Giving digital calipers Bluetooth

calipers

[Fede]‘s wife uses a pair of digital calipers to take measurements of fruits, leaves, and stems as part of her field research. Usually this means taking a measurement and writing it down in a log book. All things must be digitized, so [Fede] came up with a way to wirelessly log data off a pair of cheap Chinese calipers with a custom-made Bluetooth circuit.

Most of these cheap Chinese digital calipers already have a serial output, so [Fede] only needed to build a circuit to take the serial output and dump it in to an off-the-shelf Bluetooth module. He fabbed a custom circuit board for this, and after seeing the increased battery drain from the Bluetooth module, decided to add an external battery pack.

In addition to etching his own board for sending the serial output of the calipers to a Bluetooth module, [Fede] also put together a custom flex circuit to connect the two boards. It’s just a small bit of brass glued to a transparency sheet etched with ferric chloride, but the end result looks amazingly professional for something whipped up in a home lab.

Reverse engineering salvaged part footprints

reverse-engineering-component-footprints

So you just pulled a fancy component off of a board from some broken electronics and you want to use it in your own project. What if the data sheet you found for it doesn’t include measurements for the footprint? Sure, you could pull out your digital calipers, but look at the measurements in the image above. How the heck are you supposed to accurately measure that? [Steve] found an easy answer for this problem. He uses microscope software to process an image of the board.

One common task when working with a microscope is measuring the items which are being viewed under magnification. [Steve] harnessed the power of a piece of free software called MiCam. One of its features is the ability to select an area of the photograph so serve as the measuring stick. To get the labels seen in the image above he selected the left and right edges of the board as the legend. He used his digital calipers to get a precise measurement of this area, then let the software automatically calculate the rest of the distances which he selected with his cursor.

MiCam is written for Windows machines. If you know of Linux or OSX alternatives please let us know in the comments.

Hold, fast, and max features on a digital caliper

While adding an RJ-11 connector to his digital calipers [BadWolf] slipped, shorting out a pin and accidentally discovered new features. He intended to add a port for reading measurement data electronically, but after the slip-up an ‘H’ appeared on the LCD screen and the measurement was frozen at the same number. At first it seemed like he may have killed the device, but this is actually a hold function. A little bit more playing around and he discovered that a combination of button presses can also enable a fast function which speeds up the rate at which the display changes its reading. There is even a max function that only updates the display if the reading is higher than any previously displayed measurement. These are nice features which he uses by connecting a momentary push switch between two of the output pins, details we gleaned from the annotated video after the break. He doesn’t say which pins work for him, but we’d bet one of them is the ground pin on the port, and the other is one of the two data pins. Do some investigating with your own calipers and let us know what you find in the comments.

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