Thursday, 4 June 2015

Dominion Storage Solutions

I'm a big fan of the card game Dominion. It's a deck building card game, and was (correct me if I'm wrong) the first of its kind, unique compared with other card games like Magic: The Gathering and the Pokémon Trading Card Game in that players build their decks during, rather than prior to, playing the game.

This offers several advantages over the aforementioned collectible card games, the most notable of which is that, unlike with CCGs, you can't have an advantage over an opponent because you've got better cards, particularly, as is sometimes the case, because you've spent more money on the game than them. All players start on a level playing field and skill (and a small amount of luck) determines the victor.

It's an easy game to learn, but it's very deep and I heartily recommend that you give it a go.

There is a problem, however, and it's not with the game itself. Although the first set only comprises 500 cards, it comes in a large 30 by 30 by 7.4 cm box. And as your love of the game, grows, you'll likely buy expansions (we now have three sets in our house - the original game, and the Intrigue and Hinterlands expansions), which also often come in large boxes. The problem is that when you want to bring your cards round to a friend's house, you're stuck lugging around a tower of mostly empty boxes.

There are many solutions to this problem available online, including some really beautifully made boxes such as Beth Bernhardt's Dominion Storage Case which was successfully funded on Kickstarter.

I think I've found a good, and very cheap solution myself. I'm sure someone else has thought of too, but I thought I'd share it just in case. It involves the storage boxes and dividers available from Magic Madhouse. Now the boxes are only £1.25 (and come with 8 dividers), and the dividers are £0.50 for 8, and just one box and a few dividers happily holds two sets!

Here come the photos. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Instructables 3D Printing Contest - Daft Punk Helmet

Just a quick note to say I've written a very detailed Instructable documenting how to make my Guy-Manuel Daft Punk Helmet which is available here.

I've also entered it into the Instructables 3D Printing Contest and I'd love it if you'd vote for me here.


Here's the brand new carefully drawn circuit diagrams and stripboard schematics:

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Return to Project Timbo

It's been mighty quiet here on Project Timbo, as for the past year or so I've been enslaved, writing my PhD thesis. Finally, and somewhat suddenly, it's finished, and I have sufficient spare time to return to the wonderful world of projects.

I have a few big projects in the pipeline:
  1. The Prusa i3 has undergone a total redesign with all of its parts designed from scratch, and I'll be printing and upgrading it in the coming months. If the redesign proves effective, I'll be sharing it on Thingiverse.
  2. I've been working on a board game, heavily inspired by Betrayal at House on the Hill and Talisman. It's still very much in early design stages, but might one day make it into the public eye.
Until then, however, I'll keep on keeping on with smaller projects. I have a couple of nice ones to share today.

The first is a 3D printable Origami Heron Stand. I don't know why anyone would want one unless, like me, you have an Origami Heron of emotional significance, but there you go.

The second is a little more general. In fact, I'd go as far as calling it essential, assuming you know and love the game Betrayal at House on the Hill. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, it's a board game where you and your friends assume classic horror genre roles and explore a creepy abandoned house. The whole game oozes flavour and suspense.

At one point in the game, you might stumble upon a mangy dog, which makes you stronger, more sane, and will even scurry off to collect items for your explorer. Unfortunately, the game only provides you with a "small monster token" to represent the dog. Wouldn't it be better if your canine companion was properly represented with a figure, standing brave and tall against the horrors of the house?

I feel braver already!

Monday, 31 March 2014

Backlit Gameboy Advance

Last month I had the absolute pleasure of discovering Twitch Plays Pokémon. If you never heard about it, I'd recommend at least a read through the Wikipedia page. While I only spend a few minutes here and there contributing to the avalanche of commands given to the poor little trainer, I got a lot of enjoyment from checking in now and again to see how the collective quest of 80,000 cooperating (I use that word very lightly) players was going.

Part of that enjoyment, certainly, was due to the nostalgia. My brother and I played a great deal of Pokémon Red and Blue when we were little, trading and battling and generally exploring the world. In fact, after watching Twitch Plays Pokémon, I had a sudden desire to revisit the game. As it happens, the smart people at Game Freak remade the original Red and Blue games for the Gameboy Advance, under the names FireRed and LeafGreen. I never had a Gameboy Advance, and so decided to treat myself to both the handheld console and a copy of Pokémon FireRed courtesy of eBay.

I discovered, upon firing up the device, something that I had forgotten for many years. The display on those early systems; Original, Colour, and Advance was pretty awful. I had forgotten the years of leaning awkwardly towards bedside lamps, and the clunky little plastic magnifying-glass and LED attachments every young boy owned to make his toy usable beyond the daylight hours.

This problem was fixed in the second version of the Gameboy Advance SP (AGS-101) which featured a backlit screen. But I already had my gameboy, the backlit SPs were pretty expensive, and quite frankly I never much liked the way the SP looked and felt.

As it turns out, I wasn't alone in thinking this, and a bit of Googling pointed me towards a lovely man in China by the name of Zerey Zhang. Zerey sells adaptor cables that let you install a beautiful, bright, backlit AGS-101 screen in your regular Gameboy Advance! He also sells the screens themselves and pre-upgraded GBAs.

