n°Garage's FlexiBall Is an Icosidodecahedral Surface-Mount Soldering Challenge

Designed for use with an external microcontroller, this flexible circuit kit puts 80 RGB LEDs into a squishy ball configuration.

Gareth Halfacree
2 months agoLights / HW101

Pseudonymous maker "n°Garage" is looking for people eager to flex their skills at surface-mount device (SMD) soldering — with a piece of "flexible PCB origami" festooned with 80 RGB LEDs under the control of an external device.

"FlexiBall is a modular PCB origami [in the shape of an] icosidodecahedron," n°Garage explains of the unusual soldering challenge. "It has twenty flexible PCBs of triangular shape. Each PCB is identical and has four WS2812B-2020 LEDs in serial. Once these twenty triangular faces are connected with soldering iron they forms twelve hollow pentagonal-faces. So FlexiBall is an icosidodecahedron."

Each of the roughly-triangular elements in the kit holds four LEDs — one at each point and a fourth in the middle — with two surface-mount capacitors per board. Soldering each board up, then isn't too much of a challenge — but there are 20 boards in total, and the flexible PCB substrate means overlong heating can render a board useless.

"This kit serves as an excellent exercise to do SMD soldering," n°Garage claims. "It challenges your skill and your patience. Be ready to desolder if things go wrong. The normal third hand [PCB stand] is not recommended because the teeth of its clip makes the flexible PCB ugly. If you are using a hot gun and solder paste, use the helper [with] a steel base with magnetic pillars."

The FlexiBall kit, which requires an external microcontroller connected over a flexible printed circuit (FPC) cable, is available to order on n°Garage's Tindie store at $36; those who don't fancy the challenge can order one pre-assembled for an additional $60.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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