Best practices to include in your final projects

electronic-best-practices

Making that final push to button up your projects can be a bit daunting. It’s kind of like the punch list on a construction project — add switch plates, fill nail holes in baseboards, screw in light bulbs, clean windows — that stuff adds up quickly. But having a set of best practices in mind throughout the development phase will cut down on that burden. [Caleb P.] just published a quick guide using a recent project as an example.

First and foremost is the label seen on the project box lid. How many times have you pulled out a circuit board from a year or two earlier and not been able to figure out the pinout? As with ancient televisions and radios, including the service schematic will save you big time! He also mentions that the size and orientation of the components in the case was in the back of his mind the whole time. That paid off because everything fits like a glove. [Caleb] makes sure the battery is easy to get to, and the each component has some type of connector so that it may be removed and serviced/replace without soldering. There’s certainly nothing groundbreaking in this guide. But ask yourself: have I been following all of these guidelines in my own work?

Hack It: In-refrigerator egg monitoring

hack-it-egg-sensor

Here’s a concept piece that monitors the eggs in your refrigerator. It’s still in development and we don’t think the general public is ready for digital egg monitoring quite yet. But we love the concept and want to hear from you to see if you could develop your own version.

What we know about the device is that — despite the image which makes smart phone proximity seem important — it connects to the Internet from inside your fridge. It will tell you how many eggs you have left, and even tracks the date at which each entered your refrigerator.

So, what’s inside this thing and who can build their own the fastest? We’ll cover some specs and speculate a bit to get you started: There’s a light sensor to detect when the door opens and an LED below each egg to illuminate the oldest. We think the light sensor triggers a microcontroller that uses each of the egg LEDs as a light sensor as well. If the threshold is too low then there is indeed an egg in that cup. We also like the fact that the tray has fourteen slots; as long as you don’t buy eggs until you have just two left you’ll always have room.

If you build one we want to know. We’re thinking 3D printed cups, low-power microcontroller, but we’re kind of stumped on the cheapest WiFi solution. Leave your thoughts in the comments.

[via Reddit via NY Daily News via Mind of Geek]

We’ve found the awesome singularity

tardis

Yes, that’s exactly what you think it is. A Transformer. That transforms into the TARDIS.

This masterpiece of pop culture is the work of [Nonnef] over on Instructables. After the inspiration to create this work of art struck, [Nonnef] started modeling this Transformer and TARDIS in clay to make everything fit together just right. After a good bit of 3D modelling, the Doctor’s robotic wife was ready for printing.

If you’re going to print one of these for yourself, be prepared for a very long print. [Nonnef] says the latest version took about 30 hours on his RepRap with a .35 mm nozzle. In the end nearly the entire Transformer came directly from a 3D printer, the only additional parts needed being a pen spring and a small screw. Paint is, of course, optional.

All the files are available on the Instructable.

A handful of parts used to form an Electrocardiogram

minimal-ecg

It’s difficult to image a more bare-bones approach to building an ECG. [Raul] used an Arduino nano to collect samples and push them to a computer for graphing.

An Electrocardiogram measures electrical activity around your heart. The white circles above are the sensors which he picked up in a box of fifty for 11 Euros (under $15). Stick them on your skin in just the right places and they’ll report back on what your heart is doing.

He used a AD8221 to amplify the signals. He mentions that this is an ins-amp, not an op-amp. We didn’t find a concise reference explaining what that is. It might be a good topic for the comments section. The signal from that chip feeds into an LM324 op-amp before being dumped into the Arduino.

Simplicity comes at a price. This measures very small electrical impulses and has very little in the way of shielding and filtering. Because of this you may need to do a rain dance, say a prayer, burn a candle, and stick needles into a doll to get a reliable signal on the other end.

Here’s another version that doesn’t require special sensors.

3D printing with liquid metals

Gallium

While 3D printers of today are basically limited to plastics and resins, the holy grail of desktop fabrication is printing with metal. While we won’t be printing out steel objects on a desktop printer just yet, [Collin Ladd], [Ju-Hee So], [John Muth], and [Michael D. Dickey] from North Carolina State University are slowly working up to that by printing objects with tiny spheres of liquid metal.

The medium the team is using for their metallic 3D prints is an alloy of 75% gallium and 25% indium. This alloy is liquid at room temperatures, but when exposed to an oxygen atmosphere, a very thin layer of oxide forms on a small metal bead squeezed out of a syringe. Tiny metal sphere by tiny metal sphere, the team can build up metallic objects out of this alloy, stacking the beads into just about any shape imaginable.

In addition to small metal spheres, [Collin] and his team were also able to create free-standing wires that are able to join electrical components. Yes, combined with a pick and place machine, a printer equipped with this technology could make true printed circuit boards.

Even though the team is only working on very small scales with gallium, they do believe this technology could be scaled up to print aluminum. A challenging endeavour, but something that would turn the plastic-squeezing 3D printers of today into something much more like the Star Trek replicators of tomorrow.

Video demo below, or check out [Collin]‘s editing room floor and a vimeo channel. Here’s the paper if you’ve got a Wiley subscription.

[Read more...]

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