Lithium-Ion Batteries Are Easy To Find

In the first article, I’ve given you an overview of Lithium-Ion batteries and cells as building blocks for our projects, and described how hackers should treat their Lithium-Ion cells. But what if you don’t have any LiIon cells yet? Where do you get LiIon cells for your project?

Taking laptop batteries apart,  whether the regular 18650 or the modern pouch cell-based ones, remains a good avenue – many hackers take this road and the topic is extensively covered by a number of people. However, a 18650 cell might not fit your project size-wise, and thin batteries haven’t quite flooded the market yet. Let’s see what your options are beyond laptops. Continue reading “Lithium-Ion Batteries Are Easy To Find”

Lithium-Ion Batteries Are Your Friends

Need some kind of battery for a project? You can always find a few Lithium-Ion (LiIon) batteries around! They’re in our phones, laptops, and a myriad other battery-powered things of all forms – as hackers, we will find ourselves working with them more and more. Lithium-Ion batteries are unmatched when it comes to energy capacity, ease of charging, and all the shapes and sizes you can get one in.

There’s also misconceptions about these batteries – bad advice floating around, fearmongering videos of devices ablaze, as well as mundane lack of understanding. Today, I’d like to provide a general overview of how to treat your LiIon batteries properly, making sure they serve you well long-term.

What’s A Battery? A Malleable Pile Of Cells

Lithium-Ion batteries are our friends. Now, there can’t be a proper friendship if you two don’t understand each other. Lithium-Ion batteries are tailored for human needs by the factory that produced them. As for us hackers, we’ll want to learn some things.

First thing to learn – a single LiIon “unit” is called a cell. An average laptop contains three or six Li-Ion cells, a phone will have one, a tablet will have from one to three. What we refer to as “battery” is typically one or multiple cells, together with protection circuitry, casing and a separate connector – most of the time all three of these, but not always. The typical voltage is 3.6 V or 3.7 V, with maximum voltage being 4.2 V – these are chemistry-defined, the same for most kinds of cells and almost always written on the cell. Continue reading “Lithium-Ion Batteries Are Your Friends”

Build Your Own… Whatever

You can read all about making, say, a bookshelf or bowling, but unless you’ve actually done it, you don’t really know how it works. That’s the idea behind [codecrafters-io] Build-Your-Own-X GitHub repository. It is a collection of software projects from around the Web that offer “step-by-step guides for recreating our favorite technologies from scratch.”

What can you find there? Well, how about writing your own version of Git itself? Or maybe you’d like to dive into a physics engine, blockchain code, or a text editor. Then there’s our favorite: an operating system.

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Working With BGAs: Design And Layout

The Ball Grid Array, or BGA package is no longer the exclusive preserve of large, complex chips on computer motherboards: today even simple microcontrollers are available with those little solder balls. Still, many hobbyists prefer to stay with QFP and QFN packages because they’re easier to solder. While that is a fair point, BGA packages can offer significant space savings, and are sometimes the only choice: with the ongoing chip shortage, some other package versions might simply be unavailable. Even soldering doesn’t have to be complicated: if you’re already comfortable with solder paste and reflow profiles, adding a BGA or two into the mix is pretty easy.

In this article we’ll show that working with BGA chips is not as difficult as it may seem. The focus will be on printed circuit board design: how to draw proper footprints, how to route lots of signals and what capabilities your PCB manufacturer should have. We’ll cover soldering and rework techniques in a future article, but first let’s take a look at why BGAs are used at all.

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Electronic Dice Is Introduction To Microcontroller Programming

By now most of us are familiar with the Arduino platform. It’s an inexpensive and fairly easy way into the world of microcontrollers. For plenty of projects, there’s no need to go beyond that unless you have a desire to learn more of the inner workings of microcontrollers in general. [Cristiano] was interested in expanding some of his knowledge, so he decided to build this electronic dice using a PIC microcontroller instead of the Arduino platform he was more familiar with.

As a result, this project is set up as a how-to for others looking to dive further into the world of microcontrollers that don’t have the same hand-holding setup as the Arduino. To take care of the need for a random number for the dice, the PIC’s random number generator is used but with the added randomness of a seed from an internal timer. The timer is started when a mercury tilt switch signals the device that it has been rolled over, and after some computation a single digit number is displayed on a seven-segment display.

While it might seem simple on the surface, the project comes with an in-depth guide on programming the PIC family of microcontrollers, and has a polish not normally seen on beginner projects, including the use of the mercury tilt switch which gives it a retro vibe. For some other tips on how to build projects like this, take a look at this guide on how to build power supplies for your projects as well.

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How To Get Your Diffraction Grating 3D Prints Right The First Time

Diffraction gratings are beautiful things, bending transmitted and reflected light and splitting it into its component wavelengths to create attractive iridescent rainbow patterns. It’s the same effect you see on the bottom of a CD!

You can 3D print a functional diffraction grating, too, with the right techniques, as it turns out! The average 3D printer can’t recreate the tiny-scaled patterns of a diffraction grating directly; a typical diffraction grating may have up to 1000 lines per mm. Instead, by 3D printing onto an existing diffraction grating, the print can pick up the texture on its base layer. It’s a great way to add iridescence and shine to a print.

We’ve seen similar work before, but the guide from [All3DP] goes into greater detail on how to get the effect to work just right. Getting the bed as close to perfectly level is key here, as is the first layer height. This is because the first layer of plastic has to meld perfectly with the diffraction grating to pick up the pattern. Too high and the grooves won’t transfer to the plastic, and too low, and it’s likely you’ll just melt the grating itself. Setting the Z-offset appropriately can help here.

Choosing the right bed temperature is also important to ensure the molten plastic is able to flow into the grooves of the grating. Again, the temperature at which the diffraction grating itself can survive is important to take into account; going above 90 degrees can be risky here. The guide also shows two methods of achieving the goal: one can either use an off-the-shelf grating, or one can prepare a no-longer-wanted CD into a suitable print surface.

Naturally, removing the print must be done delicately, lest one disturb the delicate structures key to generating the iridescent effect. [All3DP] recommends using a freezer to help separate the parts from the grating surface. It also bears noting that the print won’t survive excessive handling, as the grating structures will get damaged by physical touch.

It’s a great in-depth guide on how to get diffraction grating prints right. Meanwhile, consider diving deeper into the world of 3D printed optics!


Give 3D Printed Plastic A Well-Worn Metal Look

Affordable 3D printers let us turn ideas into physical reality without a big expensive workshop, but with their power came some disadvantages. The nature of FDM printers impart layer lines and nozzle ridges in the parts they produce. They can be minimized with optimized print settings, but never eliminated. [Emily Velasco] loves the power of 3D printing but not how the parts look. So she put in the effort to make 3D-printed plastic look like distressed metal and showed us how she did it. (Video also embedded after the break.)

This video is a follow-up to her Pet Eye project in response to feedback on Twitter. She had mentioned that the  salvaged metal box for Pet Eye wasn’t quite big enough to hold everything, so she had to extend its internal volume with a 3D print box on the back. It fit in so well that the offhand comment surprised many people who wanted to know more about how it was done. So she designed a demonstration cube covered with mechanical characteristics, and gave us this walkthrough of its transformation.

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