How To Design A BGA Breakout Module

Surface mount devices can take some adjusting to for hackers primarily used to working with through-hole components. Despite this, the lure of the hottest new parts has enticed even the most reticent to learn to work with the technology. Of course, time rolls on and BGA parts bring further difficulties. [Nate] from SparkFun worked on the development of the RedBoard Artemis, and broke down the challenges involved.

The RedBoard Artemis is an Arduino-compatible devboard built around the Ambiq Apollo3 chip. In addition to packing Bluetooth and 1 MB of Flash, it’s also capable of running TensorFlow models and using tiny amounts of power. The chip comes in an 81-Ball Grid Array at 0.5mm pitch, which meant SparkFun’s usual PCB fabrication methods weren’t going to cut it.

An initial run of prototype boards was run using 4 layers, blind and buried vias, and other fancy tricks to break out all the necessary signals. While this worked well, it was expensive and inefficient. The only part of the board that needed such fabrication was around the chip itself; the rest of the board could be produced with cheaper 2-layer methods. To improve this for mass production, instead, an SMD module was created to house the Apollo3, which could then be dropped into new designs on cheaper boards as necessary.

[Nate] does a great job of explaining the engineering involved, as well as sharing useful tips for others going down a similar path. So far, this is just part 1, with future posts promising to cover the RF shield design and FCC certification process. [Nate] has always been keen to share his wisdom, and we can’t wait to see what comes next!

FieldKit Is The Grand Prize Winner Of The 2019 Hackaday Prize

FieldKit, an open-source, modular sensor system for conducting research in harsh environments has just been named the Grand Prize winner of the 2019 Hackaday Prize. The award for claiming the top place and title of “Best Product” in this nine-month global engineering initiative is $125,000. Five other top winners and five honorable mentions were also named during this evening’s Hackaday Prize Ceremony, held during the Hackaday Superconference in Pasadena, California.

This year’s Hackaday Prize focused on product development. From one good idea and a working prototype, entrants were encouraged to iterate on their UX, industrial design, ergonomics, software, and mechanical plans as they worked toward a product that is both manufacturable and meets the needs of the user it has been designed for. Out of twenty finalists, the top eleven are covered below. Over $200,000 in cash prizes have been distributed as part of this year’s initiative where thousands of hardware hackers, makers, and artists compete to build a better future. Continue reading “FieldKit Is The Grand Prize Winner Of The 2019 Hackaday Prize”

Behind The Scenes Of The 2019 Superconference Badge

If you count yourself among the several hundred of our closest friends that have joined us at Supplyframe HQ for the 2019 Hackaday Superconference, then by now you’ll have your hands on one of this year’s incredible FPGA badges. It should come as no surprise that an incredible amount of time and effort went into developing and manufacturing this exceptionally unique piece of hardware; the slick gadget in your hands today took nearly an entire year to develop, and work continued on it until very literally the last possible moment.

Badge designer Jeroen Domburg (aka Sprite_TM), Hackaday staff, and a team of dedicated volunteers were still putting the final touches on these ambitious devices less than 24 hours before they were distributed to the first wave of Superconference attendees. Naturally, that’s not exactly how things were supposed to go. But when you’ve got a group of people that want to push the envelope and build something truly incredible, convincing them to actually stop working can be a challenge in itself.

In fact, development of the badge is still ongoing. Fixes and improvements are being made to the software even as you read this, and if you haven’t already, you should upgrade your badge to make sure you’ve got the latest and greatest from our international team of wizards. We all know that conference badges have an unfortunate habit of languishing on the shelf and collecting dust, but the 2019 Superconference badge was built to challenge you for longer than just one weekend. Consider yourself warned: for every Supercon badge that gets tossed in a drawer come Monday, Sprite_TM will shed a single tear.

After the break, come along as we turn back the clock and take a look at the last minute dash to get 500+ badges programmed and ready to go before the doors opened for the 2019 Hackaday Superconference.

