Fix-A-Brick 2: Nexus 5X Rises From the Ashes

It was but two weeks ago when I told my story of woe —  the tale of an LG Nexus 5X that fell ill, seemingly due to a manufacturing fault at birth. I managed to disassemble it and made my way through a semi-successful attempt at repair, relying on a freezer and hairdryer to coax it back to life long enough to backup my data. Try as I might, however, I simply couldn’t get the phone running for more than ten minutes at a time.

All was not in vain, however! I was rewarded for documenting my struggles with the vast experience and knowledge of the wider Internet: “Hairdryers don’t get as hot as heatguns!”

It turned out I had just assumed that two similar devices, both relying on a hot bit of metal and a fan as their primary components, must be virtually identical if rated at a similar power draw. I was wrong! Apparently the average hairdryer stays well cooler than 150 degrees Celsius to avoid melting one’s silky locks or burning the skin. I even learned that apparently, wet hair melts at a lower temperature than dry hair. Who knew?

Armed with this knowledge, I rushed out and bought the cheapest heat gun I could find — around $50. Rated up to 600 degrees C, this was definitely going to be hotter than the hairdryer. With the prevailing opinion being that I had not applied enough heat in general, I decided to also increase the heating period to 90 seconds, up from a quick 30 second pass originally.

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Fix-a-Brick: Fighting the Nexus 5X Bootloop

Oh Nexus 5X, how could you? I found my beloved device was holding my files hostage having succumbed to the dreaded bootloop. But hey, we’re hackers, right? I’ve got this.

It was a long, quiet Friday afternoon when I noticed my Nexus 5X was asking to install yet another update. Usually I leave these things for a few days before eventually giving in, but at some point I must have accidentally clicked to accept the update. Later that day I found my phone mid-way through the update and figured I’d just wait it out. No dice — an hour later, my phone was off. Powering up led to it repeatedly falling back to the “Google” screen; the dreaded bootloop.

Stages of Grief

I kept my phone on me for the rest of the night’s jubilant activities, playing with it from time to time, but alas, nothing would make it budge. The problem was, my Nexus still had a full day’s video shoot locked away on its internal flash that I needed rather badly. I had to fix the phone, at least long enough to recover my files. This is the story of my attempt to debrick my Nexus 5X.

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Tiny Pipe Organ Needs Tiny Church

There are a lot of unusual listings on eBay. If you’re wondering why someone would have a need for shredded cash, or a switchblade comb, or some “unicorn meat” (whatever that is), we’re honestly wondering the same thing. Sometimes, though, a listing that most people would consider bizarre finds its way to the workbench of someone with a little imagination. That was the case when [tinkartank] found three pipe organ pipes on eBay, bought them, and then built his own drivers.

The pipes have pitches of C, D, and F# (which make, as far we can tell, a C add9 flat5 no3 chord). [tinkartank] started by firing up the CNC machine and creating an enclosure to mount the pipes to. He added a church-like embellishment to the front window, and then started working on the controls for the pipes. Each pipe has its own fan, each salvaged from a hot air gun. The three are controlled with an Arduino. [tinkartank] notes that the fan noise is audible over the pipes, but there does seem to be an adequate amount of air going to each pipe.

This project is a good start towards a fully functional organ, provided [tinkartank] gets lucky enough to find the rest of the pipes from the organ. He’s already dreaming about building a full-sized organ of sorts, but in the meantime it might be interesting to use his existing pipes to build something from Myst.

Heating, bending, and gluing to make acrylic enclosures

acrylic-enclosures-heating-bending-gluing

You can do a lot with acrylic and few tools. If you’re just starting out we’d suggest taking a look at [Michael Colombo’s] guide to heating, bending, and gluing to create custom acrylic enclosures. Chances are you already have most of what you need. The one tool you might be lacking is a heat gun.

