Your source for daily hacks

Published on: August 3, 2013 / Comments: None

Hacking a cheap de-soldering iron for higher performance

Matt’s go what appears to be a cheapo Radio Shack de-soldering iron.  You know the one, with the little squeezy-bulb.  Using a solenoid and hacking a volleyball pump he’s made it a push-button experience.

The results from the video seem pretty adequate.  I would like to see the components stepped up, and a little more vacuum.  None the less it still looks easier than squeezing the little bulb on each joint.  Maybe adding a finger-tip trigger too.  I know I have one of those irons around here somewhere, I’ll have to try this hack out myself.

Published on: August 2, 2013 / Comments: None

Your guide to making solder paste stencils out of soda cans

Felix has put together the ‘definitive tutorial’ on making solder paste stencils out of soda cans, who am I to argue with that ?  Looking at his previous attempts to perfect the process I can buy that.

The soda can appears to be just the right thickness (and price) for a sharp stable stencil.  Felix uses the toner transfer method to etch the holes in the soda can using readily available chemicals.  If you’ve ever etched a circut board it’s a similar process.

The write-up is here.

If you make it that far, you’ll want to check out Felix’s solution for a cheap manual pick and place that he put together for $20.  Just add a home made reflow oven or hot plate and you’re making your own surface mount boards in no time.

Published on: July 28, 2013 / Comments: None

Some solid tips for designing PCB’s

Michael has put together a really sweet in-depth run down of designing a PCB.  If you’ve never designed your own circuit board but you have done some breadboarding then you need to get with the lingo.  What the hell is a blind via ?  Go check out the article and find out.  If you’ve made boards before, there still might be some tidbits that you didn’t know or at the least take in some of Michael’s process for visualizing how the board is going to go together before laying it out.

This was only part 1, he has a landing page ready for part 2 but at the time of writing this article it wasn’t up yet.  I look forward to reading it when it’s available.

Published on: July 25, 2013 / Comments: None

PCB antenna design, for dummies… well almost

I love how this article starts out, the age-old saying about RF and analog being taboo… so true!  Anyhoo, Colin takes you on a quick rundown of antenna basics, focusing on tuning PCB antennas.  This is one of those articles you see AFTER you need it, personally I totally could have used this months ago.  So we’ve all seen these PCB antennas, those little squiggly lines on your board that do the voodoo RF magic, but what do you do when you need to tune it ?  Well start by reading this article.

With the recent boom of cheap SDR’s flooding the market, more people are getting back into RF design.  Although I wouldn’t recommend using a fixed-tune antenna for a SDR, the theory by its self is worth the read.  Of course the biggest hurdle here for a DIY’er is going to be having access to a spectrum analyzer.