A Steady Hand Makes This Chip Work Again

What do you do when you’re working with some vintage ICs and one of the tiny legs pops off? That’s what happened to [Kotomi] when working with an old Super Nintendo. A single lead for the sound chip just snapped off, leaving [Kotomi] one pin short of a working system (the Google Translatrix). This is something that can be fixed, provided you have a steady hand and a rotary tool that’s spinning at thousands of RPM.

Fixing this problem relies on a little bit of knowledge of how integrated circuits are built. There’s a small square of silicon in there, but this tiny die is bonded to a metal leadframe, which looks like the ribcage of a robotic centipede. This leadframe is covered in epoxy, the pins are bent down, and you have an IC. Removing just a tiny bit of epoxy grants access to the leadframe which you can then solder to. Don’t breathe the repair, it’s not pretty, but it does work.

While this technique makes use of a Dremel to break into the chewy nougat center of a vintage chip, and in some ways this could be called decapsulation, it really isn’t. We’ve seen people drop acid to get to the center of a chip and a really hot torch will get to the middle of a ceramic chip, but this technique is just accessing the lead frame of the IC. All ICs have a stamped (or photoetched) metal frame to which the silicone die is bonded. Running a Dremel against some epoxy doesn’t access the silicon, but it does grant access to the signals coming off the chip.

Make Your Own Quantum Dots

Quantum dots certainly sound as if they should be something cool, but carry the hazardous baggage of being sometimes made from cadmium which can be dangerous. What are they? In essence, they are nanometer-scale particles, so small that when high energy light hits them, the photons will be absorbed and re-emitted at a lower energy state. You can easily make non-toxic quantum dots in your kitchen. Apart from the cool factor, they can be used as fluorescent dyes, inks, and possibly paints. [StrangelyAmusing] explains how in the video below.

You don’t need much in the way of equipment. A microwave oven, a Pyrex (borosilicate) container, and gloves. You’ll also need plastic pipettes and a blacklight — possibly the most exotic two items on the list. The ingredients are equally mundane: vinegar, baking soda, water, and sugar.

Continue reading “Make Your Own Quantum Dots”

Volkswagen Tools Turned To The Space Age

The Volkswagen Beetle, and yes the bus and the sexiest car ever made, are cars meant for the people. You can pull the engine out with a strong friend, and you can fix anything in an old Volkswagen. VW realized this, because in the 1950s and ’60s, they came up with plans for tools designed to tear apart an old VW, and these tools were meant to be manufactured in a local shop. That really turns that right to repair on its head, doesn’t it?

While working on his van, [Justin Miller] came across a reference to one of these tools meant to be made at home. The VW 681 is a seal puller, designed to be manufactured out of bar stock. It’s an old design, but now we have interesting tools like 3D printers and parametric CAD programs. Instead of making one of these DIY seal pullers with a grinder, [Justin] brought this tool from the space age into the modern age. He took the design, modelled it in OpenSCAD, and printed it out.

The VW reference book that lists this tool is Workshop Equipment for Local Manufacture, and for this seal puller, it gives perfectly dimensioned drawings  that are easily modelled with a few lines of code. The only real trouble is filing down the pointy bit of the puller, but a bit of boolean operations fixed that problem. After 15 minutes of printing and a few hours finding the right documentation and writing fifteen lines of code, [justin] had a plastic VW 681 in his hands. Yes, it was probably a waste of time as a regular seal puller could have done the job, but it’s an excellent example of what can happen when manufacturers support their local repairman.

Old Wireless Switches Join The Internet of Things

Just about any appliance comes in an internet enabled version nowadays. However, even the oldest gear can be switched on and off with an Internet connected power socket. [Bill] is in the process of automating his home, and found some old radio controlled power sockets that badly needed to join the 21st Century. Hacking ensued.

The first set of switches [Bill] came across were easy to work with. Eager to keep things as functional as possible, ESP8266s with Tasmota firmware were wedged into the enclosures. With a bit of circuit sleuthing, [Bill] was able to set up the switches to respond to commands from both the ESP8266 as well as the original push buttons and radio remote.

[Bill] later came across some black switches, which were not up to his standards. These switches were gutted entirely, being used only for their mains plug and enclosure. The relays inside were replaced with 5V versions which were easier to trigger from the ESP8266’s outputs.

[Bill[ readily admits that the cost benefits over buying off-the-shelf Sonoff modules don’t really add up, but good hackers rarely let such concerns get in the way of a fun project. Around these parts, we see plenty of hacks to automate your house – like this zero-intrusion light switch mod. Happy hacking!

Hacker Abroad: Massive Conference Brings Big News of Hackaday Prize China

My first full day in China was spent at Electronica, an absolutely massive conference showcasing companies involved in electronics manufacturing and distribution. It’s difficult to comprehend how large this event is, filling multiple halls at the New International Expo Center in Shanghai.

I’ve seen the equipment used for PCB assembly many times before. But at this show you get to see another level below that, machines that build components and other items needed to build products quickly and with great automation. There was also big news today as the 2019 Hackaday Prize China was launched. Join me after the break for a look at this equipment, and more about this new development for the Hackaday Prize.

Continue reading “Hacker Abroad: Massive Conference Brings Big News of Hackaday Prize China”

First WOPR Summit Finds the Winning Move

At the climax of 1983’s “WarGames”, the War Operation Plan Response (WOPR) computer famously opines “The only winning move is not to play” when presented with a barrage of no-win scenarios depicting global thermonuclear war. While the stakes aren’t quite as high when it comes to putting on a brand new hacker convention, there’s certainly enough pitfalls that most of us would take WOPR’s advice and never even try. But for those who attended the inaugural WOPR Summit in Atlantic City, it was clear that not only did the team behind it have the tenacity to play the game, but that they managed to prove their supercomputer namesake wrong.

That’s not to say there isn’t room for improvement going forward, but it was hard not to be impressed by such a strong initial showing. The WOPR Summit organizers not only had to contend with the myriad of things that could go wrong, but they had to deal with what actually did go wrong; such as a sizable storm hitting the New Jersey coast just as the event got rolling. Yet from the attendees perspective the weekend-long event went off without a hitch, and everyone I spoke to was excited for what the future holds for this brand-new East Coast event.

It’s never easy to capture 20+ hours worth of talks, workshops, and hands-on projects into a few articles, but we do our best for the good readers of Hackaday. Below you’ll find just a few of the highlights from the first-ever WOPR Summit, but it’s nothing quite like attending one of these events in person. This far out we don’t know when and where the next WOPR Summit will take place, but you can be sure that Hackaday will be there; and so should you.

Continue reading “First WOPR Summit Finds the Winning Move”

3D Printing a Combination Lock

Combination locks! They’re great if you’re skilled at remembering arbitrary strings of numbers, and have a dramatic flair that’s made them a famous part of many a heist movie. They come in a wide variety of styles, and are vulnerable to a different set of attacks than the more typical pin-tumbler locks used on a household basis. If you fancy tinkering with a combination lock, why not 3D print one yourself?

It goes without saying that any lock you 3D print is going to have issues with strength. Such a lock should not be used to protect anything of real value, but it could be handy to prevent the kids getting at the Halloween candy you’re saving for October.

Regardless, 3D printing and assembling your own combination lock is a great way to learn about how they work. It’s a fun project that is also much easier than sourcing and disassembling the real thing. For a greater understanding of the underlying mechanism, this video should make the basic operation clear.

That’s not all 3D printing can offer to the locksport community, of course. You can always print your own keys, too. Video after the break. Continue reading “3D Printing a Combination Lock”