A highlight of last year’s Hackaday Remoticon was a soldering competition that had teams from around the world came together online and did the well-known MakersBox SMD Challenge kit in which a series of LED circuits of decreasing size must be soldered. The Hackaday crew acquitted themselves well, and though an 01005 resistor and LED certainly pushes a writer’s soldering skills to the limit it’s very satisfying to see it working. Lest that kit become too easy, [Arthur Benemann] has come up with something even more fiendish; his uSMD is a 555 LED flasher that uses a BGA 555 and a selection of 008004 small components.
The trick with an 01005 is to heat not the tinned and fluxed solder joint, but the trace leading up to it. If components of that size can be mastered then perhaps an 008004 isn’t that much smaller so maybe the same technique might work for them too. In his tip email to us he wrote “Soldering 008004 isn’t much worse than a 0201, you just need magnification“, and while we think he might be trolling us slightly we can see there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be do-able. Sadly he doesn’t seem to have made it available for us to buy and try so if you want to prove yourself with a soldering iron you’ll have to source the PCBs and parts yourself. Still, we suspect that if you are the type of person who can solder an 008004 then that will hardly be an onerous task for you.
Over at Tiny Transistor labs, [Robo] took it upon himself to reproduce the classic 555 timer in discrete transistor form. For bonus points, he also managed to put it in a package that’s the same basic size, pin compatible with, and a plug-in replacement for the original. The first task was deciding which 555 circuit to implement. He examined a handful of different implementations — and by examined, we mean dissected them and studied the die circuitry under a microscope. In the end, he went with Hans Camenzind’s original circuit, both as a tribute and because it used the fewest transistors — a point which helped manage the final size, which is only a little bit bigger than the IC!
Speaking of sizes, have you ever soldered an EIA 01005 resistor? We agree with [mbedded.ninja] who wrote on a post about standard chip resistor sizes, the 01005 is a “ridiculously small chip package that can barely be seen by the naked eye.” It is 16 thou x 8 thou (0.4 mm x 0.2 mm) in size, and despite its name and placement in the Imperial series, it is not half the size of an 0201. The transistors are your standard 2N3904 / 2N3906, but purchased in a not-so-standard DFN (Dual Flat Pack, No Leads). We might think a 1.0 x 0.6 mm component as small, but compared to its neighboring resistors in this circuit, it’s huge.
“You could’ve done that with a 555 timer.” But what if all you have on hand is an ESP8266? [TechColab] needed to control a solenoid valve with a short pulse via a solid-state relay (SSR) but found that the trusty 555 timer was tricky to set properly. Additionally, they wanted to add features, such as fixed pulse length, that were difficult to implement—even with multiple timers. Still wanting to keep things cheap and accessible, [TechColab] has created the WiFive55, a 555 replacement based on the ESP-01 ESP8266 board.
[TechColab] began by investigating existing ESP-01 solid-state relay boards but found that many of them momentarily enable the output on startup—a risk [TechColab] deemed unacceptable. This was resolved in the WiFive55 by adding an RC filter to the SSR output, eliminating the output glitches at the cost of slowing switching time to around 20 ms—an acceptable trade for many SSR applications.
Since they were going to design a new PCB to support this improved ESP-01 SSR controller, [TechColab] decided to go all-out. To support loads of widely varying sizes, the PCB supports an optoisolator that switches up to 1 A, a MOSFET that switches up to 2 A, and an on-board relay or SSR that can switch up to 3 A. For heavy loads, it includes connections for an off-board SSR, which allow it to switch whatever current the SSR can handle (easily over 50 A). Because the ESP-01 is slightly more capable than the 555, the WiFive55 supports control via WiFi, GPIO, serial, and push-button. Keeping with the WiFive55’s original role as a 555 replacement, it even includes a header exposing a 555-like trigger and output interface!
We always like seeing inexpensive boards like the ESP-01 being used to their full potential, and we can’t wait to see what software [TechColab] cooks up for this! If you’re interested in getting started with the ESP-01, you might consider starting with this guide to blinking an LED over WiFi.
If you want a simple and easy introduction to stepper motors, check out the [IMSAI Guy]’s short video where he designs a very basic stepper motor controller and packs in a lot of quick lessons along the way. (Embedded below.)
