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The dictionary says upcycling is :-


and electronics is :-

So to me Electronic Upcycling is using semiconductors to create a product of higher quality (or purpose) than the original.


Sounds Simple

Well it's very easy to say, and if we think about a few products I'm sure we can start to see what it's about.





These are a push bike with an electronic motor attached.

Rather than a simple motor, the newer versions have electronics to control the motor, provide regenerative braking and generally improve the range of the battery by carefully matching demand to power output.


Photo from Riide Electric Bikes | Ebikes for urban commuters





Motorised Toys

Nearly everyone can relate to the remote controlled toy that was connected by a piece of wire.

When I first got into electronics I thought this would be an excellent candidate to add radio control, so that I was no longer constrained by that piece of wire.


Eventually I decided a much bigger more powerful Radio Controlled toy was the answer, so I never did the "upcycling" thing.


Given the controller boards, magnetic sensors, and proximity detection devices, modifying a relatively simple motorised toy could provide a great Electronics Upcycling project.




Novel devices

Some time ago I undertook the "Beyond the Phone Challenge".

Wireless Power - Beyond the Phone


This was a Design Challenge based on a wireless charging kit that sleuz from Wurth kindly provided.


I built an E-List that utilised the wireless charging and signalled to the server that it had been removed, but I had time for a secondary device in the form of an Illuminated Beer Tap.


The Illuminated Beer Tap


The standard tap has a small lamp inside which has a certain life, and a poor light distribution.


The use of a NeoPixel ring and a small controller meant you could change the colour and brightness with a simple magnet.



This video gives an idea.



My first thought for upcycling a Beer tap was to provide the product free, but here is proof that you can Electronic Upcycle one.





This next product is something that will appeal to spannerspencer since he seems to be a Star Wars fan.



Photo Second Life of Things: Darth Vader and adidas shoes - upcycle art by Gabriel Dishaw


The artist has re-used various electronic parts into a sculpture.

I'm not sure it fits our Electronic Upcycling theme, but just imagine if some of the buttons worked and it spoke!.


You can see more here https://www.gabrieldishaw.com







This is an area where electronics has brought huge advances to what started as a mode of transport.

I've been involved in the Hot Rodding scene where older vehicles are upcycled using more modern parts that improve the safety and reliability, along with performance and comfort.


The automotive industry has been Electronically Upcycling various parts such as ABS brakes.

They combined electronic sensors on each wheel to detect when a wheel stopped turning (relative to the others), and the system reduces the braking force on that wheel.

This is called a 'development' or 'features', but in reality they have upcycled the basic hydraulic brake to a higher quality product.


You'd think that you can't do much to a tyre, but recent advances in electronics has transformed the humble tyre valve.

By adding some electronics they have provided a safety warning system that can inform the driver that a tyre has reduced pressure or that it is rapidly deflating.


Manufacturers have different names for their features, but I know them as TPMS (Tyre Pressure Monitoring System)


photo from Flashing TPMS sensor problem and replaecment - mk6 VW | VW TDI forum, Audi, Porsche, and Chevy Cruze diesel forum


The idea is they measure the pressure and wirelessly send it to a centralised point in the vehicle.

The vehicle then uses that to provide the warning, or in the case of my vehicle, I can view the pressure of each tyre.


So the humble tyre valve has been Electronically Upcycled to provide safety warnings.





What Next

Well as you'll see there are many things that can be 'modified' to suit a different or improved purpose.

As we think about everyday objects we'll start to see these simple devices as an improvement on the original.


Manufacturers are unlikely to use the "Upcycling" term and more likely to call it an 'enhancement' ...