PC casemod-inspired benchtop PSU

benchtop_psu

[Will] had a cheap power supply sitting around, and decided to turn it into a full-featured benchtop PSU. Inspired by some of the other benchtop supplies we have featured in the past, he decided that he wanted his PSU to be more than just a simple-looking box sitting on his work bench. Taking some cues from PC case modding, he put together a unit that is not only very useful, but also quite sharp looking.

The frame of the case was crafted from aluminum angle, while all of the other flat surfaces were made using black polycarbonate. He installed the standard 12v, 3.3v, and 5v terminals you would expect from any benchtop PSU, complete with an LCD display showing the voltages provided by each rail as measured by an Arduino stationed inside the case. Additionally, he installed a variable terminal capable of providing 1.3v-30v, along with its own LCD display. The most unique feature is the multimeter embedded in the front of the case, which makes it virtually impossible to lose.

The case is finished off as you might expect, if you have seen any of his previous work. It features LED lighting on the inside, large fans on either side of the case for optimal air flow, and a pair of machined aluminum handles.

Be sure to check out the quick video below of the PSU being powered on.

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Hacking strippers to do your bidding

wire_strippers

[Alex] knows his strippers.

By his estimation, he has stripped millions of wires over the years, and he has seen his fair share of wire strippers come and go. That cheap set of wire strippers you have with the graduated holes, or that adjustable stripper you squeeze as you pull the wire through? They just stress the insulation as well as the wires you are trying to strip – he says you might as well just use them in your tackle box.

His favorite style of wire stripper is the automatic kind that grip the wire, then cut and remove the insulation just by squeezing the handles. His issue with this particular tool is that it’s difficult to get a uniform length of stripped wire when working in volume.

Since [Alex] needs uniformity in his line of work, he modified a set of automatic wire strippers to include an adjustable wire stop. He determines the length of wire he needs, adds or removes some washers from his wire stop, and off he goes. It’s a very simple yet very useful hack, depending on your application. We bet it is probably one of the most accurate ways to get uniform length, this side of a fully automatic wire stripper.

Easy to build rig prevents reflow soldering mishaps

reflow_soldering_rig

[Erich aka VK5HSE] performs quite a bit of solder reflow work, but has always been concerned about bumping his circuit boards once the solder has liquified and is ready to be removed from the heat source. He says that removing workpieces from toaster ovens often results in the unintentional jarring of a circuit board full of components sitting on molten solder, and he wanted to find a solution.

Using some off-the shelf components from a local hardware store, he built a rig that fits on top of a hot plate, allowing him to move hot circuit boards away from the heat source in a smooth controlled motion. The rig is pretty simple, not only preventing unwanted workpiece movement, but also making it easy to regulate the amount of time a circuit board is allowed to heat.

He suggests that his design is not absolutely ideal, and that it can easily be improved upon in several ways without adding significant cost to the project.

Shovel…guitar?

We didn’t believe this hack at all when we saw it, or rather heard it. Surly a guitar made out of a shovel couldn’t sound decent. But the video (after the jump, skip to 2:40 for the jam) to our untrained ears sounded pretty rad. Could be the supremely well done wood work, proper use of tools, high tech pickups, or maybe Russian magic, we don’t know.

In fact, if you continue the video it doesn’t stop there. The creators also made a 2 string bass and a few other instruments from shovels. Do I smell a new shovel hero?

Related: Guitars made out of things that should not be guitars.

[Thanks Paul]

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Bus Pirate preorder 2 update

bp-unbox-0

A few weeks ago we held a preorder for the Bus Pirate universal serial interface tool. We split the preorder into two parts due to a shortage of PIC 24FJ64GA002-I/SO chips. The first preorder is arriving worldwide now, the second preorder has a longer lead time. Here’s everything we currently know about preorder 2, it’s subject to change, but we wanted to keep you up to date.

Preorder 2 contains orders for 563 Bus Pirates. Seeed Studio noticed an error in our quality control testing routine that misclassified about 50 preorder 1 Bus Pirates as defective. We updated the test and passing units will ship immediately to preorder 2 participants on a first come, first serve basis. Another 500 PICs are scheduled to arrive after August 1, which should take care of most remaining orders.

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Tools: Proxxon drill press TBM115/TBM220

tbm220ii

A decent drill press is a crucial tool for an electronics lab. We use our drill press to make holes in our own circuit boards, and tap or break traces on existing circuit boards. We’ve used a lot of tools to drill circuit boards — power drills, power drills in “drill press stands”, and high-speed rotary tools — but when we started doing projects on a schedule, it was time for something more reliable.

We first spotted the Proxxon TBM115/TBM220 drill press in the window of a local shop.  Its tiny size and adjustable speed seemed ideal for drilling circuit boards. At $200, this is one of the pricier tools in our lab, but quality bearings and smooth drilling action aren’t cheap.  Read about our experience with this tool below the break.

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Tools: Smart Tweezers

st-v

We’re big fans of surface mount parts. SMD components are cheaper, take less board space, and don’t require drilling; all the coolest new parts are only available in SMD packages.

Smart Tweezers are an advanced multimeter tool specifically designed to test and troubleshoot SMD circuits. It automatically identifies resistors, capacitors, and inductors, and displays the relevant measurements. Advanced Devices sent us a pair of Smart Tweezers to review. We used them while building our last few SMD projects, read about our experience with this tool after the break.

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