SMD Challenge Extreme Edition Gets Our Flux Flowing

Skills challenges have become a fun way to facilitate friendly competition amongst anyone who appreciates a fine solder joint. If you’ve seen any Supercon / Remoticon coverage there’s surely been a mention of the infamous soldering skills challenge, where competitors test their mettle against surface mount components sized to be challenging but fair. What if there was a less friendly SMD challenge designed to make you hold your breath lest you blow the components away? Well now there is, the SMD Challenge Extreme Edition by friend-of-the-Hackaday and winner of the 2019 Supercon soldering challenge [Freddie].

When assembled the SMD Extreme Edition uses a 555 timer and a 74HC4017 decade counter to light a ring of 10 LEDs lights around its perimeter, powered by a coin cell. However the  Extreme Edition deviates from the typical SMD Challenge format. Instead of ramping up in difficulty with ever-shrinking components, the Extreme Edition only has one size: torturous. See those gray blobs in the title image? Those are grains of rice.

The Extreme Edition’s 0201-sized LEDs aren’t the absolute smallest components around, but to minimize enjoyment all passives are 01005. (Check out the SMD Challange Misery Edition for even 01005 LED action.)

The Extreme Edition has other tricks up its sleeve, too. That 555 may be venerable in age, but this version is in an iron-frustrating 1.41 x 1.43 mm BGA package, which pairs nicely with that decade counter in 2.5 mm x 3.5 mm QFN.

Despite the wordwide pandemic locking down travel and conferences, a few brave challengers have already taken up their iron and succeeded at Extreme SMD. Want to see it in action? Check out the original Tweets after the break.

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Checking In On The Damn Linux Tablet One

Tablets, slates, phones, and fablets, there are no shortage of electronics that take the Star-Trek-ish form factor of a handheld rectangle of glass that connects you to everything. This is the world we live in, but unfortunately it’s not currently a world with many Linux options, and certainly not one that includes modular design concepts. This is what motivated [Timon] to design the Damn Linux Table one, a “Proper Linux Tablet” built around the Nvidia Jetson Nano board.

The design really took off, because who isn’t interested in the ability to upgrade and customize a tablet? During last year’s Hackaday Supercon we caught up with [Timon] for an interview the morning after he won the Best Design prize for DLT one. Check out that video below, then join us after the break for an update on the latest from the project.

There’s only one week left to get your project entered in the 2020 Hackaday Prize. We won’t know this year’s winners until the Hackaday Remoticon rolls around this November. The Call for Proposals for that virtual conference is still open!

[Timon] is realistic about the limits of modular design. He readily admits you’re not going to upgrade a graphics card on a mobile device, but when it comes to the peripherals, why not? You might want to choose between micro-USB, USB-C, barrel-jack, or do something completely custom. One hacker’s NFC equipment might be replaced by another’s SDR or LoRa. This tablet design sees a world where connecting PCIe components to your mobile devices is completely doable. The point is to make a base model that works great, but has the potential to be what each different user wants their device to be.

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Three Tales Of Making It In Electronics Design And Manufacturing

Having found success in different areas, it’s a pleasure to hear from Erika Earl, Paul Beech, and Spencer Owen during a panel discussion at the 2019 Hackaday Superconference. Led by Tindie’s Jasmine Brackett, the panel covers some of the background needed to develop a product and get it into the hands of your customers.

Erika’s origin story begins with an interest in electronics during her teenage years that led to work in recording studios. It seems nobody on staff there was interested in repairing anything. Every company needs a hacker to make sure everything continues to work and she decided to take on the role.

From there Erika found her way into the world of manufacturing and has never looked back. You may remember hearing some of her experiences in her 2016 Hackaday Supercon talk on turning your manufacturing mistakes in a learning experience. During this panel she recounts one particularly painful experience when over-torque on a six-layer PCB damaged traces and led to extensive manual rework; always include a torque-spec!

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A 60 GHz Phased Array

Our friend [Hunter Scott] gave a talk at a past Supercon about phased array antennas. He mentioned he was looking for collaborators to create an antenna with the SiBeam SB9210 chip. This is a specialized chip for WirelessHD, a more or less failed video streaming protocol, and it’s essentially an entire 60 GHz phased array on a chip with both transmit and receive capabilities. For $15, it seems like quite the bargain, and [Hunter] still wants to put the device to work.

The downside is that Lattice bought SiBeam and killed this chip — not surprising considering WirelessHD never really took off. However, [Hunter] says the chip was in some old smart TVs and laptops. If you can find replacement boards for those devices on the surplus market, you can get the chip and the supporting circuitry for a song.

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You Could Be A Manufacturing Engineer If You Could Only Find The Time

Let’s be honest, Ruth Grace Wong can’t teach you how to be a manufacturing engineer in the span of a twenty minute talk. But no-one can. This is about picking up the skills for a new career without following the traditional education path, and that takes some serious time. But Grace pulled it off, and her talk at the 2019 Hackaday Superconference shares what she learned about reinventing your career path without completely disrupting your life to do so.

Ruth got on this crazy ride when she realized that being a maker made her happy and she wanted to do a lot more of it. See wanted to be “making stuff at scale” which is the definition of manufacturing. She took the hacker approach, by leveraging her personal projects to pull back the veil of the manufacturing world. She did a few crowd funding campaigns that exposed her to the difficulties of producing more than one of something. And along the way used revenue from those projects to get training and to seek mentorships.

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Kerry Scharfglass Secures Your IoT Things

We’ve all seen the IoT device security trainwrecks: those gadgets that fail so spectacularly that the comment section lights up with calls of “were they even thinking about the most basic security?” No, they probably weren’t. Are you?

Hackaday Contributor and all around good guy Kerry Scharfglass thinks about basic security for a living, and his talk is pitched at the newcomer to device security. (Embedded below.) Of course “security” isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition; you need to think about what threats you’re worried about, which you can ignore, and defend against what matters. But if you’ve never worked through such an exercise, you’re in for a treat here. You need to think like a maker, think like a breaker, and surprisingly, think like an accountant in defining what constitutes acceptable risks. Continue reading “Kerry Scharfglass Secures Your IoT Things”

Supercon SMD Challenge Gets 3D Printed Probes: Build Your Own

This year was the second SMD challenge at Supercon, so it stands to reason we probably learned a few things from last year. If you aren’t familiar with the challenge, you are served some pretty conventional tools and have to solder a board with LEDs getting progressively smaller until you get to 0201 components. Those are challenging even with proper tools, but a surprising number of people have managed to build them even using the clunky, large irons we provide.

During the first challenge, we did find one problem though. The LEDs are all marked for polarity. However, since we don’t provide super high power magnification, it was often difficult to determine the polarity, especially on the smaller parts. Last year, [xBeau] produced some quick LED testers to help overcome this problem. This year we refined them a bit.

As you can see, the 2018 model was a very clever use of what was on hand. A CR2032 holder powered the probes and the probes themselves were two resistors. If you can get the LED to light with the probes you know which lead is the anode and which is the cathode. A little red ink makes it even more obvious. Continue reading “Supercon SMD Challenge Gets 3D Printed Probes: Build Your Own”