A Few Caps For A Faster Multimeter

We just love it when someone takes apart a bench instrument. There is something about voiding a warranty and then making modifications that hits the spot and in a series of simple modifications, [Jack Zimmermann] dives into the guts if an Aneng AN8008.

The multimeter in question, the AN8008, is a low-cost true-RMS instrument that takes a bit longer to settle on the correct voltage reading than [Jack] would have liked. While poking around, he found that the DC rail inside the meter was host to noise spikes. He theorized that these were being coupled back from an element and proceeded to verify the decoupling arrangement.

The first step was to replace a Rubycon 100 uF capacitor with a Panasonic FM 100 µF which has an ESR of 0.4 Ohms, an improvement on the 1.4 Ohms of stock capacitor. Next came the addition of 0.1 µF, 1 µF and a 10 µF 0805 capacitors and finally a huge 1000 uF 10 V capacity which helped cut down the noise from 30 mV p-p to 3.6 mV p-p. And finally he added decoupling capacitors to the voltage reference chip in accordance with the manufacturer’s datasheet.

These small modifications improved the settling time as well as the stability of the measurements. [Jack] verifies the accuracy against a voltage reference and a bench meter which is good news considering the calibration certificate went out the door anyway.

This is one of the many DMM hacks we have covered in the past such as the Fluke 12E+ hack that enables hidden features though there may be other models out there with possible upgrades.

Glue Gun Teardown Reveals Microcontroller Mystery

[electrobob] got a Bosch GluePen cordless hot glue gun. The thing has some nice features — it heats up in fifteen seconds, and charges via USB, and is generally handy for those small and quick jobs that hot glue guns were made to perform. At first glance it seems like a huge improvement over the plug-in varieties, which seem to take forever to heat up when all you need is a quick dab of glue.

As cool as the product sounded, [bob] did what any right-minded hacker would do and opened it up to see how that sucker work and found an ATtiny24A inside. What’s most interesting is that there appears to be no temperature regulation or sensing capability, with the exception of the thermistor in the battery-charging circuit. It’s an intriguing mystery.

The ATtiny controls a power MOSFET that brings the heating element to “approximately 170 degrees” according to the manual. [bob] could find no temperature regulation of the hot end, which measures a steady 12 V at the gate of the transistor then entire time the glue gun is powered on.

That ATtiny24A that runs the whole thing packs 12 GPIO pins, 4 PWM channels, and 2 KB program memory. It appears a bit overpowered for a glue gun controller. [bob] found one of the Tiny’s pins connected the heating element and another to the charging circuit. Maybe a shutoff in case the battery catches fire?

Without a clear shot of the back of the board, it’s a bit of a guessing game, but eight of the twelve GPIO pins appear to be in use. Leave your theories in comments. And if you’ve got any bright ideas about what to do with the remaining four GPIO pins, have at it!

For another of [bob]’s tool hacks, check out his constant current sink we posted earlier this year.

Roll Your Own Rotary Tool

Rotary tools are great little handheld powerhouses that fill the void between manual tools and larger shop machines. They’re also kind of expensive for what they are, which is essentially a power circuit, a switch, and a high-RPM motor with a tool coupling on the shaft. If your tooling needs are few and you have the resources, why not make your own?

[DIY King 00] built himself a cordless rotary tool for less than $10 out of commonly-available parts. It doesn’t run nearly as fast as commercial rotary tools, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. He made the body out of 2″ diameter PVC and mounted a 12 V, 400 RPM DC motor directly to one of the fiberglass end caps. Tools are chucked into a collet that screws into a coupler on the motor shaft.

For power, [DIY King 00] built a 7.4 V battery pack by wiring two 18650 cells from an old laptop battery in series. It isn’t the full 12 V, but it’s enough power for light-duty work. These 2200 mAh cells should last a while and are rechargeable through the port mounted in the other end cap.

Drill down past the break to see the build video and watch the tool power through plywood, fiberglass, and inch-thick lumber. Once you’ve made your own rotary tool, try your hand at a DIY cordless soldering iron.

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Bolt-Together Belt Grinder for the No-Weld Shop

Belt grinding offers a lot of advantages for the metalworker, and since belt grinders are pretty simple machines, shop-built tools are not an uncommon project. A bolt-together belt grinder makes this tool even more accessible to the home gamer.

