Button Pad Project

So of course, in true engineering style, it seemed like an appropriate time to get distracted from my other project (the Hyperionus project I’ve shared in my previous two posts) with a new project.  This project needs a cool name, though, so if you’ve got one, drop me a comment.

And, that happens to be one inspired from monome.org.  They build simple and cleanly designed functional button interfaces for computer input (and, output via LEDs under the translucent buttons.)

SparkFun sells a 4×4 button pad assembly that has a AVR for USB/serial communication.  The AVR reads the button matrix state and sends events to the host PC as well as drives the LEDs according to commands from the serial buffer.

The main thing with a lot of cool projects like this, however, are the mechanical aspects.  If you want to use the button pad effectively, you really need it to be in a nice box with a sexy looking panel.  Monome offers this, but at a steep price tag that I’m not willing to pay.

So, what did I do?  I designed an enclosure to be built by ponoko.com’s maker service.  I’ve wanted to try out Ponoko’s services before, but I never really put the effort into the mechanical side of my projects.  What’s needed?

  1. a few hours in Google SketchUp
  2. some help from flightofideas’ instructable and open-source SketchUp SVG export plugin
  3. a hour or two in Inkscape

And, a design was exported and ready for Ponoko’s maker service.  Since this is my first “interlocking” design, I wanted to somewhat validate my design files before spending money on having them fabricated.  So, I printed out the SVG files, cut them with scissors, colored them with highlighters, and taped them together.  It looked good, so I ordered three.  For just shy of $100, I got: three entire enclosures out of 6.7mm 3-ply bamboo, one top-panel overlay out of 3mm cork, and some other bits and pieces that fit on the design sheet.  So far, it seems like a pretty reasonable price.

I’ll be sure to post a follow up once my parts from SparkFun and Ponoko arrive.

Now, in the meantime, back to that uh, DSP, right?  Right.

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