Dollar Store PCB Holder System

As you get into electronic fabrication and repair, one of the first things you realize is how hard it can be to hold a PCB still while you work on it. Securing them is difficult due to their very nature: they’re often weird shapes, quite fragile, and of course need to be electrically isolated. If you don’t mind spending the money, and have the time to wait on it getting delivered, you can order some nice purpose-built systems for holding PCBs online. But what if you need something fast and cheap?

[Paul Bryson] might have the solution for you. On his blog he’s documented how a trip to the dollar store and some parts from the junk bin allowed him to create a practical system for holding multiple PCBs of various shapes and sizes. The most exotic element of the build here are the hexagonal standoffs; and if you haven’t already salvaged a bunch of those from a curbside computer, he even gives the Mouser link where you can buy them new for a few cents each.

Each individual stanchion of the system is made up of a 3/4″ round magnet with a hex standoff glued to the top. Over the standoff, [Paul] slipped a rubber grommet which gives a nice non-conductive slot to put the edge of the PCB in. Otherwise, a second hex standoff screwed into the first can be used to clamp down on the board. Adjusting the height is as simple as adding a couple more magnets to the stack.

Of course, magnets need something metal to stick on. For that, [Paul] purchased some steel pie pans and matching rack from the dollar store. The round pans are easy to handle and give him plenty of surface area, and the rack makes for an exceptionally convenient storage unit for all the components. The conductivity of the pans might be a concern, but nothing the application of a rubberized spray coating couldn’t fix.

We’ve covered similar systems before, but this one certainly looks to take the top spot in terms of economics. The only thing that would be cheaper would be a few feet of PLA filament and a rubber band.

Printed Tentacles for PCB Probing

Every hacker workbench has one or more of those “helping hand” devices to aid in soldering and assembly. When it comes to testing and debugging though, it could get tricky if you have to start handling test probes while looking at the meter display or fiddling with knobs on the oscilloscope. Sometimes one has to test a board that has just pads for test points. Or maybe you need to directly probe pins on an IC. Checking multiple signals on I2C, SPI, Serial or USB is not too easy with just two hands. [Giuseppe Finizia] is an electronic engineer at the Scientific Investigations Department of the Carabinieri in Italy. He works as a senior analyst in the Electronic Forensics Unit and deal’s with technical investigations on seized electronic devices. To help him in his investigative work, he designed and built a 3D printed PCB workstation with octopus-like tentacles that provides all the additional fingers needed.

The tool is basically a base with adjustable clamps where the test PCB can be fixed. Around the base, up to twelve articulated “tentacles” can be fixed. Various test accessories are attached to the ends of these tentacles – Alligator Clips for holding electronic parts, IC Hook Clip Grabbers, Micro SMD Grabber Test Clips and some others that he is still working on. [Giuseppe] used  MOI 3D modeling software to design his device, and the files are available on Thingiverse for download. He does warn that printing all the parts, specially the tentacle units, can be quite tricky on a regular 3D printer. He used a ZORTRAX M200 printer in high resolution mode and Z-HIPS filament. However, it may be easier to just use machine shop flexible coolant pipe for the tentacles. This may require some sort of modification to the base mounts and the business end of the tentacles though.

Thanks to [CFTechno] for sending in this tip.

Hackaday links: October 4, 2011

Playing Snake on a MIDI controller

While you’re waiting for your bandmates to finish arguing/making out/their beer, you can play Snake on your MIDI controller. Luis wrote a Snake game for an Akai APC40 controller. Everything is built with Processing and should provide a great distraction from (for?) your 14-year-old groupies.

Cheap & simple PCB holder

[Robert] sent in a tip for a very simple PCB holder. Take a neo magnet, embed it in oven-hardening modeling clay, and use it on a steel worktop. Check out the pics he sent in (1, 2). It’s too simple not to work.

Lose weight by running people over

[binaryhead] is using a stationary bicycle to play Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. (Spanish, Google translate here). A pot and magnet/reed switch is connected to an Arduino that outputs keys to San Andreas. There’s no word on an ambulance simulator yet.

Giant Android tablet

[Martin Draskov] made a 23 inch Android tablet. He used off the shelf parts (multitouch monitor and a small PC) with the x86 Android port. There’s a video that doesn’t include Angry Birds. Sad, that.

T-shirt bleaching for the modern fabricator

With t-shirt bleaching, you can put a custom design on clothes without a screen printing setup. Reddit user [Admiral_Noosenbaum] used a CNC machine to make templates. Now if only we can find an .SGV file of Che Guevara. Video here.