Dream Team Members Announced for the 2020 Hackaday Prize

The Dream Team program is an exciting new element of the 2020 Hackaday Prize, with twelve people accepted to work full-time on a specific problem for each of our non-profit partners this summer. Each team of three is already deep into an engineering sprint to pull together a design, and to recognize their efforts, they’ll be receiving a $3,000 monthly microgrant during the two-month program.

Join us after the break to meet the people that make up each of the teams and get a taste of what they’re working on. We’ll be following along as they publish detailed work logs on the Dream Team project pages.

via Dream Team Members Announced for the 2020 Hackaday Prize

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This SD Card Won’t Slot

If you’ve got a few self-designed PCBs under your belt, you probably know the pain of missing some little detail and having to break out the bodge wires to fix it. So we feel for [Arsenio Dev], who placed an SD card slot next to an SoC, only to find that it was the wrong way round. Rather than tossing it in the bin, he decided to employ a particularly crafty set of bodge wires that curve over the board and connect to an SD card adapter on the other side.

Our attention was taken by the board itself, he’s posted little information about it and taken pains to conceal one of the pieces of text on it. Since it has an Octavo Systems BeagleBone-on-chip, a slot for a cellular modem, and a connector marked “CONNECT AERONET HERE” which we are guessing refers to the Aeronet sun photometry network, we’re guessing it might be a controller for remotely-sited nodes for that system. Either way it’s enough to have us intrigued, and we wish him every success with the next spin.

via Fail Of The Week: This SD Card Won’t Slot — Hackaday

 

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Tidy Laser Cut Packaging For PCBs With KiCAD

A laser cutter is a useful tool to have in any workshop. While many hackers use them for their cutting abilities, it’s important to remember that they can be great as engravers, too. [Wrickert] was well aware of this when he set his to work, producing attractive packaging for his Tindie orders.

[Wrickert] sells a variety of small PCB-based devices on Tindie, and it’s nice to have something to package them up with, rather than just sending a bare board. To do this quickly and effectively, KiCAD is used to help generate the packaging from the original PCB geometry itself. The board outlines are exported as an SVG file, reopened in KiCAD, and then used to create the required cardboard parts. The laser can then also be used to engrave the cardboard too.

It’s a tidy packaging solution that requires no messy inks or printers, and can be designed in the same software as the device itself. We’ve covered this area before, talking about what it takes to go from a home project to a saleable kit. If you’re in the game, you might find [Wrickert]’s hack to be just the ticket!

via Tidy Laser Cut Packaging For PCBs With KiCAD — Hackaday

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Adding PCIe To Your Raspberry Pi 4, The Easier Way

raspberry_pi_4_installed_pcie_bridge

Ever since people figured out that the Raspberry Pi 4 has a PCIe bus, the race was on to be the first to connect a regular PCIe expansion card to a Raspberry Pi 4 SBC. Now [Zak Kemble] has created a new approach, using a bridge PCB that replaces the VL805 USB 3 controller IC. This was also how the original modification by [Tomasz Mloduchowski] worked, only now it comes in a handy (OSHPark) PCB format.

rpi4_bridge_chip-1024x454-1

After removing the VL805 QFN package and soldering in the bridge PCB, [Zak] confirmed that everything was hooked up properly and attempted to use the Raspberry Pi 4 with a PCIe extender. This showed that the Raspberry Pi would happily talk with a VL805-based USB 3.0 PCIe expansion card, as well as a Realtek RTL8111-based Ethernet card, but not a number of other PCIe cards. Exactly why this is is still unclear at this point.

raspberry_pi_4_pcie_expander

As a bonus, [Zak] also found that despite the removal of the VL805 IC from the Raspberry Pi rendering its USB 3 ports useless, one can still use the USB-C ‘power input’ on the SBC as a host controller. This way one can have both PCIe x1 and USB on a Raspberry Pi 4.

This is the third iteration we’ve seen for using PCIe with the Pi. If you’re building on the work of [Thomasz Mloduchowski], which inspired [Colin Riley] to add expanders, and now this excellent hack by [Zak], we want to hear about it!

via Adding PCIe To Your Raspberry Pi 4, The Easier Way — Hackaday

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Creating A Custom ASIC With The First Open Source PDK

A process design kit (PDK) is a by now fairly standard part of any transformation of a new chip design into silicon. A PDK describes how a design maps to a foundry’s tools, which itself are described by a DRM, or design rule manual. The FOSSi foundation now reports on a new, open PDK project launched by Google and SkyWater Technology. Although the OpenPDK project has been around for a while, it is a closed and highly proprietary system, aimed at manufacturers and foundries.

