Ask Hackaday: Helping Hands

[ProtoG] sent us in this video (also below) where he demonstrates the use of machinist’s dial-gauge indicator arms as helping hands. I’ll admit that I got so jealous that I ordered a pair. I wouldn’t say that I need more tools to hold things in place, but I certainly want them. The rapid coarse placement combined with fine adjustment looks so sweet. Using them as scope-probe holders is brilliant.

Our own helping hands, purchased for $5 from a surplus shop, have seen nearly twenty years of use now. About ten years ago, I heat-shrinked and plasti-dipped the jaws, and since then they do less damage to cable insulation. The clips kept coming loose, but that was fixed with a little epoxy. I never used the magnifying glass, and by removing it I bought some more sliding room for the jaws, which was an easy win. The base has a “non-slip” coating of Shoe-Goo that keeps it in place on the desk. Cork might be classier.

For bigger holding, there’s always the desk vise, though I’ll admit that I mostly use it for holding PCBs while soldering, and that a better solution for that particular task wouldn’t hurt. [Mike Szczys] tells me that the Stickvise seen here is a handy thing to have on the bench. It started on and we still carry it in the store.

For grabbing the fiddly little things, nothing beats a pair of hemostats and a range of tweezers. Hemostats in the desk vise make a great ad hoc holder. Good sharp tweezers pay for themselves with the first removed splinter, or placing SMT parts.

So, Hackaday, what do you use for holding things? What do you hold your PCBs with while soldering? What do you use to hold down SMD parts? What’s your third hand, or twenty-third? Continue reading “Ask Hackaday: Helping Hands”

[Dave’s] Not Just a Member of the Air Club for Tweezers

We are always surprised how much useful hacking gear is in the typical craft store. You just have to think outside the box. Need a hot air gun? Think embossing tool. A soldering iron? Check the stained glass section. Magnification gear? Sewing department.

We’ve figured out that people who deal with beads use lots of fine tools and have great storage boxes. But [Dave] found out they also use vacuum pickup tweezers. He had been shopping for a set and found that one with all the features he wanted (foot pedal, adjustable air flow, and standard tips) would run about $1000.

By picking up a pump used for bead makers and adding some components, he put together a good-looking system for about $200. You can see a video of the device, below, and there are several other videos detailing the construction.

Continue reading “[Dave’s] Not Just a Member of the Air Club for Tweezers”

Magical Blinky Capacitive Sensing Tweezers

Electronic tweezers – the kind that can test the voltage between two contacts, the resistance of an SMD resistor, or the capacitance of a circuit – are very cool and very useful if somewhat expensive. We’ve seen commercial versions of these smart tweezers, hacks to make them more useful, and homebrew versions that still work very well. All of these versions are pretty large, as far as tweezers go. [kodera2t]’s version of electronic tweezers submitted for this year’s Hackaday Prize goes in the other direction: it’s the smallest set of electronic tweezers that’s still useful.

[kodera]’s electronic sensing tweezers only measure capacitors, and for good reason: chip caps usually don’t have values printed on them. These tweezers don’t print out the value of a cap on a display, either. Instead, these tweezers just flash an LED if the value of the cap is above 0.1uF. It’s simple, but surprisingly useful for most soldering jobs.

The circuit for this pair of magical tweezers is about as simple as if can get, with all the smarts contained in a very small ATtiny10. The PCB [kodera] designed is smaller than the coin cell battery, and with the help of some copper tape and possibly an insulator, this device can be mounted to any pair of tweezers. It’s a simple tool, yes, but that’s the beauty of it, and makes for a great entry into the Hackaday Prize

Continue reading “Magical Blinky Capacitive Sensing Tweezers”

Hackaday Links: Sunday, June 30th, 2013


The race is on to squeeze cycles out of an 8MHz AVR chip in order to better drive the WS2811 LED protocol.

[Asher] doesn’t want to buy charcoal aquarium filters if he can just build them himself. He filled a couple of plastic drink bottles with charcoal, cut slots in the sides, and hooked them up to his pump system. A gallery of his work is available after the break.

Is the best way to make microscopic sized batteries to 3d print them? Harvard researchers think so. [Thanks Jonathan and Itay]

The Ouya gaming console is now available for the general public. [Hunter Davis] reports that the Retrode works with Ouya out-of-the-box. If you don’t remember hearing about it, Retrode reads your original cartridge ROMs for use with emulators.

Making a cluster computer out of 300 Raspberry Pi boards sounds like a nightmare. Organization is the key to this project.

Hackaday alum [Jeremy Cook] is working on an animatronic cigar box. Here he’s demonstrating it’s ability to listen for voice commands.

A Kelvin clips is a type of crocodile clip that has the two jaws insulated from each other. [Kaushlesh] came up with a way to turn them into tweezer probes.

Continue reading “Hackaday Links: Sunday, June 30th, 2013”

DIY smart tweezers make SMD work a cinch


[Noel] does a lot of SMD work and wanted a pair of “smart” tweezers that could be used to place components as well as for reading their capacitance and resistance values on the fly. As we have seen, these things can be somewhat costly, and not really necessary if you already have a good multimeter. With that in mind, he figured he could build his own for almost nothing.

He started off with a pair of kids’ “training” chopsticks which are durable, but more importantly, non-conductive. He took a second pair of tweezers, this time made of metal, and split them in two. He soldered wire to a set of ring terminals, mounting one on each leg of his broken tweezers. The final bit of assembly involved using zipties to mount everything on the plastic chopsticks along with the addition of banana plugs to the end of his probes.

[Noel] says that the tweezers work quite well, and with such a low price tag, we can’t argue.

A pick and place machine for under $1k

Pick and place machines are marvels of modern technology. They the can lift, orient, align and drop tiny electronic components onto a circuit board that is headed for the reflow oven. On an industrial scale they move so fast it’s a blur in front of your eyes, and they use imaging to ensure proper placement. But that kind of specialized equipment is going to cost a real bundle of money. [Bootstrap] is working on a design that will still be feature-rich, but will allow you to purchase your own pick-and-place machine for under $1000.

The design calls for a two-headed beast. One head is a vacuum tweezers which is capable of moving the parts. The other is a digital microscope that is used for precise positioning. The two heads pivot in and out of place, but it’s the table which holds the PCB that is responsible for positioning the parts. Although there’s nothing built yet, the depth of information that [Bootstrap] published in his post is impressive. He’d like your help making sure there’s no errors in the design before he builds the first three prototypes. If you’re a Solidworks guru he’ll even send you the files upon request.

We’ve seen a couple of different pick and place machines lately so take another look if you missed them the first time.

[via Adafruit]

Open source pick-and-place

This is a vacuum tweezers head for an open source pick-and-place. Those are the machines that professional printed circuit board manufacturers use to populate a circuit board with components before heading to the reflow oven. [Drmn4ea] built it with at-home rapid manufacturing in mind. The black orb on the left is a webcam for optical placement. The needle in the middle is an interchangeable vacuum-tool head. The motor on the right allows for different attachments to be swapped in automatically to suit a variety of parts.

This interfaces with a 3-axis CNC machine and should be easily compatible with a RepRap, Makerbot, or similar device. We wonder how he plans to handle reels of components, but this is a well-executed first step in the journey to a complete solution.

Want to see a professional pick-and-place at work? Check out one of SparkFun’s machines busy build a board after the break.

Continue reading “Open source pick-and-place”