Needling Your Projects: 3D Printed PCB Probing Jig Uses Accupuncture Needles

Trying to probe a modern electronic circuit with tiny SMD components, without letting the magic smoke escape in the process, can be quite a challenge. Especially since we hackers have not yet developed the number of appendages required to hold 3 different probes in place while operating both an oscilloscope and a computer. [Giuseppe Finizia] solved this problem with a 3D printed PCB probing jig that uses acupuncture needles.

As part of [Giuseppe] day job as an engineer at an electronic forensics laboratory, he does technical investigations on seized devices, which involves quite a bit of probing. The jig consists of a base plate with slots in which PCB holders of various configurations slide to hold all shapes and sizes of PCBs. Around the circumference of the plate there are multiple positions for adjustable probing “cranes”, each of which hold an acupuncture needle that is crimped or soldered to a wire. Each needle holder has a bit of flex which allows it to maintain downward pressure for a positive connection.

Making one-off tools and jigs is arguably one of the best applications for 3D printing, of which this is a perfect example. You can of course point solder wires or use test hooks if you have something to grab onto, but for easily probing multiple point on any PCB, this looks like a damn good solution. If you’re trying to trace a single signal, a precision pantograph might be your friend, or you can add a foot switch to your oscilloscope for quickly checking a circuit by hand.

[Jonathon Oxer] from the YouTube channel SuperHouse did a very nice video on the jig and made some small modifications. Check out the video after the break.

Return Of The Logic Probe

We live in a day when it is very inexpensive to buy an oscilloscope, especially one with modest performance that hooks to a laptop. However, there was a time when even a surplus scope was out of reach for many people who liked to build things. A common alternative was the logic probe. At the low end, this could be an inverter and an LED, although it was more common to have a little extra circuitry to actually do a comparison to a reference voltage and present some indication of fast pulses — you might not be able to tell the frequency of a clock, but you could tell it wasn’t stuck. Of course, today with a microcontroller you can make a very sophisticated probe with less circuitry than a classic probe. We’ve seen a few takes on this and the latest is the DigiLogicProbe from [TheRadMan].

The probe is just a ATtiny85 board with a handful of components. A resistor and diode help protect the probe and the circuit under test. There are also a few LEDs and a buzzer. The rest of the project is software.

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Everything You Need To Know About Logic Probes

We just spent the last hour watching a video, embedded below, that is the most comprehensive treasure trove of information regarding a subject that we should all know more about — sniffing logic signals. Sure, it’s a long video, but [Joel] of [OpenTechLab] leaves no stone unturned.

At the center of the video is the open-source sigrok logic capture and analyzer. It’s great because it supports a wide variety of dirt cheap hardware platforms, including the Salae logic and its clones. Logic is where it shines, but it’ll even log data from certain scopes, multimeters, power supplies, and more. Not only can sigrok decode raw voltages into bits, but it can interpret the bits as well using protocol decoder plugins written in Python. What this all means is that someday, it will decode everything. For free.

[Joel] knows a thing or two about sigrok because he started the incredibly slick PulseView GUI project for it, but that doesn’t stop him from walking you through the command-line interface, which is really useful for automated data capture and analysis, if that’s your sort of thing. Both are worth knowing.

But it’s actually the hardware details where this video shines. He breaks down all of the logic probes on his bench, points out their design pros and cons, and uses that basis to explain just what kind of performance you can expect for $20 or so. You’ll walk away with an in-depth understanding of the whole toolchain, from grabber probes to GUIs.
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Dead-Bug Logic Probe In A Magic Marker

Logic probes are simple but handy tools that can be had for a couple of bucks. They may not be the sexiest pieces of test gear, nor the most versatile, but they have their place, and building your own logic probe is a great way to understand the tool’s strength and weaknesses.

