Think you’ve seen the best component storage system? This system could only be better if you could walk up and talk to it. [APTechnologies] was tired of using a hodgepodge of drawers and boxen for storing their components. What they needed was an all-purpose solution for storing all kinds of small-to-medium-sized goodies, be they through hole or SMT.
This one happens to have a software interface as well that is searchable with short, crisp expressions that find parts by ID or with parameters. It’s a Python 3 script running on a Raspberry Pi 4B that’s hiding behind the HDMI display. [APTechnologies] printed a special arm for that, and you can find all the files on GitHub. Not only does the LED above the corresponding drawer light up, it lights up in a color that represents the inventory levels. We assume green/yellow/red, but [APTechnologies] doesn’t specify.
It seems like just yesterday (maybe for some of you it was) we were installing Windows 3.1 off floppy drives onto a 256 MB hard drive, but hard drives have since gotten a lot bigger and a lot more complicated, and there are a lot more options than spinning platters.
The explosion of storage options is the result of addressing a variety of niches of use. The typical torrenter downloads a file, which is written once but read many times. For some people a drive is used as a backup that’s stored elsewhere and left unpowered. For others it is a server frequently reading and writing data like logs or swap files. In all cases it’s physics that sets the limits of what storage media can do; if you choose wisely for your use case you’ll get the bet performance.
The jargon in this realm is daunting: superparamagnetic limit, LMR, PMR, CMR, SMR, HAMR, MAMR, EAMR, XAMR, and QLC to name the most common. Let’s take a look at how we got here, and how the past and present of persistent storage have expanded what the word hard drive actually means and what is found under the hood.
Vertical storage is often underused in the garage or workshop as it can be tricky to get bulky objects off the floor safely. So we stick a few shelves on the wall, put boxes of screws and components on them, and call it a day. Meanwhile, you end up playing a game of horizontal Tetris with all the big stuff on the ground.
Before he started the actual build, [Chris] knocked together a rough facsimile of his garage in SolidWorks and started experimenting with the layout and mechanism that the hoist would ultimately use. While we’ve all felt the desire to run into a project full-speed, this more methodical approach can definitely save you time and money when working on a complex project. Redesigning a component in CAD to try it a different way will always be faster and easier than having to do it for real.
We’ve become accustomed to seeing projects include sensors, microcontrollers, and 3D printed components as a matter of course, but [Chris] kept this build relatively low-tech. Not that we blame him when heavy overhead loads are involved. Even still, he did have to make a few tweaks in the name of safety: his original ratcheting winch could freewheel under load, so he swapped it out for a worm gear version that he operates with an electric drill.
[Kadah]’s solution for storing short tapes of SMT parts is as attractive as it is clever. The small 3D-printed “tape reels” can double as dispensers, and stack nicely onto each other thanks to the sockets for magnets. The units come in a few different sizes, but are designed to stack in a consistent way.
We love the little touches such as recessed areas for labels, and the fact that the parts can print without supports (there are a couple of unsupported bridges, but they should work out fine.) Also, the outer dimensions of the units are not an accident. They have been specifically chosen to nestle snugly into the kind of part drawers that are a nearly ubiquitous feature of every hardware hacker’s work bench.
STLs are provided for handy download but [Kadah] also provides the original Fusion 360 design file, with all sizes defined as easily-customized parameters. In addition, [Kadah] thoughtfully provided each model in STEP format as well, making it easy to import and modify in almost any 3D CAD program.
Modern-day hard disk drives (HDDs) hold the interesting juxtaposition of being simultaneously the pinnacle of mass-produced, high-precision mechanical engineering, as well as the most scorned storage technology. Despite being called derogatory names such as ‘spinning rust’, most of these drives manage a lifetime of spinning ultra-smooth magnetic storage platters only nanometers removed from the recording and reading heads whose read arms are twitching around using actuators that manage to position the head precisely above the correct microscopic magnetic trace within milliseconds.
Despite decade after decade of more and more of these magnetic traces being crammed on a single square millimeter of these platters, and the simple read and write heads being replaced every few years by more and more complicated ones, hard drive reliability has gone up. The second quarter report from storage company Backblaze on their HDDs shows that the annual failure rate has gone significantly down compared to last year.
The question is whether this means that HDDs stand to become only more reliable over time, and how upcoming technologies like MAMR and HAMR may affect these metrics over the coming decades.
Battery technology is the talk of the town right now, as it’s the main bottleneck holding up progress on many facets of renewable energy. There are other technologies available for energy storage, though, and while they might seem like drop-in replacements for batteries they can have some peculiar behaviors. Supercapacitors, for example, have a completely different set of requirements for charging compared to batteries, and behave in peculiar ways compared to batteries.
This project from [sciencedude1990] shows off some of the quirks of supercapacitors by showing one method of rapidly charging one. One of the most critical differences between batteries and supercapacitors is that supercapacitors’ charge state can be easily related to voltage, and they will discharge effectively all the way to zero volts without damage. This behavior has to be accounted for in the charging circuit. The charging circuit here uses an ATtiny13A and a MP18021 half-bridge gate driver to charge the capacitor, and also is programmed in a way that allows for three steps for charging the capacitor. This helps mitigate the its peculiar behavior compared to a battery, and also allows the 450 farad capacitor to charge from 0.7V to 2.8V in about three minutes.
The SD card first burst onto the scene in 1999, with cards boasting storage capacities up to 64 MB hitting store shelves in the first quarter of 2000. Over the years, sizes slowly crept up as our thirst for more storage continued to grow. Fast forward to today, and the biggest microSD cards pack up to a whopping 1 TB into a package smaller than the average postage stamp.
However, getting to this point has required many subtle changes over the years. This can cause havoc for users trying to use the latest cards in older devices. To find out why, we need to take a look under the hood at how SD cards deal with storage capacity. Continue reading “Size Does Matter When It Comes To SD Cards”→