He first goes over the fundamentals of a stepper motor in a practical, hands-on approach, and also shows us how to ring out the connections if the pinout is unknown. Next he demonstrates stepping the motor manually and then makes a simple FET driver circuit. Just when you’re expecting a small microcontroller to appear, the [IMSAI Guy] instead digs deep into his junk box and explains how to drive the motor with a 22V10 GAL (an electrically erasable PAL) and a 555 timer module. Based on a clearly-explained logic table for driving the coils, a sneaky way to introduce Karnaugh maps, he proceeds to write the output equations in WinCUPL.
WinCUPL is the modern version of CUPL (Compiler for Universal Programmable Logic) originally written by a company called Assisted Technology, now owned by Altium. CUPL and peers like PALASM from Monolithic Memories, Inc. (MMI) and ABEL from Data I/O Corporation were basic Hardware Description Languages specifically designed for PALs, GALs, and CPLDs. PALs were small arrays of logic gates with fusible interconnections, and your design is “burned” into the fuses much like a (EE)PROM. When designing with PALs, you could clearly visualize the connections in your mind, something that has since been remedied by the advent of modern FPGAs.
Alas, he cuts out the part where the source code is compiled and the 22V10 is programmed, and jumps directly into testing the circuit on a breadboard. Spoiler alert — it does work. Zooming in close and squinting, the nifty 555 timer breadboard module that he points out is called a TP353, which you can find from your favorite online supplier.
[Tommy]’s POLY555 is an analog, 20-note polyphonic synthesizer that makes heavy use of 3D printing and shows off some clever design. The POLY555, as well as [Tommy]’s earlier synth designs, are based around the 555 timer. But one 555 is one oscillator, which means only one note can be played at a time. To make the POLY555 polyphonic, [Tommy] took things to their logical extreme and simply added multiple 555s, expanding the capabilities while keeping the classic 555 synth heritage.
The real gem here is [Tommy]’s writeup. In it, he explains the various design choices and improvements that went into the POLY555, not just as an instrument, but as a kit intended to be produced and easy to assemble. Good DFM (Design For Manufacturability) takes time and effort, but pays off big time even for things made in relatively small quantities. Anything that reduces complexity, eliminates steps, or improves reliability is a change worth investigating.
For example, the volume wheel is not a thumbwheel pot. It is actually a 3D-printed piece attached to the same potentiometer that the 555s use for tuning; meaning one less part to keep track of in the bill of materials. It’s all a gold mine of tips for anyone looking at making more than just a handful of something, and a peek into the hard work that goes into designing something to be produced. [Tommy] even has a short section dedicated to abandoned or rejected ideas that didn’t make the cut, which is educational in itself. Want more? Good news! This isn’t the first time we’ve been delighted with [Tommy]’s prototyping and design discussions.
POLY555’s design files (OpenSCAD for enclosure and parts, and KiCad for schematic and PCB) as well as assembly guide are all available on GitHub, and STL files can be found on Thingiverse. [Tommy] sells partial and complete kits as well, so there’s something for everyone’s comfort level. Watch the POLY555 in action in the video, embedded below.
It’s a little known secret that when the Hackaday writers gather in their secret underground bunker to work on our plans for world domination, we often take breaks to play our version of the corporate “Buzzword Bingo”, where paradigms are leveraged and meetings circle back to loop in offline stakeholders, or something like that. Our version, however, is “Comment Line Bingo”, and right in the middle of the card is the seemingly most common comment of all: “You should have used a 555,” or variations thereof.
So it was with vicious glee that we came across the Trollduino V1.0 by the deliciously named [Mild Lee Interested]. It’s the hardware answer to the common complaint, which we’ll grant is often justified. The beautiful part of this is that Trollduino occupies the same footprint as an Arduino Uno and is even pin-compatible with the microcontroller board, or at least sort of. The familiar line of components and connectors sprout from the left edge of the board, and headers for shields line the top and bottom edges too. “Sketches” are implemented in hardware, with jumpers and resistors and capacitors of various values plugged in to achieve all the marvelous configurations the indispensable timer chip can be used for. And extra points for the deliberately provocative use of Comic Sans in the silkscreen.
The vibration-detecting bit is a tiny ball bearing soldered to the spring from an old pen, which is tied between the trigger and ground pins of the 555. When the chip is powered with a 9 V battery, nearby vibrations will induce wiggle in the spring, causing the ball bearing to contact the brass rod and completing the circuit. When this happens, the internal flip flop’s output goes high, which turns on the LED. Then the flip flop must be reset with a momentary button. Check out the build video after the break.