[Jxnblk]’s take on the logic probe is based on a circuit by [Tony van Roon]. The design hearkens back to a simpler time and is based on components that would have been easy to pick up at any Radio Shack once upon a time. The logic section is centered on the venerable 7400 quad 2-input NAND gate in the classic 14-pin DIP format. The gates light separate LEDs for high and low logic levels, and a 555 timer chip in a one-shot configuration acts as a pulse stretcher to catch transients. The DIP packages lend themselves to quick and dirty “dead bug” construction, and the whole thing fits nicely into a discarded marking pen.

dead-bug-logic-probe-in-marker-body

It’s a simple build and a nice form factor for a useful tool, but for an even slimmer package like an old syringe you’ll probably have to go with SMD components. And when you graduate from the simple logic probe, you might want to check out the capabilities of this smart probe.

Adding A Digital Back To A Sweet Old Camera

[Eugene] wanted to use his vintage Leica M4 as a digital camera, and he had a Canon EOS 350D digital camera sitting around unused. So he Frankensteined them together and added a digital back to the Leica’s optical frontend.

It sounds simple, right? All you’d need to do is chop off the back from the EOS 350D, grind the digital sensor unit down to fit into exactly the right spot on the film plane, glue it onto an extra Leica M4 back door, and you’re set. Just a little bit of extremely precise hackery. But it’s not even that simple.

Along the way [Eugene] reverse-engineered the EOS 350D’s shutter and mirror box signals (using a Salae Logic probe), and then replicated these signals when the Leica shutter was tripped by wedging an Arduino MiniPro into an old Leica motor-winder case. The Arduino listens for the Leica’s bulb-flash signal to tell when the camera fires, and then sends along the right codes to the EOS back. Sweet.

There are still a few outstanding details. The shutter speed is limited by the latency in getting the signal from the Leica to the 350D back, so he’s stuck at shutter speeds longer than 1/8th of a second. Additionally, the Canon’s anti-IR filter didn’t fit, but he has a new one ordered. These quibbles aside, it’s a beautiful hack so far.

What makes a beautiful piece of work even more beautiful? Sharing the source code and schematics. They’re both available at his Github.

Of course, if you don’t mind completely gutting the camera, you could always convert your old Leica into a point and shoot.

TIQ Probe Is More Logical Than Most

 

We had [Mark] on our “dance card” for people to find at Maker Faire. But before we could track him down he bumped into us holding the TIQ Probe in one hand and a testing box in the other. TIQ is conceived in the form factor of a traditional logic probe but thanks to the Cypress PSoC 5LP inside it’s much, much smarter than the decades-old bench tools. Sure, it can tell you if that uC pin is a 1 or a 0, but it can also detect what type of signal it’s probing and has built-in protection for over-voltage.

The point of the tool is to bridge the gap between things which would be measured with a DMM and those measured with a proper Oscilloscope. We think he did a pretty good job of including the things that someone just starting out without expensive bench equipment might want. For instance, you can set it to trigger on common data protocols like i2c, and use the probe itself as a rudimentary pulse generator.

The bulk of the details on the probe can be found on its Kickstarter page (which has just a few days left). You may also be interested in his company page. We’re curious about the insides of the test rig he was hauling around. [Mark] is a regular reader so hopefully he’ll leave a comment below with the details of that black box.

Forget Treating Your Diabetes – Use Your Insulin Syringe As A Logic Probe

syringe-logic-probe

Hackaday reader [JumperOne] was in need of a logic probe that he could use to reliably test some tiny .5mm pitch IC pins. The probe that came with his oscilloscope was a bit too big and not near sharp enough to do the job, but he figured that a syringe might do the trick nicely.

He drilled a small hole near the business end of the syringe, through which he fed a piece of stripped twisted pair cabling. [JumperOne] then soldered a pair of pins to a small piece of coaxial cable, attaching the opposite end to the twisted pair already in the syringe. After carefully coiling the thin cable around the needle, he secured the coaxial cable and its pins in place with a bit of hot glue.

[JumperOne] says that his makeshift logic probe works very well and the sharp needle would easily pierce through any oxidation or solder mask that stands in its way. One extra benefit of using a syringe as a probe is that they come complete with caps which help protect both ends of the delicate tool.