Tweezing Diodes

Surface mount diodes are simple enough — all you need to do is make sure you have the anode and cathode in the right order when you place them on the pad when you solder them. These SMD diodes come in industry-standard packages, but do you think there’s an industry-standard way of marking the cathode? Nope, not by a long shot. To solve the problem of figuring out which way the electrons go through his LEDs, [Jesus] built a simple pair of LED tweezers.

The purpose of these tweezers is to figure out which way is up on a LED. To do this, [Jesus] picked up a pair of multimeter and power supply compatible SMD test clips that are sufficiently tweezy. These tweezers come with red and black wires coming out the back, but cutting those leads off, peeling back the insulation and adding a CR2032 battery holder and 220Ω resistor turns these tweezers from a probe into an electrified poker.

To figure out what the arcane symbols on the bottom of an SMD diode mean, all [Jesus] has to do is touch each side of the pair of tweezers to one of the contacts on a LED. If it lights up, it’s that way around. If it doesn’t light up, the battery is dead, or the diode is backwards. It’s a great project, especially since these SMD test clip tweezer things can be had from the usual online retailers for just a few bucks. We would recommend a switch and marking which tweeze is ground, though.

The Mother of All Belt Grinders

It seems like everyone is building belt grinders these days. You might think [Jeremy Schmidt] is just hoping on the bandwagon, but you’d be wrong. He took a full two years to design the perfect belt grinder for his needs. Now he’s built his perfect beast, and we must say, it’s quite impressive!

[Jeremy] had seen grinders which can tilt, but most of them tilt the entire machine, including the table. He designed his machine with an independent table. This means the belt can be placed at any angle, while the table remains flat. He’s achieved some really interesting finishes with a course grind on a 45-degree angle to the workpiece.

No build is without its problems. In [Jeremy’s] case it was building the box which acts as a receiver for the machine and the tables. Regular square tube stock wasn’t quite rigid enough, so bar stock was the way to go. The first attempt at building the box resulted in a warped tube, due to the stresses of welding. [Jeremy] was more careful the second time, moving from section to section of the four welds. This kept the heat from building up, and the box stayed straight.

The final result is an incredibly rigid machine which definitely will withstand anything that [Jeremy] can throw at it.

If you want to see more belt grinders at work, check out [Bob]’s treadmill belt grinder, or [Mike’s] conversion.

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Help Wanted: Open Source Oscilloscope on Rigol Hardware

We’ve often heard (and said) if you can’t hack it, you don’t own it. We noticed that [tmbinc] has issued a call for help on his latest project: developing new firmware and an FPGA configuration for the Rigol DS1054Z and similar scopes. It isn’t close to completion, but it isn’t a pipe dream either. [tmbinc] has successfully booted Linux.

There’s plenty left to do, though. He’s loading a boot loader via JTAG and booting Linux from the USB port. Clearly, you’d want to flash all that. Linux gives him use of the USB port, the LCD, the network jack, and the front panel LEDs and buttons. However, all of the actual scope electronics, the FPGA functions, and the communications between the processor and the FPGA are all forward work.

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Get Up Close to your Soldering with a Pi Zero Microscope

Do your Mark 1 Eyeballs no longer hold their own when it comes to fine work close up? Soldering can be a literal pain under such conditions, and even for the Elf-eyed among us, dealing with pads at a 0.4-mm pitch is probably best tackled with a little optical assistance. When the times comes for a little help, consider building a soldering microscope from a Pi Zero and a few bits and bobs from around the shop.

Affordable commercial soldering scopes aren’t terribly hard to come by, but [magkopian] decided to roll his own by taking advantage of the streaming capabilities of the Raspberry Pi platform, not to mention its affordability. This is a really simple hack — nothing is 3D-printed or custom milled. The stage base is a simple aluminum project box for heat resistance and extra weight, and the arm is a cheap plastic dial caliper. The PiCam is mounted to the sliding jaw of the caliper on a scrap of plastic ruler. The lens assembly of the camera needs to be hacked a little to change the focal length to work within 10 centimeters or so; alternatively, you could splurge and get a camera module with an adjustable lens. The Pi is set up for streaming, and your work area is presented in glorious, lag-free HDMI video.

