• Pushing Life into a Toaster

    spetku03/07/2018 at 05:51 0 comments


    I would like you to meet my toaster. The toaster is an old character of mine who has survived through subtle reference in the things I draw and build. Nothing I make is about the toaster, but the toaster is about everything I make. He's my chrome totem.

    While I was in college abroad, I bought an actual physical model from the early 30s off eBay which looked pretty much identical to the one from my doodles (still works too!). I had big plans for this little toaster, but at some point we got separated during my move back to Las Vegas. The toaster got packed in one of my friend's moving boxes and it wasn't until this summer that we finally remembered to unearth him for me to take home. After three years of waiting, toaster is now happily sitting next to me on my bench...

    It's wonderful to be reunited, but admittedly it feels weird talking to him during the day without a set of eyes to look into. So... I decided to fix this.

    Not just any eyes will do either. They have to be capable of showing a multitude of expressions, particularly the sly and judgmental sort. Instead of using an LED matrix to form shapes, I thought it'd be a bit cooler to make my own modified segment display. Once turned on their side, a standard twelve segment display is capable of showing not only numbers, but all of the expressions a toaster might make too!


    Again I took to Eagle CAD and prepared a board which I've called, "EYE OF TOAST". You can see where the segments are- and where the LEDs will be installed.

    Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 9.49.16 PM


    While these boards were off being fabricated with OSH Park, I worked on designing the fixture piece that the board would sit inside of. It would need to be as thin as possible, yet also able to defuse the two point sources of light in each segment... this took a few revisions.


    My first prototype was a dual extrusion piece (the two-tone ones). These worked alright, but the white obviously stands out a bit too much when the segments aren't in use.

    I printed another solid gray fixture with a seamless .5mm layer on top, so that the light can pass through just fine, but when the LED is off, it disappears (bottom left). This was our winner.


    Additionally, while I waited for the boards to arrive in the mail, I brainstormed what the actual emotions would look like. I printed out a sheet of paper filled with pairs of segmented eyes and started coloring them in, just like an assignment in kindergarten. It was amazing how many different expressions I was able to muster from these 24 lines!


    Once my happy purple envelope arrived, I got busy soldering all the tiny bits in their proper place. Since there have been a lot of ATMEGA328s floating around my life lately, this was the chip I decided to use for this project. So, I'll be programming in the Arduino environment also.



    I learned all about arrays for this project... which Mark held my hand through (and at times told me to step aside so he could just get things working).

    Once I made ints for all of the expression I drew up on my toast 'homework' sheet, I could then call them easily in my sketch without having to type a bunch of numbers each time. The function I'm adding to the toaster is that he cycle through expressions every time you pull down on his lever. So, we added a switch to the code as a toggle button.


    After the code was tested and finally working correctly, the next step was to install everything on the actual toaster itself... which is where things got a little scary for me. I decided that this wasn't the time and place to cut into toaster's pristine shiny casing in order to permanently install the eye fixtures. Instead, I'd be attaching them onto the surface of the casing. Less cool,...

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