With no access to a welder but with a basic milling machine and an ample scrap bin at his disposal,  [IJustLikeMakingThings] had to get creative and modify some of the welding-required belt grinder designs he found online to be bolt-up builds.  The key to a cool running belt grinder is for the belt to be as long as possible, and the 2″x72″ belt seems to be the sweet spot, at least here in the States. Machined drive and idler wheels with the crown needed for proper belt tracking were sourced online, as was the D-bracket for holding the two guide wheels. But the rest of the parts were fabricated with simple tools and bolted together. [IJustLikeMakingThings] provides a lot of detail in his write-up, and it shouldn’t be too hard to build a belt grinder just like this one.

Looking for other belt grinder plans to compare notes? Here’s a grinder with an even simpler design, but with welding required.

Simple Jig Gives Plastic Homes to Orphaned Projects

Look around your bench and chances are pretty good that there’s a PCB or scrap of perfboard or even a breadboard sitting there, wires and LEDs sprouting off it, doing something useful and interesting. Taking it to the next level with a snazzy enclosure just seems too hard sometimes, especially if you don’t have access to a 3D printer or laser cutter. But whipping up plastic enclosures can be quick and easy with this simple acrylic bending outfit.

At its heart [Derek]’s bending rig is not much different from any of the many hot-wire foam cutters we’ve featured. A nichrome wire with a tensioning spring is stretched across a slot in a flat work surface. The slot contains an aluminum channel to reflect the heat from the wire upward and to protect the MDF bed; we wonder if perhaps an angle section set in a V-groove might not be more effective, and whether more vertical adjustment range would provide the wider heating area needed for wider radius bends. It works great as is, though, and [Derek] took the time to build a simple timer to control the heating element, for which of course he promptly built a nice looking enclosure.

We can imagine the possibilities here are endless, especially if you use colored acrylic or Lexan and add in some solvent welding. We’ve covered acrylic enclosure techniques before; here’s a post that covers the basics.

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Homemade Test Jig Is Cheaper Than Outsourcing

In the past, [Sjaak] has had his testing and programming jigs made for him in Shenzhen, but realized they weren’t that great of a value. They weren’t terribly expensive in the grand scheme of things, but they didn’t include any wiring, so he was still spending his own time and money. His quest to develop his own in-house jigs not only netted him a considerable cost savings in the end, but also produced a nicely detailed post on his site for anyone else who may be heading down the same path. That’s a win-win in our book.

The idea behind a jig is pretty simple: essentially it’s just a mount that holds the PCB, and a set of pins which contact the appropriate points on the board. The jig can then provide power, programming, status LEDs for testing, etc. Basically anything that you can’t or don’t want to include on the final board, but will help in testing or programming them.

To start, [Sjaak] begins with a blank PCB in Eagle and imports his target board. With the two lined up, he can then mark where he wants the pins to go on the jig, and add labels to the silkscreen to make things a little easier during diagnostics. The target board is then removed, the file converted to Gerber, and it’s sent off for manufacturing. With a few more tweaks, the file is then exported to DXF and laser cut out of acrylic. When the PCBs come back, it’s just a matter of sandwiching it all together with some standoffs and adding the pins.

[Sjaak] mentions that he was inspired by an old post on how SparkFun was internally handling their test jigs, though we think with a dash of automation he could make things even easier for himself.

DS212 Oscilloscope Review: Open Source and Great for Hacking

We’ve seen plenty of oscilloscopes that look like repurposed cell phones. Usually, though, they only have one channel. The DS212, has two channels and a signal generator! [Marco] gives his review and a quick tear down in the video below.

The scope isn’t going to replace a big bench instrument, but for a portable scope with a rechargeable battery, it isn’t bad. The 1 MHz analog bandwidth combines with a 10 megasample per second front end and 8K of sample memory. The signal generator can produce basic waveforms up to 1 MHz. We were somewhat surprised the unit didn’t sport a touch screen, which is why you can see [Marco’s] fingers in the screenshot above. He seems to like the dual rotary encoder system the devices uses for navigation.

Where this really stands out is that it is open source for the the firmware running on the STM32 processor inside. We so rarely see this for commercially available bench tools and it makes this a fine hacking platform. It’s easy to imagine adding features like digital signals out and decoding digital data. It would be interesting to marry it with a WiFi chip and use it as a front end for another device over WiFi. Lots of possibilities. [Marco] shows that even though he’s not familiar with the STM32, he was able to add a custom waveform output to the device easily. This has the potential to be a custom troubleshooting platform for your builds. Lining up all of the sensing and signal generation settings for each specific type of test means you don’t need a guru to walk through the common failure modes of a product.

There are many small inexpensive scopes out there that might not match a big bench instrument but can still be plenty useful. [Jenny List] just reviewed one that comes in at around $21. And last year, we saw a sub-$100 scope that would net you just one channel scope. That’s progress!