I attended Shmoocon 2014 this weekend. I had a blast! I entered the Barcode Shmarcode contest for the first time and won!!! For those of you not familiar with Shmoocon its a Information Security (hacker) conference held every year in Washington DC. Barcode Shmarcode is a contest held to see who can come up with the most creative method to present their entry barcode. People have printed it out on beer labels, put it on cakes and my favorite the barcode transmitting laser.
This years theme was hacker movies. So I decided to create an Encom badge from Tron. I’d seen previous entries that used badges like Dharma or even a Fifth Element Multipass. So I wanted to up my game. Rather than make a normal laminated ID I made a light up Encom badge from vinyl and polycarbonate sheet.
Turns out the hardest part was diffusing the lights. SMD LED strips are cheap and super bright but they showed a little too well through the plastic. My original plan was to use clear acrylic, buff it and use that to diffuse the light. I figured with the vinyl on top it would diffuse the light. Nope. Luckily I had some white translucent 1/8 & 3/8 inch polycarbonate sheet left over from another project. I originally wanted the badge to be only 1/4 thick but that turned out to be impractical. I needed the 1/8 sheet on top to diffuse the light and the 3/8 on the bottom to hold the lights and batteries.
SMD strips usually take 12v but you can power them off of 9v and they will be a little dimmer. This actually worked well for me because at 12v it was way to bright. I’d also played around with using battery powered LED Christmas lights but they weren’t bright enough.
The next problem was power. The whole thing would only be 1/2 thick so I didn’t have enough room for AAA or 9v batteries. I toyed with having a 9v external but that would mean external wires and mess. I settled on coin batteries. They are 3v each and stacked in series equal 9v. I was surprise how well they drove the SMDs with the limited current they provide. They wouldn’t drive more than one strip though. So I had to use to two sets of three.
I drew up the bottom mount in Sketchup and cut out two pockets for batteries and two pockets for the lights. The Encom text is lit and the Encom logo. I cut the pattern out of polycarbonate on my CNC machine which went surprisingly well.
The top and bottom cover were done in vinyl. The original plan was to use a single color vinyl with with the Encom text and logo cut out for lighting. It worked but looked boring. I decided to try out some inkjet printable vinyl to a full color badge. Luckily for me there are a ton of Encom badge templates on the Internet. The hardest part was pulling the text to do a contour cut on the vinyl printer. I hadn’t had a lot of success with this in the past. This go around though I master placing the registration marks on the paper when you print out the color image. The vinyl cutter than aligns on the registration marks to allow it to cut the pattern out of the color image.
The top of the badge was just a rectangle cut out of polycarbonate without any pockets. When I put everything together I more problems with lighting. The SMDs were still showing through the covered sections even with 1/8 sheet and vinyl on top. The solution was to mask of the text sections with tape and spray the rest with black paint. Worked like a champ.
I used the power strip from the LED Christmas lights I had and some super thin wire wrap wire to run the power.
I had planned to use small screws to hold it all together but I didn’t have any small enough. Turns out good ol scotch tape around the edges works awesome. I then cut a 1/2 vinyl strip to cover the whole edge.
Hard work payed off. I won best use of theme. So that equals a free pass to Shmoocon next year and a free one year subscription to Silent Circle.
Here are some pics of the other entries. My favorites were the tank and bribery alcohol.