One of the first tools that is added to a toolbox when working on electronics, perhaps besides a multimeter, is a soldering iron. From there, soldering tools can be added as needed such as a hot air gun, reflow oven, soldering gun, or desoldering pump. But often a soldering iron is all that’s needed even for some specialized tasks as [Mr SolderFix] demonstrates.
This specific technique involves removing a large connector from a PCB. Typically either a heat gun would be used, which might damage the PCB, or a tedious process involving a desoldering tool or braided wick might be tried. But with just a soldering iron, a few pieces of wire can be soldered around each of the pins to create a massive solder blob which connects all the pins of the connector to this wire. With everything connected to solder and wire, the soldering iron is simply pressed into this amalgamation and the connector will fall right out of the board, and the wire can simply be dropped away from the PCB along with most of the solder.
There is some cleanup work to do afterwards, especially removing excess solder in the holes in the PCB, but it’s nothing a little wick and effort can’t take care of. Compared to other methods which might require specialized tools or a lot more time, this is quite the technique to add to one’s soldering repertoire. For some more advanced desoldering techniques, take a look at this method for saving PCBs from some thermal stresses.
We are extraordinarily fortunate to live at a time in which hardware with astounding capabilities can be had for only a few dollars. Systems that would once have taken an expensive pile of chips and discretes along with months of development time to assemble are now integrated onto commodity silicon. Whether it is a Linux-capable system-on-chip or a microcontroller, such peripherals as WiFi, GPUs, Bluetooth, or USB stacks now come as part of the chip, just another software library rather than a ton of extra hardware.
Beware The Blob!
If there is a price to be paid for this convenience, it comes in the form of the blob. A piece of pre-compiled binary software that does the hard work of talking to the hardware and which presents a unified API to the software. Whether you’re talking to the ESP32 WiFi through an Arduino library or booting a Raspberry Pi with a Linux distribution, while your code may be available or even maybe open source, the blob it relies upon to work is closed source and proprietary. This presents a challenge not only to Software Libre enthusiasts in search of a truly open source computer, but also to the rest of us because we are left reliant upon the willingness of the hardware manufacturer to update and patch their blobs.
An open-source advocate would say that the solution is easy, the manufacturers should simply make their blobs open-source. And it’s true, were all blobs open-source then the Software Libre crowd would be happy and their open-source nature would ease the generation of those updates and patches. So why don’t manufacturers release their blobs as open-source? In some cases that may well be due to a closed-source mindset of never releasing anything to the world to protect company intellectual property, but to leave it at that is not a full answer. To fully understand why that is the case it’s worth looking at how our multifunctional chips are made.
[Mike Newell] dropped us a line about his latest project, Bubble boy! Which uses the Kinect point cloud functionality to render polygonal meshes in real time. In the video [Mike] goes through the entire process from installing the libraries to grabbing code off of his site. Currently the rendering looks like a clump of dough (nightmarishly clawing at us with its nubby arms).
[Mike] is looking for suggestions on more efficient mesh and point cloud code, as he is unable to run any higher resolution than what is in the video. You can hear his computer fan spool up after just a few moments rendering! Anyone good with point clouds?
A morphing robot was demonstrated at the IROS conference this week. This orb has no rigid structure but uses some type of “inflation” system for locomotion. This robot concept is offered up by the iRobot company as part of a DARPA initiative they’re working on. The “inflation” is really a substance in the skin that can be converted from a liquid-like state to a solid-like one. They call this “The Jamming Concept” and give a layman’s explanation in the video we’ve embedded after the break.
When moving, this white ball is a churning, turning, bulging mass of terror. The just-about-to-hatch pods from Alien, or perhaps something from Doom 3 come to mind. The hexapod from IROS that we covered yesterday was amazing, but this really creeps us out. What’s more, this is footage from the iRobot prototypes of a year ago. The newer stuff can do much more, like having several of these things glob together into one unit.
We’re glad that [DarwinSurvior] sent us the tip on this one, but now we’re not going to be able to sleep at night.