The SkyWater Open Source PDK on Github is listed as a collaboration between Google and SkyWater Technology Foundry  to provide a fully open source PDK and related sources. This so that one can create manufacturable designs at the SkyWater foundry, that target the 130 nm node. Open tools here should mean a far lower cost of entry than is usually the case.

via Creating A Custom ASIC With The First Open Source PDK — Hackaday

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Help Thrust Open Source Satellites To The Next Level

To place a satellite in orbit satisfactorily it is necessary not only to hitch a ride on a rocket, but also to put it in the right orbit for its task, and once it is there, to keep it there. With billions of dollars or roubles of investment over six decades of engineering behind them the national space agencies and commercial satellite builders solved these problems long since, but replicating those successes for open source microsatellites still represents a significant engineering challenge. One person working in this field is [Michael Bretti], who is doing sterling work with a shoestring budget on open source electric thrusters for the smallest of satellites, and he needs your help in crowdfunding a piece of equipment.

Beware suspiciously cheap eBay vacuum pumps!
Beware suspiciously cheap eBay vacuum pumps!

As part of his testing he has a vacuum chamber, and when he places a thruster inside it he has to create a space-grade vacuum . This is no easy task, and to achieve it he has two pumps. The first of these, a roughing pump, is a clapped-out example that has clearly reached the end of its days, and it is this that he needs your help to replace. His GoFundMe page has a modest target of only $4,200 which should be well within the capabilities of our community in reaching, and in supporting it you will help the much wider small satellite community produce craft that will keep giving us interesting things from space for years to come.

via Help Thrust Open Source Satellites To The Next Level — Hackaday

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Custom Portable N64 Embraces Modern Making

zeldaportable_feat

In the beginning, there was hot glue. Plus some tape, and a not inconsiderable amount of Bondo. In general, building custom portable game consoles a decade or so in the past was just a bit…messier than it is today. But with all the incredible tools and techniques the individual hardware hacker now has at their disposal, modern examples are pushing the boundaries of DIY.

This Zelda: Ocarina of Time themed portable N64 by [Chris Downing] is a perfect example. While the device is using a legitimate N64 motherboard, nearly every other component has been designed and manufactured specifically for this application. The case has been FDM 3D printed on a Prusa i3, the highly-detailed buttons were printed in resin on a Form 3, and several support PCBs and interface components made the leap from digital designs to physical objects thanks to the services of OSH Park.

zeldaportable_detailA custom made FFC to relocate the cartridge port.

Today, those details are becoming increasingly commonplace in the projects we see. But that’s sort of the point. In the video after the break, [Chris] breaks down the evolution of his portable consoles from hacked and glued together monstrosities (we mean that in the nicest way possible) to the sleek and professional examples like his latest N64 commission. But this isn’t a story of one maker’s personal journey through the ranks, it’s about the sort of techniques that have become available to the individual over the last decade.

Case in point, custom flexible flat cables (FFC). As [Chris] explains, when you wanted to relocate the cartridge slot on a portable console in the past, it usually involved tedious point-to-point wiring. Now, with the low-volume production capabilities offered by companies like OSH Park, you can have your own flexible cables made that are neater, faster to install, and far more reliable.

Projects like this one, along with other incredible creations from leaders in the community such as [GMan] are changing our perceptions of what a dedicated individual is capable of. There’s no way to be sure what the state-of-the-art will look like in another 5 or 10 years, but we’re certainly excited to find out.

via Custom Portable N64 Embraces Modern Making — Hackaday

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Hackaday: Lonnie Johnson, Prolific Engineer And Hero To Millions Of Kids (Even If They Don’t Know It)

To be a child in the 1970s and 1980s was to be of the first generations to benefit from electronic technologies in your toys. As those lucky kids battled blocky 8-bit digital foes, the adults used to fret that it would rot their brains. Kids didn’t play outside nearly as much as generations past, because modern toys were seducing them to the small screen. Truth be told, when you could battle aliens with a virtual weapon that was in your imagination HUGE, how do you compete with that.

