Printable, Castable Feeders Simplify Pick-and-Place Component Management

It goes without saying that we love to see all the clever ways people have come up with to populate their printed circuit boards, especially the automated solutions. The idea of manually picking and placing nearly-microscopic components is reason enough to add a pick and place to the shop, but that usually leaves the problem of feeding components to the imagination of the user. And this mass-production-ready passive component feeder is a great example of that kind of imagination.

Almost every design we’ve seen for homebrew PnP component feeders have one of two things in common: they’re 3D-printed, or they’re somewhat complex. Not that those are bad things, but they do raise issues. Printing enough feeders for even a moderately large project would take forever, and the more motors and sensors a feeder has, the greater the chance of a breakdown. [dining-philosopher] solved both these problems with a simple design using only two parts, which can be resin cast. A lever arm is depressed by a plunger that’s attached to the LitePlacer tool, offset just enough so that the suction cup is lined up with the component location on the tape. A pawl in the lower arm moves forward when the tool leaves after picking up the part, engaging with the tape sprocket holes and advancing to the next component.

[dining-philosopher] didn’t attack the cover film peeling problem in his version, choosing to peel it off manually and use a weight to keep it taut and expose the next component. But in a nice example of collaboration, [Jed Smith] added an automatic film peeler to the original design. It complicates things a bit, but the peeler is powered by the advancing tape, so it’s probably worth it.

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DJ Scratches Out Club Music With Tape, Not Turntables

It goes without saying that not everyone has the same taste in music, and what sounds amazing to one person will be the next person’s noise. But even if you’re not into hip-hop and the whole DJ scene, it’s hard not to be impressed with what [Jeremy Bell] has done here with his homemade tape loop “scratching” rig.

Most people have probably seen a DJ in a club using dual turntables to scratch or “scrub” a vinyl record back and forth to create effects that add to the music. Part musician and part performance artist, DJs and “turntablists” tend to be real crowd-pleasers. [Jeremy]’s “ScrubBoard” uses a loop of 2″ audiotape, the kind recording studios once used for multitrack recordings. The loop is driven across a wide platen by a motor with a foot pedal control, which he can use to quickly reverse the direction of travel and control the speed of the tape. A pair of playback heads are wired into the amplifier and can be positioned anywhere on the sometimes moving, sometimes stationary tape. The sounds he can create are rhythmic, percussive, and at times frenetic, but they’re always interesting. Check it out in action in the video below.

This version of the ScrubBoard is far from the first [Jeremy] has built. You may recall his first prototype from our coverage in 2014; that one used just a few feet of 1/4″ tape fixed to a board. He was still able to get some great sounds from it, but this version should really change things for him. 

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A Ploopy Pick And Place

A fair number of hackers reach that awkward age in their careers – too old for manual pick and place, but too young for a full-fledged PnP machine. The obvious solution is to build your own PnP, which can be as simple as putting a suction cup on the Z-axis of an old 3D-printer. Feeding parts into the pick and place, though, can be a thorny problem.

Or not, if you think your way through it like [Phil Lam] did and build these semi-automated SMD tape feeders. Built for 8-mm plastic or paper tapes, the feeders are 3D-printed assemblies that fit into a rack that’s just inside the work envelope of a pick and place machine. Each feeder has a slot in the top for the tape, which is advanced by using the Z-axis of the PnP to depress a lever on the front of the case. A long tongue in the tape slot gradually peels back the tape’s cover to expose a part, which is then picked up by the PnP suction cup. Any machine should work; [Phil] uses his with a LitePlacer. We like the idea that parts stay protected until they’re needed; the satisfyingly clicky lever action is pretty cool too. See it briefly in action in the video below.

It looks like [Phil] built this in support of his popular Ploopy trackball, which is available both as a kit and fully assembled. We think the feeder design is great whether you’re using PnP or not, although here’s a simpler cassette design for purely manual SMD work.

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A Mainframe Tape Drive Emulator

Retro computer fans come in all shapes and sizes. Some like the big name machines from the dawn of the home computer era, others like collecting quirky pieces like early laptops and handheld devices. Even more obscure are those who choose to collect old mainframe hardware. This can be challenging, due to its relative obscurity and the limited resources available. [skaarj] is just one such fanatic, however, and has begun creating a PERTEC tape drive emulator for his Cold War era mainframe.

For those of us who didn’t work in industrial computing back in the 1980s, the PERTEC interface is an unfamiliar beast. It became somewhat of a defacto standard for connecting tape drives to mainframes. [skaarj] aims to understand and emulate this interface, creating a device with a full suite of capabilities. The PERTEC Whisperer is intended to be capable of reading and writing from PERTEC tape drives, including dumping tapes to an integrated SD card. The device will also be able to emulate a drive when connected to a mainframe.

Thus far, the adventure has already netted some successes. [skaarj] learned useful tricks, like rewinding a 9-track Qualstar 1260 with VHS tape, and how to pull apart the protocols involved using an old-school HP1662 logic analyzer. We can’t wait to see where the project goes next, and it might just have us hunting for a mainframe to call our very own.