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Making Models With Lasers

Good design starts with a good idea, and being able to flesh that idea out with a model. In the electronics world, we would build a model on a breadboard before soldering everything together. In much the same way that the industrial designer [Eric Strebel] makes models of his creations before creating the final version. In his latest video, he demonstrates the use of a CO2 laser for model making.

While this video could be considered a primer for using a laser cutter, watching some of the fine detail work that [Eric] employs is interesting in the way that watching any master craftsman is. He builds several cubes out of various materials, demonstrating the operation of the laser cutter and showing how best to assemble the “models”. [Eric] starts with acrylic before moving to wood, cardboard, and finally his preferred material: foam core. The final model has beveled edges and an interior cylinder, demonstrating many “tricks of the trade” of model building.

Of course, you may wish to build models of more complex objects than cubes. If you have never had the opportunity to use a laser cutter, you will quickly realize how much simpler the design process is with high-quality tools like this one. It doesn’t hurt to have [Eric]’s experience and mastery of industrial design to help out, either.

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The Ultimate Hacker’s Compact 4WD!

If you’ve spent any time at one of the larger European hacker camps over the last few years you’ll have seen the invasion of little electric vehicles sporting hoverboard motors as an all-in-one propulsion system. German hackers, in particular, have incorporated them into the iconic Bobby Car children’s toy, and ca be seen whizzing around looking slightly incongruous as adults perched on transport designed for five-year-olds.

[Peter Pötzi] has created just such an electric Bobby Car, and his one is particularly well-executed with a 3D-printed steering column extender and four motors for full 4WD rather than the usual two. A steering wheel-mounted display has a neat enclosure, and is fed SPI from the ESP32 that runs the show via an RJ45 patch cable. Many of these builds use hoverboard motor controllers with hacked firmware, but this one instead takes a set of off-the-shelf VESCs. Control comes via a set of Xbox 360 trigger buttons mounted to the underside of the steering wheel.

The result is typically self-contained as are all the Bobby Car builds, with the added bonus of the extra power of four motors rather than two. We’re not so sure that 4WD gives it off-road capabilities though, but having seen these vehicles perform some nifty maneuvers in the past perhaps it’ll lend extra traction on corners.

2019 Superconference Is Streaming Live Right Now!

Perhaps Pasadena is a bit too far from home, or maybe you waited a few milliseconds longer than you should have and missed the tickets when they went on sale. Whatever the reason, the fact is that the vast majority of Hackaday readers won’t be able to join us at the 2019 Superconference. But thanks to the magic of the Internet, you’ll still be able to see the incredible talks we’ve got lined up.

Starting at 10 AM Pacific on both Saturday and Sunday, the live stream will allow you to virtually attend the ultimate hardware conference in glorious high definition. Many of the talks this year have a specific focus on FPGAs (and we’ve got an incredible badge to match), but you’ll also see presentations on subjects such as hacking quantum key distribution systems, the creation of free-form circuit sculptures, debugging PCBs with augmented reality, and using Peltier coolers for fermentation. Saturday evening we’ll reveal the winner of the Hackaday Prize live on stage, and come Sunday you can unwind with a look at the best and brightest badge hacks from the weekend.

We won’t lie to you, there’s more going on at Supercon than we can possibly fit into a live video stream. At an event where nearly every flat surface will be playing host to somebody fiddling with a piece of interesting hardware, there’s only so much you can do vicariously. If anyone knows how you can take part in the SMD Soldering Challenge over the Internet, we’re all ears. Whether you’ll be with us in corporeal form or otherwise, don’t forget to join the official 2019 Hackaday Superconference Chat and use the #supercon hashtag on your social media time sink of choice.

The Book Of Dreams Brings Back All Your Memories

The retro-facing side of British social media has been abuzz for the last few days with a very neat piece of marketing form the catalogue retailer Argos: they’ve digitised all their catalogues since 1975 and put them online. While this contains a cross-section of over four decades’ styles, fads, and ephemera, it also gives the browser a fascinating look at a host of retrotechnology from a contemporary viewpoint rather than through the rose-tinted glasses of 2019. It may not be a hack, but we guarantee you’ll spend a while browsing it!

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