The big event of the maker movement, O’Reilly Bowl *cough* I mean Maker Faire Bay Area 2014, happened last weekend (May 17th and 18th). As with most words used to describe Maker Faire, “happened” is a little insufficient. It’s a tremendous and complicated event that requires a massive effort from everyone involved…the O’Reilly Maker Faire team, the Maker Shed, the sponsors, the performers, the speakers, the exhibitors, and the event staff. And one more group that I didn’t fully appreciate until this year…the attendees (let’s call them participants). This was the first year at Maker Faire Bay Area that I was not an exhibitor, and instead wandered the exhibits and crowds. It was amazing and exhausting, just as much as if I’d been running an exhibit table.
Part of that might have been because I was a walking exhibit of sorts. Last year at Maker Faire we launched our single-color LED Matrix Shades, which were incredibly popular and sold out of our stock within a couple days. Since then we’ve been working on better assembly processes and sources, and expect to have 200 pairs of LED Matrix Shades available in June. However, we were also showing off a new product, RGB Shades. Developing and building these in time for Maker Faire required, as usual, a lot of very close deadlines and working up to the last minute.
These are based on the popular WS2812B pixels, resulting in a bit chunkier appearance but very bright, vibrant colors. In fact, if run at full brightness these would get uncomfortably warm and require 13 watts, not to mention completely blinding to anyone except the wearer. We want them to run from a USB battery pack, so we set them at 1/5th maximum brightness, and they still verge on annoyingly bright.
The best part of this new design, in my opinion, is new hinge method. In the past, we’ve used 3D printed parts to make prototype and low-volume production parts for LED Shades hinges. This works fine, but is fairly slow and requires some amount of post processing of the parts. The screws required are also very small and difficult to install. On this design, I decided to use PCB milling capabilities as a source of production-quality CNC milled parts.
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