Tearing Down The Apple Watch

The Apple Watch has been out for nearly a month now, but so far we haven’t seen a good look at the guts of this little metal bauble of electronic jewelry. Lucky for us that a company in China is hard at work poking around inside the Apple Watch and putting up a few incredible SEM images along the way (Google Translatrix).

This isn’t the first Apple Watch teardown that’s hit the intertubes – iFixit tore one apart with spudgers and tiny screwdrivers and found someone skilled in the ways of tiny parts could probably replace the battery in this watch. Shocking for an Apple product, really. iFixit also took a look at the watch with an x-ray, revealing a little bit of the high-level design of the Apple Watch, the Apple S1 computer on a chip, and how all the sensors inside this wearable work.

A side view of a 6-DOF IMU
A side view of a 6-DOF IMU

This teardown uses an incredible amount of very high-tech equipment to peer inside the Apple Watch. Because of this, it’s probably one of the best examples of showing how these tiny sensors actually work. With some very cool images, a 6-DOF IMU is revealed and the Knowles MEMS microphone is shown to be a relatively simple, if very small part.

Now the Apple S1, the tiny 26.15mm x 28.50mm computer on a chip, serves as the brains of the Apple Watch. It’s breathtakingly thin, only 1.16mm, but still handles all the processing in the device.

Even if you won’t be buying this electronic accessory, you’ve got to respect the amazing amount of engineering that went into this tiny metal bauble of semiconductors and sensors.

Teardown: An Electronic Master Lock

[rohare] has an interesting teardown for us over on the keypicking lock picking forums. It’s a Masterlock combination lock – specifically the Masterlock 1500eXD – and yes, it’s a completely electronic lock with buttons and LEDs. Think that’s the mark of a terrible lock? You might be surprised.

The first impressions of this lock were surprisingly positive. It was heavy, the shackle doesn’t move at all when you pull on it. Even the buttons and LEDs made sense. Once the back of the lock was drilled open, things got even more impressive. This lock might actually be well-built, with a ‘butterfly’ mechanism resembling a legendary padlock, actuated by a small but sufficient motor. Even the electronics are well-designed, with the programming port blocked by the shackle when it’s closed. [rohare] suspects the electronics aren’t made by Masterlock, but they are installed in a very secure enclosure.

The teardown concludes with a fair assessment that could also be interpreted as a challenge: [rohare] couldn’t find any obvious flaws to be exploited, or a simple way to break the lock. He concludes the most probable way of breaking this lock would be, “knowing some trick of logic that bypasses the codes on the electronics”. That sounds like a good enough challenge for us, and we’re eagerly awaiting the first person to digitally unlock this physical lock.

Digital Light Processing, So Many Tiny Mirrors

Did you know there are a million little mirrors flickering back and forth, reflecting light within some modern projectors; like a flip-dot display but at the micro level? In his video, [Ben Krasnow] explains the tiny magic at work in DLP, or digital light processing technology with a scaled up model he constructed of the moving parts.

LCD projectors work much like old slide projectors. Light is shined through a transparent screen containing the image, which is then focused and enlarged through a lens. DLP projectors however achieve the moving image in a slightly different way. A beam of focused light is shined onto a chip equipped with an array of astonishingly small mirrors. When the mirror is flipped in one direction, it reflects the light out through the lens and creates a visible pixel. When the mirror is tilted the opposite direction, no light is reflected and the pixel is dark. All of these tiny moving parts are actuated by means of static electricity, and since a pixel can effectively only either be in an on or off state without any range of value in-between, the pixel must flutter at a rate fast enough to achieve the illusion of intensity, much like pulsing an LED to create a dimming effect.

In addition to slicing open the protective casing of one of these tiny micro-mirrored chips to give us a look at their physical surface under a microscope, [Ben] also built his own functioning matrix from tiles of mirrors and metal washers sandwiched around pieces of string. A wound electromagnet positioned behind each tile tilts the pixel into position when a current is run through the wire — although he didn’t sink the time needed to build out the full array in this manner (and we don’t blame him). If you do have the time and add in a high powered flash-light, this makes for an awesome way to shine messages on your roommate’s wall.

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Under the Hood – What Does this Board Do?

