Hack that holy USB cable!
This instructable is showing how to use the power of the USB PORT of the computer or laptop instead of batteries.
Lots of gadgets are made for the USB PORT nowadays, lamps, ventilators and small vacuum cleaners.

Why don't you try to make something funny yourself, using the USB?

This instructable very low tech, demanding your inventor and designer skills more than electronics. And no programming!

We will take one of these gadgets as a starting point (they are very cheap, 1-2 euro's) and make something experimental out of it, demonstrating the paper button principle. It is like having a very superficial dream compared to working with programmable chips and sensors and complex wiring jobs.

We use the principle of the paper button:
( see this instructable: http://www.instructables.com/id/Paper-button/ )

Step 1: Tools

Hack that holy USB cable!
Hack that holy USB cable!
You need simple tools for this instructable.
A screwdriver, scissors, a cutter, glue, tape, maybe a soldering device comes in handy too.

for the button: paper, aluminum foil, and electrical wires.

Paper is a rich material, there are a lot of different papers and quality of papers, for the buttons we use light pliable paper, but for a base you can use heavier more stiff papers. I like the Japanese papers very much, but also used paper, printed paper, paper with texture on it. Also the paper which has been in the sun, yellow is nice. Paper is very much wabi-sabi for me...

And we start with a gadget, but once you discover the principle, you can use old USB cables from a mouse, or whatever.

What you don't need is batteries!

Step 2: USB

Hack that holy USB cable!
After years of very big connectors, 24 or even 36 PINS, there was the USB connector....
Small, nice, clean, design!

This USB connector design, compared to these dinosaurs makes the USB mysterious, nearly holy. I never dared to open it up! But then you cut some deceased mouse and what do you see: actually the USB is just 4 wires:

5V
data+
data-
GND

But this "design" USB comes with a cost, if you want to connect a chip, or an Arduino, using the Serial PORT to the computer, you need an extra FTDI chip, where "normally" you could use RX, TX PINS...

How to hack the USB cable? Just cut it through!

Step 3: PARTS

Hack that holy USB cable!
Hack that holy USB cable!
Hack that holy USB cable!
We use a gadget of 2-3 euro's to start the experiment.
A vacuum cleaner (well not really!), test it - if it works, blows, gives a bit of light. (makes noise!)

open it up and get the parts out:

a button/switch
a motor
a LED
a circuit
and the USB cable

With these things and the paper button, we start experimenting.

The motor and the LED are normally running on 3V, the circuit inside the motor has small resistors diminishing the 5V (and the current) if you want to add LED's, be careful and add a resistor of between 300Ohms - 1K, this resistor will protect the LED's.

Step 4: Paper experiments

Hack that holy USB cable!
Hack that holy USB cable!
Hack that holy USB cable!
Hack that holy USB cable!
Hack that holy USB cable!
Now the rest is up to your phantasy! Paper, cardboard, or other materials like fabrics can be used for inventing buttons, shapes, situations...

We started making a simple button of paper. (using aluminum foil, glue and electrical wires)
(Using fabric and foil, with a middle layer of neoprene with a hole in it you can make heavier buttons, e.g. for under your shoes)

Then we continued hiding the LED inside a paper folding. The surprise should be not only the light inside the paper, but also the simple text, only lighting up when you push the button. (If you prefer design typography you could think of using the laser cutter to get a good sharp regular balanced text.)

See a switch of "old" newspaper in a later step...


Step 5: MOTOR experiment(s)

Hack that holy USB cable!
Hack that holy USB cable!
The motor is this simple cheap on/off motor, which rotates very quickly. You need a gearbox to make it run more slowly. But that is for the moment out of the scope of this experiment, since I want to work with the hacked parts of the USB vacuum cleaner only.

The first experiment involved graphite drawn on paper, to make a sort of voltage divider. That is a variable resistor in one of the motor wires, to slow the motor down.

This didn't succeed...the resistor needed to slow down the motor is 2 - 5Ohm (and it gets very hot) , the motor does not slow down very much, and the graphite certainly conducts current, but still has a resistance of 10-100K, more for signalling to a PIN of an Arduino than providing real power.

The thing which helped was putting the motor on a few layers of cardboard, and then something funny happened: on a smooth table, the spinning motor started to move (a bit like the vib motor on a tooth brush, but more like a hoover craft).

Step 6: An Old Newspaper Button

Hack that holy USB cable!
Hack that holy USB cable!
Hack that holy USB cable!
Hack that holy USB cable!
Hack that holy USB cable!
Hack that holy USB cable!
This is a two way button, there are three wires attached.

The button has two positions, up or down. The middle part has a aluminum strip all over, and the upper and lower are small aluminum squares. The wires are at the back side.

The middle one can be connected either to the left or the right wire.
One is connected to the LED's and the other to the motor.

A few seconds video to show the workings:



then you have to imagine a useful way to arrange the LED's....and the VEN part....
the article is about a philosopher, German, kind of difficult to read. (His text are difficult to translate because he is very much "into" the inner workings of the German language, that is why for instance French translations (not to speak of English) loose 50% of the meaning and wordplay.)

Step 7: Problems

Hack that holy USB cable!
The problems were (as always) unexpected: the wiring was too stiff, curled and made knots.
The paper is so light weight!

So I went from "normal" electrical wires (diameter 0.14 mm2 ) to my usual (smart textile) wires of diameter 0.05 mm2. This helped a bit, but still you had to tape the paper, the LED's, the buttons to the table to get something of a stable setup.

And then transporting the paper buttons (for a class...) you have to be very careful!

 
 

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