Dollar Tree LED Bulb Tear Down

It is hard to remember now, but there was a time when electronics were expensive. [Adrian Black] found some 9W (60W equivalent) LED light bulbs at the Dollar Tree (a U.S. store where everything costs a dollar). Naturally, they cost a dollar, and he wanted to see what was inside of them. You can see the resulting video, below.

Apparently where [Adrian] lives there is a subsidy paid to retailers for selling LED lighting, so you may not be able to get the same bulbs at that price. Still, the price of these bulbs has dropped like a rock over the last few years.

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Cheap Powerbank Logic and Teardown

A fixture on many British high streets are pound shops. You may have an equivalent wherever in the world you are reading this; shops in which everything on sale has the same low price. They may be called dollar stores, one-Euro stores, or similar. In this case a pound, wich translates today to a shade under $1.24.

Amid the slightly random selection of groceries and household products are a small range of electronic goods. FM radios, USB cables and hubs, headphones, and mobile phone accessories. It was one of these that caught [Julian Ilett]’s eye, a USB power bank. (Video embedded below.)

You don’t get much for a quid, and it shows in this product. A USB cable that gets warm at the slightest current, a claimed 800 mA of output at 5V from a claimed 1200 mAh capacity, and all from an 18650 Li-ion cell of indeterminate origin. The active component is an FM9833E SOIC-8 switching regulator and charger (220K PDF data sheet, in Chinese).

A straightforward teardown of a piece of near-junk consumer electronics would not normally be seen as something we’d tempt you with, but [Julian] goes on to have some rather pointless but entertaining fun with these devices. If you daisy-chain them, they can be shown to have the properties of rudimentary digital logic, and in the video we’ve put below the break it is this that he proceeds to demonstrate. We see a bistable latch, a set-reset latch, a very slow astable multivibrator, and finally he pulls out a load more power banks for a ring oscillator.

If only [MacGyver] had found himself trapped in a container of power banks somewhere from which only solving a complex mathematical conundrum could release him, perhaps he could have fashioned an entire computer! The best conclusion is the one given at the end of the video by [Julian] himself, in which he suggests (and we’re paraphrasing here) that if you feel the idea to be unworthy of merit, you can tell him so in the comments.

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Hacking a Dollar Store Bluetooth Device

Hardware hackers are always looking for devices to tear apart and scavenge from. It’s hardly a secret that purchasing components individually is significantly more expensive than the minuscule cost per unit that goes along with mass manufacturing. Bluetooth devices are no exception. Sure, they’re not exactly a luxury purchase anymore, but they’re still not dirt cheap either.

Luckily for [Troy Denton], it seems dollar stores have started carrying a Bluetooth camera shutter for just a few dollars (it was three bucks, perhaps the dollar store actually means divisible-by). The device is designed to pair with a smart phone, and has two buttons allowing you to control the camera from afar. The fact that it works at all at that price is a small miracle, but the device also has potential for hacking that adds to its appeal. Continue reading “Hacking a Dollar Store Bluetooth Device”

Dollar store Terminator replica

Okay, now we think [James] is just on a mission to see what he can build using the dollar store as his parts bin. This is the nearly finished replica of the cyborg skeleton from the Terminator franchise. It’s made mostly from things that cost $0.99.

Actually we’ve got that a bit wrong. [James] is really shopping at the £0.99 store but the concept is basically the same. He’s already shown us that he’s a pro at this with the arc reactor replica we recently saw from him. This time around a set of speakers donate their enclosures to build up the spinal column supporting the skull. Fittingly these are glued together using a hot glue gun from the store. The sides of the skull are carefully crafted from a set of four plastic bowls. The jaw comes together thanks to the corners of a plastic box’s lid. And finally the majority of the face is from a golden skull costume mask. Spray it all grey and pop in some LEDs for the eyes and he’s done it! He show’s off his final creation in the video after the break.

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Dollar store arc reactor build

Some people have a real knack for sourcing parts at the dollar store. [James] is one of those people, having built this Arc Reactor replica using mostly dollar store goods.

The light source is an LED disk light that was removed from its enclosure. A sink strainer, the plastic holder from a package of sewing pins, and some wire mesh go together to make the first layer of the bezel. The push-pin holder is what has the ring of narrow rectangles around the bright center. It was painted black and attached to the sink strainer which provides the concentric holes in the center of the device.

For the detail around the outside [James] went with some clear-plastic drinking cups. By cutting off the top centimeter of each and stacking three together he gets the clear base he was after. The rest of the parts were gathered from his electronics supplies. DIP sockets straddle the drinking glass rims, and are wound with copper wire for the look seen here.

We put this near the top of the dollar store builds along with this Blade Runner umbrella.

Dome light LED retrofit

One of the bulbs in the dome light of [Pete’s] car burnt out. These were a bit hard to get at for replacement so he thought he’d try something that would last longer, and have no problem standing up to the vibrations that go along with automotive electronics. But plug-in LED replacements cost more money than he was willing to spend. Luckily there was a dollar store next door to the auto part shop, so he bought three LED touch lights for the dome and cargo bulbs.

After cracking them open he found that the LEDs were wired in parallel. He needed to put these in series in order to take advantage of the voltage drop. After de-soldering the bulbs he measured the characteristics of one, then calculated the voltage drop and resistor value using a worst case scenario of 14V to avoid damage to the light when the engine is revving high. From there he cut the traces on the board and rewired them. The reworked module fits nicely and as you can see in the image, gives a more pleasing light color than the orange of the stock bulb.

Monocle fixes webcam farsightedness

[Vik Oliver] came up with a webcam focus fix that is so quick and simple we never would have thought of it. He received the webcam as a gift and mounted on an articulated lamp so that it could easily be positioned around his projects. The problem is the camera lacks a focus adjustment so the close-up shots were blurry.

In what we consider a eureka moment, he sourced a pair of dollar store reading glasses to fix the optics. The glasses came with their own mounting bracket. He clipped them in half and wrapped the wire ear support around the camera body. Great hacks don’t have to be complicated, and we need to do a better job of looking at the dollar store for project parts!