Hackaday Links: December 7 2009

Ah the beauty of watching molten solder pull SMD components into place. Yeah, we’ve seen it before, but for some reason it never gets old.

The glory days of wardriving are certainly behind us but if you’re still hunting in certain areas for access points you can leave the laptop at home. A homebrew program called Road Dog can turn your PSP into a WiFi search device. You must be able to run custom code to use this app.

Ferrofluid is our friend. But having grown up watching the Terminator and Hellraiser movies we can’t help being a little creeped out by the effects seen in this movie.

Follow along with the NASA astronauts in this 20 minute HD tour of the international space station. It’s a cramped place to live but we can’t help thinking that it looks incredibly clean. After all, where would the dirt come from?

How are your woodworking skills?  Can you take a wooden block and turn it on a lathe until you have a lampshade 1/32″ thick? We’d love to see how these are made, but imagine the artist’s reaction when hours of labor are ruined by a minuscule amount of misplaced pressure on a carving tool. Patience, we’ll learn it some day!

This video from the past that is about the future of  travel does leave us wondering why our cars don’t have built-in radar for poor visibility? We’ve already realized the rear-view-mirror-tv-picture, but we’re going to need your help before the flying police/fire/ambulance-mobile is a common sight. Oh, the fun of seeing a high-tech push-button selector 3:30 into the video. Perhaps the touch-screen was a bit beyond the vision of the time.

Sometimes you have so many servants you need to find creative things for them to do. Only the most discriminating of the super-rich employ a person whose sole responsibility is to erase and redraw the hands of a clock each minute. This video is obviously a result of the global recession as the live time-keeper has been let go; a looping recording took his job!

Last time we checked in with [Marco Tempest] he was syncing video over multiple iPhones. Now he’s at it again with an augmented reality setup. A camera picks up some IR LEDs in a canvas and translates that into information for a video projector. We’d call this a trick, but it’s certainly not magic.

Double sided surface mount PCB population

Above is a video detailing one method for populating a two sided surface mount PCB. We covered using a stencil to apply solder paste for a PCB a few weeks ago. In the comments there was a debate about the virtue of using stencils as well as a question about how two sided boards are populated. This was a good question because reflowing a board twice can cause components on the underside to fall off.

[Wim L’s] comment mentions that there are a couple of methods for two sided population. In the video you will see that a stencil is not being used, but instead, paste is applied by a pedal actuated syringe. The paste is applied to the underside of the board first, then a teeny dot of epoxy is added to hold the component in place. Each part is then positioned normally and baked in a reflow oven. This process both reflows the solder, and cures the epoxy. When the board is reflowed a second time, the epoxy holds the bottom components in place as the top solder reaches its melting point.

This method of applying solder paste is slower than using a stencil. But if done correctly, every component can get the amount of solder needed.

How to populate a surface mount PCB

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Let’s face it friends, everything is moving toward surface mount components. We’ve seen quite a few features here that cover using stencils to populate boards and using ovens to reflow. [Oleg] has put together a tutorial on the process he uses to populate and reflow his own boards.

[Oleg] is the creator of the USB Isolator and therefore has a need to frequently populate the same board. He’s using an acrylic frame that fits the PCB perfectly to hold it in place so that paste and be applied right up to the edges of the board. He ordered a laser cut Kapton stencil for applying the solder. The paste is squeegeed into the stencil holes, the stencil is removed, and parts are placed with tweezers and a steady hand. For the final step, the boards go into an old toaster oven for reflow.

[Oleg] uses temperature marker on his boards to monitor the progress of the reflow. This marker is basically a crayon that begins to melt at a specific temperature. When the board has cooled, the melted mark can be scraped away or removed with alcohol.

Of course this is only really useful if you have a bunch of high-quality boards to populate. But with the relatively low cost of getting professionally made boards we think the need for this type of assembly process is on the rise.

Ghetto electronics repair

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After hearing that his video card might be repairable by heating it up to reflow it, this user did just that. He stripped it down and tossed it in his oven. It’s amazing how often this type of hackish repair works. We’ve heard of people using candles on ibooks, tossing video cards in oven,s and wrapping an xbox 360 in a towel and running it for 30 minutes to get it hot enough to reflow itself. Why even bother with controlled temperatures and exact measurements? What other crazy fixes have you had to employ? We had a Playstation that only worked upside down.

[via engadget]

Hackit: Xbox 360 hardware failures on the rise?

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Joystiq has been tracking the new starlet of Xbox 360 failures: the E74 error. It appears as the lower right light on the console turning red and an on-screen message telling the user to contact support with the error E74. The number of reported E74 errors seems to have risen since August 2008 and people are wondering if the more recent increase in errors are related to the release of the New Xbox Experience (NXE) Dashboard update. Did Microsoft reclass Red Ring of Death (RROD) failures as E74 to avoid warranty replacements? Continue reading “Hackit: Xbox 360 hardware failures on the rise?”

PID SMD reflow hot plate

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[mightyohm] put together a nice piece of lab kit. It’s a PID controlled hot plate. The plate is capable of reaching 500F, hot enough to do SMD reflow soldering. The large chunk of metal has a hole drilled through the center to contain a cartridge heater. A thermocouple is used to monitor the temperature of the plate. Ceramic standoffs separate the plate from the rest of the device, but he still needs to come up with a way to stop the radiant heating. The control box houses the surplus PID controller along with the power switch and solid state relay (SSR).