Another Reflow Soldering Solution


Still looking for a good way to reflow solder at home? Look no further! [Don] has a very handy and inexpensive solution that looks great. It makes use of a cheap hot plate, a solid state relay, an IR temperature sensor, and an arduino.

[Don] started by modifying the hotplate by reversing the handle mount — this provides a useful location to mount the IR temperature sensor. The control circuit uses PWM to adjust the temperature of the hot plate using the solid state relay. Because the IR temperature sensor has a cone of visibility it ends up reading an average area temperature as opposed to an individual point — for reflow soldering this is perfect. [Don] notes that some calibration is required, as depending on the emissivity of the object being measured the readout can differ — shiney objects will read a lower temperature than dark objects. He recommends doing the calibration with a scrap PCB and your chosen solder paste to get a general baseline for your project.

Need more info on the actual reflow process? We posted a handy guide a few months ago.

Use Your Smartphone as a Microscope for Less Than $10

FY4TBHSHMMFBB4V.LARGE[Yoshinok] recently posted an Instructable on doing a $10 smartphone-to-microscope conversion. The hack isn’t so much a conversion as just a handy jig, but it’s still interesting. The basic idea is to set up a platform for the slides, and to mount the smartphone directly above. The trick, and the reason this can be called a microscope, is that [Yoshinok] embeds the lens from a cheap laser pointer into the smartphone holder. He is able to get 40x optical magnification with the lens, and even though it sacrifices quality, he uses the built-in digital zoom to get up to 175x magnification.

By itself, you could use this with a light source to magnify 3D objects. [Yoshinok] demonstrates this with a dime. But since the slide holder is made of clear acrylic, he mounted a cheap LED flashlight in the base to serve as through-sample lighting. Using this setup, he was able to observe the process of plasmolysis.

If you have kids, this is certainly a project to do with them, but we can’t help but think it will be useful for non-parents alike. This sort of magnification is good enough for simple lab experiments, and given that most Hack-a-Day readers have these parts lying around, we figure the cost is closer to $0. If you give it a try, let us know your results in the comments!

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Hackerspacing in Europe: MadSpace in Eindhoven!

IMG_0914 (Custom)

Welcome to Eindhoven! We came to visit a few hackers from MadSpace (translated) but unfortunately they are in the process of moving, and there was not much to see at the space. Lucky for us, our visit corresponded with the Dutch Design Week (translated)! So we still had some cool things to see!

Eindhoven has a very interesting history. Phillips was founded here back in the late 1800′s, with a single factory, but in the past century it grew into what could almost be called Philip’s City. A stretch of a few kilometers of Phillips buildings dominated Eindhoven and almost everyone worked for them. Fast forward to the present and most of the buildings have been sold and turned into other businesses.

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Hackaday Interview with Amal Graafstra, Creator of xNT Implant Chip

Near Field Communication (NFC) enabled devices are starting to appear in our everyday lives. Shown in the picture above is the xNT (fundraiser warning), a 2mm x 12mm fully NFC Type 2 compliant 13.56MHz RFID tag encased in a cylindrical Schott 8625 bioglass ampule. It was created by [Amal Graafstra], who therefore aims to produce the world’s first NFC compliant RFID implant. The chip used is the NTAG203, which is (for the sake of simplicity) a 144bytes EEPROM with different protection features.

We can only start thinking of the different possibilities this chip will create in the near future, but also wonder which precedent this may set for future NFC enabled humans. Embedded after the break is the presentation video of xNT but also an interview I conducted with [Amal Graafstra], who has already been living for 8 years with RFID tags in each hand.

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Impressive Laser Harp

laser harp

We stumbled onto this impressive laser harp setup after browsing random YouTube videos late at night. Besides making an awesome laser harp, [Eric] can even play it too!

