Fail of the Week: Capturing Data from a Laser Rangefinder


We’re changing it up this week with a reverse engineering fail which [Itay] pointed out to us. A couple of years ago [Nate] over at Sparkfun agreed to help a friend with a project that required precise distance measurement. He knew that laser rangefinders are a good way to go and mentions their use in golfing and the building trades. He picked up this handheld version billed as a laser tape measure. He put up a valiant effort to reverse engineer the PCB in hopes of finding a hook for the measurement data.

Obviously his endeavor failed or we wouldn’t be talking about it in this column. But there’s a lot to learn about his methods, and a few of the comments associated with his original post help to shed light on a couple of extra things to try.

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Reverse voltage protection with a P-FET

[Afroman's] latest video shows you how to add reverse voltage protection with minimal power loss. At some point, one of your electronic concoctions will turn out to be very useful. You want to make sure that a battery plugged in the wrong way, or a polarity mistake with your bench PSU doesn’t damage that hardware. It’s easy enough to plop in a diode for protection, but as [Afroman] points out, that wastes power in the form of heat when the circuit is working correctly. His solution is to add a P channel MOSFET which only allows power to flow when the polarity of the source voltage is correct.

The schematic above shows the P-FET on the high side of the circuit. The gate is hooked to ground, allowing current to move across the DS junction when the battery is connected. This design also uses a clamping diode to keep the gate voltage within a safe range. But there are P-FETs out there that wouldn’t need that diode or resistor. This method wastes ten times less power than a simple diode would have.

We’ve embedded the video after the break where [Afroman] shares the math and reasoning behind his component choices.

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