If you're in America, you can also get either the kit or an already upgraded GBA from Rose Colored Gaming. Regardless of which supplier you use, the instructions provided by RCG are excellent. The procedure itself isn't particularly tricky. First you'll need to open the device up remove a fair bit of plastic from the front case.

I imagine this could be fairly time consuming, however if you're fortunate enough to own a rotary tool such as a Dremel, you'll make short work of the plastic. Next, you'll need to solder a single wire to provide power to the screen. This can be pretty fiddly, especially if, like me, you're no expert with a soldering iron.

Finally, a little tape keeps the new screen's cable snugly in place.

Once you've put it all back together, the difference is fairly striking. My flatmate was kind enough to lend me his old GBA for a couple of comparison shots:

If you fancy having a go yourself, don't hesitate to get in touch with Zerey at He's a pleasure to deal with and his English is excellent.

That concludes this project, and leads me nicely to my next 'project'. It's something I've always dreamed of doing, something challenging, but something I think we can all agree is truly, truly worthwhile.

I'm going to catch 'em all.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Daft Punk Helmet

If you haven't ever seen Volpin's excellent Daft Punk Helmet build, I recommend you check it out. His impressive work has inspired and continues to inspire many people to attempt to build their own helmets. Back in May, I decided to give myself the challenge of building a similar, albeit much more budget, Guy-Manuel Daft Punk Helmet. For the short version, enjoy the video below:

You can find the CAD files and Arduino code for the helmet here.

2015-06-02: I have now published an Instrucable which describes the build process in full detail, available here.

Keep reading for the long version.

As a starting point, I found a great CAD model of the helmet on Ivan Spasic's blog here. After importing into SketchUp and a fair bit of tidying, I had a great initial model.

Unfortunately, printing the helmet as a single piece wasn't going to work; it was too big. I split the helmet into sections, and added flanges so that it could be joined together once printed.

The earpieces were missing some detail, so I added it based on some a picture from Volpin's blog.

Printing, Assembly
I printed the parts on the Prusa i3.

Parts were joined with M3 nuts and bolts and a generous helping of hot-melt glue.

Once the whole helmet was assembled, I used modelling clay to fill the cracks between parts, and sanded it down once dried.

The next step was to prepare the helmet for painting. Unless you have a really high quality printer, printed parts have a tell-tale appearance, retaining the layers where individual layers of material were laid down during printing. I wanted my helmet to be shiny, like the real thing, so I coated the majority of it with car body filler.

Next the helmet needed to be sanded. A lot. I bought myself a Black & Decker Mouse Sander, and I'm sure it saved me a lot of time. During sanding, I gradually used finer and finer papers to get maximum smoothness. Once I felt the helmet was sufficiently smooth, I spray painted it, first with a coat of surface primer, and then with metallic gold.

I needed the back plate for the helmet, so I quickly made a curved plate which would fit the current design in SketchUp. I printed this curved surface with support material, painted it black, and glued on strips of thick wire to match photos of the real helmet.

By a stroke of luck, the back plated snap-fitted inside the current helmet. I added plenty of hot-melt glue anyway.

I had already decided I would use an Arduino to control the lighting of the helmet. I wanted to use PWM, so that limited me to 6 channels. I chose the colours red, orange, yellow, green, blue and pink. Since I wanted 3 LEDs per side, each channel would be powering 6 LEDs, which would exceed the current requirements of an Arduino pin, so I used some 2N2222 transistors to switch the LEDs on and off. As usual, my designs are works of art.

I assembled the required components on a small piece of veroboard.

The electronics and power (8 AA batteries) needed a case, so I whipped one together on SketchUp and printed. I also included an SPDT on/off switch and potentiometer to control the speed of animation.

I needed a surface upon which to mount the LEDs, so altered Ivan's design to make thick mountable diffusers, which I printed in translucent PLA with support material.

To mount the lights, I designed some small blocks with holes for three 5 mm LEDs. Each set of three LEDs was wired in series; resistors on the aforementioned circuit board ensured they were delivered the correct current.

The LED blocks were attached to the diffusers with hot-melt glue. Hot-melt was also used to mount the diffusers to the helmet, and for cable routing.

Probably the trickiest bit of the whole build was the visor. I had a CAD file for the required shape from Ivan's design, so I converted this surface into a mould.

Ideally, I would have simply created this mould from a block of wood with a CNC mill, however all I had access to was a laser cutter. As a solution, I sliced the required mould into nineteen 6 mm slices, and cut in MDF.

I assembled these slices with a couple of wooden dowels, glued with wood glue and left to dry, adding pressure with a few dumbbells.

I then sanded the mould for a very very long time. I was extremely thankful for the B&D Mouse.

I vacuum formed thin (0.5 mm I believe) PETG over the mould to create my visor, and tinted the inside with a few coats of VHT Niteshades.

The visor was attached to the helmet with... you guessed it! Lots of hot-melt glue. I added some sticky foam roll to the inside of the helmet to improve comfort. I finished the helmet just in time for Glastonbury 2013!

The total cost of the helmet was probably around £100, not including the tools I bought to help build it.

Hope you enjoyed reading about this. If you'd like to make one of your own, please check out the design on my Thingiverse!