A Datasheet Manifesto For The 21st Century

Selecting electronic components can be a frustrating process, one of trawling through the websites of distributors such as DigiKey, Mouser, or RS, and then poring over manufacturer data sheets. These documents produced as detailed guides to the technical specifications of a device contain enough to give an engineer everything they need to incorporate it into their designs.

Unfortunately many datasheets fall short of the ideal, and have instead become marketing documents designed to “win the socket”. This is a problem that vexes Boldport’s [Saar Drimer], and he has written a personal manifesto outlining his vision to make the world of datasheets a better place.

It’s a common-sense designer’s wishlist, and it’s one we could completely get behind. Chief among his desires are web-readable datasheets as well as the ubiquitous PDFs, with full data in human and machine readable forms instead of tiny printed graphs and tables. He also makes a plea for better UX testing to combat the scourge of the inaccurate pad layout, to which we’d add providing footprints ready-made for all popular CAD packages. These and the rest of his manifesto would be a game-changer, and wouldn’t displace the existing paper or PDF sheet for those who still use them. Whether or not the manufacturers will take heed is anyone’s guess, but to have such an ideal laid out is a start.

If you’re not familiar with [Saar]’s work, you’re in for a treat. Boldport produce some of the most beautiful artistic PCBs, and we’ve featured them before more than once.

Thanks to our colleague [Ted Yapo] for the header image.

Truly Terrible Dimensioned Drawings

I’m in the planning stages of a side project for Hackaday right now. It’s nothing too impressive, but this is a project that will involve a lot of electromechanical parts. This project is going to need a lot of panel mount 1/8″ jacks and sockets, vertical mount DIN 5 connectors, pots, switches, and other carefully crafted bits of metal. Mouser and Digikey are great for nearly every other type of electrical component, but when it comes to these sorts of electromechanical components, your best move is usually to look at AliExpress or DealExtreme, finding something close to what you need, and buying a few hundred. Is this the best move for a manufacturable product? No, but we’re only building a few hundred of these things.

I have been browsing my usual Internet haunts in the search for the right bits of stamped brass and injection molded plastic for this project, and have come to a remarkable conclusion. Engineers, apparently, have no idea how to dimension drawings. Drafting has been a core competency for engineers from the dawn of time until AutoCAD was invented, and now we’re finally reaping the reward: It’s now rare to find a usable dimensioned drawing on the Internet.

This post is going to be half rant, half explanation of what is wrong with a few of the dimensioned drawings I’ve found recently. Consider this an example of what not to do.  There is no reason for the state of engineering drawing to be this bad.

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Partsbox.io Wants to Organize Your Junk Box

There are many ways to divide the hacker community into groups. Tubes vs transistors. Emacs vs VI, microcontroller vs discrete component designers. However, one of the more fundamental divisions in the community is how you organize your parts. We’ve seen giant warehouses with carefully organized bins and cabinets full of components, and we’ve seen storage crates with tangles of wires and bits of electron-bending components scattered among the wires.

dbIf you are in the former camp, you’d probably enjoy partsbox.io (see image, right). If you are in the latter group, you probably need to check it out even more than the other people. The idea is simple: an online place to keep an inventory of your electronic parts. The implementation is not as simple, though. The web application will work on a mobile device or just about anywhere. You can view your components by type, by location (the shoe box under the bed vs the parts bin in the closet), or by a project’s bill of materials. You can use “known” parts or create private parts for things no one else has (for example, your custom PC boards, or those 3D printed brackets you made to hold a microswitch). If you add data for a component you can make it available to other users.

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