[Elliot] (no relation, but hey, cool name!) wrote in with his OpenFixture model for OpenSCAD. It’s awesome because it takes a small problem, that nonetheless could consume an entire day, and solves it neatly. And that problem is making jigs to test assembled electrical products: a PCB test fixture.
In the PCB design software, you simply note down the locations of the test points and feed these into the OpenSCAD model. ([Elliot] shows you exactly how to do it using KiCAD.) There are a few more parameters of the model that you can tweak to match your particulars, but you should have a DXF outline for a test jig in short order. Cut that out, assemble, and test.
If you have to make more than a few handfuls of a complicated circuit, it becomes worth it to start thinking about testing them systematically. And with this OpenSCAD model, you can have the test jig up and running before the first prototype boards are back in from the fab. How cool is that?
No matter how small you make your embedded projects, you still need a way to program the MCU. Standard programming headers can be annoyingly large for those very small projects. [Danny] wrote in to tell us how we can save room on our PCB designs using special spring loaded connectors, rather than large headers.
There are so many small embedded development systems, such as the Trinket that still rely on standard headers. Reducing the size of the programming headers and interface headers is an issue that deserves more attention than it currently receives. Based on Tag-Connect, a proprietary connector built around pogo-style pins, your PCB does not actually require any on-board mating connector. The PCB footprint simply has test-pads that connect with the pogo-pins and holes that allow for a rock solid connection. While the Tag-Connect header is a bit expensive (it costs about $34), you only need to buy it once.
It would be great to see even smaller Tag-Connect cables. Do you have a similar solution? What about something even smaller and more compact? Write in to tell us about any ultra-compact connector solutions you have been using!
[Doug Jackson] makes word clocks, and he must be doing quite a bit of business. We say that because he put together a programming and test bed for the clock circuit boards.
This is a great example to follow if you’re doing any kind of volume assembly. The jig lets the populated PCB snap into place, making all the necessary electrical connections. This was made possible by a package of goods he picked up on eBay which included rubber spacers to separate the board from the acrylic mounting plate, pogo pins to make the electrical connections, and a spring-loaded board clamp seen to the left in this image.
The switch in the lower right connects power to the board and pulls a Raspberry Pi GPIO pin high. The Python script running on the RPi polls that pin, executing a bash script which programs the ATmega169 microcontroller using the GPIO version of AVRdude. We looked through his Python script and didn’t see code for testing the boards. But the image above shows a “Passed” message on the screen that isn’t in his script. We would wager he has another version that takes the hardware through a self test routine.
We first saw one of [Doug’s] word clocks back in 2009 and then again a few months later. The look of the clock is fantastic and it’s nice to see the project is still going strong.
Here’s a nifty programmer for a cheap Bluetooth module. So just how cheap is this part? Does $6.60 sound like an extreme deal?
The information on this hack is spread throughout a series of posts. The link above goes to the completed programmer (kind of a look back on the hack). But you might start with this post about module firmware options. Just because you can get the part inexpensively doesn’t mean that it’s going to work as you expected. [Byron] sourced similar devices from different suppliers and found they were not running the same firmware; the footprints were the same but he features were not. With his help you can tailor the code to your needs and reflash the device.
The programmer that he build has a nice slot for the module which interfaces with the programming lines using pogo pins (spring-loaded contacts). It connects to the CSR BC417 chip’s SPI pins in order to flash the firmware. If you’ve had any experience working with these cheap parts we’d love to hear your tale in the comment section.
Here’s another “useless machine” variant. The trick to this one is that it has dual “fingers” and can work either way. Which way it turns off is selectable via a switch on the side, and the fingers can both be turned on to “fight” each other. Check out the video here.
This video depicts the assembly of a Gameboy MAME-style cabinet. For those wanting to try something like this, this video may fill you in on some of the required assembly techniques, such as how to put decals on the side of your cabinet.
This video featuring the “Autonomous Ultimate Wall-E” shows this robot’s navigational skills around the house. Additionally, it has some nicely actuated arms.
The Verbalizer is a microphone designed to be used with Google’s voice search. It’s also designed with Arduino compatibility in mind and is open-source. Could be a good tool for your next hack.
These clever multimeter probes were built using pogo pins used in electrical test equipment. The springs inside of these pins help keep them planted firmly on the test point in question and reportedly gives a very good connection.
Pogo pins – spring-loaded pin contacts are pretty fun to play with and even cooler when they get used in electronic devices like Adafruit and SparkFun’s test jigs. Check after the break for how these two companies have created their own production hacks. Continue reading “Test Beds and Jigs with Pogo Pins”