[Bunnie Huang’s] Hardware Talks Top Your Watch List

When [Bunnie] talks, we listen. He is a fount of product engineering knowledge, having seen many of his own products through from concept to market, and frequently helping others do the same. Of course having the knowledge is one thing, but he is also an accomplished speaker who knows what is important and how to share it in a way which is meaningful to others. The latest example of this is a pair of Engineering Talks he gave at Highway 1.

It’ll take you less than twenty minutes to get through the two videos. The first focuses on documentation for manufacturing. What do you need to include on a bill of materials sent to the factory? [Bunnie] has a set of gotchas which illustrate how vital this is. He also discusses how to handle design changes once the manufacturing wheels are already in motion. The second clip covers how Design for Manufacture relates to the actual cost of a production run. We hope there are more of these clips in the publishing pipeline so we’re keeping our eye on this channel.

The two videos are embedded below and at the time of writing had just a couple dozen views each and only one comment between the two of them. It seems sacrilege to say this, but we agree with that YouTube comment; these videos are gold.

Want to check out one of [Bunnie’s] latest projects? It’s a radio-based interactive badge.

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Why are You Still Making PCBs?

Few things have had the impact on electronics that printed circuit boards (PCBs) have had. Cheap consumer electronics would not be as cheap if someone still had to wire everything (although by now we’d be seeing wiring robots, I’m sure). Between removing the human from the wiring process and providing many excellent electrical properties (at least, on a well-designed board), it isn’t surprising that even the cheapest examples of electronics now use PCBs.

For many years, the hallmark of being a big-time electronic hacker was the ability to make your own PCBs. There have been many ways that people have tried to bring PCB manufacturing into the hacker’s garage: stick on decals, light-sensitive blank PCBs, and even using laser printer toner (that last one spurred me to write a book on PCB layout many years back). You also see a lot of people using 3D printers or CNC mills to create PCBs. Hardly a week goes by that someone doesn’t ask me how to make a PCB in a home or small business lab.

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Lessons From The Fablab Masters

I spent some time recently at the Fab11 conference, a gathering of the people behind the Fab Labs that are springing up all over the world, where entrepreneurs, hackers and the curious can learn about making things. So, it was no surprise that this was a great place to pick up some tips on designing, building and hacking things. Here are a few of the lessons I picked up at this fascinating gathering of the fabbers.

Build Quickly

If you can make something in an hour, you’ll make it better in a day

said [Joris Van Tubergen]. He knows something about making unusual things because he 3D printed a full-sized Elephant. To do this, he worked out how to hack the Ultimaker 2 3D printer to print to an unlimited Z height by flipping the printer upside down and moving the Z motor to lift the printer rather than the print head. With a few tweaks to the software, he could then print full-height elephant slices to speed up the process. He is absolutely right: while it is tempting to endlessly fiddle with a concept on paper, you learn more by building a prototype, even if it doesn’t work.

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The Factory of the World – Hackaday Documentary on the Shenzhen Ecosystem

When it comes to manufacturing, no place in the world has the same kind of allure as the Pearl River Delta region of China. Within just an hour-long train ride, two vastly different cultures co-exist, each with its unique appeal that keeps attracting engineers, entrepreneurs, and hustlers alike. On the mainland side, cities like Shenzhen and Guangzhou bring the promise of cheap components, low-cost contract work, and the street cred of “having done the Shenzhen thing.” And on the island, the capitalist utopia called Hong Kong glows with all of its high finance and stories of lavish expat lifestyles.

As the “new” China evolves, it seems like it’s exactly the convergence of these two cultures that will bring the biggest change—and not just to the area but to the whole world. Still, understanding what exactly is going on and what the place is really all about remains a mystery to many. So, this June, we jumped on the bandwagon and headed east, trying to get our own feel for the whole thing.

Here’s what we came back with…

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Tindie, the Etsy and Yelp for Electronics

For one reason or another, Tindie has become known as the Etsy for DIY electronics, tinkering, and all things that are regularly featured on Hackaday. Now [Emile] over at Tindie is tackling another problem faced by homebrew electronic wizards: finding good middlemen, board houses, places that do assembly, and machinists. The answer to that is Tindie Biz, something that [Emile] is calling the ‘Yelp for electronics.’

[Emile], the owner and creator of Tindie used to work for Yelp, something that got him more than a few “boo”s at last week’s Hackaday Omnibus Launch Party. Despite the community’s inexplicable hatred of Yelp, [Emile] actually learned a lot; verification is the ultimate problem of user-submitted reviews, and his solution to that problem is to put proof of a transaction in with the review, lest Tindie Biz fall into a disarray of spam and astroturfing.

Already there are over 1,400 manufacturers on Tindie Biz, but [Emile] said right now, his new manufacturer review site needs input from DIYers; the real value is in getting people who have done business with manufacturers around the globe to submit reviews. It needs reviewers, and that’s where you come in. It’s all free, and like most good ideas, something that makes you say, ‘I should have thought of that first.’

Retrotechtacular: The 10-year anniversary of plastic


This footage called Industry on Parade is a unique look back at the golden age of plastics. We also value the footage as a look at America’s manufacturing sector at its height.

We remember a middle-school teacher recalling his father — who was a research scientist working at Dow — bringing home a pair of discs for him to play with. His first ever encounter with plastic. Here we see a snapshot ten years after plastic manufacturing went mainstream. It starts off with a tour of an injection-molding factory. The screenshot seen above is from the second vignette which tours a production line for naval ship models which will be used to train Navy personnel and as props for strategic planning maps. The film wraps up with the production of plastic fabrics starting with raw materials and ending with synthetic bug screen.

Just to prove it’s an authentic blast from the past, hang in there for the last two minutes when you get an anti-communism PSA. Classic.

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Getting your stuff built: how to shop, conduct business, stay alive, and eat your way through Shenzhen

This is [Bob Baddeley]. He’s an EE with an idea that started as a fun project until someone said “hey, that’s cool”. He started thinking about what it would take to launch it commercially and before he knew it he was involved in a startup accelerator to help him assemble what he needs to make his idea into a business. He spent several weeks in China learning about manufacturing and posted copiously about it.

We’ve seen other engineering trips to Asia, but [Bob’s] experience living there provides a different perspective than a quick trip would. He posted about the thing’s you’d expect, like touring a short-run prototyping facility. But he also talks about the rigors of being a pedestrian in a place where legged transport is marginalized by the gas and pedal powered vehicles that are crammed into every square-inch of the city. In the image above he’s walking on the highway (for some inexplicable reason; deathwish?).

He also got to do a lot of fun stuff. He met a ton of folks, like [Bunnie Huang], [Ian Lesnet], and the team over at Seeed Studios. He even took his protoype to the local Maker Faire. It’s a scoreboard which can be controlled from your smart phone. [Bob] tells us that he didn’t get much interest showing the face of the device as seen in that post. But when he turned it around to show off the point-to-point wire porn he was mobbed by interested hackers. Guts!