Hacklet 44 – Teardowns

Just about every hacker, maker and tinkerer out there received their early education the same way: A screwdriver in one and a discarded bit of electronics in the other. There is no better way to find out how something works than cracking it open and examining each piece.  In recent years, teardown videos have become popular on YouTube, with some of the great examples coming from users like [EEVblog], [mikeselectricstuff], and [The Geek Group]. This week’s Hacklet is all about the best teardown projects on Hackaday.io!

copierWe start with [zakqwy] and his Savin C2020 Teardown. Photocopiers (and multifunction machines) are the workhorses of the modern office. This means there are plenty of used, abused, and outdated photocopiers available to hackers. [Zakqwy] got this monster when it started misbehaving at his office. Copiers are a venerable cornucopia of motors, gears, sensors (lots and lots of breakbeam sensors) and optics. The downside is toner: it’s messy, really bad to breathe, and if you don’t wear gloves it gets down into the pores of your skin, which takes forever to get out. [Zakqwy] persevered and found some awesome parts in his copier – like an  Archimedes’ screw used to transport black toner.

wemoNext up is [Bob Blake] with Belkin WeMo Insight Teardown. [Bob] wanted a WiFi outlet, but wasn’t about to plug something in to both his power grid and his network without taking it apart first. [Bob] did an awesome job of documenting his teardown with lots of great high resolution photos – we love this stuff! He found a rather well thought out hardware design. The Insight has 3 interconnected PCBs inside. The power switching and supply circuits are all on one board. It includes slots and the proper creep distances one would expect in a design that will be carrying 120V AC mains power. A small daughter board holds an unknown chip – [Bob] is guessing it is the power sensing circuitry. A third board a tucked in at the top of the module holds the main CPU, a Ralink/MediaTek RT5350F SoC, RAM, and the all important WiFi antenna.

 

x-ray[Drhatch] took things into the danger zone with an X-ray Head Teardown. We’re not sure if [Drhatch] is a real doctor, but he does have a Heliodent MD dental X-ray head. Modern X-ray machines are generally radiation safe if they’re not powered up. Radiation isn’t the only dangers to worry about though – there are latent charged capacitors and cooling oils which may contain nasty chemicals like PCBs, among other things. [Drhatch] found some pretty interesting design decisions in his X-ray head. The tube actually fires through the cylindrical high voltage transformer. This means the transformer acts as a beam collimator, focusing the X-ray beam down like a lens. He also found plenty of lead shielding. Interestingly there are two thickness of lead in the housing. Shielding close to the tube is 1 mm thick, while shielding a bit further away is only 0.7 mm thick.

 

3phaseFinally, we have [danielmiester] with Inside a 3ph AC Motor Controller(VFD). [Daniel] tore down a Hitachi Variable-Frequency Drive (VFD) with the hopes of creating a frequency converter for a project. These high voltage, high power devices have quite a bit going on inside, so the conversion became a teardown project all its own. VFDs such as this one are used in industry to drive high power AC motors at varying speeds efficiently. As [Daniel] says, the cheaper ones are ” just really fancy PWM modules”. Handling 1.5 kW is no joke though. This VFD had a large brick of power transistors potted into its heat sink. The controller board was directly soldered to the transistors, as well as the rectifier diodes for the DC power supply. [Daniel] was doing some testing with the unit powered up, so he built a custom capacitor discharge unit from 3 C7 Christmas lights. Not only did they keep the capacitors discharged, they provided an indication that the unit was safe. No light means no charge.

Not satisfied? Want more teardown goodness? Check out our freshly minted Teardown List!

That’s about all the time we have for this week’s Hacklet. As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!

Building a miniature x-ray tube

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We’ve seen homemade x-ray devices and we’ve seen people making vacuum tubes at home. We’ve never seen anyone make their own x-ray tube, though, and it’s doubtful we’ll ever see the skill and craftsmanship that went into this build again.

An x-ray tube is a simple device; a cathode emits electrons that strike a tungsten anode that emits x-rays. Most x-ray tubes, though, are relatively large with low-power mammography tubes being a few inches in diameter and about 6 inches long. In his amazing 45-minute-long video, [glasslinger] shows us how to make a miniature vacuum tube, a half-inch in diameter and only about four inches long.

For those of you who love glass lathes, tiny handheld spot welders and induction heaters, but don’t want your workshop bathed in x-rays, [glasslinger] has also built a  few other vacuum tubes, including a winking cat Nixie tube. This alternate cat’s eye tube was actually sealed with JB Weld, an interesting technique if you’d ever like to make a real home made tube amp.

Airport X-ray machine teardown

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Who has an airport carry-on X-ray machine sitting in their garage? Apparently [Mike] does, and he’s sharing the fun by posting a video teardown series that really digs into the machine’s hardware and operating system.

