Fail of the Week: Arachno∙fail∙ia

Going down the list (FCC, CE, UL, etc.) we can’t think of a regulating body that will test for this failure mode. Reportedly, a $1M irrigation system was taken down by a spider. And an itsy-bitsy spider at that.

This fail turned up as a quick image post over on /r/mildlyinteresting but I wasn’t the only electronics person attracted like a moth to a flame. Our friend [Sprite_TM] popped in to answer a question about conformal coating. Seems this board was sealed in a waterproof enclosure but was obviously not conformally coated.

fotw-spider-short-relay-diagram[Sprite_TM] also helped out with some armchair-engineering to guess at what happened. It’s not hard to tell that the footprint on the board looks like a set of mechanical relays all in a line. He looked up the most likely pinout for the relay.

We’ve superimposed that pinout on the board to help illustrate the failure. High voltage comes in on the pin shown with the red trace leading away from it. On either side of that pin are the connections for the low voltage coil which switches from normally closed (the pin in the upper right that is not connected to anything) to the normally open pin (which has the wide trace leading away from it).

So there sat the high voltage pin in between the coil pins when, along came a spider. It shorted the pins and presumably all the way back to the power supply for the low voltage rail. [Fugly_Turnip] (the OP) share some additional detail about the system and this failure; in addition to this card it fried the control module as well.

Another comment on the same thread shares a different story of two boards mounted next to each other with a bug shorting a 1/4″ air gap between two boards and causing similar carnage. Have you encountered Arachno-fail-ia of your own? Let us know below.

Supplyframe Design Lab Opens Its Doors

Today marks the opening of the Supplyframe Design Lab in Pasadena, California. The Design Lab bills itself as the “leading edge creative center built to foster new ideas in technology and design”. Supplyframe had the vision to acquire Hackaday a few years ago, launched the Hackaday.io Community site which now has more than 150,000 members, and established The Hackaday Prize to spark engineering projects that benefit humanity. Pay attention to the Design Lab; looking back on this day you’re going to be able to say that you remember when it all started.

The equipment enshrined in the new space is spectacular. Name your material, and there are tools to work with it. Working with electronics? Mill your prototypes on a number of OtherMills available. Custom enclosure? Take your pick of milling it on the Tormach, PolyJet printing it on the Statasys, or FDM printing with a number of different high-end 3D printers. Need design software and beefy boxes to run it on? They have that too. Working in wood? A shopbot awaits you, as do traditional tools like a tablesaw, routers, sanders, etc. It’s a wonderland for making the imaginable real. If there ever was a time to quit your job and spend three months launching that dream product, this is it. The Design Lab has a residency program.

Supplyframe is all about enabling hardware creation. This is what sites like Parts.io and Findchips.com do: provide powerful tools for hardware engineers to better use their design skills. Founding a space like the Design Lab is a natural extension of this. Providing a work area, mentorships, and funding residencies breaks down the barriers that can prevent new hardware seeing the light of day. The Design Lab solves the issues of tools, materials, and hands-on experience that plague many a new hardware company.

Residencies will start on July 1st. Each runs for three months in which residents have unfettered access to the space and its tools, as well as financial support of $2000 per month. Each resident will self-identify into the product-track (you’re on your way to market with new hardware) or the art-track (you have a calling for an ambitious project and need to make it a reality). So far the Design Lab page lists three residents; a network of low-cost air quality sensors called Scintilla, a music synthesizer based around Teensy 3 called NanoEgg, and a mixed-reality public arts initiative called Perceptoscope. The Design Lab is still accepting applications for new residencies this summer and beyond — one of these residencies will also be offered to the Grand Prize winner of the 2016 Hackaday Prize.

150,000 Members Strong, Hackaday.io Flies Past Another Milestone

We’re growing so fast that soon your mom will be on Hackaday.io. That’s fine, everyone who loves hardware is welcome. 150,000 members have made Hackaday.io a home for their creativity — looking for inspiration in the work of others, sharing successes and temporary failures, and building their dream team to take on amazing new challenges. There is no place in the world that can come close to matching the Open Hardware ecosystem that is Hackaday.io.

What is in that one number, 150k? It is a monumental chunk of a much bigger picture: the thriving Hackaday ecosystem that spans from staking down your own workshop full of projects and skills, to following the editorial pulse of hardware used in new and creative ways. Looking over the last twelve months on all of the Hackaday sites we’ve seen about 18.5 Million visitors and registered nearly 85 Million views. Hackaday is not a passive community. We all have an insatiable hunger to delve into the next big trick, and to celebrate the accomplishments that made it happen.

