Books You Should Read: Poorly Made In China

September 9, 2016 Posted by bob in Hackaday - (Comments Off on Books You Should Read: Poorly Made In China)

This book is scary, and honestly I can’t decide if I should recommend it or not. It’s not a guide, it doesn’t offer solutions, and it’s full of so many cautionary tales and descriptions of tricks and scams that you will wonder how any business gets done in China at all. If you are looking for a reason not to manufacture in China, then this is the book for you.

The author is not involved in the electronics industry. Most of the book describes a single customer in the personal products field (soap, shampoo, lotions, creams, etc.). He does describe other industries, and says that in general most factories in any industry will try the same tricks, and confirms this with experiences from other similar people in his position as local intermediary for foreign importers.

Read the full article at Hackaday: Books You Should Read: Poorly Made In China

Tools of the Trade – Test and Programming

August 24, 2016 Posted by bob in Hackaday - (Comments Off on Tools of the Trade – Test and Programming)

In our final installment of Tools of the Trade (with respect to circuit board assembly), we’ll look at how the circuit board is tested and programmed. At this point in the process, the board has been fully assembled with both through hole and surface mount components, and it needs to be verified before shipping or putting it inside an enclosure. We may have already handled some of the verification step in an earlier episode on inspection of the board, but this step is testing the final PCB. Depending on scale, budget, and complexity, there are all kinds of ways to skin this cat.

Read the full article at Hackaday: Tools of the Trade – Test and Programming

Hackaday Dictionary: Mils and Inches and Meters (oh my)

August 5, 2016 Posted by bob in Hackaday - (Comments Off on Hackaday Dictionary: Mils and Inches and Meters (oh my))

Measuring length is a pain, and it’s all the fault of Imperial measurements. Certain industries have standardized around either Imperial or metric, which means that working on projects across multiple industries generally leads to at least one conversion. For everyone outside the last bastion of Imperial units, here’s a primer on how we do it in crazy-land.

The basic unit of length measurement in Imperial units is the inch. twelve inches make up one foot, three feet make up one yard, and 5,280 feet (or 1,760 yards) make up a mile. Easy to remember, right?

Ironically, an inch is defined in metric as 25.4 millimeters. You can do the rest of the math for exact lengths, but in general, three feet is just shy of a meter, and a mile is about a kilometer and a half. Generally in Imperial you’ll see lots of mixed units, like a person’s height is 6’2″ (that’s shorthand for six feet, two inches.) But it’s not consistent, it’s English; the only consistency is that it’s always breaking its own rules. You wouldn’t say three yards, two feet, and six inches; you’d say 11 1/2 feet. If it was three yards, one foot, and six inches, though, you’d say 3 1/2 yards. There’s no good rule for this other than try to use nice fractions as often as you can.

Read the full article at Hackaday: Hackaday Dictionary: Mils and Inches and Meters (oh my)

Firearm Tech – Are Smart Guns Even Realistic?

August 1, 2016 Posted by bob in Hackaday - (Comments Off on Firearm Tech – Are Smart Guns Even Realistic?)

At frustratingly regular intervals, the debate around gun control crops up, and every time there is a discussion about smart guns. The general idea is to have a gun that will not fire unless authenticated and authorized. There’s usually a story about a young person who invents a smart controller and another company that is struggling because they just can’t get “Big Guns” to buy into the idea. We aren’t going to focus on the politics; we’re going to look at whether the technology is realistic, and why a lot of the news stories about new tech never pan out.

Read the full article at Hackaday: Firearm Tech – Are Smart Guns Even Realistic?

Note that I have another post on my personal blog only about this topic called My One Post on Gun Control. So I guess I’m a hypocrite. Or maybe it’s that this one was a post for a different outlet, so it doesn’t count? Whatever.

