Connect with us

Help with Tiny Monitor Cube Thingy

Discussion in 'General Electronics Discussion' started by Bad_Syntax, Aug 23, 2013.

Scroll to continue with content
  1. Bad_Syntax

    Bad_Syntax

    4
    0
    Aug 23, 2013
    I have an idea for a small PC sorta thing. I have essentially zero experience with circuit boards or building such a thing. I'd like to see if anybody would do it for a reasonable fee (plus all necessary parts) or tell me if it is even possible.

    I want a 1.5" x 1.5" x 2" cube, with a small color TFT/LCD on each side (optionally the top as well). I need it to have a micro USB charger, and give it a few hours of battery power internally at least. Each display would show a different image (2D, but animated)

    I'd like to have a fully functional computer within this object, preferably with either SDCard, Wireless LAN, Bluetooth, or some combination. However, if it needed communication to a computer over wireless/bluetooth that would be acceptable, as would just inserting an sdcard and it displaying images on particular screens based on their filename (though then I may want a small button for next/previous "set" of images).

    I have found small 1.5" TFT's for under $10 each, and an entire raspberry pi is only $35 so I'm not sure this would cost too much.

    If anybody can do it, and would design it out for a decent price where I could send it off to get "printed" that would be awesome. Using off-the-shelf things like bluetooth/wireless adapters or a power supply would be awesome too.

    Anyway, just wondering how feasible this is, if it is even possible yet. I've found lots of small USB stick sized computers but all are a bit long, and I don't need quite a few of the features (nor more horsepower than is required to display the 4-5 animated images).

    Also, completely unrelated. Is it possible to get an LCD in a hexagonal shape? I know computers usually look at them as square, but maybe the off-screen stuff just doesn't get rendered.

    Thanks for any assistance.
     
  2. BobK

    BobK

    7,682
    1,688
    Jan 5, 2010
    Sorry, your spec is unachievable.

    Bob
     
  3. (*steve*)

    (*steve*) ¡sǝpodᴉʇuɐ ǝɥʇ ɹɐǝɥd Moderator

    25,501
    2,841
    Jan 21, 2010
    Even with a correct specification of a cube. I doubt it would be easily within the scope of home construction.
     
  4. CDRIVE

    CDRIVE Hauling 10' pipe on a Trek Shift3

    4,960
    652
    May 8, 2012
    I was fully expecting CC to reply because he takes on contracts but it hit be that I haven't seen a post from him in quite some time. I certainly hope everthing is OK.

    Chris
     
  5. Bad_Syntax

    Bad_Syntax

    4
    0
    Aug 23, 2013
    Which part?

    This device:
    http://store.cstick.com/cotton-candy.html (and a few others out there, like the MK802)
    is 3" long and a full PC, I don't need the full sized USB adapter, and it could be wacked off, or if it is needed just redirected to the side. I really don't need HDMI output either, but a directly connected small screen (using the ribbon connector things). Optimally, I would think just one of these memory sticks these days could handle the 4 little screens, heck some are quad core and those 4 screens together aren't nearly even 1080p.

    The power supply seems trivial looking around the web.

    I do need a 1.5" x 1.5" base, but height *could* go up to 2.5 or at worst 3" if it had to.

    To me it seems like all I'd need is one of these PCs, with some form of circuit board attached that could output the 4 video signals (even if they are really just a single "display" broken into 4 small screens, and a simple power supply, all wrapped up in a small acrylic box. Maybe I'm simplifying things too much :(

    So, in what way can't this be achieved? Guess I'm just not seeing it :(
     
  6. (*steve*)

    (*steve*) ¡sǝpodᴉʇuɐ ǝɥʇ ɹɐǝɥd Moderator

    25,501
    2,841
    Jan 21, 2010
    This part:

     
  7. davenn

    davenn Moderator

    13,947
    1,987
    Sep 5, 2009
    I want a 1.5" x 1.5" x 2" cube

    BobK was giving u a nudge ... those measurements are not a cube ;)

    you are not going to fit that plus the 6 LCD panels and all their driver circuitry into something so small

    The Japs who are pretty good at micro miniaturisation in billion $ factories with brilliant design engineers maybe could do it

    you have already admitted you have zero experience
    its not even something I could achieve

    to do at home ... wishful thinking, me thinks .... sorry

    you are not seeing the complexity of what you want to do .... we see it all the time on the forums. People see these gadgets on TV, online etc and think cool I will build one of those ....
    they have no comprehension of what went into designing and manufacturing said device

