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Open Source Hardware

29 Posts authored by: shabaz Top Member
Note: This is part 1 of a two-part project. For the second part, see here: Building a Low Cost Solder Fume Extractor - Part 2   Introduction I’m sure I’ve created some really stinky projects, but this isn’t one of them. After the last project that sucked, I hope this is the last one to do so for a while : )   I’ve wanted a solder fume extractor for home use for ages – they are quite pricey though. In particular the ones that filter the fumes.   As ...
Introduction The Digital Multiplex (DMX) protocol (not the rapper : ), also known as DMX512 or DMX512-A, is an industry-standard method of achieving lighting control, both manually (using a control panel) and for lighting automation (using a PC). It finds uses in nightclubs, restaurants and theatres.   Lighting controllers generate serial signals in a format called DMX512 (I’ll use the term DMX for ease of reading throughout this blog post), and the lighting controller output is con ...
Introduction Sometimes it gets tiresome remembering keyboard combinations for software applications on the PC. Examples include CAD software which are very feature-rich. One could place labels/stickers onto the keyboard but maybe the keyboard isn’t sufficient for productivity. It would be nice to be able to have additional custom buttons or a keypad that could be attached to the PC. Electrically it should look like a normal USB keyboard as far as the PC is concerned, so that existing softw ...
I thought it would be good to have a discussion about peoples experiences with fake and recycled components, and share photos so that others can be aware.   As an introduction, it should be clear to most that if it a component deal seems too good to be true then it probably is fake : ) I generally avoid using ebay for components, although I have used it for a few parts in the past for hobby projects. One particular area of risk seems to be integrated circuits, especially audio op-amps and ...
Introduction The LimeSDR board is a CrowdSupply project that I was curious to try out. It was priced extremely well for a very high bandwidth (60MHz) software defined radio board with a usable frequency range from around 30MHz (or lower with some mods) to more than 3GHz (the precise range depends on the filter components on the board and these can be modified). It's a beast : ) In comparison, similar functionality off-the-shelf SDRs can cost $1000+. And this one is open source. The LimeSDR come ...
Introduction I recently had a PCB made overseas, just for a one-off prototype. I spent a few hours examining the boards so I thought I’d share my findings.   This is not a review, I do not intend to name the manufacturer, because this is a one-off examination; my results here could be different a second time around, or different to someone else using the same manufacturer. I chose a 4-layer board, and the results could be different for a 2-layer board using an alternate production li ...
In 2016 I got to explore a few things, here is a quick summary.   Project/Activity Description Building and Testing Audio Cables The year was kicked off with an investigation into audio cables and jack plug connectors and how to solder them and how to test cables for immunity to noise pick-up. Non-FTDI USB-to-UART Serial Very unhappy with FTDI / Bridgetek, I looked around at the competition and made a table of alternative offerings. (An open hardware non-FTDI USB-UART was created towards ...
Introduction For years I’ve used a normal pair of tweezers to pick up small parts. It works fine but in the quest for further improvements I looked to buy a vacuum pick-up (also known as vacuum tweezer) tool to assist in this process but I didn’t see anything suitable. Some were low-cost, others were expensive. At reasonable cost I could not find an appropriate tool with the features I wanted.   I could have stayed with the manual tweezers but deep down all of us as engineers w ...
Introduction HYDRA, named after the multi-headed monster, is a miniaturized general purpose electronic engineering tool with several bits of functionality.   For instance an audio amplifier and an LED can allow for some quite extensive debugging for hobby circuits. When oscilloscopes were expensive such hardware debugging methods were popular. I wanted to build a test audio amplifier for the lab, and this project was the result. The full circuit diagram and PCB files are available (attac ...
Introduction It looks like the FTDI USB-Serial saga continues. A USB-Serial (also known as USB-to-UART) interface is used to connect up PCs to hardware devices using the USB port. FTDI was traditionally a manufacturer of the interface chips for this purpose.   This blog post examines how to connect up UART (serial) based devices to a PC. This feature was often relegated to a FT232 chip from FTDI. However nowadays many microcontrollers have built-in USB interfaces and this ancillary FTDI pa ...
In 2015 I tried to find some time to explore some things – here is a photo summary. I got to meet some friends, try out some things, and do some research from time to time.   The items here can be found in the various blog posts over the past year.   There was work on a Battery Simulator aka Project Morpheus, and I did some initial testing for it, programmatically setting voltages for a small load and examining the current monitor output. I need to get back to it, and f ...
Here are some of the activities on element14 that I read about this year that interested me or really caught my attention. Other things did too over the year, these summary photos are just a few of the highlights that are worth checking out! Here are some links, in no order: The PiDesk MotY and 100k Level 9 Volcano Control Meditech Pi Zero Internet Connected Display Music Tech Jose, James, Rick and Michael's Vertical Farming Magic Doctor's Hat Hadron Vortex G2 Gizmo Case F ...
Introduction This blog post looks at a very small microcontroller board called the StartUSB for PIC, and shows how it can be used either as a standalone microcontroller board or used to control your own hardware (either off-board or built on the supplied prototyping area) via USB control from a PC. A condensed summary steps version of this post in PDF format is available here.   A brief history Many hobbyists are familiar with microcontrollers from Atmel on a credit-card sized board and ...
Front panels can cost a lot. As an alternative I had a theory that I put to the test this week, and it worked out well. The theory was that for home-built projects, surely trophy/jewellery type engraving could be used for labels.   It turns out that it can be done on enclosures in most high streets/malls as a same-day service - just using the engraving services of a key cutting or jewellers store : ) In the UK, the chain 'Timpson' was used here, on this aluminium enclosure (these Hammond ...

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