Friday Hack Chat: Trusting The Autorouter

Ah, the autorouter. Inside every PCB design tool, there’s a function called the ‘autorouter’. This function, when used correctly, is able to automagically lay traces between pads, producing a perfect board in under a minute. The trouble is, no one uses it. We have been told not to trust the autorouters and we hear a lot of other dire warnings about it. The autorouter never works. The autorouter will put traces everywhere. The autorouter doesn’t consider floorplanning, and sometimes you’re going to get traces that go right through the edge of your board. Is avoiding the autorouter sound advice?

For this week’s Hack Chat, we’re talking about trusting the autorouter. The autorouter is just a tool, and like any tool, it will do exactly what you tell it. The problem, therefore, is being smart enough to use the autorouter.

Our guest for this week’s Hack Chat is Ben Jordan, Director of Community Tools and Content at Altium. Ben is a Computer Systems engineer, with 25 years experience in board-level hardware and embedded systems design. He picked up a soldering iron at 8, and wrote some assembly at 12. He’s also an expert at using an autorouter successfully.

In this Hack Chat, we’re going to talk to Ben about Altium, Circuit Maker, and how to get the best performance out of an autorouter. How do you set the autorouter up? How do you test your settings? What, actually, is the technology and math that goes into an autorouter? What is the best way to design a multilayer board? How do you do multiboard designs? And what’s the deal with mixed signals?

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Our Hack Chats are live community events on the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This Hack Chat is going down Friday, February 23rd at noon, Pacific time. Want to know what time this is happening in your neck of the woods? Here, look at the neat time zone converter thingy.

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io.

You don’t have to wait until Friday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

Friday Hack Chat: Making A Makerspace

How do you make a makerspace? Over the last decade, there have been plenty of talks and tutorials handing out pointers. No day of the week will be good for a meeting, so the meetings are always on Tuesdays. The bike shed will be painted orange, no exceptions. Are you going to be a for-profit, or not-for-profit? Are we a makerspace or a hackerspace? Jerry, stop being clever. Pantone 021 U.

For this week’s Hack chat, we’re going to be talking all about making a makerspace. These are community hubs where people come together and share resources to bring their inventions to life. It’s not as simple as it may seem. You need insurance, you need a building, you need a landlord who’s cool, and there are a thousand and one things that can go wrong. Who best to steer you through the storm of opening a Hackerspace? Who can you solicit advice from?

Our guests for this week’s Hack Chat are Vaibhav Chhabra, a mech E from Boston University. He spent two years working on an eye diagnostic device, is an instructor at MIT REDX health care innovation lab, and is a founder of the incredible Makers Asylum. Eric Michaud is a Hacker, runner, and author, currently working on Rift Recon, Shellcon, and hackerspaces.org. He has written tutorials on Adafruit, and was a founding member of HacDC before he took off to Chicago and started PS:One.

Topics for this week’s Hack Chat include what it takes to open a makerspace, how you can fund it, organizational structure concerning for-profit, not-for-profit, and the thing that the members are most concerned about: what equipment is most crucial for a successful makerspace. You are, of course, encouraged to add your own questions to the Hack Chat; to do that, just leave a comment on the Hack Chat event page.

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Our Hack Chats are live community events on the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This Hack Chat is going down Friday, February 16th at 09:30am Pacific time. This is different than our usual time slot. Want to know what time this is happening in your neck of the woods? Here, look at the neat time zone converter thingy

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io.

You don’t have to wait until Friday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

Friday Hack Chat: How Do You Collaborate With Hardware?

The world of Open Source software is built on collaboration. In one corner of the world, someone can fix a bug in a piece of software, and push it up to the gits. In another part of the world, someone else can put that fix into the next release, and soon everyone has newer, better software. The Internet, or the ability to rapidly transmit text and binary files, has made this all possible.

Hardware is another story. There’s a financial barrier to entry. Not only do you need a meter and a good iron, you’re probably going to need oscilloscopes, logic analyzers, and a bunch of other expensive tools. You’ll need to buy your BOM. If you’re using a PIC, it might be a good idea to buy the good compiler. Hardware is hard and expensive, and all those software devs who complain don’t know what they’re talking about. Collaborating on hardware is much more difficult than pushing some code up to the cloud.