Tools of the Trade – Through Hole Assembly

July 22, 2016 Posted by bob in Hackaday - (Comments Off on Tools of the Trade – Through Hole Assembly)

In our last installment of Tools of the Trade, we had just finished doing the inspection of the surface mount part of the PCB. Next in the process is the through hole components. Depending on the PCB, the order may change slightly, but generally it makes more sense to get all the SMT work done before moving to the through hole work.

Through hole used to be the standard, but as the need for size reduction and automation increased, SMT gained favor. However, there are still a lot of reasons to use through hole components, so they aren’t going away entirely (at least not any time soon). One of the biggest advantages of THT is mechanical strength, which makes it better suited for connectors than SMT. If you’ve ever popped a microusb connector off a PCB by breathing on it heavily, you’ll understand. So, how do we most efficiently get through hole components on a PCB, and how do the big boys do it?

Read the full article at Hackaday: Tools of the Trade – Through Hole Assembly

Stay Scrappy, Hackers! Hardware Startups Versus Goliath

June 7, 2016 Posted by bob in Hackaday - (Comments Off on Stay Scrappy, Hackers! Hardware Startups Versus Goliath)

A toast to all the hackers out there who like to do it scrappy, who fight hard to get your products to work, who make your own tools and testing jigs and assembly lines in your basement, and who pound the pavement (and the keyboards) to get your product out there. Here’s to you (*clink*).

Read the full article at Hackaday: Stay Scrappy, Hackers! Hardware Startups Versus Goliath

Tools of the Trade – Reflow

June 2, 2016 Posted by bob in Hackaday - (Comments Off on Tools of the Trade – Reflow)

In our previous issues in this series on making circuit boards, we covered placing solder paste and placing components. Now it’s time to bake our cake!

There are a variety of methods for reflowing a circuit board, but they all rely on a single principle: heat up the solder paste (a mixture of flux and solder) until the flux burns off and the solder becomes liquid, and then cool it down. Accomplishing this once or twice is easy; once you’ve played with a hot plate you’ll swear off through hole. Scaling it up and doing it repeatedly with high yield is extremely challenging, though.

Read the full article at Hackaday: Tools of the Trade – Reflow

Hack Your Apartment: Keyless Entry With Little Effort

May 26, 2016 Posted by bob in Hackaday - (Comments Off on Hack Your Apartment: Keyless Entry With Little Effort)

If you’ve been to an apartment complex with a locked front door, you’ve seen the buzzer systems. You press the corresponding button for the apartment you want and can talk to the resident. They can press a button to unlock the door briefly, and then you go up to their apartment and they don’t have to come down to let you in. But what if you’re the resident and you want to go for a run without your keys jingling in your pocket? What if you want to open it using just your smartphone?

I knew this was a silly problem, and everyone I told about it thought that for the amount of time and effort it might save, it was hardly worth it.

Challenge accepted.

Read the full article at Hackaday: Hack Your Apartment: Keyless Entry With Little Effort

Why Kickstarter Products Fail

May 16, 2016 Posted by bob in Hackaday - (Comments Off on Why Kickstarter Products Fail)

It seems every week we report on Kickstarter campaigns that fail in extraordinary fashion. And yet there are templates for their failure; stories that are told and retold. These stereotypical faceplants can be avoided. And they are of course not limited to Kickstarter, but apply to all Crowd Funding platforms. Let me list the many failure modes of crowdfunding a product. Learn from these tropes and maybe we can break out of this cycle of despair.

Read the full article at Hackaday: Why Kickstarter Products Fail

Tools of the Trade – Component Placing

May 10, 2016 Posted by bob in Hackaday - (Comments Off on Tools of the Trade – Component Placing)

Recently we started a series on the components used to assemble a circuit board. The first issue was on dispensing solder paste. Moving down the assembly line, with the paste already on the board, the next step is getting the components onto the PCB. We’re just going to address SMT components in this issue, because the through hole assembly doesn’t take place until after the SMT components have gone through the process to affix them to the board.

Read the full article at Hackaday: Tools of the Trade – Component Placing