If you’ve never seen one of these before you’re in for a treat! A laser harp is a digital instrument that requires a synthesizer to create music. There are two main varieties, framed and open. The framed type use light sensors at the end of the beams to create the digital signal to be converted to the various tones. The open kind is a lot more complex, but much cooler — it relies on the laser light being reflected back from the player’s hand to create the signal. This allows for varying tones depending on the distance to the sensor.

Stick around after the break to see it in action as [Eric] breaks it down, laser style.

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Bicycle Generator for Emergency Electricity


[Hackett's] back at it, this time with some practical advice for the next power outage to hit your city: why not prepare for the worst by building your own bike generator? You’ll no doubt recall that hurricane Sandy devastated New York City’s grid, even flooding substations and causing massive explosions. [Hackett] experienced the Sandy outages first-hand, and knows the value of having this simple build ready to roll.

The project uses a permanent magnet DC motor (around 250 watts), which you can find in electric wheelchairs or other mobility scooters. His setup’s gear reduction spins the motor 50 times for each revolution of the bike wheel. The apparatus [Hackett] built to press-fit the wheel to the motor’s spindle is particularly clever: a threaded rod adjusts the position of the motor, which is bolted onto a hinged platform, with the other part of the hinge welded to a larger frame that supports the bike wheel.

The motor is connected to a home-built charge controller based on Mike Davis’s design, which monitors the deep-cycle batteries and both kills the charge when it’s full as well as turns charging back on after it’s reached a set level of discharge. The rest is gravy: with the deep cycle battery connected to a power inverter, [Hackett] can plug in and keep phones charged, music playing, and even (some of) the lights on. If you’re a fan of [Hackett's] straightforward, practical presentation style, check out his tripod build and his demonstration of stripping pipes of their galvanization.

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Ask Hackaday: Does Project Ara Solve the Phonebloks’ Problems?


Our tips line is blowing up again, this time directing us to Motorola’s Project Ara: a phone with modular components that plug into a base “endoskeleton.” If you missed the news coverage strewn across the web and you are doing a double-take, that’s because Project Ara is frighteningly similar to the (presumed vaporware) Phonebloks concept from a few weeks ago. Phonebloks was the subject of our last “Ask Hackaday” article, generating hundreds of comments ranging from those defending the concept to those furiously opposed to it.

There’s a conspiracy theory circulating that suggests Motorola released the Phonebloks concept as a viral marketing scheme to generate hype before revealing the official product line. We suspect it’s a bit less conniving. As [jorde] explained on Hacker News, an Israeli startup, Modu, had developed a similar modular cell phone several years ago, and Google bought the patents in May of 2011. A few months later, Google bought something else: Motorola. It seems likely that Project Ara is merely a resurrected and revised Modu, and Motorola conveniently announced it in the wake of Phonebloks’ popularity. Regardless, Motorola has announced that they have partnered with Phonebloks’ creator Dave Hakkens .

So what’s different? Phonebloks was met with cries of “vaporware!” and fervent arguments raising concerns about unavoidable hardware limitations. Motorola claims their goal is:

to do for hardware what the Android platform has done for software: create a vibrant third-party developer ecosystem, lower the barriers to entry, increase the pace of innovation, and substantially compress development timelines.

Unlike Project Ara, Phonebloks didn’t consider open-source hardware (Wayback Machine link), and Motorola makes an interesting argument here: that advances in 3D printing indicate an evolving “open hardware ecosystem,” and the next era of phone development may rest in the hands of your average hacker or a small startup company. Some speculate that the Ara will be similar to the relationship between a PC and its peripherals: Motorola provides the essential guts while giving you some slots for attaching additional components. Let us know in the comments what you think about Project Ara: is it just more vaporware, or a watered-down but plausible alternative to Phonebloks?  And, perhaps most important: do you, as a hacker, want a phone that supports open hardware and lets you plug in “peripherals?” The Phonebloks website has since changed to reflect the partnership with Motorola, and includes a new video that you can watch below.

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