Photo of Pixel Pump Pick & Place Machine

Pixel Pump Pick & Place Positions Parts Precisely

You’ve finally decided to take the plunge and build a board with surface-mount parts. After carefully dispensing the solder paste with a syringe, it’s time to place the parts. You take up your trusty tweezers and reach to grab a SOIC-14 logic IC—only there’s not a great way to grab it. The IC is too long to grab one way and has leads obstructing the other. You work around the leads, drop the IC into place, and then pick up an 0402 resistor. You gently set the resistor into your perfectly dispensed solder paste, pull the tweezers away, and the resistor has stuck to your slightly magnetic tweezers. [Robin Reiter] realized that hobbyists and small manufacturers needed a better way to assemble their surface-mount designs, so he’s building the Pixel Pump Pick & Place, an open-source vacuum assembly tool.

Vacuum assembly tools use a blunt-tipped needle and suction to pick up surface-mount parts. Pressing an attached foot pedal disables the vacuum, allowing the part to be gently released. [Robin] thought to include a few thoughtful features to make the Pixel Pump even more useful. It has adjustable suction presets and a self-cleaning feature to blow out any solder paste you accidentally suck up. Most of the non-electronic parts are 3D printed, and [Robin] intends to make the entire design open-source.

[Robin] has a long history of designing tools to make surface-mount assembly easier—you may remember his 3D-printed magazines for dispensing surface-mount parts. If you want to take your PCB assembly setup to the next level, check out the PnPAssist, which shines a laser crosshair right where you should put each part.

Handheld Multimeter Converted For Bench Top Use

A few years ago [Mechatrommer] got one of the low-cost Aneng Q1 multimeters and has converted it into a bench top meter. He first tried and failed to do an LCD modification and set it aside. It remained in a storage box until he needed another meter to repair his rubidium frequency standard. Finding that off-the-shelf bench multimeters were literally off-the-shelf — they were too deep for his bench — he decided to take matters into his own hands.

He dug out the dismantled an Aneng Q1 and undertook a more drastic modification than before, slicing the multimeter into three pieces and mounting each piece in a new enclosure. The power-draining back-lit display of the Q1, problematic in a battery-powered handheld meter, isn’t an issue in a bench top design. [Mechatrommer] replaced the battery pack with a mains powered supply. Next he reconnected all the signals which had been interrupted by the bandsaw, and now the meter lives again.

The resulting meter is pleasing enough (ignore the sideways input jacks) and looks like a typical piece of home-brew test gear. The enclosure has a lot of empty space, which he uses to stow test leads and sandwiches (we saw a similar storage compartment in [Dave Jones]’s recent teardown of a portable Fluke 37 multimeter). Kudos to [Mechatrommer] for coming up with this unusual conversion project.

We’ve written about the differences between these low-cost and more professional multimeters before if you want to learn more.

Thanks to [Adrian] for the tip.

Equipping A Workshop Using Plywood And Handheld Power Tools

Properly equipping a home workshop for the DIY discipline of your choice can often end up costing more than we would like to admit, and is a never ending process. [JSK-Koubou] is doing exactly that, except he is building almost all of his equipment using plywood, hand-held power tools and a LOT of attention to detail.

As far as we can tell the series really got started with a humble hand-held circular saw guide, with every tool being used to build more tools. So far the list boasts more than 50 different videos of tools built around a drill, circular saw, jigsaw, router, planar or grinder. This includes a wood lathe, drill press, jointer and various drills guides and sanders. The level of precision each tool almost eye watering. He even pulls out a dial gauge on some builds to check alignment. We honestly didn’t know plywood equipment could look this good and work so well. Check out the YouTube playlist after the break to see for yourself.

Previously we also covered [JSK-Koubou]’s set of perfectly tuned wooden speaker enclosures, the craftsmanship is really something to behold. For more impressive homebuilt hardware, take a look at this 8-axis camera crane built by another YouTuber for his home shop. Continue reading “Equipping A Workshop Using Plywood And Handheld Power Tools”

Restoring 100-year-old vice

Restoring A 100 Year Old Vice To Pristine Condition

We love our vices. They hold pipes for us to saw away at, wood while we carve, and circuit boards so that we can solder on components. So we keep them in shape by cleaning and greasing them every now and then, [MakeEverything] went even further. He found a 100-year-old vice that was in very rough shape and which was going to be thrown out and did a beautiful restoration job on it.