Is [magkopian]’s scope going to give you the depth perception of a stereo microscope? Of course not. But for most jobs, it’ll probably be enough, and the fact that it can be built on the cheap makes it a great hack in our book.

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Laser Surgery: Expanding the Bed of a Cheap Chinese Laser Cutter

Don’t you just hate it when you spend less than $400 on a 40-watt laser cutter and it turns out to have a work area the size of a sheet of copy paper? [Kostas Filosofou] sure did, but rather than stick with that limited work envelope, he modified his cheap K40 laser cutter so it has almost five times the original space.

The K40 doesn’t make any pretenses — it’s a cheap laser cutter and engraver from China. But with new units going for $344 on eBay now, it’s almost a no-brainer. Even with its limitations, you’re still getting a 40-watt CO2 laser and decent motion control hardware to play with. [Kostas] began the embiggening by removing the high-voltage power supply from its original space-hogging home to the right of the work area. With that living in a new outboard enclosure, a new X-Y gantry of extruded aluminum rails and 3D-printed parts was built, and a better exhaust fan was installed. Custom mirror assemblies were turned, better fans were added to the radiator, and oh yeah — he added a Z-axis to the bed too.

We’re sure [Kostas] ran the tab up a little on this build, but when you’re spending so little to start with, it’s easy to get carried away. Speaking of which, if you feel the need for an even bigger cutter, an enormous 100-watt unit might be more your style.

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Building a Metalworking Vise, Layer by Layer

Machine shop wisdom says the lathe is the king of machine tools. We ascribe to that belief, although the common aphorism that the lathe is the only tool that can make copies of itself seems a bit of a stretch. But in the shadow of the almighty lathe is a tool without which even the simplest projects would be vastly more difficult: the lowly vise. Trouble is, finding a good vise can be a tall order. So why not take matters into your own hands and build this very sturdy vise from scratch?

Most commercially available vises are made from a couple of large castings, but as complete as [MakeItExtreme]’s metalworking shop has become, casting molten iron is not a tool in their kit — yet. So they turned back to what they know and welded up the body and jaw of the vise from mild steel. The video below shows the long sessions of welding and grinding that bring the body and the jaw into being, in the process consuming miles of MIG wire. The main screw is cut from stainless steel and threaded with the correct Acme form for such a high load application, especially given the mechanical advantage the long handle provides. The jaws have dovetails for replaceable inserts, too, which is a nice touch that’s hard to find on commercial units.

Vises on Hackaday tend to the lighter duty varieties, such as a 3D-printed vise, the Stickvise for PCBs, or even a fancied-up woodworking vise. It’s nice to see a heavy metal build for a change.

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Electronifying A Horror Fraught Hydraulic Press

[Josh] is replacing the springs in his car’s suspension. He wanted to know the travel rates of these springs, but apparently, this is a closely guarded trade secret in the industry. One company did manage to publish the spring rates, but they weren’t believable. Instead of taking this company’s word, [Josh] built a spring tester.

The theory behind a spring tester is pretty simple: apply a force to a spring, measure it, then measure how much the spring has traveled. Or compress a spring an inch or so, measure the force, and compress it some more. Either gets you the same data.

This spring tester is built around a Harbor Freight hydraulic press. Yes, the spring is completely captured and won’t fly out of the jig if you look at it wrong. The bottom of the press contains a few load cells, fed into an ATmega8, which displays a value on an LCD. For the displacement measurement, a ruler taped to the side of the press will suffice, but [Josh] used a Mitutoyo linear scale.

What were the results of these tests? You shouldn’t buy coils from Bilstein if these results are correct. The rates for these springs were off by 70%. Other springs fared better and won’t bind when going over bigger bumps. That’s great work, and an excellent application of Horror Fraught gear.