Before Max actually starts to create the front panel for a project like his BADASS Display, he first creates a paper and cardboard prototype.
In this case, I decided that the spacing between adjacent columns should be 1.5X the spacing between adjacent rows, which means 33.33mm * 1.5 = 49.99mm, which I rounded to 50mm. Following this decision, I marked out the full matrix and affixed my paper "washers" in place using Elmer's all-purpose glue, as illustrated below.
The next step was to determine the placements for the brass acorn nuts, which I'm going to use to hold this panel in place. The easiest solution would be to have one nut for each row and column, but that would look like total overkill. Last week, when I was bouncing ideas around with my chum Willie -- the mechanical design engineer whose office is in the next bay -- he made the very good point that the function of the acorn nuts was totally divorced from the function of the washers. Based on this, Willie had suggested that the spacing between the acorn nuts should reflect this difference in function. A close up view of one of the corners is shown below.
The distance between the center of the acorn nuts and the center of the nearest washer is the same as the vertical separation between adjacent pixels; that is, 33.33mm. The distance between the center of the acorn nuts and the edge of the board is half of this value; that is, 16.66mm. At this point, I ran into a bit of a conundrum. Consider the following image.
Let's start with the seven nuts on the left-hand side. I started by placing an acorn nut in each corner. I then placed one in the center of the left-hand side. I then played with my nuts for a while (stop smirking, it doesn’t become you) and eventually decided that adding two nuts between the center and each corner resulted in the effect I was looking for. The end result was a vertical spacing between nuts of around 91mm.
Now consider the bottom side of the above image. Again, I started by placing a nut in the center of the bottom side, because this matched my having nuts in the center of the left- and right-hand sides. In this case, I tried adding four nuts between the center and each corner, but that resulted in a horizontal spacing between nuts of 80mm. The difference between the vertical spacing and the horizontal spacing just didn’t "feel right."
As you can see, there are eleven nuts on the bottom edge with ten "gaps" between them. Now look at the top edge. In this case there are ten nuts, with nine "gaps" between them. Although this means there isn’t a nut in the center of the top edge, it does mean that the horizontal gap between nuts is now 88.88mm, which is close enough to the vertical gap of 91mm on the edges to fool the eye. The end result is that -- when I come to construct the real display -- I will be using the 10-nut arrangement for the top and bottom edges.
In the fullness of time, I will be experimenting with a variety of different display modes, so I'll need some way to switch between them. Originally I was thinking of embedding an LCD display in the front panel (I was thinking of using a black-and-white display, and making it look like a CRT-type unit). But my chum Ivan, who also has an office in the next bay, gave the opinion that this was a waste of time, effort, and money. As he pointed out, I can actually use my 16x16 LED array as the option/menu display -- all I need to do is add is a small control panel with some momentary push buttons as shown below.
This panel will also be formed from pressed board painted to look like antique brass. The red button is the "Reset" button; the green button is the "Menu/Select/OK" button that will allow you to enter and exit the menu system and select amongst the various options; and the four black buttons will allow you to scroll "Up," "Down," "Left," and "Right" between the various options. Below we see a closer look at this control panel.
Putting this all together, below we see the main LED array and the control panel glued on to a piece of cardboard. In the real display, the cardboard will be replaced with the plywood stained to look like dark, old wood.
In this case, I started by making the distance between the edge of the LED array panel and the edge of the cardboard on the left- and right-hand sides 10cm (2X the horizontal distance between NeoPixel Elements). Similarly, the gap between the top-edge of the LED array panel and the top of the cardboard is 10cm. In the case of the control panel, we have a 5cm gap above and below it, which means that the total width at the bottom is 20cm (i.e., 2X the width of the sides and the top).
As you can see from the final image below, the end result is a tad larger than I had originally envisaged, but I think it's going to look outrageously tasty. Can you imagine this little beauty lit up in all its glory? I cannot wait!
Yours truly in his 'Kilroy was here' pose.
So, why have I just spent so much time waffling on about all of this? Well, there are several reasons, actually. First, I thought you might be interested to hear the mental process behind my decision-making. Second, these directions will hopefully come in handy if you decide to create such a display for yourself. Third, if you have any industrial design experience or knowledge, I would really welcome any feedback as to the decisions I've made. Do they make sense? Is there anything I should change? Are there any "rules of thumb" of which I should be aware? And are there any good books on industrial design you would recommend?
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- Max's BADASS Display, Part 3