We know what it’s like to wait for newly released electronic parts. Clicking refresh every day at your favorite online retailers, reading reviews published by the press who got preview units, and maybe even daring to order implausibly cheap devices from foreign lands. The ESP32 has many of us playing the waiting game, and we’ll level with you — they’re out of stock most places. But, if you look hard enough you can find one. At least, you could find them before we wrote this quick roundup of ESP32 hardware. If hearing about parts that are just out of reach is your sort of thing, then read on, you masochist!
You do not know how to make a PCB unless you can make your own parts. [Jan] knows this, but like everyone else he checked out the usual online sources for a footprint for an SD card socket before making his own. It turns out, this SD card socket bought from an online marketplace was completely undocumented. Not only was an Eagle or KiCad footprint unavailable, but CAD files showing the dimensions of the part were non-existent. A solution had to be devised.
Instead of taking calipers and finely measuring all the pads on this SD card socket – a process that would surely fail – [Jan] decided to use a flatbed scanner to trace out the part. The part was placed on the glass and scanned at 300 dpi with a convenient reference object (a public transport card) in the same picture. This picture was imported into a CAD package, scaled to the correct ratio, and exported as a DXF. Since KiCad readily accepts importing DXFs, the CAD file was easily accessed, traced over, and a new part created.
From start to finish, making the footprint for this no-name, off-brand SD card socket took fifteen minutes. That’s nothing compared to the time it would take to manually measure each of the pads, draw a footprint, and print out the footprint at 1:1 scale to see if it matched up several times. It’s awesome work, and a great reminder that the best tools are usually right in front of you.
Online parts search and ordering is a godsend compared to the paper-catalog days of yore. This is fact, there is no argument otherwise (despite [Dave Jones’] assertion that sourcing connectors is so much simpler if you have pages full of images). Just being able to search was a game changer. But how far do you think the concept has come since the transition online? [Chris Gammell] plans to spark a leap forward with Parts.io, an electronic component info delivery system that spans both manufacturers and distributors.
So what’s wrong with what we’re doing now? Nothing… unless you hate wasting time. Sourcing parts is time consuming. Certainly the parametric search on distributors’ sites like Mouser and Digikey have improved. Plus we’ve seen hacks that do things like automatically pull in stock data to a spreadsheet. But the real issue isn’t figuring out how to buy stuff, it’s figuring out what to use in a design. Surely there is opportunity for improvement.
Parts.io has its sights set on a better path to part discovery. Yes, this is parametric search but it will return data for all parts from all manufacturers. The distinction may not be completely obvious, but for example if you are searching on Element14 you’re only getting data on the parts that Element14 carries. Once you have drilled down to a reasonably manageable pool of components you get what you would expect: one-click datasheets and a roundup of pricing and availability from worldwide distributors. The presentation of the parts is grouped into families that differ in trailing parts designators, and I must say I am impressed at the interface’s ability to roll with you. It feels easier to find alternative parts after the drilldown where in my past searches I would have started completely over again.
The service started in private alpha in October but is now available for public use. You can search for a part without logging in, but a few features have been held back for those that sign up for a free account. Most notably this includes the ability to upload your BOM, add parts as favorites, and access their forums.
Is this a game changer? That’s for you to decide. You can give it a try yourself or watch [Chris’] feature walkthrough video found after the break.
We anticipate a cornucopia of hacks from the top fifty 2014 Hackaday Prize entrants based on the recent awarding of the 50 grab bags of electronics. That’s right, the grand prize was out of this world but there were a lot of other rewards worth shooting for. Instead of making hardware choices without the seminifinalists’ input we went with a shopping spree on Mouser.com.
It’s a great idea if we do say so ourselves. However, it turned out not to be as easy as purchasing fifty-grand in gift cards. Did you know that none of the major parts distributors have gift card systems built into their sites? We’re of two minds on this. We’d love to open a birthday card from grannie and pull out some chits that can be traded for chips. But at the same time, it would be a longshot for your non-hacker relatives to even know what sites are our go-to parts emporiums.
