Introduction: HAL 9000 Garage Door Button Upgrade
Inspiration can hit you at the most unexpected time. Over Spring Break my family and I went to NASA's Johnson's Space Center in Houston. They had an exhibit called "Popnology" which featured different forms of science fiction technology that has appeared in pop culture and how it has influenced/inspired our current technology and vice versa. It was a great display of sci-fi props and interactive activities. However, there was one display that caught my eye, it was the Artificial Intelligence exhibit that referenced HAL 9000 from the 1968 Stanley Kubrick film "2001: A Space Odyssey". The blue light emitting all around the console and the ominous glowering red eye in the center of the HAL 9000 unit captured my attention and intrigue. The wonderful lighting of the display begged me to take its pictures. I snapped a few shots on my phone and went on to enjoy the rest of my day at NASA.
After several hours of exploring NASA's offerings, we make the drive home and pull into our garage. And what do I notice as I go to push the button that closes my garage door? I see a familiar red glow just behind the frosted plastic of the button. It was at that exact moment that I knew I was going to replace my garage door button with a HAL 9000.
At first, I thought it would be amazing if I could figure out a way to convert my garage door opener to be voice activated. While you can do this, sort of, ultimately you are just using an Amazon Alexa or a Google Home assistant. And they would be using their own voices which I did not want. I wanted to be able to say, "HAL open the pod bay doors" and it would respond with the classic line from the movie, "I'm sorry Dave I am afraid I can't do that." and then eventually it would open the garage door. After a ton of research, I found that it would not be possible to make it open my garage door with voice commands. So, I had to settle for HAL replacing my garage door button instead.
I was going to use Tinkercad to design HAL but I was lucky and found that CONCENTRIX had already made a 3D model and posted it on Thingiverse HAL 9000 Prop Replica by CONCENTRIX - Thingiverse . I used his model and a model of the speaker grill designed by mabbog HAL 9000 speaker grille by mabbog - Thingiverse for the majority of my project.
With most of the design work done I got to work on the rest of the project.
Garage Door Button
Thin Gauge Wiring - (Sorry I don't have the exact gauge wire I used)
Heat Shrink Tubing
Dremel with Cut-off Wheel
Various Grits Sandpaper 150 up to 400 grit
Fake Security Cameras
Satin Black Spray Paint
Gloss Black Spray Paint
Matte Clear Spray Paint
Scrap piece of Flat stock at least 5 inches wide
Red Scrubbing Pad
5 Minute Epoxy
1/8 inch MDF
Drill bits 5/16
The first thing I did was to verify that the current garage door button actually had a red LED bulb. I removed the two screws that secured the button to the wall plate then backed off the screws that held the wires in place and removed the two wires. That freed up the assembly which gave me access to the PCB board which I pried off the plastic housing. So far so good there was a button and a red LED light.
*This took several days to complete so I had to install a separate garage door button while I worked on this so that we could still use our garage door. This is not entirely necessary though; you can always just use the garage door remote control opener from your car. But that means the wires will be hanging out of the box in the meantime. I wasn't sure this was even going to work so I just installed another button.
Because the current spacing of the button and LED was not going to work. The LED has to fit inside a hole in the center of HAL and would have to be removed and then extended with some wiring. In order to do this, I had to remove the solder that held the LED in place. But before I did that I used a marker to mark the positive side of the LED because once it was removed I would not be able to tell which side was positive and which was negative. Using my soldering iron I heated up the soldering joints of the LED until they melted and used my solder sucking bulb to remove the solder. Eventually I was able to free up the bulb.
*Disclaimer: I have very limited knowledge and even less skill when it comes to soldering and de-soldering components.
Next, I cut two 10 inch long pieces of wire that I would use to extend the reach of the LED bulb. I first soldered each wire to the PCB and cut off any excess wire that protruded from the back of the PCB. Then I solder each corresponding wire, positive to positive and negative to negative, to the LED bulb. I used heat shrink tubing on the connections to the LED light to make sure they were insulated from one another.
I am not very confident in my soldering abilities, so I made sure to test the functionality of the button and the light to make sure everything still worked. And I was lucky everything worked! The garage door opened and closed and the LED bulb lit up.
I used my Ender 3 to print out all the parts. I had some trouble printing out the top and bottom frame pieces. Those are the white pieces on the left. They pushed the capabilities of my printer envelope. They did not come out perfect, but they were good enough to work with after some finessing.
Besides the 3d printing the majority of time will be spent on prepping the 3d prints for paint. There is a lot of sanding and priming and sanding and priming that takes place. A buddy of mine suggested that I try smoothing the prints by brushing on some Acetone. The theory being that the Acetone melts the plastic smooth. To be honest I don't know how well that worked. I still had to do a ton of sanding. I used 220 and 400 grit to sand all the 3d printed parts fairly smooth. These will all get a few coats of filler primer but the more sanding you can do at this point the less you have to do later.
