Cruncher: A robotic toy dinosaur dissection

When my children got these interesting and very obnoxious toy dinosaurs last year, I could barely contain my excitement. I knew that one day, they would be on my work bench giving up their secrets. Cruncher is a fairly recent addition to the robotic animal trend that we’ve been seeing the past few years. Imbued with a personality that is a mixture of T-Rex, beagle, and loudmouth jerk, he’s every kids idea of a perfect pet.

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Tearing down a failed LED bulb

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[Todd Harrison] was thinking of replacing some incandescent light bulbs in his house with LED models, so and his wife picked up a single candelabra bulb to test before they spent the cash to swap them all out. The bulb died in about a week’s time, so [Todd] got out his trusty electronic disassembly device (his hammer), sharing his post-mortem examination with us.

After taking a cursory look at it, [Todd] found that the circuit powering the bulb was not overly complicated. A small bridge rectifier along with a few caps and resistors are all that was used to power the device, making it’s failure a bit puzzling. When [Todd] wired it up to his power supply, the bulb lit up, much to his surprise. His best guess as to why it died is that the shrink wrap around the PCB managed to cause a short, though he also noticed that one of the bridge rectifier’s legs was not soldered down.

He started tooling with the light to find out more about it, but he managed to blow out a handful of LEDs in the process. All in all the LED lighting swap was a disappointment, but at least he had some fun along the way!

Continue reading if you’re interested in seeing [Todd’s] diagnosis in its entirety.

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Air Wick Odor Detect teardown

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[Hunter’s] wife came home from her latest extreme couponing session with a handful of free Air Wick Odor Detect air fresheners, and since they had so many of the things sitting around, he was compelled to take one apart to see what makes them tick.

The casing was secured with melted snap tabs which had to be cut, making disassembly a one-way street. Once opened, he found a trio of white label AA cells and an ARNIE COMPACT3 ISS.4 controller board, complete with an epoxy-sealed microcontroller. A similarly branded sensor board was attached to the controller, and he spotted a solenoid with a built-in nozzle for spraying air freshener as well.

The sensor board piqued his curiosity the most, and after some research he’s pretty sure that the Air Wick uses an Applied Sensor VOC air quality module to get the job done. The tiny sensor uses a special substrate containing electrodes, which measure the resistance of the sensing layer while it is heated to upwards of 400° C.  A change in resistance lets the air freshener know that it’s time to handle the odoriferous emanations floating about.

Thanks to [Hunter] for taking the time to tear the Air Wick down and letting us know what’s inside!

Hard Drive Teardown

Do you know how a modern hard drive works? If you don’t you should have a pretty good idea after watching this video. In only five minutes [Bill Hammack] manages to describe a hard drive in awesome detail without using any unnecessary scientific jargon.

The video teardown explains how the flying head “flies” how voice coil motors work and provides a basic introduction to how the binary data is stored and processed in the disk. The way the flying head maintains the miniscule distance from the plate is particularly clever. You may remember the LCD monitor teardown by the Engineer Guy, equally as detailed and interesting. The video after the break is definitely worth a watch.

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Vocera B1000A teardown

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[Gray] over at Geek Chique had a bit of an eBay mishap and was suddenly the proud owner of 16 Vocera B1000A badges. If you are not familiar, these badges are small, lightweight communications devices similar to the famous Star Trek communicator, which allow users to talk to other individuals via VOIP. He was working on getting the remaining badges up and running by reimplementing the server software, and figured that since one of the badges he purchased was not working, he might as well take it apart.

It took him awhile to get the well-made badges apart, requiring a rotary tool and some elbow grease to get the job done. Inside, he found that the device was split into two circuit boards, one being the “WiFi” board, and the other the “CPU” board. The WiFi board uses a Prism WiFi chipset, which was incredibly common at the time of construction. The CPU board sports small SRAM and flash chips as you would expect, with a Texas Instruments 5490A DSP running the show.

While it remains to be seen if tearing the device down helps [Gray] to get things up and running again, it never hurts to take a closer look to see what you are working with.

FBI tracking device found; disassembled

[ifixit] has apparently grown tired of tearing apart Apple’s latest gizmos, and their latest display of un-engineering has a decidedly more federal flair. You may have heard about Yasir Afifi’s discovery of a FBI-installed tracking device on his car back in October of last year. Apparently, the feds abandoned a similar device with activist Kathy Thomas. Wired magazine managed to get their hands on it, and gave it to ifixit to take apart. There’ve even posted a video.

The hardware itself isn’t that remarkable, it’s essentially a GPS receiver designed before the turn of the century paired with a short range wireless transceiver. The whole device is powered by a set of D-sized lithium-thionyl chloride batteries which should be enough juice to run the whole setup for another few decades–long enough to outlast any reasonable expectations of privacy, with freedom and justice for all.

Spy Video TRAKR: the teardown

Last Friday we looked at Wild Planet’s Spy Video TRAKR programmable RC vehicle mostly from an end user perspective. Much of our weekend was spent dismantling and photographing the device’s internal works, and poring over code and documentation, in order to better gauge the TRAKR’s true hackability. Our prior review included some erroneous speculation…we can clarify a number of details now, and forge ahead with entirely new erroneous speculation!

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