3D Printable Scope Probe Adapts To Your Needs

If there’s one this we electronics engineers are precious about, it’s our test gear. The instruments themselves can be obscenely expensive, since all that R&D effort needs to be paid back over a much smaller user base compared to say a DVD player. The test probes themselves can often come with an eye-watering price tag as well. Take the oscilloscope probe, pretty much everyone who tinkers with hardware will be familiar with. It’s great for poking around, looking desperately for inspiration when you’re getting stuck in with some debug, but you’ve only got two hands, and that doesn’t leave any spare for button pushing.

Hands-free probing solutions exist, but they can be pricey, flimsy or just a pain to use. Sometimes you just want to solder a wire and leave the probe attached, hoping the grounding lead doesn’t fall off and short something. We’ve seen many solutions to this, so here’s yet another one you can 3D print yourself, so it’s almost free to make.

The two-part 3D printed assembly embeds a pair of wires with a Molex 0008500113 sprung terminal on one end, which can be terminated with your choice of pins, headers or just a pair of plain ‘ol wires. Once you’ve dropped your wiring of choice inside, simply glue the halves with a little cyanoacrylate and you’re good to go. Designed around the Siglent 200MHz PP215 specifically, it is likely compatible with many other brands. Thingiverse only has STL files (sigh!) so it may be tricky to adapt it to your exact probe dimensions, but the idea is good at least.

There is no shortage of electronics probing solutions out there, and boy have we covered a few over the years, here’s a low-cost current probe, an Open Source 2 GHz scope probe, and if you want to get really hacky, look no further for inspiration than the 2019 Hackaday SuperCon SMD Challenge.

Thanks [daniel] for the tip!

A 1971 Thermos compliments this mid-century corner of my office.

The Incredible Tech Of The Vacuum-Seal Flask

I recently started using a 50-year-old vacuum-seal flask that belonged to my Grandpa so that I don’t have to leave the dungeon as often to procure more caffeine. Besides looking totally awesome on my side desk, this thing still works like new, at least as far as I can tell — it’s older than I am.

Sir James Dewar's original vacuum-seal flask.
Sir James Dewar’s original vacuum-seal flask. Image via the Royal Institute

Of course this got me to wondering how exactly vacuum-seal flasks, better known in household circles as Thermoses work, and how they were invented. The vacuum-seal flask is surprisingly old technology. It was first invented by Scottish chemist Sir James Dewar and presented to the Royal Institute in 1892. Six years later, he would be the first person to liquefy hydrogen and is considered a founding father of cryogenics. Continue reading “The Incredible Tech Of The Vacuum-Seal Flask”

Build A Moon Phase Clock That Looks Like The Real Thing

The moon is a beautiful thing that has captivated humanity for centuries, particularly before the advent of television and the Internet when there was nothing else to watch. [JCM_MatSci] developed a clock which tracks the phases of the moon, so you can keep an eye on the state of Earth’s satellite without even having to turn your gaze to a window.

The clock relies on a simplified model of the lunar phases, based around the synodic month which averages 29.530588 days. For non-astronomical purposes, it’s pretty much close enough. The clock uses a high-torque off-the-shelf quartz movement in order to move a 3D-printed geartrain and attached moon assembly. The gears step down the output from the clock to turn the ersatz Moon to display the appropriate phase.

It’s a neat gift for Moon buffs out there, and we’re sure there are still a few even if nobody’s been since 1972. We guess it’s kind of like one of those national parks that everyone loves from their childhood but never visits anymore.

If you have visited the moon recently, however, be sure to drop us a line. We (and a few other million people) have some questions for you.

British Licence Plate Camera Fooled By Clothing

It’s a story that has caused consternation and mirth in equal measure amongst Brits, that the owners of a car in Surrey received a fine for driving in a bus lane miles away in Bath, when in fact the camera had been confused by the text on a sweater worn by a pedestrian. It seems the word “knitter” had been interpreted by the reader as “KN19 TER”, which as Brits will tell you follows the standard format for modern UK licence plate.

It gives us all a chance to have a good old laugh at the expense of the UK traffic authorities, but it raises some worthwhile points about the fallacy of relying on automatic cameras to dish out fines without human intervention. Except for the very oldest of cars, the British number plate follows an extremely distinctive high-contrast format of large black letters on a reflective white or yellow background, and since 2001 they have all had to use the same slightly authoritarian-named MANDATORY typeface. They are hardly the most challenging prospect for a number plate recognition system, but even when it makes mistakes the fact that ambiguous results aren’t subjected to a human checking stage before a fine is sent out seems rather chilling.

It also raise the prospect of yet more number-plate-related mischief, aside from SQL injection jokes and adversarial fashion, we can only imagine the havoc that could be caused were a protest group to launch a denial of service attack with activists sporting fake MANDATORY licence plates.

Header image, based on the work of ZElsb, CC BY-SA 4.0.