A quick mockup of all the pieces look like after sanding.
The two halves of the frames are glued together. The designer included some holes to act as registration points and glue points on his model. You simply cut some small pieces of filament and glue them in the holes then you can glue the two halves together and have them line up perfectly. Make sure you do this on a flat surface so you don't warp the frame.
As I mentioned in a previous step these larger prints had some issues while printing, so I had a few gaps to repair after the frame glue up. I used the old CA and baking soda trick to fil the gaps. I applied some CA glue to the gap and then sprinkled some baking soda on the glue which makes it cure instantly. Then I sanded the area smooth. It makes for a really fast and clean repair once sanded.
The back panel goes together much like the frame does. It has the registration holes on both pieces that you end up gluing together. You end up with a gap as well because they are two pieces which can be filled with CA glue and baking soda or if you don't mind waiting can be filled with any other filler product. So I glued up the panel and filled it and primed it but I was impatient and used a heat gun to try and dry the primer which cause the plastic to shrink.
The last picture shows the gap that my impatience created. So instead of printing the two pieces again I scrapped them and made a back panel from some 1/8 inch MDF.
I used my table saw to rip a piece of 1/8 inch MDF to 4-1/4 inches wide and then crosscut it down to 10-1/2 inches long. The surface was already smooth, so I did not sand it before priming it.
Next I primed all the pieces. Here I just show priming the frame but it is the same for all the pieces. After priming I lightly sanded all the pieces with 400 grit sand paper. I re-applied filler primer as needed and re-sanded as needed. Some pieces were more forgiving than others and did not need much rework.
I got tired of priming and sanding, so I moved on to making the lenses for HAL.
I bought two Fake Security Cameras from Dollar Tree and took them apart. In his instructions CONCENTRIX mentions using Christmas ornaments but they are not in season at the moment so I used the fake security camera instead. They come apart quite easily its just a matter of removing the 4 screws that hold everything together.
CONCENTRIX includes two cutting guides for the lenses. The white ring you see taped to the plastic dome is the 3d printed guide. I used a marker to mark my cutting line, then I used my Dremel with a cut off wheel to make the cut. I tried to stay slightly below the line when making the cut to leave myself a little room for error. The cut off wheel sort of melts the plastic as it cuts and leaves a jagged edge, which will have to be sanded.
*Top Tip: Buy more than two security cameras in case you mess up a cut, like I did.
I used some 150 grit sandpaper to sand down the jagged edge left by the Dremel tool. I sneaked up on my cut line as I sanded. Once I got close to my line I would do a quick test fit. I would sand a little and check the fitment over and over until I got it just right.
The process to make the smaller inner lens is the same. I used the cut guide to make a mark then my Dremel tool to cut the lens, then sand and check the fit. Here again try to sneak up on the fit as you sand.
*Careful when you are sanding as this plastic is thin and scratches very easily. Make sure your hands and fingers are clean when handling the lenses.
A quick mock up to see how it is going to look.
I used Satin black spray paint on all the pieces except for the back panel. For that piece I used Gloss black. I'll explain why in the next step.
Each piece got 3 coats of black paint.
Once the gloss black paint was dry on the back panel, I applied 3 coats of clear matte spray paint to it.
In the movie the back panel looks like it made from brushed aluminum. To recreate this effect, I used a red scrubbing pad that is wrapped around a flat piece of scrap wood and drag that across the surface of the painted back panel. I used long even strokes and applied a small amount of pressure as I drag the scrubbing pad. The goal is to create some uniform scratches that will mimic the appearance of a brushed aluminum. That is why I first painted the back panel with glossy paint first and then sprayed it with matte clear. The scrubbing brush removes/scratches the matte clear. The gloss black adds a subtle sheen under the clear matte. The final result can be seen in the last pic.
After the black paint has had time to dry, I take all the pieces that will be silver and use some Rub-n-Buff Silver to give them that metallic look. Rub-n-Buff is applied by hand or brush. You simply place a small amount of Rub-n-Buff on your finger and rub it onto the surface of the piece. I usually apply it to the whole piece and set it aside for a bit then come back and buff it out with my gloved hand. Since the speaker grill had so many nooks and crannies, I used a brush to apply the Rub-n-Buff. I removed the excess with a clean paper towel.
*Rub-n-Buff is awesome, pictures don't do it justice, its super easy and fun to use. I always try to use a glove when applying it though it can get a bit messy.
This part made me the most nervous. It was finally time to glue the lenses in place. I used 5-minute epoxy for this instead of CA glue because I wasn't sure how the CA glue would react with the plastic. Sometimes CA glue can cause plastic to haze which would have ruined the lenses.
I mixed up the epoxy then used a toothpick to apply a small amount of epoxy to the edge of where the lens would be fixed. Before gluing in place, I made sure the lens was clean. I placed the lens on the housing and let it dry overnight.
I repeated the process for the larger lens. I did not tape down the lens from fear of it getting messed up, so I just held it in place for about 5 mins until the epoxy started to set. I also let this dry overnight.
