Vertical Mill Completes Scrapyard Lathe Build

One thing’s for sure: after seeing [Roland Van Roy] build a vertical mill from industrial scrap, we’ve got to find a better quality industrial scrapyard to hang around.

The story of this build started, as many good shop stories do, at the lathe, which in this case was also a scrapyard build that we somehow managed to miss when it first posted. This lathe is decidedly different from the common “Gingery method” we’ve seen a few times, which relies on aluminum castings. Instead, [Roland] built his machine from plate stock, linear slides, and various cast-off bits of industrial machines.

To make his lathe yet more useful, [Roland] undertook this build, which consists of a gantry mounted over the bed of the lathe. The carriage translates left and right along the bed while the spindle, whose axis lines up perfectly with the center axis of the lathe, moves up and down. [Roland] added a platform and a clever vise to the lathe carriage; the lathe tool post and the tailstock are removed to make room for these mods, but can be added back quickly when needed. Digital calipers stand in for digital read-outs (DROs), with custom software running on a Picaxe and a homebrew controller taking care of spindle speed control.

[Roland] reports that the machine, weighing in at about 100 kg, exhibits a fair amount of vibration, which limits him to lighter cuts and softer materials. But it’s still an impressive build, and what really grabbed us was the wealth of tips and tricks we picked up. [Roland] used a ton of interesting methods to make sure everything stayed neat and square, such as the special jig he built for drilling holes in the T-slot extrusions to the use of cyanoacrylate glue for temporary fixturing.

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ESP8266 Socket Is A Snap-Fit, Breadboard-Friendly Wonder

It all started with wanting to program an ESP-12 variant of an ESP8266 module without involving any solder. Displeased with all the socket offerings on Thingiverse, [tweeto] set out to design their own breadboard-friendly snap-fit socket.

This certainly looks like a handy solution. All you have to do is print the thing, add all the wires, and stick your ESP in there. Even that wire is easy to find; [tweeto] used 0.8 mm paper clips which are sturdy, conductive, and haunting the darkest corners of every desk drawer. They’re also a little bit on the thick side, so [tweeto] plans to test out 0.6mm copper wire in the future.

The challenge with this type of print is to design something that will stand up to repeated breadboardings without losing legs or falling apart. [tweeto]’s elegant solution is a tiny groove for each wire in the bottom of the socket — it keeps the wire in place by countering the play caused by inserting it into and removing it from a breadboard. See how [tweeto] bends the paper clips in the short video after the break.

There’s more than one way to use 3D printing to your circuit-building advantage, even in permanent circuits — just take a look at this PCB-free Arduboy.

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Turning A Waffle Iron Into A Reflow Station

There are a ton of ways to go about building your own reflow oven. Most of these builds start with, well, an oven — usually a toaster oven — with a small but significant minority choosing to modify a hotplate. But this might be the first time we’ve seen a waffle iron turned into a reflow oven.

Of course, what [Vincent Deconinck] came up with is not an oven per se. But his “RefloWaffle” certainly gets the job done. It started with an old waffle maker and a few experiments to see just how much modification it would take to create the various thermal reflow profiles. As it turned out, the original cooking surfaces had too much thermal inertia, so [Vincent] replaced them with plain copper sheets. That made for quicker temperature transitions, plus created some space between the upper and lower heating elements for the SMD board.

As for control, [Vincent] originally used an Arduino with a relay and a thermocouple, but he eventually built a version 2.0 that used a hacked Sonoff as both controller and switch. Adding the thermocouple driver board inside the Sonoff case took a little finagling, but he managed to get everything safely tucked inside. A web interface runs on the Sonoff and controls the reflow process.

We think this is a great build, one that will no doubt see us trolling the thrift stores for cheap waffle irons to convert. We’ve seen some amazing toaster oven reflows, of course, but something about the simplicity and portability of RefloWaffle just works for us.

Helping Hands, Reinvented

[Nixie] was tired of using whatever happens to be around to hold things in place while soldering and testing. It was high time to obtain a helping hands of some kind, but [Nixie] was dismayed by commercial offerings — the plain old alligator clips and cast metal type leave a lot to be desired, and the cooling tube cephalopod type usually have the alligator clips just jammed into the standard tube ends with no thought given to fine control or the possibility of reducing cable count.

