Reverse Engineering a PCB

Occasionally when a device breaks, the defect is obvious. Whether it is a blown fuse or a defective capacitor, generally the easy to see stuff is easy to fix. When a problem is more subtle, or when doing some more advanced tasks like adding functionality to a device, greater knowledge about a circuit board is required. While there might be details hidden in lower levels of PCB, often just knowing the mounted components and layout of the outside layers can be enough to create a rough schematic of a device. [Throbscottle] has put together an excellent guide for procedurally breaking down a photo of a board and turning it in to something useful. The guide utilizes some open source image processing software such as the GIMP, Inkscape, and Dia, all of which are widely available. Keep in mind this reverse engineering can be a time consuming process, but will almost definitely reward those patient enough to work through it.

[Thanks to everyone who sent this in!]

Monotron Openly Monophonic

Famous synth manufacturer Korg has released the schematics (get them here if you don’t like to fill out forms) for their wee little Monotron for all to see and use! This is great news for anyone looking to build up a synth from scratch or to circuit bend their existing monotron. The filter circuits alone would be fun to add to an existing electronics setup.

Granted there are already many examples of monotron mods out there, but that shouldn’t stop you from experimenting with your own variations. Now with the schematics you can make fundamental changes to the architecture of the synth all from the comfort of your own CAD software. Want more oscillators? Distortion? It’s all out there for you to explore. We’re very interested to see how far people will run with this. And big ups to Korg for recognizing the value of hacking!

[via Retrothing]

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Cadsoft Eagle migrating to XML

[PT] posted about an exciting development from Cadsoft, the migration to XML based parts, schematics, and board layouts. The adoption of this open standard goes hand-in-hand with the open hardware initiatives people like [PT] have been pushing for.

Cadsoft Eagle is our go-to schematic and PCB software. We even have a tutorial which guides you through preparing your files for PCB manufacture. But the files containing parts libraries, schematics, and board layouts have always been binaries. A transition to XML means a lot of things. They will be easier to edit, and much friendlier for tracking changes using version control systems like SVN, CVS, Mercurial SCM, Git, etc. But immediately on our minds is the accessibility for hacking. Think of how easy XML parsing is in programs like Python. It should be snap to write scripts on a whim that will manipulate the XML files in any way imaginable. This doesn’t discount the value of Eagle, it extends the usability far beyond what any team of engineers at Cadsoft could produce by themselves. And for that, we say Bravo.

Save a baby, nursery temperature monitor

Yes, you could argue this Nursery Room Temperature Monitor is simply an LED and an Arduino with a temperature sensor, but [Jay] really did put more thought into the process. For instance he stuck with AVR, built a wooden base and sanded globe, and even included schematics and source code. Plus, SIDS is no laughing matter and the more you know, the more it can be prevented. Back on point, one thing we would add is PWM for a more gradual change in color. What would you add?

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Fritzing, go from prototype to product


Fritzing is an open source project designed to help you move from a prototype to a finished project. Aimed at those basing their projects around Arduino, you start by building your physical prototype, then recreate it with Fritzing software’s graphical editor. From there you can generate a schematic, PCB artwork, and PCB production files.

[thanks CH]