    Dave
     
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2013
  8. Bad_Syntax

    Bad_Syntax

    4
    0
    Aug 23, 2013
    Ok, it isn't a cube, its a... umm... I have no idea, and apparently neither does google, on a good name for a "long cube"... oh well, ya'll understood me :)

    Ok, so too hard at that size. Well I'll go ahead and make one that is about 4" tall, with a 2" base. I know I can do that with off-the-shelf components (4 little memory sticks and a couple batteries. I'll have to get the little screens that have the analog adapters, and it'll be ugly, but I can at least see if I like what it is before I see if I can hire somebody to build a circuit board that can output to 4 monitors (well, 1 split monitor in 4 chunks) and build it in a smaller area, even if its really 2 boards.

    Anybody know any good books or sites that could give me a bit more understanding on how the video ribbon cables can be translated to, say, a VGA adapter? I've came across them a few times (just trashed a tablet last week because of a broken power adapter) and it'd be nifty to find uses for them.

    Along the same lines, any recommended book for an IT Developer to get a better understanding of circuit boards and electronics?

    Thanks for the help
     
  9. Fish4Fun

    Fish4Fun So long, and Thanks for all the Fish!

    470
    109
    Aug 27, 2013
    wow

    Bad_Syntax,
    There is a GIANT gulf between computers and devices with embedded controllers. To build a completely functional prototype of the "box" you have described is going to be very expensive.

    For a quick primer on VGA: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Video_Graphics_Array

    For an in depth look @ the VGA Standard: http://www.osdever.net/FreeVGA/vga/vga.htm

    Starting Book for electronics? Hrmmm, http://books.google.com/books/about/Applied_Calculus_for_Scientists_and_Engi.html?id=FePitAz7JygC

    you might also wander through: http://www.electronics-tutorials.ws/

    One of the things that people frequently fail to realize is that most consumer devices are mature designs that rely heavily on previous products/designs. To "jump in" late-bound and start from zero is a daunting task. Another thing that people frequently underestimate is the amount of time and effort it takes to "hack" or re-use parts from dysfunctional/discarded embedded systems. Finally, ALMOST always, the "easier" a device is to use, the more complex it is, and the harder it is to modify.

    As a side note, while USB devices are generally very easy to use, they can be nightmarish from a design point-of-view.

    Finally, I would STRONGLY urge you to order an Arduino MEGA2560 and one of those TFT screens off ebay. Even with open-source libraries, sketches and tutorials it will likely be X-Mas before you can get a picture on it, never mind 4 simultaneously with a user interface. This isn't meant to discourage you, rather, if you are serious about pursuing it this is likely the easiest//cheapest way to proceed.

    Fish
     
  10. davenn

    davenn Moderator

    13,947
    1,987
    Sep 5, 2009
    hey fish ....

    well yup I did try and tell him that LOL ... I'm picking its going to be substantially larger than he envisions too ;)

    Dave
     
  11. BobK

    BobK

    7,682
    1,688
    Jan 5, 2010
    Do you really think you can just hook up a memory stick to an LCD and an image will be displayed? Let alone an animated image? Open up an LCD picture frame and look it what is inside. If you think you can build 4 of those to fit in your small rectangular cuboid, then go for it.

    Bob
     
  12. Bad_Syntax

    Bad_Syntax

    4
    0
    Aug 23, 2013
    Well, yeah, they do have HDMI outputs. My Raspberry PI worked just fine, and the only reason its so much larger than the little sticks is all the additional functionality and performance it has, plus its much cheaper to make.

    Thanks Fish for the resources.


    While I am new to soldering wires onto a circuit board, and all the little DIY type electronics stuff out, I'm not new at all to technology, computers, or even little embedded and specialized operating systems. While I understand all the components and what they do, and could get a breadboard and hook them together without too much fuss, I need something smaller than a breadboard, and that was the assistance I was looking for.

    After extensive googling I think I found a solution that I can go blow a few hundred bucks with to get myself a prototype to see if I like the concept enough to pursue it further.