Next, I used the same 5-minute epoxy to glue the back panel and speaker grill to the frame.
Since I had made my own back panel instead of using the 3D printed one, I realized that I needed something to help me align the placement of the lens assembly. So, I 3D printed the bottom half of the back panel that I could then use to trace the hole for the lens assembly. Once I had the position marked in pencil, I glued the lens ring to the back panel.
When that dried, I drilled the hole for the wiring. There are two holes because at first, I thought the wiring could be fed through the lower hole but after mocking everything up I realized I had to drill a second hold in the center so that the wiring from the LED could come straight out the back. Basically, all you need it one hole in the center. I messed up and drilled an unnecessary hole but it doesn't matter because the lens assembly will cover it up.
After the hole drilling debacle, I epoxied the lens assembly to the panel.
CONCENTRIX includes a pdf of the HAL 9000 sticker that goes on the top of back panel. I printed out the sticker on some sticker paper then cut it out using a ruler and razor. I measured 8mm equal distance all around the sticker sides and from the top of the frame per CONCENTRIX instructions and applied the sticker to the top. The sticker really does add a nice touch to the piece.
This was the second button I bought that we were using while I built HAL. I removed the button and the face plate cover to expose the two wires.
In order to make this contraption work I had to use the original button case to hold the PCB. It had the correct spacing for the screw terminals but stuck out too far. So, I used my portable band saw table and my belt sander to trim off the excess pieces and reduce the profile. The last pic shows where the PCB will sit on the back of HAL.
Next, I had to figure out how to mount it to the wall. I came up with a sort of clip on "design". I made the clips from MDF and used a wooden dowel that would be attached to the wall as a sort of anchor. This will make more sense once its mounted. Basically, the two clothes pin looking pieces will hook on to the wooden dowel which will let the entire piece move front to back. I thought I needed it to be able to swing so that the button could be pushed to open or close the garage door.
*This is the part I had to sort of figure out as I got to it.
You can see the top of the clothes pin pieces are rounded so that they can accept the dowel. The slits are slightly narrower so that they lock the dowel in place. I used 5-minute epoxy to glue the clothes pin pieces to the top back side of the HAL frame. I made sure not to get any epoxy on the legs of the clothes pins so that they can move freely. I braced them in place with a scrap piece of MDF while the epoxy cured. The last pic shows what they will look like. The dowel can be slid in or out.
Time to make the wall "bracket". I used 3/16" backerboard for this part. I first marked where the dowel should go then used my hot glue gun to attach the dowel making sure it was centered on the backer board. I applied a generous amount of glue to the dowel. This may look messy, but it works.
I did a quick mockup to make sure I would be covering the existing electrical box hole and marked the position of the wall bracket. I used my level to make sure the wall bracket was horizontal then attached it with screws to the wall stud on the left. I ended up using 2 screws on the left side that went into the stud because the screw going into the dry wall did not hold after several mockups and removals.
Now it was time to connect the wires coming from the wall to the PCB terminals. I struggled a lot with this but eventually realized that I needed to feed the screws through PCB and wrap the wires around the screws to hold them in place. This allowed me to then be able to screw the PCB to the brown plastic frame attached to the back of HAL.
And after all that the bottom of the frame stuck wayyyyy out. It turns out that wall was less than flat. The left side was higher than the right side which through everything off. The good news was that it worked I could push down on HAL and the garage would open but I couldn't leave it with that huge gap.
And after all that the bottom of the frame stuck wayyyyy out. It turns out that wall was less than flat. The left side was higher than the right side which threw everything off. And the top was higher than the bottom. The good news was that it worked I could push down on HAL and the garage would open but I couldn't leave it with that huge gap.
I didn't want to drill into the side of the frame on HAL, but I had no choice in order to make this work and have it look halfway decent. I found a scrap piece of wood that fit in between the wall and HAL. I attached this scrap piece of wood to the wall making sure that it would clear the bottom of HAL's frame. Then I drilled a hole through the bottom of HAL's frame. I made sure to push the frame as close to the wall without triggering the garage door button the small orange button on the PCB. Then I predrilled and screwed it in place. HAL has enough flex so that you can press on the speaker grill to open the garage door. This worked okay but I decided to elongate the screw hold slightly so that the frame could have a little room to travel. Basically, I made the screw hole slotted to allow for movement.
The last two pics show how uneven the wall is, the right side is pretty flush until the bottom and the left side still has a gap but not nearly as bad as before adding the bottom screw.
This project turned out to be more than I bargained for, but it was totally worth it. Both of my kids and my wife thought it looked really cool. I spend a lot of time in my garage and I can't help but smile every time I open or close the garage door. Maybe one day in the future I will be able to convert this to voice command with HAL's actual voice. Thanks for taking the time to read my Instructable I hope that inspiration finds you just as it did me.
Second Prize in the
Home Improvement Contest