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Digibury: Project Conway Big Reveal Part 2- the hardware build
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Digibury: Project Conway Big Reveal Part 2- the hardware build


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Dan Knox from University of Kent TinkeSoc presents the final part about how the hardware for Project Conway was built.

Dan Knox from University of Kent TinkeSoc presents the final part about how the hardware for Project Conway was built.

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  • 1. Life Is But a Game
 by Tinkersoc
  • 2. The Hardware Brief • To build a 10 x 10 matrix of lights that can play the Game of Life (GOL). • The matrix must be controllable from an external source (the display only needs to render the GOL, it does not need to run it). • A high quality finish is required.
  • 3. Initial Concept 100 ping pong balls + RGB lights = win.
  • 4. Sourcing Lights • Due to the size of the matrix we can’t plug in lots of lights into a micro (100+ pins needed!). • Multiplexing is one solution: ▪ This would provide very fast IO to render an image, but adds complication to the wiring of the device.
  • 5. Sourcing Lights • We don’t need fast refresh rates (the GOL will be slowed down a lot due to the ‘limited’ size of the screen). • Addressable RGB lights would give us expansion room (replacing or adding pixels would be easier)...
  • 6. Enter the WS2801 and the WS2812B
  • 7. WS2801 & WS2812B • 2 wires (ws2801B) and 1 wire (ws2812b) required to control a huge string of LEDs. • Very bright RGB and individually addressable. • Although timing is sensitive (would require FPGA or some fancy DMA on very large strings) we aren’t running that many LEDs (100 is relatively small). • 100 of these LEDs would need a fair amount of ‘current’ at 5V, but easy to supply (10A external psu).
  • 8. Prototype 1. • 5 x 5 Matrix using a WS2801 string. • Bit of hardboard. • Arduino.
  • 9. Designing The Final Hardware • WS2812b tape (very cheap per LED). • IKEA HOL table (A 10 x 10 lattice!). • Wire. • Front one-way-mirror.
  • 10. A Lot of Soldering Later….. If YouTube decides to work…. v=M7ut70dOd7o#t=192
  • 11. Version 2 • Soldering by hand is slow and potentially unreliable. • Time to produce some PCBS. ! ! ! ! • Produced in KICAD. ▪ Each strip contains 5 LEDs (will need 10 strips of these). ▪ Surface mounting each led and a capacitor. Fits nicely in the lattice gap.
  • 12. Result:
  • 13. All in:
  • 14. PLUGGED IN AND…..
  • 15. DISASTER! ☹
  • 16. Diagnosis – Why is my LED not working? • Power is fine (5V consistently across the power rail). • No shorts. • Can run an individual stick. • Should be working and we have yet to diagnose what is wrong (probably something messing up the signal).
  • 18. The Society To The Rescue – Scrapping the design and going Plan B. • KISS approach (This had got lost along the way.) • Many Tinkersoc members = many man/woman hours. • More eyes to check the work. • A fun evening of building (make this an actual Tinkersoc project).
  • 19. Day 1 - Case Design • Custom case was designed in autoCAD • Lasercut by architecture department (took over 1 hour to cut all the MDF).
  • 20. Day 1 - LEDs • Back to the WS2801s (same as those used in the prototype). ! ! ! ! ! ! • Kiss again: 100 LEDSs prewired purchased and measured to fit the custom case. Arrived day 2.
  • 21. Day 1 - Software • Arduino micro setup with GOL firmware. • A PhD student wrote this. Uploaded and tested.
  • 22. DAY 2: BUILD.
  • 23. Lessons Learnt • Things can be swimming along fine and fall over when you least suspect it (generally right at the end). • KISS is the best approach (as long as you KISS the right thing). • Your society can save your butt. • I love the smell of laser’d MDF in the morning.
  • 24. Life Is But a Game
 by Tinkersoc