A programmable pin art display. It's a hackable version of the classic "Pin Art" desk toy, also known as a "pinscreen". The goal of this project is to make lots of small, low-cost linear actuators, arrange them in a grid, hook them up to a microcontroller, then see what we can do. A key element is "low cost". Even a low-resolution "10x10" display would have a 100 DC motors. At $1 to $2 a piece, it can get expensive quickly. As much of the design will be 3D printable as possible to keep costs down. Others have built similar devices, such as the inFORM display from MIT Media Lab's Tangible Media Group, but cost & complexity are a barrier to wider adoption.
With some programming, there is a ton of potential. We could make a clock or old school games like Snake. Riffing on the Hackaday Prize theme, you could use a PinThing display to safely send a real 3D high-five or fist bump to anyone around the world!
One "fun" thing I learned while soldering all the wires is that these motors are incredibly heat sensitive. If you hold the soldering iron on the motor leads for more than a fraction of a second, you'll fry the motor. You'll know it's dead because the axle will be completely locked up and won't rotate. Thankfully, I only did this to 3 or so motors, and I had 5 extra spare motors. 😬
Next version I'll see about making a PCB that I can directly solder the motors to. Then I can have a smaller number of ribbon cables coming off the board. So far soldering has the been the biggest pain of this project.
Here's a quick(ish) video showing the latest progress on my PinThing prototypes. Once the 15 pin version is working mechanically and electronically, I'll post the source code, the bill of materials, and the 3D printable files you'll need to make one yourself.