Turning a rotary tool into a PCB drill press

Drilling holes in PCBs is nearly always an exercise in compromise; the holes are small, precision is paramount, and the common solutions, such as a Dremel drill press, aren’t of the highest quality. In a quest to find the best way to drill holes in PCBs, [reboots] even went so far as to get a pneumatic dental drill, but nothing short of a high-quality micro drill press would do. Not wanting to spend hundreds of dollars to drill a few holes, [reboots] did the sensible thing and made one from scratch.

[reboots] ended up buying a Proxxon Micromot 50 after reading the consistently good reviews around the Internet. To use this rotary tool as a drill press required more work, though. Two precision steel rods from a dot matrix printer were salvaged and pieces of aluminum C-channel and small bearings were bolted together into a very high-precision drill press. Only hand tools were used to build this drill press, and the results are amazing.

[reboots] was originally inspired to check out Proxxon tools from one of Hack a Day’s rare tool reviews. The Proxxon TBM115/220 earned the skull ‘n wrenches seal of approval (and found its way into other Hack a Day-ers labs), but sometimes a few hundred dollars is too much of an investment for something only used occasionally. Considering [reboots]‘ scrap aluminum drill press is a better tool than the sloppy consumer rotary tool presses, we’ll call this a success.

ElectroDroid – your Android electronic reference app

Earlier this week, fellow Hack a Day-er [Mike Nathan] reviewed Adafruit’s new iPhone/iPad app Circuit Playground. The comments on [Mike]‘s review turned to suggesting ElectroDroid as an alternative to Circuit Playground. Surprisingly,  Hack a Day authors actually pay attention to the comments, so I’ve decided to throw my hat into the ring and offer up my review of ElectroDroid. For purposes of full disclosure, I have to add that I paid the $2.59 donation for a copy of ElectroDroid without ads, and have had no contact with the developers.

[Read more...]

Circuit Playground – An electronics reference app from Adafruit

It’s not everyday that we review software around here, but the folks at Adafruit recently put together an iOS app that I figured might be of interest. Their iPad/iPhone compatible application is called “Circuit Playground”, and it includes all sorts of handy electronics reference tools. For the context of this review, it should be noted that I paid for the application myself, and that I have had no communication with the Adafruit team regarding my assessment of the app.

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Building a ’60s guerilla homebrew square wave generator

What do you do when you’ve got three broken function generators? Build your own, obviously. Since your workshop has already gone through three of these bad boys, you might find yourself repairing your build. Better not use any fancy ICs and go with a transistor only build.

When [Miroslav] sent in his ‘guerilla homebrew’ square wave generator, we were really impressed. With a relatively simple schematic that uses parts that could be salvaged from old radios, this is a real MacGyver build.

The generator is based around a simple astable multivibrator. It doesn’t provide sine waves, but it’s the easiest circuit to get working. The build started off with a quartet of 2N4401 transistors, but according to the datasheet and the venerable Tektronix 502A, these had a very bad rise time compared to 2N3904s.

[Miroslav]‘s project generates square waves up to 2.22 MHz and pulses with a variable duty cycle from 1-49% and 51-99%. Output is either 5 Volt TTL levels or an adjustable 0-3.38 level. The generator is exactly what [Miroslav] needed, so that makes it a great tool in our book.

Laser level tripod made from recycled parts

laser_level_tripod

[msuzuki777] is a self-proclaimed “Lazy Old Geek” with way too much free time on his hands. He recently picked up a laser cross and figured that he would use some of that time to make a laser tripod for various projects around the house.

He pulled out an old camera tripod, and modified an unused CD jewel case so that it could be screwed onto the traditional camera mount. He added three bolts to the platform, on which he mounted another CD case, letting him adjust both the laser platform as well as the tripod.

He put together a simple power supply for the laser, and then mounted it on a pair of CDs sandwiched on top of one another. The CD platform was then popped onto the guts of an old CD player, allowing him to spin his laser pointer in any direction without having to re-level it.

The laser cross tripod certainly looks a bit complicated, but [msuzuki777] says it works a treat, allowing him to easily hang pictures and the like. He also mentions that he wants to throw an Arduino at it to automate the leveling process, which is something we’d love to see.

DIY table saw cuts through anything, leaves no room for mistakes

diy_table_saw

Students in the BASTLI lab at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich had been stuck using underpowered and unreliable saws for quite some time. The saws often got stuck while cutting through PCBs and were generally a drag to use. When group member [Mario Mauerer] came across a big and powerful brushless motor in his basement, he decided it was time to upgrade the lab’s cutting tools.

Along with fellow student [Lukas Schrittwieser] he built a test rig to see how powerful the motor really was, and satisfied with the results, the pair set off to build their own table saw. The enclosure was wrapped up pretty quickly, leaving the pair to source a power supply. Rather than purchase one, they built a 700w monster switching PSU to power their saw.

As you can see in the video below the saw chews through most things with the greatest of ease, but the students added a “boost button” to the saw just in case they need to run it at full tilt.

While we can’t exactly overlook the lack of finger and eye protection in their demonstration, it does look like a great little tool to have around.

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Salvaged coil magnetizes tools on demand

magnetizing_wand

When working in hard to reach areas, magnetized tools can mean the difference between wrapping things up quickly and spending way too much time blindly grasping for dropped screws. [Damir] wrote in to share a handy little contraption he built which allows him to magnetize and demagnetize his tools as needed.

While rubbing a magnet against the tip of a screwdriver will impart a weak and temporary magnetic field, he felt that a stronger more permanently magnetized tool was far more useful. It is pretty well known that subjecting metal to a direct current magnetic field will magnetize the item, and an alternating magnetic field will demagnetize the same object. [Damir’s] wand will perform either task with the simple flip of a switch.

He salvaged the motor coil from a broken washing machine and mounted it in a project box, along with a single-pole changeover switch. A small diode is used to perform rectification on the AC input, providing the DC current required for magnetizing his tools.

Every once in awhile we find the need for magnetized tools, so we think this would be great to have around the workshop.

Check out a quick video demo of the magnetizing wand after the jump.

[Read more...]

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