Want to find a new and unique way to use the tech you find most interesting? Your leap forward needs input to pollinate the idea. Hackaday has a critical mass of hackers, designers, and engineers waiting with excitement to hear and help out in exploring and expanding the frontier. These interaction are what has packed Hackaday.io with interesting people. Most would say: I came for a specific hack or to see what a particular hacker was up to, but then I felt at home and decided to stick around and share what I’ve spent way to much time doing (but I wouldn’t have it any other way).

As we continue to knock down one membership milestone after another I want to thank you all for being involved, for valuing the free and open sharing of information and ideas, and for sharing your own time and talent. You are what moves this community of hardware hackers to dizzying heights of excellence and awesome.

This is all too good to be a secret. Talk to your hardware-loving friends, colleagues, family, and acquaintances and invite them to Hackaday.io if they’re not already with us.

Become a Peer Reviewer for Citizen Scientist

One of the keys to our scientific community is the concept of Peer Review. When important discoveries are made, the work is reviewed by others accomplished in the same field to test the findings. This can verify the work, but it can also open up new questions and lead to new discoveries.

We’re adding Peer Review to the Hackaday Prize. It’s a new way to apply your skills for the benefit of all. The current challenge is Citizen Scientist; calling for projects that help make scientific research more widely available. A set of independent eyes giving constructive feedback to these entries can be a huge end run to success. After all, you don’t know what you don’t know. Having help recognizing stumbling points, or just receiving a second opinion that you’re on the right track makes a big difference when treading in unknown territory.

Becoming a Peer Reviewer is simple. Pick a project you are interested in, review it thoroughly while making notes in a respectful, positive, and constructive way. When you’re ready, submit your Peer Review using this form. We will privately share your review with the project creator.

Hackaday.io is the most vibrant hardware collaboration platform in the world. Peer Review is yet another interesting way to get more brilliant minds in our community involved in building something that matters.

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Building a Swarm of Autonomous Ocean Boats

There’s a gritty feel to the Hackerboat project. It doesn’t have slick and polished marketing, people lined up with bags of money to get in on the ground floor, or a flashy name (which I’ll get to in a bit). What it does have is a dedicated team of hackers who are building prototypes to solve some really big challenges. Operating on the ocean is tough on equipment, especially so with electronics. Time and tenacity has carried this team and their project far.

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Hackaday Advises the United Nations

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is being held this week at the United Nations in New York and Hackaday will be there. Sophi Kravitz is representing us as the conference discusses assistive technology.

Sophi’s panel is Thursday mid-day, entitled: Tec Talk: Brilliant New Designs in Assistive Technology, Ease of Use & Multimedia. The Hackaday community has become a world leader in thinking about new designs, implementations, and increased availability of assistive technologies. We’re really excited to have an organization like the UN recognize this trait. Congratulations on all of you who have spent time thinking about ways to make life better for a lot of people — you are making a difference in the world.

Most notable in this category is Eyedrivomatic, the eye-controlled electric wheelechair extension project which was selected as the winner of the 2015 Hackaday Prize. Awarded second prize last year was another notable project. OpenBionics designed an open source, easily manufactured, prosthetic hand. Hand Drive, a Best Product finalist from last year, developed a device to operate a wheelchair with a rowing motion. Like we said, the list goes on and on.

But of course our biggest accomplishments lie ahead. The 2016 Hackaday Prize is currently underway and again focusing on building something that matters. The current challenge is Citizen Scientist which focuses on making scientific experimentation, equipment, and knowledge more widely available. But on August 22nd we turn our sights to the topic of Sophi’s UN Panel as the Hackaday Prize takes on Assistive Technologies. Don’t wait until then, make this the summer you change peoples’ lives. Start your design now.

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Disposable Diapers Are A Tribute To Material Science

It’s a really tough problem that has been solved to an amazing level. How do you capture and contain urine from a floppy, curved, and moving human infant? Ah, but the problem is a bit harder than that. You also want to keep that liquid away from the soft skin of the newborn and keep the exterior of your overall system dry too. From an R&D point of view the nice thing is that the customer base is huge — everyone needs some type of diapers. And what we have achieved thus far is a huge accomplishment of material science. [Bill Hammack], The Engineer Guy, takes on the engineering of baby diapers in his latest video.

A diaper uses three inner layers to sweep urine away from baby’s skin. The first layer actually repels water — being injected between skin and this layer, liquid passes through the holes in the material. But the moisture repellent property prevents it from moving in the opposite direction because of the next two layers encountered. The second layer uses capillary action to pull the moisture toward the third (and to act as a one-way moisture valve). The third layer contains a super-absorbent polymer. That layer starts off very thin and swells with absorption.

Bill explores just a bit about how these materials are actually manufactured. The layers are non-woven to form the necessary structures. The absorption layer uses cotton fibers to ensure moisture doesn’t form a dam between polymers. Whether you have a little one in your own household or not, the science behind this solved problem is fascinating and well worth the six minutes you’ll spend on the video below.

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