Building Anandamidi controller, part 1

Anandamidi, MIDI controller with a strange name, is my latest project. Guy for whom I’m building it sent me basic layout and a name, while I’m working on everything else, from design (which always come first) to electronics and programming.

Name

Let’s explain the name first. “Anandamide is a molecule that plays a role in many bodily activities, including appetite, memory, pain, depression, and fertility – hence its name, which is derived from the word ‘ananda’ which means ‘extreme delight’ or ‘bliss’ in the Sanskrit language” (Source). The molecule looks like this:

 

Anandamide molecule

 

Layout

Moving on to layout. Project is fairly simple, as far as component number is concerned. It consists of 8 switches, 2 rows and 4 columns on the left side of controller and another 8 on the right side. Middle part consists of two vertically placed faders, with 5 LEDs in column next to each of them. Next to each LED column are 3 potentiometers. Below that is another horizontally placed fader. That’s it actually.

 

Design

After few days of playing in CorelDraw, this is what I’ve come up with:

Anandamidi

I’m very fond of Ace Futurism font, so I’m using it almost exclusively in my designs. You can get font for free here. Anandamide molecule is used around the controller name, along with the logo from the guy who ordered it inside it.

Shantea Controls is a name for a imaginary company which builds custom MIDI controllers, and the sole employee is me.) The leaf represents Camelia Sinensis leafs, a plant used for production of green, black and white teas (hence the “tea” in Shantea).

 

Plate

The plate actually consists of two parts. First is black 3mm thick plexiglass on which black Gravoply plate is glued, resulting in a very professional looking product. The Gravoply board is then engraved with laser CNC, so the final look is pretty much identical to the picture posted above.

That would be it for part 1, next time I’ll talk about some quirks and hacks involved into placement of components, among other things.

Commit 1

First blog post here, so I just might explain what it’s all about and what I do. I started building my first MIDI controller around 4 years ago, mostly out of the frustration with M-Audio X-Session Pro. It lacked in features (okay, it’s not really expensive, but still) and would often just stop working for some reason. After I tried to search for better controller, it turned out I haven’t had that much money for controller with all the features I wanted. Searching around for videos on Youtube I found out there is this thing called Arduino and that people, among other things, use it to build their own home-made controllers. Wow! A DIY controller! From that moment I knew I’m going to build myself one. It did not matter to me that my knowledge for electronics was 0 at that point, or that I haven’t even understood what is MIDI, or that I didn’t know what that Arduino and microcontroller are. I knew what I wanted and I was about to use any resource available to get my hands dirty and build that thing. I haven’t realised that during my learning process I’m going to learn things I never thought I’ll need, such as designing electronic circuits, PCBs, drawing in vector software or programming microcontrollers. I guess it all boils down to your will and how much of yourself you’re willing to put in things that you do.

My first project was a bit of overkill, too many stuff on it (buttons, LEDs, faders, rotary encoders…) so I never managed to finish it, mostly due to the lack of money I was going to save to build DIY controller in the first place. Oh universe. Nevertheless, I learned very much on that project, so whoever told you you should start with simple things, was wrong. 🙂 At first I used Arduino Uno, then Leonardo, then Nano and finally Pro Mini (keeps getting smaller). In the future I’m probably going to use my custom built Arduino since those boards do come with some limitations. I figured that out couple of years after using it.

So, I’m going to write here about my designs, programming, post finished controllers (which I’m building for others as well, for a price of course) and everything else involved in the build process. Phew! Lenghty post.