Hacked Gadgets Forum

February 2, 2009

Reverse Engineering the Message Mate Spinning Display

at 5:42 am. Filed under Electronic Hacks


It’s interesting to see what makes electronic items tick. You have probably seen one of these Message Mate spinning displays before. It is a simple fan that operates using a small DC motor that is spun using three AA batteries. What makes it interesting is it also has a programmable LED display! Michael from Extreme NXT Reverse Engineered the Message Mate Spinning Display and is now sharing it with everyone to learn from.

"The plastic nose cone of the fan is easily pried off and the clear polyvinyl chloride fan blades removed to reveal the flexible circuit board with the array of LEDs.  The LEDs are directly wire bonded to the circuit board and then some clear epoxy added to protect the connections.  In addition to being the least expensive method, it also reduces the weight of the assembly.  If the discrete LEDs had been purchased in surface mount packages and then soldered, it would have not only been more expensive, but also have been considerably heavier."


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8 Responses to “Reverse Engineering the Message Mate Spinning Display”

  1. Alex Says:

    Cool, really cool. Does it have a some sort of positioning sistem like a reed switch?? So the little McU knows when to turn on and off the LED-s

  2. Michael Gasperi Says:

    Yes, there is spot on the slip rings that gives it position feedback.

  3. Damien Coughlin Says:

    Very nice design.

  4. The Smorgasbord Says:

    This is kinda what I call cool “high-tech low-brow” entertainment…lol. I would like to see somebody do something really cool hacking up a few of these…

  5. Michael Gasperi Says:

    It should be possible to replace the LED flex circuit with a longer rod and discrete LEDs. You might be able to produce a display about foot in diameter without significant other modifications.

  6. Enrobevonenum Says:

    Only the winner of the Preiliminary Round goes through to the final round.

  7. Alex Says:

    and it’s got an MCU??

  8. Michael Gasperi Says:

    That would be my guess based on the sophisticated way that the message is programmed and displayed, but I suppose it could be done with a lot of dedicated logic too. The strange part is the 9 bit output. That indicates to me that at least the output has some special hardware.

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