uSMD shrinks soldering challenge down to BGA

The uSMD designed by Arthur Benemann in KiCad shrinks The Maker’s Box SMD Challenge down to a 555 in 8-UFBGA package and a 008004 cap:

A highlight of last year’s Hackaday Remoticon was a soldering competition that had teams from around the world came together online and did the well-known MakersBox SMD Challenge kit in which a series of LED circuits of decreasing size must be soldered. The Hackaday crew acquitted themselves well, and though an 01005 resistor and LED certainly pushes a writer’s soldering skills to the limit it’s very satisfying to see it working. Lest that kit become too easy, [Arthur Benemann] has come up with something even more fiendish; his uSMD is a 555 LED flasher that uses a BGA 555 and a selection of 008004 small components.

The trick with an 01005 is to heat not the tinned and fluxed solder joint, but the trace leading up to it. If components of that size can be mastered then perhaps an 008004 isn’t that much smaller so maybe the same technique might work for them too. In his tip email to us he wrote “Soldering 008004 isn’t much worse than a 0201, you just need magnification“, and while we think he might be trolling us slightly we can see there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be do-able. Sadly he doesn’t seem to have made it available for us to buy and try so if you want to prove yourself with a soldering iron you’ll have to source the PCBs and parts yourself. Still, we suspect that if you are the type of person who can solder an 008004 then that will hardly be an onerous task for you.

Read more on Hackaday…

uSMD shrinks soldering challenge down to BGA

Tool Generates Interactive PCB Diagrams from KiCAD

From Donald Papp on Hackaday:

Nearly everyone likes nice pinout diagrams, but the more pins and functions are involved, the more cluttered and less useful the diagram becomes. To address this, [Jan Mrázek] created Pinion, a tool to help generate interactive diagrams from KiCad design files.

The result is an interactive diagram that can be viewed in any web browser. Hovering over a pin or pad highlights those signals with a callout for the name, and clicking makes it stay highlighted for easier reference. Further information can be as detailed or as brief as needed.

Interestingly, Pinion isn’t a web service that relies on any kind of backend. The diagrams are static HTML and JavaScript only, easily included in web pages or embedded in GitHub documentation.

If you think Pinion looks a bit familiar, you’re probably remembering that we covered [Jan]’s much earlier PcbDraw tool, which turned KiCad board files into SVG renderings but had no ability to add labels or interactivity. Pinion is an evolution of that earlier idea, and its diagrams are able to act as both documentation and interactive reference, with no reliance on any kind of external service.

Interested? Pinion has a full tutorial and demo and a growing library of parts, so check it out.

Tool Generates Interactive PCB Diagrams from KiCAD

EZ Fan2 Tiny Raspberry Pi Fan Controller

Jeremy Cook created this tiny PCB for controlling small cooling fans or other motors:

What is it?

PCB originally designed to control cooling fans on Raspberry Pi boards, but can be used with other small motors or DC loads. Includes a flyback diode to safely dissipate inductive voltage spikes.

Can also work with Arduino and other such dev boards.Why did you make it?

Wanted a way to control cooling fans off of a Raspberry Pi. While some fans have PWM inputs, some do not and cannot normally be controlled. This transistor board works well with the GPIO fan control option in Raspberry Pi OS (which turns it fully on and fully off).

Not a full motor driver (i.e. it only drives in one direction) but can be used with other simple DC motors as well. Includes a resistor and flyback diode.

What makes it special?

It’s very, very small, even compared to a prior THT version. It should therefore be able to fit inside nearly any case. The optional 90º headers are even spec’d out to be low profile.

Boards come fully assembled with or without headers depending on the option selected, and appearance of the boards may vary. Options also available for female-female wires as needed, and/or clear heat shrink.

Read more on Tindie…

EZ Fan2 Tiny Raspberry Pi Fan Controller

Jon Evans talks KiCad V6

KiCad developer Jon Evans joins the Contextual Electronics podcast hosted by Chris Gammell:

CEP014 – Moving to KiCad V6 with Jon Evans

Jon Evans is a longtime developer on the KiCad project and practicing EE at Formlabs. He joins Chris to talk about the future of KiCad, including features that are coming in V6.

Jon Evans talks KiCad V6

Piotr Esden designs iCEBreaker-bitsy FPGA Atreus Keyboard

Piotr Esden showed the “After Dark” PCBs for the iCEBreaker-bitsy FPGA Atreus Keyboard yesterday on the “Electronics Let’s Play” Twitch stream:

Piotr Esden designs iCEBreaker-bitsy FPGA Atreus Keyboard

Anti-Tamper Mesh Plugin for KiCad

From the Hackaday blog:

An Anti-Tamper Mesh Plugin for KiCad

Physical access to electronics generally means all bets are off when it comes to information security. But in special cases this is just unacceptable and a better solution must be found. Consider the encryption keys used by point of sale machines. To protect them, the devices incorporate anti-tamper mechanisms that will wipe the keys from memory if the device is opened. One such technique is to use a mesh of traces on a circuit board that are monitored for any changes in resistance or capacitance. [Sebastian Götte] has been researching in this area and wrote a KiCad plugin to automatically generate tamper-detection mesh.

Anti-Tamper Mesh Plugin for KiCad

Importing Eagle files into KiCad 5.1

New KiCad video from Chris Gammell of Contextual Electronics:

Importing Eagle files into KiCad 5.1

In this video, Chris imports the adafruit Feather M4 Express board Eagle files (which is OSHW) into KiCad 5.1.

Here are some of the pitfalls of importing into KiCad.

  • Flags get converted into (tiny!) labels that might not be clear.
  • The frame in schematics is gone. Not a big deal, but will look different than other KiCad projects.
  • Some silkscreen layers will not map as expected.
  • All footprints are imported from Eagle, since KiCad doesn’t know how to map existing footprints. This means that none of the 3D models are included.
Importing Eagle files into KiCad 5.1

Feeling the KiCad 6 Electricity

Great post from Kerry Scharfglass on Hackaday on what’s coming up in KiCad V6:

Feeling the KiCad 6 Electricity

In 2018, when KiCad Version 5 modernized the venerable 4.X series, it helped push KiCad to become the stable and productive member of the open source EDA landscape that we know today. It has supported users through board designs both simple and complex, and like a tool whose handle is worn into a perfect grip, it has become familiar and comfortable. For those KiCad users that don’t live on the bleeding edge with nightly builds it may not be obvious that the time of version 6 is nearly upon us, but as we start 2021 it rapidly approaches. Earlier this month [Peter Dalmaris] published a preview of the changes coming version 6 and we have to admit, this is shaping up to be a very substantial release.

Don’t be mistaken, this blog post may be a preview of new KiCad features but the post itself is extensive in its coverage. We haven’t spent time playing with this release yet so we can’t vouch for completeness, but with a printed length of nearly 100 pages it’s hard to imagine [Peter] left anything out! We skimmed through the post to extract a few choice morsels for reproduction here, but obviously take a look at the source if you’re as excited as we are.

Read more…

Feeling the KiCad 6 Electricity

New features coming in KiCad V6

This epic thread on the KiCad forum tracks new features that are in the upcoming V6 release:

Post-v5 new features and development news

I thought many would be interested in the development status and new features of pre-v6/post-v5 now when 5.1.0 has been released and version 6 development has begun. Add your favorite here if someone else hasn’t done it already.

The most recent post describes curved tracks:

New features coming in KiCad V6