    Required:
    $60 Mountaineer USB Mainboard (2.24" x 1.26" - https://www.ghielectronics.com/catalog/product/384)
    $ 7 Micro SD Card Module (https://www.ghielectronics.com/catalog/product/359)
    $ 7 LED 7C Module (https://www.ghielectronics.com/catalog/product/422)
    $ 6 USB Host Module (https://www.ghielectronics.com/catalog/product/270)
    $96 Four 1.8" 128x160 N18 Display Modules (https://www.ghielectronics.com/catalog/product/425)
    $20 USB 800mA Power Module (https://www.ghielectronics.com/catalog/product/437)
    Optional (I'll buy em, but seriously doubt they'd go in a finished product):
    $16 Compass Module (https://www.ghielectronics.com/catalog/product/323)
    $51 Gyro Module (https://www.ghielectronics.com/catalog/product/331)
    $80 WiFi RS21 Module (https://www.ghielectronics.com/catalog/product/282)
    $35 Serial Camera L1 Module (https://www.ghielectronics.com/catalog/product/382)

    3.3V Consumption
    1mAh Micro SD Card
    150mAh Display #1
    150mAh Display #2
    150mAh Display #3
    150mAh Display #4
    60mAh each LED
    1mAh Compass
    1mAh Gyro
    40mAh WiFi
    55mAh Camera
    ? main board, couldn't find stats :(

    My size issue seems to be mostly related to power as everything else should fit in a small compact size, I found these that'll work, but all are a bit larger than I'd want:
    2000mA (1.4" x 1.6" x 1.6") http://www.etoncorp.com/en/productdisplay/boostbloc-2000 (3.584cu")
    4000mA (1.0" x 2.2" x 2.2") http://www.etoncorp.com/en/productdisplay/boostbloc-4000 (4.84cu")
    4000mA (2.9" x 2.3" x 0.8") http://www.energizerpowerpacks.com/th/products/xp4006/index.php (5.336cu")
    A Samsung Galaxy S3 battery (2100mAh) is .2" x 2.2" x 2.0"
    These rayovac batteries (http://www.rayovac.com/Products/Por...xternal-Micro-USB-Battery-for-Cell-Phone.aspx) have 1500 mAh

    So I think my end result is (being a bit optimistic, as the volume should be ok, but wires and connectors since I'm using OTS components will suck up more space than a custom built solution:
    2" x 2" x 3" for 2.5 hours, or about 2.5" x 2.5" x 3" for 5 hrs, using those cubes

    Issues I see:
    #1. Though volume wise I think all the features would easily fit into a 1.5x1.5x2 container, since I'm using the OTS stuff it'll all be bulkier, have extra stuff, and even adding .5" all the way around may be a tight fit.
    #2. I'm not sure what all I can do with the .NET Gadgeteer stuff yet. Static images would suffice for the prototype, but 4 displays (even at 120x160) may be pushing it.
    #3. I'm not confident the board can handle 4 displays, even if the connectors are there. I think in an end product there would be a single display out, but the display itself is broken into 4 parts, essentially wrapping the image around the object.
     
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2013
  13. Fish4Fun

    Fish4Fun So long, and Thanks for all the Fish!

    470
    109
    Aug 27, 2013
    OK, first off let me say, "wow that is one heck of a uController!" I assume you have experience with the ARM Cores? If that is the case then you are way ahead of me, lol. I have dabbled a bit with some of the older ARM uControllers, but I was in way over my head even back then. Even if you don't, but you have a strong background in C you may be able to avoid this warning:

    What I am unclear on is your experience with uControllers (the one you referenced is a whopper!) and programming in general. You stated you were in IT, and I know a fair number of IT people, most of them cannot list low-level programming as a skill; but if you know what you are getting into then by all means proceed! In fact there may well be C libraries out there that will allow you to cut and paste your code together, but my luck never runs like that, lol.

    I will freely admit I stubbornly spent several weeks banging out ASM to make a simple 4x20 character LCD module do what I wanted with an ATMEGA32 (yes, I know there are libraries, but I wanted to do it, lol), I cannot imagine attempting a 128x160 Color screen! Depending on refresh rate requirements, I can't see anything in the hardware specs of that monster uController that couldn't handle 4 of your screens, I just know I would never get the code to work ;-)

    Page 83 of the STM32F405xx Data sheet (DM00037051.pdf) lists the various current consumption estimates with the max being @ 168Mhz w/all peripherals enabled as 109mA + 1.6mA for each enabled ADC. With a full-speed Voltage requirement of 2.7-3.6V this implies a worst case total power consumption of ~400mW. wow. (This does not take into account any power the board itself consumes).

    You might consider looking at the RC industry LiPos, they are mass-market and generally cheaper than sourcing them other ways. You might also consider cell-phone batteries; they are also mass-market and generally cheaper than other sources.

    Again, Good Luck!

    Fish
     
Ask a Question
Want to reply to this thread or ask your own question?
You'll need to choose a username for the site, which only take a couple of moments (here). After that, you can post your question and our members will help you out.
Electronics Point Logo
Continue to site
Quote of the day

-