Some design choices on manufacturing equipment really leave you scratching your head for a while, as recently happened to [Chris Cecil] when the belt on a reflow oven’s conveyer snapped. Although the solution seems simple enough, getting a new belt on the thing would involve essentially taking the entire machine apart, before reassembling it again. Thus the frayed belt went through the oven over and over until during a recent production run of Smoothieboard controller boards until [Chris] heard a funny noise and the conveyer ground to a halt.
Moving the conveyer by hand kind of worked, but with a more permanent fix urgently needed to finish the production run, two stepper motors took the place of the belt, which just left driving these steppers to keep the conveyer moving in sync. Lacking a simple Arduino board to toss at it, and with a Smoothieboard being absolute overkill, [Chris] figured that a humble NE555 timer IC ought to do the job just as well.
Using a project on Hackaday.io by [KushagraK7] as the starting point, and a 1992-vintage NE555 IC harvested from an old project, [Chris] managed to put together a basic stepper driver that uses the NE555 to provide the timing signal. In addition to restoring basic functionality like starting and stopping the conveyer belt, [Chris] added a new feature with the reversing of the conveyer direction. Along with some cobbled together components to physically rotate the conveyer’s two rollers, it restored the reflow oven to working condition.
And one day the prototyped driver board will be updated to a proper PCB. It’s only temporary, after all :)
Shape shifters have long been the stuff of speculative fiction, but researchers in China have developed a magnetoactive phase transitional matter (MPTM) that makes Odo slipping through an air vent that much more believable.
Soft robots can squeeze into small spaces or change shape as needed, but many of these systems aren’t as strong as their more mechanically rigid siblings. Inspired by the sea cucumber’s ability to manipulate its rigidity, this new MPTM can be inductively heated to a molten state to change shape as well as encapsulate or release materials. The neodymium-iron-boron (NdFeB) microparticles suspended in gallium will then return to solid form once cooled.
Applications in drug delivery, foreign object removal, and smart soldering (video after the break) probably have more real world impact than the LEGO minifig T1000 impersonation, despite how cool that looks. While a pick-and-place can do better soldering work on a factory line, there might be repair situations where a magnetically-controlled solder system could come in handy.
Apple is often lauded for its design chops, but function is often sacrificed at the altar of form, particularly when repair is involved. [Ken Pillonel] has made it easier for everyone to replace the batteries or lightning port in the AirPods Pro case. (YouTube)
With such notable hacks as adding USB C to the iPhone already under his belt, [Pillonel] has turned his attention to fixing the notoriously poor repairability of AirPods and AirPods Pro, starting with the cases. While the batteries for these devices are available, replacement Lightning ports are not, and taking the housing apart for the case is an exercise in patience where the results can’t be guaranteed.
It all started with a vague error code (shown in the image above) on [nophead]’s Bosch SMS88TW01G/01 dishwasher, and it touched off a months-long repair nightmare that even involved a logic analyzer. [nophead] is normally able to handily diagnose and repair electronic appliances, but this time he had no idea what he was in for.
Not only were three separate and unrelated faults at play (one of them misrepresented as a communications error that caused a lot of head-scratching) but to top it all off, the machine is just not very repair-friendly. The Bosch device utilized components which are not easily accessible. In the end [nophead] prevailed, but it truly was a nightmare repair of the highest order. So what went wrong?
One error appears to have been due to a manufacturing problem. While reverse-engineering the electronics in the appliance, [nophead] noticed a surface-mounted transistor that looked crooked. It was loose to the touch and fell into pieces when he attempted to desolder it. This part was responsible for switching an optical sensor, so that was one problem solved.
Another issue was a “communications error”. This actually came down to ground leakage due to a corroded and faulty heater, and to say that it was a pain to access is an understatement. Accessing this part requires the machine to be turned upside down, because the only way to get to it is by removing the base of the dishwasher, which itself requires a bizarre series of awkward and unintuitive steps to remove. Oh, and prior to turning the machine upside down, one has to purge the sump pump, which required a 3D-printed adapter… and the list goes on.
And the E02 error code, the thing that started it all? This was solved early in troubleshooting by changing a resistor value by a tiny amount. [nophead] is perfectly aware that this fix makes no sense, but perhaps it was in fact related to the ground leakage problem caused by the corroded heater. It may return to haunt the future, but in the meantime, the machine seems happy.
[Chris Jones] recently found himself in a pickle. An indicator LED off an old piece of stereo equipment had failed. It was a strange rectangular type for which he could source no modern substitute. Using a different LED would ruin the aesthetic. Thus, what else was [Chris] to do, but attempt surgery on an LED!
The first attempt was the simplest. [Chris] tried soldering a small SMD LED between the legs of the existing part, which was open circuit. It worked, but the light didn’t really propagate to the top of the LED’s plastic. It was too dim to do the job.
Unperturbed, [Chris] instead elected to cut the LED apart. he soldered the SMD LED to the original LED’s leads, inside its body this time. The top part of the plastic lens was then notched to fit snugly over the new SMD part. A bit of superglue then joined everything back together. The finished product looks a touch messy on the PCB. However, installed back inside the stereo, it’s a perfectly stealth fix that looks great.
This green LED has stopped working. I think it's my fault – one leg shorted to the chassis while it was switched on and gave it 15V which it didn't like. It's an odd shape so we can't buy a new one. Can we fix it? 🧵 /1 pic.twitter.com/DX71Kk0TP5
We aren’t saying that appliances are a scam, but we have noticed that when your appliances fail, there’s a good chance it will be some part you can no longer get from the appliance maker. Or in some cases, it’s a garden-variety part that should cost $2, but has been marked up to $40. When [Balakrishnan] had a failure of the timer control board for a Whirlpool washing machine, it was time to reverse engineer the board and replace it with a small microcontroller.
Of course, this kind of hack is one of those that won’t help you unless you need exactly that timer board. However, the process is generally applicable. Luckily, the motherboard chip was documented and the timer control board used a simple ATmega88, so it was easy to see that the devices were communicating via I2C.
Reading the I2C bus is easy with a logic analyzer, and this revealed the faulty device’s I2C address. The board that failed was only for display, so a simple program that does nothing other than accept I2C data put the washer in working order. Once it was working with an Arduino, an ATTiny45 did the work with a lot less space and cost.
Like many of you, I’ve become the designated “fix-it” person for my family and friends. While it can be a lot of work — I just finished an oil change that required me to lay in a cold, wet driveway and I can’t mention in polite company the substances I was bathed in while fixing a clogged pipe last week — I generally relish my role. I enjoy solving problems, I love working with my hands and my head, and who doesn’t like saving money and time?
But for me, the best part of being the fix-it guy is the satisfaction that comes from doing something others can’t do. I find this especially true with automotive repairs, which conventional wisdom says is strictly the province of factory-trained experts. A little bit of a hero complex, perhaps? Absolutely! After all, I don’t get paid for my repairs, so I’ve got to get a little something for the effort.
This is why a recent pair of unrelated fixes left me feeling thoroughly unsatisfied. Neither of these jobs was a clear win, at least in terms of getting the rush of being able to do something that nobody else could. At best, these were qualified wins, which both still left me feeling a little defeated. And that got me thinking that I’m probably not the only one who has had marginal repair wins like these.