For this week’s Hack Chat, we’re going to be talking about collaborating on hardware projects. This is a deep dive on how to make collaboration with physical objects work, and this week we’re going to be learning from some of the best.

Our guests for this week’s Hack Chat are Pete Dokter and Toni Klopfenstein of SparkFun Electronics. Pete is formerly the Director of Engineering at SparkFun and now the Brand Ambassador for SparkFun Electronics. He hosts the According to Pete video series expounding on various engineering principles and seriously needs a silverburst Les Paul and a Sunn Model T. Toni is currently the product development manager at SparkFun. She’s served on the Open Source Hardware Association Board and participates in the Open Hardware Summit yearly. In her free time, she spends fifty weeks out of the year finding dust in her art and electronics projects.

During this chat, we’re going to be discussing what makes a collaborative hardware project, how to make distributed development work for your team, and the limits of what you can do with several hardware engineers separated by thousands of miles. This is a hard problem, much harder than a distributed team of software engineers, and a fantastic discussion for all.

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Our Hack Chats are live community events on the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This Hack Chat is going down Friday, February 9th at noon, Pacific time. Time Zones got you down? Here’s a handy countdown timer!

Click that speech bubble to the left, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io.

You don’t have to wait until Friday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

Friday Hack Chat: Circuit Python

Back in the olden days, if you wanted to learn how to program a computer, you used the BASIC interpreter stored in ROM. This is how an entire generation of devs learned how to program. Now, home computers do not exist, there is no programming language stored in ROM, and no one should inflict JavaScript on 8-year-olds. What is the default, My First Programming Language™ today? Python. And now it’s on microcontrollers.

For this week’s Hack Chat on hackaday.io, we’re going to be talking all about Circuit Python. Circuit Python is based on the Open Source MicroPython, a Python 3 interpreter that implements a subset of the Python language on microcontrollers and other constrained environments. It is the spiritual successor of BASIC on every computer: MicroPython has an interactive prompt, arbitrary precision integers, closures, lists, and more. All of this fits on a microcontroller with 256 kB of code space and 16 k of RAM.

Our guests for this week’s Hack Chat will be [Scott Shawcroft] and [Dan Halbert] from Adafruit. [Scott] started working on MicroPython with Adafruit in September 2016 and has led the renamed CircuitPython effort ever since. [Dan] started working on CircuitPython in early 2017 and joined Adafruit in August of that year. [Dan], by the way, is the original author of the ‘more’ command in UNIX.

For this Hack Chat, we’re going to be talking about CircuitPython, its history, current boards that support the project, and the end goals for CircuitPython. We’ll be talking about future plans, what will be supported in the future, and asking any technical questions about CircuitPython.

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Our Hack Chats are live community events on the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This Hack Chat is going down Friday, February 2nd at noon, Pacific time. Time Zones got you down? Here’s a handy countdown timer!

Click that speech bubble to the left, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io.

You don’t have to wait until Friday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

Friday Hack Chat: Becoming Cyborg

What is it like to be a cyborg? What does it mean to have augmented hearing, improved vision, and coprocessors for your brain that enhance your memory? We could ask people with hearing aids, glasses, and a smartphone strapped to their wrist, but that’s boring. We’re looking to the future and the cool type of cyborgation, and that’s what this week’s Hack Chat is all about.

Our guest for this week’s Hack Chat will be Lindy Wilkins, and they’re here to discuss what it takes to be a cyborg. Right now, they’re sporting a magnetic implant, an NFC implant and will soon have a North Sense, an exo-sensory device that tells your brain where North is.

Lindy is currently based in Toronto as a PhD student at the University of Toronto, and director at the Site 3 coLaboratory. They spend free time making robots, playing with lasers, and thinking about how body modification and where the intersection of bio-hacking and wearable technology will meet in the near future.

During this Hack Chat, we’re going to be talking about what it means to be a cyborg. Is it simply a matter of wearing contacts, getting a replacement hip or heart valve, or is it something even cooler? Do RFID tags count? Do insulin pumps? We’re going to be digging deep into what it means to be a cyborg, and what future technologies will enable the human body to do. You are, of course, encouraged to ask your own questions; leave those on the Hack Chat event page.

