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 This means there are plenty of used, abused, and outdated photocopiers available to hackers.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!

14 thoughts on “Hacklet 44 – Teardowns

  1. “Modern X-ray machines are generally radiation safe if they’re not powered up.”

    They always have been safe when not powered. X-Ray are produce when high speed electrons hit a metalic surface. In the photo above the X-RAY are produced inside the horizontal glass tube at the top. The electron gun is at left and the target is the slanted end of the metallic cylinder at right.

    Did you know that CRT tubes with anode voltage above 25KV produce X-RAY when the electrons hit the metallic mask at front. The glass faceplate 1 inch thicks an contain lead to block those X-RAY.

    I worked many years repairing X-RAY machines.

    1. X-Rays can never convert any atoms inside the machines into unstable radioactive elements ? I suppose, thinking about it a bit more it would require a neutron source for actual Nuclear transmutation to occur.

        1. Gamma photons are technically capable of causing photo transmutation, but it is a not a practical concern. There is some literature reporting on laser compton scattering gamma rays to transmute radioactive fission products with long half-lives to other radionuclides with shorter half-lives, but I haven’t seen any reports converting stable nuclei to radioactive ones. Neutrons are used for transmutation. It’s called neutron activation. Photons in the form of xrays and gamma rays ionize atoms, i.e strip electrons to make them chemically active, which is why they are biologically dangerous.

      1. This – I hesitate to say “every” machine is safe, because there are industrial / oil field machines out there, and older medical machines that do use sources rather than a tube. That would be a nasty surprise during a teardown.

        1. I heard several times about cases in places like mexico where thieves disassembled and stole such things, and then paid with their life, while the authorities try to desperately find them and secure the stuff, even though nothing can be done for the thieves of course, they are doomed.

  2. You just don’t see Archimedes’ screw’s very often anymore. About the only time I’ve encountered one besides copiers has been a grain silo. Some automatic fish feeders use them too.

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