As interesting as it is to look at the insides of de-capped chips, it is equally interesting to sometimes look at old circuit boards and try to figure out the various sections, their functions, and to look at some of the design practices used. At a local electronics flea market, [daqq] recently chanced upon quite a large PCB that seemed to have come from some HP system, and picked it up for about 6 – the value of the abundant oscillators, crystals, connectors and other miscellaneous components that could be recovered seemed much more than what he paid for the board.

The board in question turned out to be from a HP 9000 Superdome system – part of the PA-8xxx based server series which packs quite a punch. This particular one was the 500MHz system UGUY5-500 board. At this point, most of [daqq]’s analysis is based on what he can visually decipher looking at the chip numbers and associated parts. He’s taken a stab at guessing the function of the board itself, and of the various parts on it. He’s put up high resolution scanned images of the board, for any of our readers who would like to offer an insight in to this board or the system that it was part of. Apparently, he has quite a few more exotic server PCB’s lined up for sleuthing, if you folks enjoy this.

The One Million Dollar Scope Teardown

The Labmaster 10-100zi Oscilloscope is one of the fastest scopes in the world, coming in at a blistering speed of 100GHz with up to 240 Giga samples per second in real time. The scope is made by Teledyne LeCroy, and uses a frequency interleaving technology perfected by LeCroy, which allows it to provide a single 100GHz channel, or two 33GHz channels and a single 65GHz channel. The price tag? One million dollars.

[Shahriar] takes us inside the Teledyne Lecroy factory in Chestnut Ridge, NY where these scope are manufactured, and gives us the grand tour. First, an engineer describes the interleaving frequency technique that allows the lightning fast sample rates. Then they actually tear the million dollar scope down for our viewing pleasure. And if you still want more, they put it back together and run some tests to push the scope to its far reaching limits. Lastly, [Shahriar] takes us on a tour of the plant where the scopes are built.

It’s a lengthy video, so grab your favorite beverage and tuck in! It’s shocking how fast technology progresses. Just about 18 months ago [Shahriar] took us through the then reigning champion of scopes the Agilent DSA-X 96204Q which capturered 160GS/s at 62GHz.

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Teardown: The Android-powered iPhone Case

Cellphones! Cellphone cases! Now that Radio Shack is kaput we need to pick up the slack!

A company named Oaxis has been making cell phone cases for a while now, and they’ve recently rolled out something rather interesting – a cell phone case with an e-ink screen. It’s an interesting idea and [Anton] did a teardown on two new releases. The first one just sends an image to an e-ink screen, and on paper, that’s all the second one does as well. There’s something special hidden under the hood, though: a low-end Android system. What an age to live in.

Something interesting happened when [Anton] was futzing with the battery for the e-ink iPhone case. Somehow, the device booted into recovery mode. Android recovery mode. Yes, iPhone cases now run Android.

Inside the e-ink iPhone case, [Anton] found a board with a Rockchip RK2818 SoC. This is the same chip that can be found in cheap Android cell phones. There’s only one button on the cell phone case, and connectivity is only provided by Bluetooth LE, but the possibilities for modding a cell phone case are extremely interesting.

Reverse-Engineering a Superior Chinese Product

It makes an Arduino look like a 555.  A 364 Mhz, 32 bit processor. 8 MB RAM. GSM. Bluetooth. LCD controller. PWM. USB and dozens more. Smaller than a Zippo and thinner than corrugated cardboard. And here is the kicker: $3. So why isn’t everyone using it? They can’t.

Adoption would mandate tier after tier of hacks just to figure out what exact hardware is there. Try to buy one and find that suppliers close their doors to foreigners. Try to use one, and only hints of incomplete documentation will be found. Is the problem patents? No, not really.

[Bunnie] has dubbed the phenomenon “Gongkai”, a type of institutionalized, collaborative, infringementesque knowledge-exchange that occupies an IP equivalent of bartering. Not quite open source, not quite proprietary. Legally, this sharing is only grey-market on paper, but widespread and quasi-accepted in practice – even among the rights holders. [Bunnie] figures it is just the way business is done in the East and it is a way that is encouraging innovation by knocking down barriers to entry. Chinese startups can churn out gimmicky trash almost on whim, using hardware most of us could only dream about for a serious project.

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