Monday, 18 March 2013

Christmas Cheer

As you may have guessed, some of the projects I've written about so far are actually quite old, but I figured they were worth sharing so they made the cut. I'm just going to come out and say that today's is not a recent project; I think I'd have a hard time covering it up given the obvious theme: Christmas. I do realise that it's now March, but it was snowing last week so perhaps you can imagine it's December.

Back in 2012, we squeezed 24 people into our smallish living room for a Christmas dinner. Given that Ben and I were hosting, and are both very much into 3D printing, we decided to each design something neat for the dinner. Ben put together a nifty little OpenSCAD file that automatically generated place-names with initials, and a slot for a tealight. They were extremely well received - truth be told, I think his offering bested mine.

I decided to design and print a Christmas Centrepiece. Unless I'm designing something very simple, I'll sketch out various thoughts and plans before even opening any CAD software. These blueprints tend to be a little chaotic. Here's an example:

Once I'd settled on a theme (Christmas Tree!) and some basic dimensions, I designed a model in Google Sketchup. I tend to get quite engrossed when designing CAD files, adding unnecessary fillets and chamfers wherever possible, and more often than once have I finished a design only to spot that it's past midnight and I have yet to eat dinner. Nonetheless, I find the whole process incredibly satisfying.

I used an Arduino to control the LEDs. I've only had one for a few months and the endless possibilities still thrill me. When I look at an Arduino I feel the same way I did when I was 7 years old, standing over a 3 metre wide pile of Lego. There's also the added bonus of not having to separate components with your teeth.

I experimented with a couple of control schemes, eventually settling on a rolling fade which I found to be suitably festive. Here's the finished tree in all its dynamic glory.