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Our Hack Chats are live community events on the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This Hack Chat is going down Friday, January 26th at noon, Pacific time. Time Zones got you down? Here’s a handy countdown timer!

Click that speech bubble to the left, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io.

You don’t have to wait until Friday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

Friday Hack Chat: Fashion! (Turn To The Left)

An underappreciated facet of the maker movement is wearable technology. For this week’s Hack Chat, we’re going to be talking all about wearable and fashion tech. This includes motors, lighting, biofeedback, and one significantly overlooked aspect of wearables, washability.

For this week’s Hack Chat, we’re sitting down with Kathryn Blair and Shannon Hoover to talk about the workability and washability of fashion tech. Over the last decade or so, wearable tech has become ever more popular, and these advances in the science aren’t just limited to amazing outfits lined with hundreds of Neopixels. Now, we’re dealing with biofeedback, clothing that regulates your body temperature monitors your vital signs, and necklaces that glow when the sun goes down.

Kathryn and Shannon are part of the team behind MakeFashion, a Calgary-based outfit that has produced over 60 wearable tech garments shown at 40 international events. MakeFashion is introducing designers to wearables through a series of hands-on workshops built around developing wearable electronics and electronic wearables.

One of the key technologies behind MakeFashion is the StitchKit, a development kit that’s now available on Kickstarter designed to add electronics to wearables. This means everything from uglier Christmas sweaters to interactive clothing.

During this Hack Chat, we’re going to be discussing the design and engineering behind fashion technology, including biofeedback, how motors and lighting work with a human body, and how to design for washability. If you have a question for this Hack Chat, add it to the discussion part of the event page.

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Our Hack Chats are live community events on the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This Hack Chat is going down Friday, January 19th at noon, Pacific time. Time Zones got you down? Here’s a handy countdown timer!

Click that speech bubble to the left, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io.

You don’t have to wait until Friday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

Friday Hack Chat: Assembling In Quantity With MacroFab

Building one of something is easy. You see it here every day, and yes, building a single robot, or a board to convert Segas to HDMI, or an Internet of Things thing is easy. Manufacturing is another story entirely. You’re going to have BOMs to work with, you’ll have suppliers, and you need to deal with assembly, programming, and packaging. Do you even know where you’re going to store all those boxes of parts? Manufacturing is a difficult task, but luckily there are assembly houses and contract manufacturers ready to ease the burden a little.

For this week’s Hack Chat, we’re going to be talking about Assembly as a Service through MacroFab. MacroFab is an online assembly house and contract manufacturer that makes creating hardware simple. If you thought sending a board file off to OSH Park and receiving a PCB in a week is amazing, you clearly haven’t experienced MacroFab. Here, you can upload your board and BOM, and with minimal effort, receive a completely populated product in a few weeks.

Our guest for this week’s Hack Chat will be [Parker Dillmann], MacroFab co-founder, with backgrounds in embedded design and DSP. He runs longhornengineer, a blog full of amazing projects that fit in well with the usual Hackaday fare. Shoutouts are especially deserved for the Game Boy VGA adapter.

During this week’s Hack chat, we’re going to be talking to [Parker] about manufacturing, the pitfalls, how you can better design for manufacturing (DFM), the machines used by MacroFab, pogo pin adapters, solder fountains, and all the cool stuff that turns one of a thing into thousands of a thing. If you’re wondering what MacroFab’s results look like, you’ve probably already held a few in your hands; the badge for this year’s Hackaday Superconference was manufactured by MacroFab, as were a lot of the independent badges at last year’s Def Con.

During this Hack Chat, we’ll be discussing:

  • What is the process for a first-time manufacturer?
  • Where can you find out how to design better for manufacturing?
  • What kinds of products are made at MacroFab?
  • What kinds of equipment is typically used for board assembly?

As always, we’re looking for questions from the community, you can add those as a comment on the Hack Chat event page.

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Our Hack Chats are live community events on the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This Hack Chat is going down Friday, January 12th at noon, Pacific time. Time Zones got you down? Here’s a handy countdown timer!

Click that speech bubble to the left, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io.

You don’t have to wait until Friday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.