Our Favorite PCB Art Projects From the Community - Hackster.io

2022-11-03 15:44:20 By : Mr. John Chang

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We recognize that makers are as much artists as they are engineers, which is why November is Art Month here at Hackster. PCB art and badges stand out in particular, so we compiled some of the best projects from our community to inspire you.

Our very own Alex Glow built this beautiful little badge to celebrate the 100th anniversary of our parent company, Avnet. Charles Avnet got his start selling radio parts on Manhattan’s Radio Row, making The Morse Code Trainer the perfect homage to the company’s origins. Its Microchip ATtiny85 runs the MorseCodeMachine Arduino Library, so users can play around with decoding pre-recorded Morse code messages or create their own. The minimalist PCB design mirrors the Avnet logo and its bold contrast looks fantastic.

A great deal of the PCB art that we see comes in the form of badges, as they have become a major outlet for maker creative expression. The Scan Me! badge has many cool features, including BLE and NFC functionality, but it stood out to us because of its fun design. We love its irregular cartoonish shape and the hand-drawn graphics created by Attila Tőkés. And, of course, we always appreciate a badge that includes our own logo.

It’s hard not to love the artwork on the Packet Hack Badge. It shows a skyline made up of skyscrapers from the United Arab Emirates (including Dubai’s Burj Khalifa) being destroyed by a gigantic mech. A typical PCB can only have three “colors” for artwork: the solder mask, the copper, and the silkscreen — though it is possible to add a fourth if you carve into the substrate. The Packet Hack Badge includes green artwork that contrasts nicely with the black silkscreen and white solder mask. The UAE theme is appropriate, given that this badge was created for HITB+Cyberweek held in Abu Dhabi.

Hackers love pirate imagery. If you need proof of that, just go to DEF CON and take a look around. The Pirates of the Singapore Bay badge from Abhinav SP (the same person who design the Packet Hack Badge) harnesses that appeal. Like the Packet Hack Badge, this incorporates an additional accent color. The red accents really complete the look. There are two versions of the badge: Jack Sparrow and Barbosa. Both contain a Digispark development board and reverse-mounted SMD LEDs that light up when plugged into a USB power supply.

Okay, we admit that we included this one because it stroked our collective Hackster team ego. Created by Team Kawaii Tech, this badge is a replica of the Hackster logo. Six reverse-mounted SMD LEDs around the perimeter of the logo shine light through the PCB substrate, which acts as a diffuser. A Microchip ATtiny13 microcontroller coordinates the LED pattern. The back of the PCB is covered in a Coach-style pattern of the Hackster logo and we love it.

OSH Park is one of the most popular PCB fabrication houses in the maker community. Their boards always stand out because they use a unique purple solder mask. The Oshwi Octopus Badge, designed by Gustavo Reynaga for the OSHWDem maker even in Spain, makes great use of that purple color. The badge resembles an adorable octopus with the Open Source Hardware gear logo for a head. The PCB breaks out an Espressif ESP8266 ESP-12E microcontroller module to make the pins accessible (they look like suckers on the tentacles) and drive a handful of individually addressable WS2812B RGB LEDs. If looking at this badge doesn’t make you smile, then you may be dead inside.

If you thought the Oshwi Octopus was adorable, then the Alpaca Electronic Badge is going to send you into a hysteric fit of cute aggression. It only does one thing: lights up a color-changing RGB LED on the tail. But the design is as delightful as they come. The little limbless camelid has a satisfied expression made with the black solder mask and rosy kawaii cheeks made with the copper layer. Team Zalmotek created the PCB using an illustration drawn by artist Sudowoodo, but we won’t hold that against them since their taste is so good.

Another creation of Abhinav SP, who we now know is a master of the art, the Sacred Hacks Badge includes Indian Rangoli-style art. It was inspired by Sacred Games, which is a popular thriller web series in India. The PCB art is stunning, but it isn’t only cosmetic. It also hides cryptic puzzles that Abhinav SP incorporated for attendees of BSides Ahmedabad to solve. While people at that conference did solve the puzzles, Abhinav SP doesn’t tell us the solutions. That means that you can examine the badge to figure them out for yourself!

