When we first heard about this, courtesy in part via a Hackaday post on MRI-killed iPhones, we couldn’t imagine how poisoning a micro-electromechanical system (MEMS) part could kill a phone. We’d always associated MEMS with accelerometers and gyros, important sensors in the smartphone suite, but hardly essential. It turns out there’s another MEMS component in many Apple products: an SiT 1532 oscillator, a tiny replacement for quartz crystal oscillators.
[Ben] got a few from DigiKey and put them through some tests in a DIY gas chamber. He found that a partial pressure of helium as low as 2 kPa, or just 2% of atmospheric pressure, can kill the oscillator. To understand why, and because [Ben] has a scanning electron microscope, he lapped down some spare MEMS oscillators to expose their intricate innards. His SEM images are stunning but perplexing, raising questions about how such things could be made which he also addresses.
The bottom line: helium poisons MEMS oscillators in low enough concentrations that the original MRI story is plausible. As a bonus, we now understand MEMS devices a bit better, and have one more reason never to own an iPhone.
Sometimes hacking isn’t as much about building something, it’s about getting to the root of a particularly difficult problem. [Erik Wooldrige] was facing a problem like that. He’s a system specialist at a hospital near Chicago. Suddenly a bunch of iPhones and Apple watches were failing or glitching. The only thing anyone could think of was the recent install of an MRI machine.
Sure, an MRI machine can put out some serious electromagnetic pulses, but why would that only affect Apple products? Everything else in the hospital, including Android phones, seemed to be OK. But about 40 Apple devices were either dead or misbehaving.
Part of the joy of hacking is the joy of discovery, of seeing how things go right as well as wrong. That’s one cool thing about this iPad Mini 2 case build by [Eric Strebel]: in the video, he details the things that went wrong as well as those that went right. For instance, he used glue on one version that melted the foam core he built the iPad holder from. The end product is wonderful, though. It combines an iPad Mini 2 case and a spiral-bound notebook so you can use both digital and paper mediums, with the iPad cleverly hidden behind a panel that both protects it and turns the screen off when not in use.
We could watch cellphone teardown videos all day long. There’s something pleasing about seeing how everything is packed into such a small enclosure. From the connectors, to that insidious glue, to the minuscule screws, [Scotty Allen] has a real knack for giving us a great look at the teardown process. Take a look at his latest video which attempts to add wireless charging to an iPhone. I think there’s a lot to be said for superb lighting and a formidable camera, but part of this is framing the shots just right.
Now of course we’ve taken apart our fair share of phones and there’s always that queasy “I think I’m going to break something” feeling while doing it. It’s reassuring that [Scotty] isn’t able to do things perfectly either (although he has the benefit of walking the markets for quick replacement parts). This video is a pretty honest recounting of many things going wrong.
The iPhone 6 and 7 are not meant to have wireless charging, but [Scotty’s] working with a friend named [Yeke] who created an aftermarket kit for this. The flexible PCB needs to be folded just right, and adhesive foam added (along with a magical incantation) to make it work. That’s because the add-on is a no-solder job. Above you can see it cleverly encircles one of the mating connectors and relies on mechanical pressure to make contact with the legs of that connector. Neat!
In the second half of the video [Scotty] meets up with [Yeke] to discuss the design itself. We find it interesting that [Yeke] considers his work a DIY item. Perhaps it’s merely lost in translation, but perhaps [Yeke’s] proximity to multiple flexible PCB manufacturers makes him feel that this is more like playing around for fun than product design. Any way you look at it, the ability to design something that will fit inside that crazy-tight iPhone case is both impressive and mesmerizing. Having seen some of the inductive charging hacks over the years, this is by far the cleanest way to go about it.
[Scotty] from [Strange Parts] is no stranger to the iPhone, and had heard that there are some shops that can remove the storage chip in the iPhone and replace it with a larger one so he set out on a journey to try this himself. The first step was to program the new chip, since they must have software on them before they’re put in the phone. The chip programmer ironically doesn’t have support for Mac, so [Scotty] had to go to the store to buy a Windows computer first before he could get the chip programmer working right.