Hackaday Links: April 14, 2019

Look at this prototype Apple smartphone from 1993! For a long time, Apple has been in the phone game, with many failed attempts to combine a laptop screen with a phone. The most noteworthy attempt would be the Snow White phone designed around 1982, but this didn’t go to market. Apple tried again in 1993 with the Walt phone, and now we have someone willing to tear open a prototype. The guts are apparently a contemporary PowerBook (something along the lines of a PowerBook 140 or 170), which means you’re probably looking at a 68030 processor and between 2 and 8 Megabytes of RAM. The rest of the hardware looks fairly standard; SCSI drive and a fax/modem adapter. The software, though, is Hypercard. Here’s the video of the thing booting, and it’s an interesting look at the ‘computer appliance’ trend from the late 90s; once again, Apple was ahead of the curve.

Disregarding any of the implications of geopolitics of the time (as we do with these sorts of things), the Horten Ho 299 was a jet-powered flying wing that first flew in 1944. It’s in the Smithsonian now (and on display, at Dulles) and is a weird, strange, but incredibly interesting footnote in aviation history (because of the implications of geopolitics at the time, but again, we’re not going to get into that). Now the Horten flies again. A company unrelated to Herr Horten has recreated the one-man flying wing. It’s a real experimental aircraft now. Sure, it’s a piston-powered airplane, but if you want to fly something that looks even cooler than something Burt Rutan grew out of fiberglass, this is what you want.

For the past few months, Hackster has been running a BadgeLove contest, now the entries are closed and the winners are here. The Badge Of All Badges is a contactless/NFC badge, the blinkiest has some awesome documentation, and the best art is directly from Pokemon Yellow.

Vinyl has made a comeback, and so far we’ve been accepting of that. The album art is better when it’s bigger, and a record is more of an experience than popping in a CD or streaming some music. There’s a reason your favorite Beatles song is the B-side of Abbey Road. What’s the next frontier of high-end audio? Reel to reel, and Thorens is making a new tape machine. First off: it costs thirteen thousand dollars. It’s a quarter inch tape, and yeah, you can totally find a machine that will play quarter inch tapes for far less money.

Due to my vocation, I am awash in press releases every day. This doesn’t give me access to technology trends, far from it. It gives me access to marketing trends. Want to know about the fog, or ‘the cloud at ground level’? The first time anyone with two brain cells saw that phrase was in an unsolicited email, and it’s in my inbox. The latest trend — and I assure you this didn’t happen last year — is advertising explicit targeted towards April 20th. 4/20 is now mainstream, because marketing decided you can sell stuff to stoners. I’m looking at an email right now that starts with, “Hi Brian, With 4/20 fast approaching I thought you’d be interested….” There’s another one for vapes. This year, 4/20 has become a consumer holiday, so this year be on the lookout for the new, innovative ways you’re being sold stuff.

Interstellar 8-Track: The Not-So-Low-Tech Data Recorders Of Voyager

On the outside chance that we ever encounter a space probe from an alien civilization, the degree to which the world will change cannot be overestimated. Not only will it prove that we’re not alone, or more likely weren’t, depending on how long said probe has been traveling through space, but we’ll have a bonanza of super-cool new technology to analyze. Just think of the fancy alloys, the advanced biomimetic thingamajigs, the poly-godknowswhat composites. We’ll take a huge leap forward by mimicking the alien technology; the mind boggles.

Sadly, we won’t be returning the favor. If aliens ever snag one of our interstellar envoys, like one of the Voyager spacecraft, they’ll see that we sent them some really old school stuff. While one team of alien researchers will be puzzling over why we’d encode images on a phonograph record, another team will be tearing apart – an 8-track tape recorder?

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Visit Tapigami Tape City, Where Tape Is The Fabric Of Society

With so many cool things going on at Bay Area Maker Faire, it takes something special to stand out from the crowd. Covering several hundred square feet of floor and wall with creations made of tape would do the trick. Welcome to Tapigami Tape City, a traveling art exhibit by [Danny Scheible].

Many of us used construction paper, glue, and tape to express our creativity in our youth. Tapigami’s minimalism drops the paper and glue, practitioners of the art stick to tape. It is an accessible everyday material so there is no barrier to entry to start having fun. And while tape does have some obvious limitations, it is possible to get quite creatively elaborate and still use tape almost exclusively.

The Tapigami booth is very happy to accommodate those wishing to learn the way of tape. At their table, young and old alike are welcome to sit down and start building basic shapes out of masking tape. This begins with cones, cylinders, and cubes which are then combined into more complex creations — it’s kind of like OpenSCAD, but all with tape.

Attendees of Bay Area Maker Faire should not miss seeing Tape City in person, it’s quite the sight to behold in the south-east corner of Zone 2. (Not far from the Tindie/Hackaday booth, stop by and say hi!) And while it’s plenty of fun to stick to tape, we can see the Hackaday demographic taking these concepts up a few notches. If you’ve pulled off something mind blowing using tape, you know where our tip line is.

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