This is a project created by yours truly. I’m a huge fan of Stargate SG-1 and immediately thought of the iconic wormhole-harnessing device when I decided I wanted to get into the PCB art world. This project was an excuse to practice PCB design and the implementation of bare microcontrollers. It uses a Microchip ATtiny85 to detect presses of the capacitive touch button on the DHD and illuminates each chevron in sequence. When the final chevron locks, the wormhole comes to life. I am still proud of the design and feel like it deserves to be on this list, even at the risk of tooting my own horn.

Few movies have influenced pop culture as much as 1985’s Back to the Future. The film is full of iconic props, but the fictional flux capacitor device is one of the most memorable. Arnov Sharma reproduced the flux capacitor here in badge form. The PCB is just a simple square, but that only serves to highlight the animated LED effects that mimic those of the on-screen flux capacitor. And unlike the “real” flux capacitor that required 1.21 gigawatts of energy, the Flux Capacitor PCB Badge consumes a mere 0.017 watts.

Alex Glow demonstrated her design skills again with this breakout for Teensy and Arduino Nano 33 development boards. Its only purpose is to make it easier to access the pins of those boards, but it looks amazing. The functional PCB traces morph into a semblance of a human ribcage with a contrasting non-anatomical heart. At the bottom of the board is a quote from the classic sci-fi film Metropolis that translates to "the mediator between head and hands must be the heart!"

Ghosts don’t have to be scary; they can be cute, too. Arnov Sharma designed this badge for Halloween and it is adorable. It features a sheet-covered ghost with blinky green LED eyes — we’re not sure if Sharma intended that to be a reference to Pac-Man or not. The cool thing about this badge is that it doesn’t use a microcontroller. A simple 555 timer controls the flashing of the LEDs. By adjusting the values of the resistors and capacitors in the circuit, makers can tweak the timing of the LED flashes.

Avnet’s headquarters are located in Phoenix, Arizona where we’re surrounded by saguaro cacti, but we don’t need to justify including this badge on our list — just look at it! This isn’t technically a standalone badge; it is an SAO (S****y Add-On). That means that it attaches to other badges to expand their capability. In this case, it adds Christmas tree-style blinking lights. By touching the capacitive pad on the pot at the bottom, users can switch LED animation effect modes. Fabrizio’s hand-drawn artwork makes the PCB especially charming.

Following the Christmas theme, we come to Tom Archer’s Festive Fireplace PCB Ornament. It looks like a traditional yuletide brick fireplace with stockings hanging from the mantle. Reverse-mounted LEDs controlled by a Microchip ATtiny25 complete the effect by mimicking a flickering fire. Archer provides helpful detail on how he created the artwork in Inkscape and pulled it into KiCAD PCB design software, so you’ll want to read through his tutorial if you’re interested in getting into PCB art.

TwinkleTwinkie’s Lucky OSHCat SAO brings us back to the kawaii. It reimages the classic maneki-neko (Japanese lucky cat) as “Prince Oshcat.” Once again, reverse-mounted LEDs bring the PCB to life. The front maneki-neko is very cute, but the artwork on the back is pretty darn neat, too. That has an image of a tiger illustrated in halftone, which is a fun contrast to the adorable Prince Oshcat. Because this is an SAO for badges that contain their own microcontrollers, it doesn’t need a microcontroller of its own and only contains LEDs, a resistor, and a pin header.

If you’re in your mid-30s, then you’ll understand the appeal of this Gengar PCB Art project. It’s a faithful reproduction Gengar, which is an evolution of Haunter and one of the original 151 Pokémon from the first generation games. Gengar is a creepy Shadow Pokémon, so the flashing LED eyes seem appropriate. Like the Ghost Badge, a 555 timer controls the LEDs. While OSHPark is known for their purple PCBs, they aren’t they only fabrication house that offers the color. Arnov Sharma ordered these from PCBWay, which is an affordable option for makers looking for PCBs.

What are your favorite PCB art projects? Do you have anything cool in the works? Be sure to let us know in the comments!

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