It was actually worse than in rough shape. At some point, one of the jaws had been replaced by welding on a piece of rebar where the jaw would normally go. So he made entirely new jaws from solid brass as well as the pins to hold them firmly in place. We applaud his attention to detail. After removing all the old paint and corrosion, he painted it with a “hammered” spray paint to give it a nice hammered look. Though when he made the raised letters stand out by applying gold paint to them using an oil-based paint marker, we felt that was just showing off. The result is almost too gorgeous to use, but he assures us he will use it. You can see his process, as well as have a good look at the newly revived vice in the video below.

Continue reading “Restoring A 100 Year Old Vice To Pristine Condition”

Hacklet 104 – Test Equipment Projects

Hardware hackers love their test equipment. There are entire forums dedicated to talking about multimeters, oscilloscopes, signal generators, and other common bench tools. At times it seems we spend more time talking about our tools than actually using them. For some, off the shelf equipment is never quite good enough. These hackers, makers and engineers design and build their own test equipment. This week’s Hacklet is dedicated to some of the best test equipment projects on!

test-tool-1We start with [Roman] and Handheld Electronic Test And Measurement Lab. [Roman] travels a lot, and often needs to bring a lab’s worth of tools with him. After suffering through several ‘random’ searches, he decided to design a simple tool that would cut down his packing, and not get him strip searched. The handheld lab packs a multimeter, low-frequency oscilloscope, data logger, waveform generator, and several other tools into a small package. The tool can be connected to a PC to display data and update settings. The on-board PIC24 handles all the hard work of taking measurements. Some careful analog design gives this tool 10 megohm of input impedance.

test-2Next up is [Jaromir Sukuba] with 10$ curve tracer. The only way to find out of that a transistor or diode really works as well as the data sheet suggests is to pull out your semiconductor curve tracer. Curve tracers are also perfect for matching transistors for projects like analog synthesizers. [Jaromir] built this quick and dirty tracer over the course of just two evenings. A dsPIC microcontroller runs the show, generating an IV curve by sending pulses through the device under test. Once the curve has been traced, the PIC displays the results on a TFT LCD module. The tracer is a bit limited with a max of 35V at 0.5 amps. Knowing [Jaromir] though, extending the range would only take another evening or two of work.

vlabtoolNext we have [Jithin] with A Versatile Labtool. This tool can do just about everything you could want – all in one box. From oscilloscope to frequency counter to multimeter to current source, and much more. Much like [Roman] up above, [Jithin] chose a Microchip PIC24 MCU as processing heart of his design. The Versatile Labtool connects to a PC via USB. If you’re not close to your PC, an ESP8266 module allows the unit to connect over WiFi. A PC isn’t required though. The on-board OLED is always available for quick measurements.

emtFinally we have [ZaidPirwani] with Engineer’s Multi Tool, his entry in the 2015 Hackaday Prize. [Zaid] started with the popular transistor tester codebase. He ported the code to his own hardware, an Arduino Nano and Nokia LCD. Making the port function required quite a bit more work than [Zaid] expected. He ended up going with a fresh repository and adding a bit of code at a time. Once everything was working, [Zaid] verified that his hardware design operated as expected with a good old-fashioned multimeter. Now that everything is working, [Zaid] is just about out of space on the little ATmega328. Next stop is a Teensy 3.2!


A special thank you goes out to [Jaromir Sukuba] for suggesting test equipment as the theme for this week’s Hacklet. You can find his projects and more on the new test equipment project list! If I missed your project, or if you have a suggestion for a future Hacklet theme, don’t be shy! Drop me a message on That’s it for this week’s Hacklet. As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of!

Bus Pirate Firmware Update (v.0c), JTAG And More



A few weeks ago we wrote about our Bus Pirate universal serial interface tool. We used the recent holiday to add some new features, like a JTAG programmer, macros, frequency measurement, and more. A major code reorganization makes everything easier to read and update.

Check out the a demonstration of the new features below. We’re compiling a roadmap and wish list, so share your ideas in the comments. You can also see how we used the Bus Pirate to read a smart card and test-drive an I2C crystal oscillator.

Continue reading “Bus Pirate Firmware Update (v.0c), JTAG And More”