Name Badge with the Raspberry Pi

For people who interact a lot with others, it helps to build relationships if there is a small gizmo available as a handout. Apart from being a conversation starter, this could also be an advertiser for that upcoming project or story. Most people relish being handed a freebie, and a programmable one-off gadget is one of the best.

These were the exact thoughts running through Rob Reilly’s mind when he got a tiny color LCD for Christmas. He conceived the idea of a programmable name badge, as that would certainly grab eyeballs. Being configurable, the message could change to a logo, or graphics as necessary, maybe even through sensor inputs. When you have an idea to sell, having a self-made project considerably adds to your credibility. What Rob Reilly did with an Arduino Pro Mini, Josh King has accomplished with a Raspberry Pi (RBPi) Zero. He calls it the PiE-Ink Name Badge.

For the necessary parts of the name badge project Josh starts with the RBPi Zero, the PaPiRus 2-inch e-ink HAT, an Arduino Powerboost 1000c, and a Li-Po battery. He puts the parts together using some magnets and adhesive putty.

After soldering the header pins to the RBPi Zero, Josh attached the Powerboost, which is a useful power supply. It has a built-in load-sharing battery charger that allows the project to run even when the batteries are charging. Any 3.7 V Li-Po battery can power this DC-DC converter board, which transforms the battery output to 5.2 VDC for powering the RBPi.

At this point, Josh attaches the PaPiRus HAT to the RBPi Zero, securing all the boards with putty, ensuring a snug fit. A mini slide switch in series with the power supply wires completes the assembly and allows on-off functionality.

Josh has Raspbian already pre-installed on the SD card, so he follows it up with the setup for the PaPiRus. He needs to download all the libraries in place for the RBPi Zero to recognize the 2-inch screen. To fit into the e-ink screen, Josh had to scale all images down to 200×96 pixels.

The PaPiRus is an RBPi HAT compliant design with an interchangeable screen size—you can use a 1.44”, a 2.0”, or a 2.7” e-ink display. It has 32 Mb Flash memory with a battery backed RTC, and the onboard EEPROM allows it to be plug and play with the RBPi. To facilitate projects, there is an onboard thermal watchdog, a temperature sensor, and a GPIO breakout connector with solder pads. There are four optional slim line switches on the top, and an optional reset pin header to allow the HAT wake on alarm from the RTC. PaPiRus is suitable for powering from 3.3 or 5 V power supplies, and compatible with RBPi, Arduino, Beaglebones, and many more boards that are similar.

PaPiRus uses the ePaper technology, mimicking the appearance of ink on paper. This technology is different from LCDs, as it reflects light just as ordinary paper does. Moreover, similar to ordinary paper, the ePaper display can hold text and images indefinitely, even without battery power being present.

As the display does not require any power to retain the image, the entire electronics could go to sleep for days together before the image starts to fade slowly.