Bradley Gawthrop: What You Need To Know About Wiring

Wiring — as in plugging wires together and crimping connectors, not the Arduino IDE thingy — is an incredibly deep subject. We all know the lineman’s splice is the best way to solder two wires together, and NASA’s guide to cables and connectors is required reading around these parts. However, there’s a lot that can be said about connectors and cabling, and one of the best people to explain it all is Bradley Gawthrop. He spent the last ten years building pipe organs, and with that comes tens of thousands of relays, solenoids, switches, and valves. All of these parts are connected by thousands of miles of wire, and are arguably as complex as an old-school telephone exchange. If there’s someone you need to talk to about connecting hundreds of thousands of parts together, Bradley is your guy.

Bradley starts his Hackaday Superconference talk with a discussion of the modern prototyping process. We’re pretty far away from dozens of chips sitting around a breadboard with data and address lines these days, and now any sort of prototype is basically a development board with a constellation of modules studded around the perimeter. The best solution for connectors is right angle headers, not only for the reason that the wires stay flat, but also because right angle connectors allow you to probe each and every wire coming out of a board.

Of course, when it comes to wiring, it’s helpful to talk about the wire itself. Instead of having an entire warehouse of wire in every color, gauge, and insulation material hanging above his workshop, Bradley only needs a few options. Right now, he’s only dealing with three gauges of wire — small, medium, and large, or 24, 18, and 12 AWG. That’s one wire for small signals, one wire for a bit of current, and one wire for supply amounts of current. Not only does this cut down on workshop inventory, it also means Bradley only needs three sizes of crimpers and connectors. When it comes to strand count, solid core wire is highly underrated. Not only is it easier to strip and crimp, it can also support its own weight. That’s important, because it means connectors don’t have to bear the weight of the entire cable run.

If you’re looking for the minimal required toolset for running cables and crimping connectors, Bradley has a great little shopping list on his website. The best strippers he’s ever found come from Wiha, but they’ve been EOL’d by the manufacturer. Knipex makes some good strippers, though. You don’t need to spend big money on ferrule crimpers, and some cheapies from BangGood are good enough. Bradley has standardized on Molex SL and Molex KK interconnects, and wire can be sourced easily if you have Amazon Prime.

While the subject matter for Bradley’s talk sounds easy to overlook, connecting parts together in an assembly is a critical skill in itself. We’re glad Bradley could share his experience with us at the Hackaday Superconference.

Hackaday Superconference Talk: Cory Grosser

When we look at a product or project here at Hackaday it is likely that our interest has been caught by its internal technology, or perhaps by its functionality. It is easy to forget that there is another angle to each and every item that graces these pages, and it is every bit as important as those we have already mentioned. Aesthetic design, the look and feel of a product, is something that is so often overlooked.

One of the speakers at the Hackaday Superconference was [Cory Grosser], one of America’s leading independent product designers, and the designer of the Supplyframe Design Lab in which the Superconference was being held. In his talk he covered some of the principles of design, touching on its psychology and its purpose in creating a successful product. In doing so he delivered a fascinating talk full of insights into the design of products both famous and somewhat obscure.

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CNC Milling is More Manual Than You Think

I was in Pasadena CA for the Hackaday Superconference, and got to spend some quality time at the Supplyframe Design Lab. Resident Engineer Dan Hienzsch said I could have a few hours, and asked me what I wanted to make. The constraints were that it had to be small enough to fit into checked luggage, but had to be cool enough to warrant taking up Dan’s time, with bonus points for me learning some new skills. I have a decent wood shop at home, and while my 3D printer farm isn’t as pro as the Design Lab’s, I know the ropes. This left one obvious choice: something Jolly Wrencher on the industrial Tormach three-axis CNC metal mill.

A CNC mill is an awesome tool, but it’s not an omniscient metal-eating robot that you can just hand a design file to. If you thought that having a CNC mill would turn you into a no-experience-needed metal-cutting monster, you’d be sorely mistaken.

Of course the machine is able to cut arbitrary shapes with a precision that would be extremely demanding if done by hand, but the craft of the operator is no less a factor than with a manual mill in making sure that things don’t go sideways. Dan’s good judgment, experience, and input was needed every step of the way. Honestly, I was surprised by how similar the whole procedure was to manual milling. So if you want to know what it’s like to sit on the shoulder of a serious CNC mill operator, read on!

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A Wallflower Jumps into the Los Angeles Unconference

When I was asked to cover the Unconference in Los Angeles last week, I have to admit that I was a more than a little uncomfortable with the idea. I’m not big on traveling, and the idea of meeting a lot of folks was a little intimidating. Surely meeting Hackaday readers in person would be like walking into a real-life version of the comments section of a particularly controversial post. Right?