How those ’80s kids must have envied their younger siblings then when in 1990 one of the best toys ever was launched, a stored-pressure water gun which we know as the Super Soaker. Made of plastic, and not requiring batteries, it far outperformed all squirt guns that had come before it, rapidly becoming the hit toy of every sweltering summer day. The Super Soaker line of water pistols and guns redefined how much fun kids could have while getting each other drenched. No longer were the best water pistols the electric models which cost a fortune in batteries that your parents would surely refuse to replace — these did it better.

You likely know all about the Super Soaker, but you might not know it was invented by an aerospace engineer named Lonnie Johnson whose career included working on stealth technology and numerous projects with NASA.

via Lonnie Johnson, Prolific Engineer And Hero To Millions Of Kids (Even If They Don’t Know It) — Hackaday

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The Fascinating World Of Solder Alloys And Metallurgy

Solder is the conductive metal glue that one uses to stick components together. If you get the component and the PCB hot enough, and melt a little solder in the joint, it will stay put and conduct reliably. But it’s far from simple.

There are many different solder alloys, and even the tip of the soldering iron itself is a multi-material masterpiece. In this article, we’ll take a look at the metallurgy behind soldering, and you’ll see why soldering tip maintenance, and regular replacement, is a good idea. Naturally, we’ll also touch upon the role that lead plays in solder alloys, and what the effect is of replacing it with other metals when going lead-free. What are you soldering with?

Intermetallic Compounds

Soldering, and its higher temperature cousin, brazing, are one of essentially two ways create metal-to-metal bonds, and they allow the use of low-temperature techniques that still create relatively stable bonds between two metal surfaces. Soldering is also an interesting chapter in the field of metallurgy, on account of it being based around so-called intermetallic compounds (IMCs).

Welding stands in contrast to soldering, where high temperatures melt the metal on both sides of the pieces that are being joined, permanently fusing them. Welding is a high-strength, high-reliability way of joining metal pieces, but is unfortunately wholly unsuited for delicate electronics where excess heat can damage parts and the goal is more to ‘glue’ electrically conducting elements together than to melt them together.

This also leads us to the reason why soldering and IMCs are such a source of trouble, to the point where IMCs are referred to as ‘evil’. IMCs are essentially bits of the two metal surfaces on either side dissolved into the solder, causing enough of a joining that each side of the joint is more or less stably fused with the solder. Unfortunately such an IMC is a far cry from the stable solid metal of a welding joint, and as a result can be brittle depending on exactly which metals were involved in the solder alloy.

But the IMCs formed in soldering are strong enough, and their formation is at the root of why every solder alloy uses tin. Tin has the property that it is very good at letting other metals dissolve into it. In fact, it’s possible to solder with pure tin, although as we’ll see below, most solder is improved by adding other metals into the mix.

via The Fascinating World Of Solder Alloys And Metallurgy — Hackaday

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Dexter the Companion Bot Wants To Give You Five

From Roger Cheng on Hackaday:

The main character of Dexter’s Laboratory is a genius child inventor who inspired a lot of fans to become makers and inventors in their own right. [Jorvon Moss] a.k.a. [Odd_Jayy] counts himself as one of them. A serial companion bot builder, his projects are constantly evolving. But every once in a while he pauses long enough to share construction details. Like how we can build our own monkey companion bot Dexter named after the cartoon.

A slightly earlier iteration of Dexter attended Hackaday Superconference 2019. Perched on [Odd_Jayy]’s back, Dexter joined in a presentation on companion bots. We’ve been a fan of his work since Asi the robot spider and several more robots have been posted online since. Recently at Virtually Maker Faire 2020, he joined [Alex Glow] and [Angela Sheehan] to talk about their respective experiences Making Companion Bots.

[Odd_Jayy] starts with sketches to explore how a project will look and act, striving to do something new and interesting every time. One of Dexter’s novelties is adding interactivity to companion bots. Historically people couldn’t do much more than just look at a companion bot, but Dexter can high five their fans! Sometimes the excited robot monkey ends up slapping [Odd_Jayy] instead, but they’re working through issues in their relationship. Everyone is invited to see rapid cycles of iterative improvements on Twitter and Instagram. As of this writing, a mini Dexter is underway with design elements similar to the “Doc Eyes” goggle project running in parallel. It’s always fun to watch these creations evolve. And by openly sharing his projects both online and off, [Odd_Jayy] is certainly doing his part to inspire the next wave of makers and inventors.

via Dexter the Companion Bot Wants To Give You Five — Hackaday

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