Links We Like: a Papercraft Boeing 777, a Mega Processor, and Electronic Sculpture

Cabin work-in-progress via name

Papercraft 777 Cabin by Iaconi-Stewart

All three of the main Links We Like highlight people whose artistry and dedication to their craft is remarkable. This week’s links unfold the world of papercraft, enlarge the microprocessor, and appreciate the art of electronic sculptures.

We’re always looking for new links. Make sure you share any interesting ones you find this weekend with us on the forums or in the comments at the end of the post. Have a great weekend and remember to take your Pokédex… er… PocketC.H.I.P. out with you while you’re hunting those Pokémon!

Reverse Engineering & Papercraft

Papercraft Eevee

Papercraft Eevee

Papercraft, or Pepakura as it’s called in Japan, is the art of using little more than paper and glue to construct 3D models. It’s a diverse art form. There’s everything from pokenmon characters to super bikes, and Cannon Japan even has a dedicated section of their website to the art. It seems, if you can think of it, it’s been made in papercraft.

Engine cowling of the Boeing 777 via>L

Engine cowling of the Boeing 777 via Luca Iaconi-Stewart

For seven years, Luca Iaconi-Stewart worked on a staggeringly detailed papercraft project. By watching YouTube videos and consulting a training manual, he reverse engineered the Boeing 777, the world’s largest twin-jet airline which seats 314-451, and built an all paper replica. A student of architecture, his creation is so realistic that it got the attention and praise of GE, the manufacturer of the 777’s engines.

If you’re looking for a more approachable, less time demanding papercraft project, try your hand at making Eevee, shown above.


The Computer Room is Literally Back

Panorama of the megaprocessor via megaprocessor.com

Panorama of the megaprocessor via megaprocessor.com

In 1965, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore famously characterized the march towards miniaturization of electronics. He noted that every year since the invention of the transistor, designers were able to pack in twice the number of transistors into the same area. He predicted this trend would continue for every subsequent year and saw no end-point. For decades Intel engineers backed up Moore’s prediction (commonly called Moore’s Law). Only within the last year have analyst’s reported this trend is slowing, if not altogether dead.

Mega Processor is a reaction to computer electronics shrinking size and the loss of ability to look at the entire circuit design. James Newman began working on his £40,000, 16-bit Mega Processor on 12 October 2014. He simply wanted to make the project and share his knowledge of processor design. On 22 June 2016, Newman put the finishing touches on the project, booted it up, and updated his blog chronicling the experience.

By using 42,400 through-hole transistors –about the size of a tic-tac– Newman was able to easily enlarge his processor. A Pentium microprocessor packs in a whopping 3.1 million transistors into a wafer the size of a quarter. Tiny, the Mega Processor is not. It stands 32′ long and 6’5″ tall.

To further reveal the processor’s operations, Newman installed light emitting diodes (LEDs) at any point in the design where data was passed from an output to an input. This allows anyone looking at the machine to see the precise flow of data in realtime.

It’s worth watching Newman’s video introduction to the project (embeded above), and keep a close eye on his video series, which provides more explantatory details of each part of the Mega Processor architecture.

At NTC, we’re always excited to see when people share their knowledge publicly, so our hats are off to Newman and his work.


Electronic Sculpture

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Like the Mega Processor, Gislain Benoit’s creation The Tower hides nothing of its design. But for Benoit, using basic electronic components is also about sculpting and an intricate soldering technique known as point-to-point.

Tower weighs 60lbs, stands 5′ tall, and uses 2153 components — 1415 of which are LEDs. The sheer number of components is due to the fact that Benoit uses only basic electronic components: resistors, LEDs, and transistors. Had he used integrated circuits –small plastic rectangles with hundreds of miniscule components that somewhat resemble bugs– the sculpture would have required far fewer parts.

However, Benoit is not trying to create an optimized bill-of-materials or reduce his material cost. His goal is to design a beautiful electronic sculpture, which he has accomplished.

ft1

Unlike most circuits, the components in Tower are not soldered directly to a fiberglass board. Instead, each component lead (metal wire sticking out of the component) is soldered directly to another lead. This style of wiring is often called point-to-point soldering and is a niche skill that’s easy to underestimate its difficulty.

One challenge about this construction method is when heat is applied to one lead of a component the other leads will heat up too. Unless careful management and heatsinks are used during construction, you can end up desoldering component connections unintentionally. To design a work as large, complex, and thoughtfully designed as Tower is truly remarkable.

While you’re browsing Benoit’s site, make sure to check out his first sculpture, The Clock.


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Have a great weekend, make sure to share any interesting links you find with us in the forums or comments below.

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