Hackaday Podcast: Curious Gadgets And The FPGA Brain Trust

In this week’s podcast, editors Elliot Williams and Mike Szczys look back on favorite hacks and articles from the week. Highlights include a deep dive in barn-door telescope trackers, listening in on mains power, the backstory of a supercomputer inventor, and crazy test practices with new jet engine designs. We discuss some of our favorite circuit sculptures, and look at a new textile-based computer and an old server-based one.

This week, a round table of who’s-who in the Open Source FPGA movement discusses what’s next in 2019. David Shah, Clifford Wolf, Piotr Esden-Tempski, and Tim Ansell spoke with Elliot at 35C3.

via Hackaday Podcast Ep2 – Curious Gadgets And The FPGA Brain Trust — Hackaday


35C3: Biggest Communication Congress, Yet Little Chaos

Every year for the past 35 years, the German Chaos Computer Club has met just after Christmas for a few days of “Spaß am Gerät” — having fun with the machines. And that’s everything from trying to bring an old PDP-8 back into running condition to forging new software to replace the old and busted social media platforms that permeate our lives. The sum total of around 17,000 people doing the nerdy stuff that they love, and sharing it together, is both amazing and inspiring. Four days of little sleep and much socializing later, I bet there was still another four days’ worth of stuff to see.
[Dave Darko] had a slew of his custom badges on hand, including one that he made for the conference. In true Chaos spirit, it didn’t have any firmware written yet — it was just a blank, multi-radio slate. So he handed a bunch out to [SpaceHuhn] and the rest of the Insecure crew for them to hack on. Let’s see what they come up with. [Alex] was working on layout and parts sourcing for even tinier LED matrixes!
via 35C3: Biggest Communication Congress, Yet Little Chaos — Hackaday

Modular Feeders For SMD Component Tape

Making one of something is pretty easy, and making ten ain’t too bad. But what if you find yourself trying to make a couple of hundred of something on your home workbench? Suddenly, small timesavers start to pay dividends. For just such a situation, you may find these modular SMD tape feeders remarkably useful.

The tape feeders come in a variety of widths, to suit different size tapes. You’ve probably seen if you’ve ever ordered SMD components in quantity from Mouser, Digikey, et al. SMD components typically ship on large tape reels, which are machine fed into automated pick and place machines. However, if you’re doing it yourself in smaller quantities, having these manual tape feeders on your desk can be a huge help. Rather than having scraps of tapes scattered across the working surface, you can instead have them neatly managed at the edge of your bench, providing components as required

via Modular Feeders For SMD Component Tape — Hackaday


Designing Tiny Motors Right Into The Robot’s Circuit Board

From  on the Hackaday blog:

Designing Tiny Motors Right Into The Robot’s Circuit Board


Motors are not overly complex, but this one is downright simple. Carl Bujega has been working on a motor design that heavily relies on the capabilities of the printed circuit board (PCB) fabrication processes. His talk at the 2018 Hackaday Superconference covers how he built a brushless DC motor and speed controller into a PCB. You can watch the newly published video after the break.

The genesis of this idea came from Carl’s interest in drone design, in fact, he jumped right into a drone startup immediately after finishing his EE. The company didn’t last, but his thirst for interesting designs is ongoing. When looking at reducing the total parts necessary to build a quadcopter he happened on the idea of PCB-based coils and he’s followed it to this motor design, and beyond to some very interesting flexible-PCB robot design work which you can check out on his Hackaday.io page, YouTube, and Twitter.

OSH Park now offers 2 layer Flex PCBs for $15 per square inch including 3 copies of your design. Orders will be sent to fabrication weekly and ship within 21 calendar days of ordering. Find out more on our Flex documentation page.


How a Microcontroller Hiding in a USB Port Became an FPGA Hiding in the Same


Now Tim’s onto the next big thing. He’s adaped the Tomu form factor to an FPGA board called Fomu with an active crowd funding campaign right now. The board will ship with a RISC-V core already loaded that can be programmed using DFU (or possibly mass storage). This is a popular move right now since a lot of people want to play with RISC-V or FPGA and here’s a way to do both without actually having to haul around extra equipment with you.

Some might think: what can you do with an FPGA where it’s kind of hard to connect external circuits? You could practice adding peripherals to RISC-V and other cores, but maybe what you should be thinking is: what could I do with my laptop if I had some dedicated parallel processing available? The board carries a Lattice iCE40UP5K, 1 MB of flash, 128 kB of RAM, runs at 48 MHz, and is compatible with the open source IceStorm toolchain.

via How a Microcontroller Hiding in a USB Port Became an FPGA Hiding in the Same — Hackaday


Hackaday: Oh the Lessons You’ll Learn by Building a Robot Familiar

A familiar spirit, or just a familiar, is a creature rumored to help people in the practice of magic. The moniker is perfect for Archimedes, the robot owl built by Alex Glow, which wields the Amazon Google AIY kit to react when it detects faces. A series of very interesting design choices a what really gives the creature life. Not all of those choices were on purpose, which is the core of her talk at the 2018 Hackaday Superconference.

via Oh the Lessons You’ll Learn by Building a Robot Familiar — Hackaday


Clever Wedges That Will Increase Your PCB Assembly Yield

If there’s one thing that will bring down the yield of your PCB assembly, it’s your solder paste. Put too much on, and you’ll get bridged leads. If you don’t put enough on, that pad might not make good contact. [ScalarElectric] has an amazing trick that’s sure to astonish and astound. Just use wedges and you’ll get better yield with fine-pitched components.

The trick here is to define the cream/solder paste layer of each package as a wedge on each pad instead of the usual rectangle. This gives a few benefits, the largest being the increased gap between paste shapes. You’re also getting a reduction in the total amount of paste applied, and a subsequent improvement in yield. (Reportedly, we’d love to see some data on this.)

via Clever Wedges That Will Increase Your PCB Assembly Yield — Hackaday