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.