The Electrostatic Theory of Metal Whiskers

wiskersThanks to that wonderful ROHS stuff the EU passed more than a decade ago, we should be seeing a few high-profile failures of electronic components due to tin whiskers. These tiny hair-like extrusions of metal found most commonly in lead-free solder have destroyed billion dollar satellites and shut down nuclear reactors, despite no one knowing exactly how these whiskers form. Now there’s a new theory of metal whisker formation (abstract, unless you have access to APS) that actually has predictive power. Here’s the free version of the paper

[V. G. Karpov] from the University of Toledo suggest these whiskers are formed by differences in charge induced by metallurgical anomalies – contamination, differences in the grain of the solder, and oxides. Because of the difference in charge, the whiskers are extruded, for lack of a better word, out from the surface of the solder.

The theory of whisker growth is generally consistent with observed rates of whisker growth and other properties. With this theory, it should even be possible to grow tin whiskers. Why anyone would want to do that other than, ‘because it’s cool’ is anyone’s guess, but there you go.

Running Minecraft On Two Routers

router

[CNLohr] is no stranger to running Minecraft on some weird hardware. Earlier, he built this Linux powered microscope slide… thing to toggle LEDs with redstone levers in Minecraft. Figuring if Minecraft could run on an AVR, he decided to try the same thing on a router, a TP-LINK TL-WR841N to be specific. Like the microscope slide running Linux, this proved to be an easy task. [CNLohr] had another router he could run Minecraft on, and this one could also punch wood. There really was only one thing for him to do.

Like the microscope slide and the wireless router, [CNLohr]’s CNC router is now running a Minecraft server. The phrase, “because it’s there” comes to mind. When connected to the CNC server, the player controls a snow golem (a snowman with a jack ‘o lantern head) with a carrot. Wherever the snow golem goes, the tool head follows, allowing him to carve objects in the world, and on a sheet of MDF secured in the CNC machine.

It’s certainly an odd build, but [CNLohr] was able to carve out a pixeley, blocky Hackaday logo with the snow golem controlled CNC machine. Code here, video below.

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