virtual gravity as if you dropped a penny through the top and it found it’s way down – and a flash bang when one “hits” at the bottom.  Stuff like that.  Can’t wait to hit it up.

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.  🙂

 

Hexagon Light - Early Stages - Brad Ormand

01.02.2015 – New Year & Hexagon Light

Well, it’s the New Year, and I have had time to spend with friends and family, and enjoy the fireworks and winter weather.  It’s an awesome time of year.  And, well, yeah – I have also had some more time off to do projects! (yesss)

Last Wednesday (or so), I woke up just after dreaming about some hexagon patterns and reflecting backlights.   And, also I have traditionally always loved hexagons in art.  My favorite shape has got to be the truncated icosahedron (maybe I’ll do one of those next 😉 )… But, I remember, that day was a day I had completely off and so I started trying to chase the idea.  It was inspired by the Tri-Wing light I did a few weeks ago (and will still implement more of).  But, this time, I wanted a modern hexagon design that had several of those under-lit standoffs on it.  I went around with the ruler and triangle and drew a pattern down and started working out the details of how I’d implement it.  I went to the Home Depot for parts and put in an order to Jameco.

Brad Ormand - Hexagon Light - Early Stages

It was going well.  So, the next couple of days, I started measuring and cutting and planning and making this thing happen.  I plan to make a animated light that hangs on the wall or sits up on a desk.  Each hex will have an RGB LED implanted in it’s center and a cover, stained and painted, on top, shielding direct view.  My hope is that it will glow gladly and gracefully underneath, illuminating the back of the board onto the painting finish I give it.  Also, I’m wanting to see the mix of colors that occur when one mixes with the next.  That’ll be when I decide on the final animations.  Lots of programming and matriX logistiX to figure out, coming up, but it’s actually the fun part – as long as you don’t try to hurry through it and just enjoy the process.

For the electronics, I have already started designing and building the tiny 2 cm^2 circuit boards that will be wired behind each.  18 boards for the lights and drivers, one for the matrix wiring, one for the  MCU, and one for the menu display (or I might combine the last 3, we’ll see, depending on how modular and reusable I wanna get…).  At this moment, I am testing resistor values for even brightness, testing bypass cap values, and deciding on manageable harnesses and connectors.

I’m not yet set up to easily manage an SMD project, in-house – no oven, old school iron, my printers are being tweaked, and I haven’t done an SMD run with the fiberglass, copper, photo-developer, and etchant, yet. But, all of that is getting set up as we go.  I’m making an SMD run of this board (once I finalize it) pretty soon (with a SMD RGB LED, too).  So… it’s all through-hole design, right now.  I’m comfortable with it, and I have all of the parts in stock.

This schematic and board aren’t my final design.  I’m still setting values and designing the system, but I drew some basic stuff up and made a few prototypes of the driver mechanism.

LED PNP Driver Schematic and Layout - Brad Ormand

RGB LED PNP Driver Prototype - Brad Ormand

Then, I started cutting out the overlays, sanding them, and tacking them on.  That birch has excellent grain!  I tried bolts and glue and aluminum standoffs and wood standoffs and just really tried to see what looked and felt best.  I painted the inside a flat white just to see the design more clearly, but the final painting will hopefully be “art” instead of a “guide”.

Hexagon Light - Early Stages - Brad Ormand

All-in-all, I am really enjoying this!  It’s something I feel I have to do.  I have quite a number of projects going right now, and that’s okay.  It’s just how it is.  Everything will get done.  I’m trying to get a batch of the Tri-Wing light, the Arrow light, and this Hexagon light all ready for about March 1st to do some shows and put up for sale.  I think I’ll have 10 of the first two and maybe 5 of the Hex Light going, plus about 20 additional single hex lights.  But, right now, I am firmly in R&D mode, and just making them happen, learning by failing and iterating again and again.

I did, however, work on the synth project over the holidays, and came up with some pretty awesome outcomes.  I’ll have to write another post on that once I solidify some circuitry and take some media.  But, the entire project is going to be secondary until I complete a first batch of these animated lights, for the reasons that #1) it’s much more complex, and #2) I need some knowledge from the success/failure of these light projects to see what I’m going to go into production with for the synths.  But, it will hopefully be a spectacular project!   Happy New YEar. 🙂