There are so many diverse aspects to consider with regard to a project like my Bodacious Acoustic Diagnostic Astoundingly Superior Spectromatic (BADASS) display. In my previous blog on this topic, I showed a pencil sketch illustrating my first-pass thoughts for the front panel of the display. As you may recall, I'm going to use a large piece of plywood stained to look like dark, old wood. Inlayed in this is going to be a piece of pressed board, which I'm going to paint to make it appear to be antique brass.
Before I actually start building something like this, I'm a great believer in creating a prototype using cheap-and-cheerful materials like paper and cardboard. This allows me to play around with different placements and proportions and suchlike without actually spending a lot of my hard-earned dosh. It also tends to save a lot of time, effort, and money in the long run.
This past Saturday, my realtor wife (Gina The Gorgeous) had to go into work. As soon as she left the house, I whipped out a bunch of rulers and protractors and pencils and paper and card, and set to work. One of my first tasks was to use Visio to create some "birds-eye" drawings of things like washers and acorn nuts and momentary pushbuttons.
Why washers? Well, I'm going to have a 16x16 array of LEDs. I'm planning on having a disk of translucent white film in front of each LED. Also in front of each LED (sitting on top of the translucent film) will be a brass washer, which I will artificially age. I donít know why, but I think this could look rather tasty.
One useful tip, should you ever do anything like this yourself, is to include faint vertical and horizontal lines in your Visio drawings as illustrated below, because this will save you a lot of messing around downstream. All you have to do is use scissors to quickly cut between the images (you donít have to precisely cut around them). Later, you can use these lines to quickly and easily line things up on the main piece.
One thing I really wish is that I'd had some sort of training in industrial design (I wonder if anywhere local to me offers night-school courses in this sort of thing). Unfortunately, I pretty much have to make things up as I go along. My first decision was that the white translucent disks (and the holes behind them) would be 10mm in diameter. Why did I pick 10mm? Well, I'm using Adafruit's tri-colored NeoPixels. These NeoPixels are 5mm x 5mm square, which means they are 7mm across the diagonal. The NeoPixels I'm working with are mounted on a strip, so using 10mm diameter holes will give me a minimum of 1.5mm of "wriggle room" on either side.
When it comes to the washers, we know the diameter of the hole in the middle will be 10mm, so the next step is to decide on the outer diameter. The image above reflects an outer diameter of 20mm, which means the width of the brass band will be 5mm (i.e., half the diameter of the hole in the middle).
My initial gut feel was that a 20mm outer diameter was what I wanted, but I wasn't 100% certain, so I created a couple of alternatives as illustrated below. The four columns on the left show "washers" with a 20mm outer diameter; the next two columns have a 17.5mm outer diameter; while the two columns on the right have a 15mm outer diameter.
Based on this simple experiment, I decided that my original plan of 20mm was the correct way to go. Now, as I already mentioned, I'm using Adafruit's NeoPixel strips. The type I've opted to use boast 30 NeoPixels per meter. I'm going to mount these strips vertically to form the columns on my display, which means that the vertical distance between adjacent pixels will be 1000mm/30 = 33.3333mm.
I decided that I didnít want to arrange my 16x16 as a perfect square. Making it rectangular will give it more visual appeal. I believe that the human brain spots subtle ratios and relationships at an unconscious level. I also believe that if things are in proportion as obvious multiples of each other, they tend to be more pleasing to the eye than if their proportions are random. I may be wrong on this -- as I say, I've not had any formal training so I just muddle along as best I can.
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