At this point the series includes six lengthy segments. The first episode, which you’ll find embedded after the break, starts with an external overview of the hardware. [Mike] mentions that it’s not functional at that point. He guesses that this has to do either with security settings to enable the machine (it does produce x-ray after all) or corrupt memory in an EPROM chip. The password lockout is later confirmed when he looks at a code disassembly and finds strings requesting username and password to gain access to some of the menus. The second installment involves more disassembly to figure out the passwords and gain full access to the machine. By the fourth video he’s X-raying random items from around the shop and then some.

It’s a lot to watch, but it’s exciting to see how far he gets with the rare equipment.

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In-depth look at an LVCD board from a Saturn V rocket

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Join [Fran] as she dons the hat of an electronics archaeologist when looking at this vintage circuit board from the space race. As part of her personal collection she somehow acquired a Launch Vehicle Digital Computer board for a Saturn V rocket. This particular unit was never used. But it would have been had the Apollo program continued.

[Fran] is enamored with this particular board because she believes it is the forerunner of modern digital circuit design and layout. Since routing circuit boards is part of what she does for a living you can see why this is important to her. Also, who isn’t excited by actual hardware from the space program? We’ve embedded two of her videos after the break. In the first she shows off the component to the camera and speaks briefly about it. But the second video has her heading to the dentist’s office for X-rays. The image above is a rotating X-ray machine, but it looks like the best imagery comes when a handheld gun is used. They get some great images of the traces, as well as the TTL components on the board itself.

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[Ben Krasnow] builds a CT Scanner

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After building a homebrew x-ray backscatter imager, [Ben Krasnow] realized he had nearly all the components to build his own CT scanner, able to make a 3D model of the inside of a frozen chicken.

Basically, a CT scanner takes dozens of x-rays of an object and reassembles them with the help of fancy algorithms to allow doctors to peer inside a human body. The CT scanners you’ll find at your local hospital are monstrous devices, rotating an x-ray tube and sensor around a patient with the help of some very heavy duty electromechanical engineering. [Ben] wanted to keep his build rather small, so instead of rotating the x-ray tube and screen around an object, he simply made a stepper motor-driven lazy suzan to rotate his frozen bird.

[Ben] set a digital camera off to the side of his build and captured 45 images of a rotating chicken. After correcting for the perspective distortion, the images were thrown into 3D Slicer to create a true 3D representation of a x-rayed chicken.

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DIY TSA Backscatter Body Scanner

[Ben Krasnow] built his own version of the TSA’s body scanner. The device works by firing a beam of x-rays at at target. Some of the beam will go through the target, some will be absorbed by the target, and some will reflect back. These reflected x-rays are called ‘backscatter‘, and they are captured to create an image.

In [Ben]’s setup a rotating disk focuses x-rays into beams that travel in arcs across the X-axis. The disk is moved along the Y-axis to fill in the scan. On the disk assembly, there is a potentometer to measure the y-axis position of the beam, and an optical sensor to trigger an oscilloscope, aligning the left and right sides of the image. Using these two sensors, the scope can reconstruct an X-Y plot of the scan.

To detect the x-rays, a phosphorous screen turns the backscattered x-rays into visible light, and a photo-multiplier amplifies the light source. A simple amplifier circuit connects the photo-multiplier to a scope, controlling the brightness at each point.

The result is very similar to the TSA version, and [Ben] managed to learn a lot about the system from a patent. This isn’t the first body scanner we’ve seen though: [Jeri Ellsworth] built a microwave version a couple years ago.

The impressive build does a great job of teaching the fundamentals of backscatter imaging. [Ben] will be talking about the project at EHSM, which you should check out if you’re in Berlin from December 28th to the 30th. After the break, watch [Ben]’s machine scan a turkey in a Christmas sweater.

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Large area x-ray detector

This is an x-ray detector built by [Ben Krasnow]. It’s an interesting combination of parts working with an oscilloscope. The result is an audible clicking much the same as you would hear from a Geiger counter

He’s measuring backscatter, which is the reflection of x-rays on other objects. Because the signal will be quite weak compared to waves emitted directly from an x-ray source he needed a large collector to measure them. He started by gutting an x-ray image intensifying cassette. This has a phosphor layer that glows when excited by x-rays. The idea is that the glowing phosphors do a better job of exposing film than direct x-rays can. But [Ben’s] not using film. He built that pyramid-shaped collector with the phosphor material as the base. At the apex of the pyramid he mounted a photomultiplier tube (repurposed from his scanning electron microscope) which can detect the excited points on its surface. His oscilloscope monitors the PMT, then issues a voltage spike on the calibration connector which is being fed to an audio amplifier. Don’t miss his presentation embedded after the break.

[Ben] mentions that this build is in preparation for a future project. We’d love to hear what you think he’s working on. Leave your guess in the comments section.

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