After that hurdle, [Scotty] found a bunch of old logic boards from iPhones to perfect his desoldering and resoldering skills. Since this isn’t through-hole technology a lot of practice was needed to desolder the chip from the logic board without damaging any of the other components, then re-ball the solder on the logic board, and then re-soldering the new larger storage chip to the logic board. After some hiccups and a lot of time practicing, [Scotty] finally had an iPhone that he upgraded from 16 GB to 128 GB.
[Scotty] knows his way around the iPhone and has some other videos about other modifications he’s made to his personal phone. His videos are very informative, in-depth, and professionally done so they’re worth a watch even if you don’t plan on trying this upgrade yourself. Not all upgrades to Apple products are difficult and expensive, though. There is one that costs only a dollar.
We sat down with him after his talk at the Hackaday Superconference last November, and we have to say that he made us think more than twice about tackling the tiny computer that lies hidden inside a cell phone. Check out his talk if you haven’t yet.
When project inspiration strikes, we’d love to do some quick tests immediately to investigate feasibility. Sadly we’re usually far from our workbench and its collection of sensor modules. This is especially frustrating when the desired sensor is in the smartphone we’re holding, standing near whatever triggered the inspiration. We could download a compass app, or a bubble level app, or something similar to glimpse sensor activity. But if we’re going to download an app, consider Google’s Science Journal app.
It was designed to be an educational resource, turning a smartphone’s sensor array into a pocket laboratory instrument and notebook for students. Fortunately it will work just as well for makers experimenting with project ideas. The exact list of sensors will depend on the specific iOS/Android device, but we can select a sensor and see its output graphed in real-time. This graph can also be recorded into the journal for later analysis.
Science Journal was recently given a promotional push by the band OK Go, as part of their OK Go Sandbox project encouraging students to explore, experiment, and learn. This is right up the alley for OK Go, who has a track record of making music videos that score high on maker appeal. Fans would enjoy their videos explaining behind-the-scene details in the context of math, science, and music.
An interesting side note. Anyone who’s been to Hackaday Superconference or one of the monthly Hackaday LA meetups will likely recognized the venue used in many of the OK Go Sandbox videos. Many of them were filmed at the Supplyframe Design Lab in Pasadena. It’s also nice to see AnnMarie Thomas (Hackaday Prize Judge from 2016 and 2017) collaborated with OK Go for the Sandbox project.
While the Science Journal app has provisions for add-on external sensors, carrying them around would reduce its handy always-available appeal. Not that we’re against pairing smartphones with clever accessories to boost their sensing capabilities: we love them! From trying to turn a smartphone into a Tricorder, to an inexpensive microscope, to exploring serious medical diagnosis, our pocket computers can do it all.
We imagine you’ve heard this already, but waste plastic is a problem for the environment. We wrap nearly everything we buy, eat, or drink in plastic packaging, and yet very little of it ends up getting recycled. Worse, it doesn’t take a huge industrial process to melt down a lot of this plastic and reuse it, you can do it at home if you were so inclined. So why aren’t there more localized projects to turn all this plastic trash into usable items?
That the question that [Precious Plastic] asks, and by providing a centralized resource for individuals and communities looking to get into the plastic recycling game, they hope to put a dent in the worldwide plastic crisis. One of their latest projects is showing how plastic trash can be turned into functional iPhone cases with small-scale injection molding.
The video after the break goes into intricate detail about the process involved in creating the 3D CAD files necessary to make the injection molds. Even if you don’t plan on recycling milk jugs at home, the information and tips covered in the video are extremely helpful if you’ve ever contemplated having something injection molded. The video even demonstrates a neat feature in SolidWorks that lets you simulate how molten plastic will move through your mold to help check for problem areas.
Once you’ve designed your mold on the computer, you need to turn it into a physical object. If you’ve got a CNC capable of milling aluminum then you’re all set, but if not, you’ll need to outsource it. [Precious Plastic] found somebody to mill the molds through 3DHubs, though they mention in the video that asking around at local machine shops isn’t a bad idea either.
With the mold completed, all that’s left is to bolt the two sides together and inject the liquid plastic. Here [Precious Plastic] shows off a rather interesting approach where they attach the mold to a contraption that allows them to inject plastic with human power. Probably not something you’d want to do if you’re trying to make thousands of these cases, but it does show that you don’t necessarily need a high tech production facility to make good-looking injection molded parts.