The process starts with math. Before cutting the acrylic down to size you need to calculate how much you need. Next [Michael] demonstrates his cutting technique using a Dremel and a cut-off wheel. We prefer to clamp along the cut line, score many times with a razor knife, and snap the stuff. But you can also send it through a table saw if you have the right blade.

The bending technique he uses starts by clamping boards on either side of the bend. The acrylic left sticking out is pushed with a scrap board while the bend is heated with the heat gun. Once all of the corners were made in one piece the sides were glued in place. This last step can be tricky. The acrylic glue is made to work with perfect seams, so make sure your cuts are clean and the bent pieces line up.

The process was documented in the clip found after the jump. If you’re looking for a more targeted heat source check out this dedicated acrylic bender.

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BGA soldering with a paint stripper and stopwatch

Having just received a shiny set of PCBs from the fab-house [Devbisme] needed a way to solder the main chip in place. It has a Ball-Grid Array footprint which is notoriously difficult to populate in a home lab. But he makes it look pretty easy and decided to share a video tutorial of the process.

The main tool he used is the paint stripper (heat gun) seen above. Since he didn’t have his own fancy reflow oven he made things work with the gun as his heat source. First he applies a generous layer of liquid solder flux to the BGA footprint on the board. Next he melts some solder onto the tip of his iron and uses it to tin all of the board’s BGA pads. Then it’s time for the critical step of positioning the chip. He uses vacuum tweezers to set it in place, and traditional tweezers to fine-tune its position. From here he heats with the paint stripper for two minutes, starting far above the board and slowly moving closer, with the reverse at the end of the soldering process. Once cool the board is cleaned with distilled water and blown dry with compressed air. After a visual inspection he finishes the application with a 30 minute stay in a 300 degree oven. We’ve included the video after the break for your convenience.

We’ve seen a similar technique used for replacing a chip on an already populated board.

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Learn a new fabrication technique from DIY prosthetics builders

This is a screenshot from a video tutorial on making your own prosthetic parts from 2-liter soda bottles. The opaque white part is a mold made of plaster. It’s a representation of the wearer’s limb, and provides the hard, heat-resistant form necessary for this manufacturing technique. You can see the clear plastic soda bottle which fits over the form after the bottom was removed. A heat gun causes the plastic to shrink to the shape of the plaster model.

Once formed, the threaded neck is split down the middle with a band saw. This will receive a piece of 1/2″ PVC pipe to be held in place by the neck and a pipe clamp. It’s possible to stop there, but a second video details an additional bottle used to make the device more rigid. See both videos after the break.

This manufacturing process is aimed at parts of the world that don’t have access to advanced prosthetics. We think it’s a wonderful demonstration of what can be done to improve the lives of amputees. We also think it’s a technique that can be used in other projects… we just haven’t figured out what those are as of yet.

It’s amazing how versatile this plastic waste can be if you put your mind to it.

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Homebrew heat gun from scrounged parts

A Hack a Day reader needed a tool to solder a lot of SMD parts, so he built a DIY heat gun, and we’re impressed with the results.

After trawling the internet looking for ideas for his heat gun, [MRGATZ85] found that most builds used the ceramic element from cheap soldering irons. Experiments in this direction didn’t go very well because the ceramic element in these irons tends to fall apart very easily. In a moment of inspiration, [MRGATZ85] realized he had an old vaporizer lying around and decided to take it apart. To his surprise, the vaporizer element was a great size, self-contained, and most importantly free. After fabricating a case out of high-temperature foam, aerosol cans, and deadbolt parts, [MRGATS85] was left with a very nice build.

Aside from SMD work, a heatgun can be a very valuable tool for PCB stripping and being used for solder reflow. We’re a little surprised we haven’t seen a homebrew heat gun in quite a while. Even though the element is surrounded by high-temperature foam, the gun still gets a little hot to the touch. We’re hoping that will eventually be under control; it’s a very useful build otherwise.

Check out the image gallery, or the video demo after the break.

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