Wiring is one of those things that we’ve all had to do on a project, but probably didn’t give a lot of thought to. It’s often the last thing that happens during the build, and almost certainly doesn’t get approached with any kind of foresight. You look at the components you need to connect, dig through the parts bins until you find something that looks like it should fit, and tack it in with a blob of solder and perhaps some hot glue if you’re feeling really fancy. We’re all guilty of it from time to time, but Bradley Gawthrop is here to tell you there’s a better way.
If you’re hoping his talk from the 2017 Hackaday Superconference contains “One crazy trick” for turning your normal rat’s nest of wiring into a harness worthy of the Space Shuttle, sorry to disappoint. Bradley acknowledges it takes some extra planning and a couple specialized tools, but the end results speak for themselves. While his talk is a must-watch for anyone looking to master the arcane arts of electron corralling, his post-talk chat with Elliot Williams after the break is a great primer for the how and why of everyone’s least favorite part of building their own hardware.
Bradley will be at Supercon again this year. It’s one anecdote for the concentration of awesome people you find at the event. We’re now just two seeks away so go get your ticket and then join us after the break for the interview.
Bradley knows most of us don’t share his love for wiring harness, and that’s OK. He doesn’t knock anyone who’s still in the breadboard phase of their electronics careers, after all, we all started there. But he does think that wiring has gotten a bad rap. There’s a feeling out there that it’s too hard, or not worth the effort, and that’s the key thing he’s trying to address with his presentation.
How many times have you purchased pre-made wires and cables and tried to shoehorn them into your project? Or cut one end off of a cable so you could strip it and solder the individual conductors to a PCB? Bradley has seen it all, and he says more often than not it leads to difficult to diagnose gremlins. You end up spending time and effort trying to track down a bug in your device, only to find out it’s a cold joint in a cable you tried to splice in a hurry.
He should know: he spent a decade wiring electronic organs which are controlled with a dizzying array of solenoids. When a sizable chunk of your professional life is devoted to putting together thousands of made-to-order wires and harnesses, you can’t help but pick up some tricks; not to mention develop a keen eye for identifying potential points of failure.
So what’s Bradley learned? He says that standards like solder and screw-down terminals work well enough in the short term but will always lead to heartache. Solder is brittle, and the ever popular screw terminal eats wire ends for breakfast. But on the flip side, he says you don’t have to go and buy the most expensive crimper out there just to get decent results. He says he’s done thousands of crimps with the sort of consumer-grade gear you can get on Adafruit; there’s no need for NASA-spec tools just to put together your next DIY project.
This is just a taste of the sort of real-world wisdom on display at the Hackaday Superconference every year, so get your tickets for this year’s rapidly approaching Superconference before time runs out.