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The LA Unconference, held at the Supplyframe Design Lab in Pasadena, was a far more collegial and engaging conference than any I’ve been to in my professional life. I couldn’t have asked for a better group to share the afternoon and evening with, and the quality of the talks was excellent. The Design Lab turned out to be a great space for the event — a large main room for the talks with plenty of little areas to break away for impromptu discussions and networking.

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Los Angeles Hackaday Unconference Happening on 3/18

Reserve your spot at the Los Angeles Hackaday Unconference on Saturday, March 18th. The Hackaday community is huge in LA and this event will fill up, so don’t delay.

The Unconference is a unique opportunity to decide the course of the day as it happens. Everyone who attends should be ready to stand and deliver at least eight minutes on a topic they find exciting right now. The energy this creates is the key to a level of involvement that can’t be matched at traditional conferences that have a divide between those presenting and those attending.

LA Joins Chicago and San Francisco

This announcement of the Los Angeles Hackaday Unconference joins two others happening the same day. Last week we announced San Francisco as a host location and the event is now full… but anyone in the area should still get their name on the waiting list. Four days ago we announced Chicago as the second location and that event will likely reach capacity today. [Shulie Tornel] and [Jasmine Brackett] are organizing things at the LA event which is being held at the Supplyframe Design Lab from 1 – 8 pm on 3/18.

Build Something that Matters

You can speak on any topic you want, but sometimes having a theme helps to get the ideas flowing. When considering your topic, keep Build Something that Matters in mind. Have you been looking into a technology, project, or idea that can make life a little (or a lot) better for the world? That would be an exquisite topic.

At the beginning of the day we’ll go around the room and get the talk title or subject from everyone there, then as a group we’ll hammer out a schedule for the day. As presentations progress, we encourage new impromptu talks to spring up, and can even split those off into a second talk space or discussion group. We’ll have food and drink on hand, as well as some interesting hardware to give out as door prizes.

The Hackaday Unconference is the ultimate idea and energy exchange in a crowd of your peers. You’ll have a hard time finding a cooler way to spend a Saturday this year. See you there!

Inside the Supplyframe Design Lab on Opening Night

Last week the Supplyframe Design Lab in Pasadena opened it’s doors, welcoming in the community to explore the newly rebuilt interior which is now filled with high-end prototyping and fabrication tools and bristling with work areas to suit any need. I had a chance to pull a few people aside during the opening night party to talk about how the Design Lab came about and what we can expect coming out of the space in the near future.

Opening night was heavily attended. I recognized many faces, but the majority of those exploring the building were new acquaintances for me. This is likely due to a strong connection the Design Lab is building with the students, faculty, and graduates of the ArtCenter College of Design. Located just down the road, it is one of the top design schools in the world.

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Supplyframe Design Lab Opens Its Doors

Today marks the opening of the Supplyframe Design Lab in Pasadena, California. The Design Lab bills itself as the “leading edge creative center built to foster new ideas in technology and design”. Supplyframe had the vision to acquire Hackaday a few years ago, launched the Hackaday.io Community site which now has more than 150,000 members, and established The Hackaday Prize to spark engineering projects that benefit humanity. Pay attention to the Design Lab; looking back on this day you’re going to be able to say that you remember when it all started.

The equipment enshrined in the new space is spectacular. Name your material, and there are tools to work with it. Working with electronics? Mill your prototypes on a number of OtherMills available. Custom enclosure? Take your pick of milling it on the Tormach, PolyJet printing it on the Statasys, or FDM printing with a number of different high-end 3D printers. Need design software and beefy boxes to run it on? They have that too. Working in wood? A shopbot awaits you, as do traditional tools like a tablesaw, routers, sanders, etc. It’s a wonderland for making the imaginable real. If there ever was a time to quit your job and spend three months launching that dream product, this is it. The Design Lab has a residency program.

Supplyframe is all about enabling hardware creation. This is what sites like Parts.io and Findchips.com do: provide powerful tools for hardware engineers to better use their design skills. Founding a space like the Design Lab is a natural extension of this. Providing a work area, mentorships, and funding residencies breaks down the barriers that can prevent new hardware seeing the light of day. The Design Lab solves the issues of tools, materials, and hands-on experience that plague many a new hardware company.

Residencies will start on July 1st. Each runs for three months in which residents have unfettered access to the space and its tools, as well as financial support of $2000 per month. Each resident will self-identify into the product-track (you’re on your way to market with new hardware) or the art-track (you have a calling for an ambitious project and need to make it a reality). So far the Design Lab page lists three residents; a network of low-cost air quality sensors called Scintilla, a music synthesizer based around Teensy 3 called NanoEgg, and a mixed-reality public arts initiative called Perceptoscope. The Design Lab is still accepting applications for new residencies this summer and beyond — one of these residencies will also be offered to the Grand Prize winner of the 2016 Hackaday Prize.