Long story short these prizes are themselves a hack. We had a lot of help from the sales crew over at Mouser who abused their account tracking software in order to make these credits work. All fifty of the Hackaday prize semifinalists now have a cool G to spend and we’ll be watching their Hackaday.io accounts for updates as they inevitably use the upcoming holidays to embark on exciting builds.
A big thanks to Supplyframe Inc. for sponsoring these 50 prizes, as well as all others awarded for the 2014 Hackaday Prize. Get those workbenches cleared off and
sharpen tin your soldering tips because details about the 2015 Hackaday Prize will start to roll out in just a few weeks. Until then, occupy your time trying to win one of the many prizes offered during our Trinket Everyday Carry Contest.
There are loads of Internet content depicting the usefulness of salvaged innards found in defunct microwave ovens. [Mads Nielsen] is an emerging new vblogger with promising filming skills and intriguing beginner electronics content. He doesn’t bring anything new from the microwave oven to the dinner table, yet this video should be considered a primer for anybody looking to salvage components for their hobby bench. To save some time you can link in at the 5 minute mark when the feast of parts is laid out on the table. The multitude of good usable parts in these microwave ovens rolling out on curbsides, in dumpsters, and cheap at yard sales all over the country is staggering and mostly free for the picking.
The harvest here was: micro switches, X and Y rated mains capacitors, 8 amp fuse, timer control with bell and switches, slow turn geared synchronous 4 watt motor 5 rpm, high voltage capacitor marked 2100 W VAC 0.95 uF, special diodes which aren’t so useful in hobby electronics, light bulb, common mode choke, 20 watt 68 Ohm ceramic wire-wound resistor, AC fan motor with fan and thermostat cutout switches NT101 (normally closed).
All this can be salvaged and more if you find newer discarded units. Our summary continues after the break where you can also watch the video where [Mads] flashes each treasure. His trinkets are rated at 220 V but if you live in a 110 V country such components will be rated for 110 V.
When [Steve] saw that we requested reader’s solutions to storing hundreds of different components, he had to send in his solution to storing bunches of ICs, resistors, transistors, and other components.
Like most of the suggestions we’ve seen, [Steve]’s solution relies on #10 envelopes stored in boxes specifically designed for holding envelopes. While there’s nothing new about storing handfuls of ICs in envelopes, we really like [Steve]’s method of organization.
On the top of each envelope, [Steve] printed a bunch of very useful information including the type and kind of part, the tolerance, speed, voltage, and package information. Also included are the manufacturer and vendor part numbers, making reordering a breeze.
Of course printing out hundreds or thousands of envelopes with this information would be a pain. [Steve] got around that by automating the process with iWork, typing in the values for each field in a spreadsheet app and using Mail Merge to print them all on envelopes.
It’s a very neat system that forced [Steve] to have all his parts on a spreadsheet, inching ever closer to a complete inventory management system. He’s thinking about adding QR codes to the envelopes to make reordering parts trivial, but after figuring out how to send hundreds of envelopes through a printer, we can understand if [Steve] wants to be a little lazy from here on out.
Regular reader [Grenadier] wrote in to let us know about his newly published hacking hardware trading post called The Junkbox. Apparently when he’s not blowing up capacitors or building his own high voltage ones, he makes time to code up a website where you can buy, sell, and barter leftover components.
We have something like this right here at Hackaday. The dollar sign icon along the right column, just underneath the featured posts banner will take you to our classifieds section which at the time of writing had a whopping nine items posts. But these things to ebb and flow. Check in on the newly posted link from time to time to see that number grow.
Whether it’s over at The Junkbox or in our classifieds section, we think the biggest problem is finding what you need when you need it. This is nothing new. If you missed it before, we’ve embedded an older episode of the EEVblog after the break where [Dave Jones] tours Apex Surplus. It’s as if a hacker who has hoarding tendencies bought a store forty years ago and just kept piling more and more merchandise to the sky.