About this project
Hello Kickstarter! Thanks for visiting our project page and helping take B-Squares from prototype to product.
This project started on January 26, 2011 with a quick sketch while both myself and Shawn were trying to prototype another solar product. We were getting frustrated that it was so difficult to integrate solar energy into our professional and for-fun ‘electric graffiti’ projects. So, after three months of intense development, with B-Squares we now think we have a technology that can bring solar, energy storage, and interactivity into a range of projects, instantly. And we need your help to complete the journey.
B-Squares is a 3D modular electronics system with an emphasis on (but not limited to) solar power and expandable energy storage. Each Square has a magnetic contact on each of the corners which allows the Squares to easily snap together without wires. The magnetic contacts are also used to transmit electric signals between the Squares. This design allows users to quickly assemble Squares into arrays, with power flowing through the array via the corner contact, without wiring or soldering. Also, due to the use of multiple magnetic contacts on each Square, the overall circuit of the array can quickly be changed simply by rotating one of the Squares – for instance, the color of the LED Square can change with a flip or a rotation.
What is “3D” about B-Squares? The Squares aren't restricted to being connected side-to-side in a single plane, but can also be stacked on top of or perpendicular one another. Think of it like a deck of electric cards that you can use to make 2D or 3D card houses and have the electricity flow through the entire array.
From the moment we developed the first crude foam prototypes of B-Squares, we were surprised to discover new applications and combinations of Squares each day. We’d Skype each other at each new discovery:
“Woah, did you know these things can solar charge off-the-shelf rechargeable AA batteries, through their magnetic contacts!”
“We can use aluminum foil and paperclips to make a solar-powered clock array!”
“I just made a solar-powered iPod Square!”
Versatility, portability, and simplicity were our primary goals in designing B-Squares. Our hope is that these become a tool/toy/gadget for hobbyists, students, artists and anyone that's ever said "I wonder if that could be solar-powered!?"
To get B-Squares started we designed everything from scratch and went through several design revisions using SLS rapid prototyping and precision machining processes. We settled on, and redesigned for manufacture, six different B-Squares, which we are launching here on Kickstarter:
1. Solar-Square -- Includes 0.325W Solar Panel and a non-adhesive microsuction cup material for sticking to windows and other flat surfaces.
2. Battery-Square -- Includes three (3) internal rechargeable AAA batteries.
3. LED-Square -- Includes three (3) multi-color Light Emitting Diodes (LED).
4. Arduino-Square -- Includes a 3.3V Arduino Pro compatible microcomputer with easy access to the shield ports. (Don’t know what an Arduino is? Don’t worry, we didn't at first either. If you’re curious, see the FAQs for more information on this powerful Square.)
5. iPhone-Square -- Includes iPhone/iPod dock connector, PC USB connector, and stereo outputs.
6. Proto-Square -- Includes a standard 2.54mm pitch perfboard area on the printed circuit board (PCB). (Design your own B-Square!!)
This is just the beginning. With your support we hope to begin production of these initial 6 designs immediately as well as expand the B-Square line with more new and creative B-Squares!
Simple, when you sign up for one of the B-Square packages you can adjust the total amount that you would like to pledge. On the pledge page, choose one of the B-Square Kit rewards (the $50, $100, or $250 kits) and then add $25 to your total in the "Enter your pledge amount" box. For instance, if you are interested in the Developer’s Kit and would like to add an iPhone square, you would 1. Type in $125 (Developer’s Kit + iPhone Square) into the "Enter your pledge amount" box and 2. select the Developer's Kit Reward. We know you added on an iPhone-Square because of how the Reward amounts are structured -- don't worry. You can do all of this the first time you order, or you can order a Kit and then adjust your pledge later to add the iPhone-Square.
The Solar-Square uses a 60x60[mm] polycrystalline solar PV panel. The output is rated at 0.325W (5V at 65mA). Solar Squares can be connected in parallel to increase current (so, two Solar Squares in parallel would output 5V with 130mA peak) or they can be connected in series to increase voltage (so, two Solar Squares in series would output 10V with 65mA). Of course, you can add however many Solar Squares into a B-Squares array as you need for your application.
The Battery-Square uses three internal AAA rechargeable NiMH batteries in series. These are the same type of rechargeable batteries you can get at your local store. The batteries in the Battery-Square can be recharged with one or more Solar-Squares or the batteries can be individually recharged in a standard wall charger. For the tech savvy: Why NiMH instead of Li-Ion? In general, NiMH batteries are not only safer than batteries with a Li-Ion chemistry but they’re also much better for the environment. And while you can easily stack multiple Battery-Squares to get increased capacity, if you really need the extra capacity of a Li-Ion battery, we’ve designed the Battery-Square so that you can swap out the printed circuit board (PCB) with one that accommodates a Li-Ion battery. The typical capacity of a single AAA rechargeable battery is 1000mAh.
That micro-suction cup material on the Solar-Squares is amazing! Where can I find out more about it?
Yes it is! We’ve partnered with the Japanese manufacturer to bring this technology to B-Squares. To buy some samples of your own for non-B-Squares projects, you can find the material here: http://www.inventables.com/technologies/suction-cup-tape
For now, unfortunately no. For the Speaker-Square we really want to ensure a high quality of sound with the thin speakers. We feel uncomfortable promising this as a reward since it still requires a small amount of design and would greatly increase our manufacturing costs, and therefore our Kickstarter goal. When we do launch the Speaker-Square following this launch, it will be fully compatible with the other Squares.
An Arduino is basically a small micro-computer that allows you to develop your own computer software and integrates with a wide range of electronics hardware. From the Arduino website: “Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. It's intended for artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments.” For more information on Arduino see: http://www.arduino.cc/
B-Square recipes are basic instructions on how to configure the B-Square modules into fun and useful configurations. Think of each B-Square as an ingredient and a B-Square recipe as…well, a recipe! Although we already have some initial ideas for great B-Square recipes we really hope to build a community behind the B-Squares where people can share their awesome recipes that they’ve come up with.
Just two guys who really enjoy inventing things. Best. Job. Ever!
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