[Nixie] happened to have some unneeded cooling tube lying around and started designing a new type of helping hands from the ground plane up. Taking advantage of the fact that cooling tubes are hollow,  [Nixie] routed silicone-jacketed wires through them for power and low speed signals. These are soldered to five banana jacks that are evenly spaced around an alligator clip.

Even if you don’t need power, all those extra alligators would come in quite handy for circuit sculpture or anything else that requires a lot of hands. [Nixie] put the files up on Thingiverse if you want to make your own.

We’ve seen plenty of helping hands over the years, but this concrete-based helper ought to cement your decision to make your own.

Remoticon Video: Basics Of RF Emissions Debugging Workshop

These days we’re surrounded by high-speed electronics and it’s no small feat that they can all play nicely in near proximity to each other. We have RF emissions standards to thank, which ensure new products don’t spew forth errant signals that would interfere with the data signals traveling through the ether. It’s long been the stuff of uber-expensive emissions testing labs, and failure to pass can leave you scratching your head. But as Alex Whittimore shows in this workshop from the 2020 Hackaday Remoticon, you can do a lot of RF emissions debugging with simple and inexpensive tools.

Professionally-made probes in several sizes
Build your own probes from magnet wire
You can get a surprisingly clear picture of what kind of RF might be coming off of a product by probing it on your own workbench. Considering the cost of the labs performing FCC and other certifications, this is a necessary skill for anyone who is designing a product headed to market — and still damn interesting for everyone else. Here you can see two examples of the probes used in the process. Although one is a pack of professional tools and other is a bit of enameled wire (magnet wire), both are essentially the same: a loop of wire on which a magnetic field will induce a very small current. Add a Low-Noise Amplifier (LNA) and you’ll be up and measuring in no-time.
I really enjoyed how Alex started his demo with “The Right WayTM” of doing things — using a proper spectrum analyzer to visualize data from the probes. But the real interesting part is “The Hacker WayTM” which leverages an RTL-SDR dongle and some open-source software to get the same job done. Primarily that means using SDRAngel and QSpectrumAnalyzer which are both included in the DragonOS_LTS which can be run inside of a virtual machine.

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Bad Idea For Desoldering Actually Might Be Pretty Smart

This video on building a DIY desoldering iron says it all right up front: this is stupid and dangerous, and you shouldn’t do it. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work, or that it doesn’t have potential to be turned into something else.

The story begins, as it often does these days, on the pages of Amazon as [AnotherMaker] shopped for a real desoldering setup. Despite a case of sticker shock, he took the plunge on a nice Hakko vacuum desolderer, but as is also often the case, it failed to arrive. Rather than accept defeat, [AnotherMaker] purchased a cheap-o soldering iron and a brass tee fitting for small-bore tubing that would chuck nicely into the spot where the stock tip once lived, giving him a way to both melt solder and move air.

Unfortunately, rather than applying a vacuum, he chose to blast 100 PSI compressed air through the tip, which certainly moves a lot of solder, perhaps at the cost of burns and eye injuries. The potential for accidental short circuits is pretty high too, but c’mon — it’s not like we all haven’t flicked or dropped a board to desolder something. Is this really much different?

As fraught with peril as this method may be, [AnotherMaker] is onto something here. Perhaps adding a 3D-printed venturi generator could turn that blast of air into a vacuum. Or maybe a vacuum pump for a manual pick-and-place would do the trick too.

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Review: Pine64 Pinecil Soldering Iron

There was a time when decent quality soldering irons were substantial affairs, soldering stations with a chunky base unit containing the electronics and a lightweight handheld iron for the work. That has changed with the arrival of a new breed of microprocessor controlled lightweight handheld irons. There’s a new kid on the block from a company we associate more with open-source phones, laptops, and single board computers, Pine64 have produced the Pinecil. It’s a lightweight handheld iron with some innovative features at an attractive price, but does it raise the bar sufficiently to take on the competition?

I put the Pinecil through its paces, and and although the device is fully open source, give it a teardown for good measure. Spoiler: it’s my new favorite.
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