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05 May 2011, 09:43

"Photon banner" do-it-yourself LED screen

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Source: Luli
A bright hardware hacking project caused commotion at the Revision 2011 demo party last Easter: the photon banner created by the small, Lübeck-based Luli and Gnumpf hacker groups. Operated via microcontrollers, the home-made LED screen was awarded second place in the "Wild" freestyle category for a demo entitled "2304". The project's video how-to was awarded third place in the "Animation/Video" category.

According to Luli member "Vanson", the photon banner was originally only intended to replace the association's textile banner. Talking to The H's German associates at heise online, Vanson defined the project's aim as "maximum brightness, maximum attention". However, the project did apparently end up being quite time-consuming. All in all, the hackers said that soldering the LEDs and circuit boards took 30 days, and that a further 15 days were required for programming the firmware and demo animations for the Revision party. "Development costs including all prototypes amounted to about €500," said Vanson.

A Photon Banner demonstration

The photon banner's main components are an Atmel ATmega644 microcontroller and 2,304 LEDs along with various shift registers, latches, logic gates and transistors. The hardware documentation and construction manual are available onlineGerman language link(Google translation to English). Due to the modular design, smaller screen sizes can easily be built with far less effort.

How to build a Photon Banner

During the Revision party, the photon banner was accessible online, and a web form could be used to submit text messages and graphics for display. The success apparently took the Lübeck-based hackers by surprise, and they are now thinking about developing the idea further. Vanson described the groups' plans: "Our aim is to shift the entire display management to the web front end so that even whole animations can be created there." This year, the photon banner will make another appearance at the CCC camp in Finowfurt near Berlin in August.


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