Name Tag

I woke up early on Sunday and had an idea for a project, and since I had a bunch of copper boards laying around, and just got some Liquid Tin, I made a super-simple name tag PCB.

Design filled

I started by designing in Inkscape with a canvas slightly larger than what I needed, and a cutting guide the exact size of my copper board.

Design outlined

Here’s the outline of the design, which I exported as a DXF file. The outer line was useful in making a (near) perfect alignment when I put the vinyl on the copper board.

Silhouette

I then imported the DXF file into the Silhouette Studio software so I could cut some vinyl to use as a resist for etching. (As mentioned previously, my etching solution is hydrogen peroxide, vinegar, and a bit of salt.)

Liquid Tin

Etching took over 75 minutes, but after it was done and cleaned off I dropped it into the Liquid Tin. It started getting bright and shiny immediately! (Sorry, no photos of the bare copper because I was working fast.)

LED & resistor

I soldered a blinking LED and a resistor in place, and since I still don’t have a tiny drill at home I went with surface mount of through-hole components, which works fine.

Battery

I also needed power, so I added a CR2032 battery and a binder clip along with a wire. The bottom of the battery (positive) goes against the PCB while the top (negative) gets a wire held against it with the binder clip. (Pretty much just borrowing heavily from the Learn to Solder Kit.)

Name Tag

I did end up drilling and filing a slot for the name tag clip thing, which I stole from my Milwaukee Makerspace badge.

Name Tag

Blink Blink! Maybe I’ll wear it to the National Maker Faire! I’ve got a few more ideas to build circuits that are one part electronics and one part art, so stay tuned!

National Week of Making

The National Week of Making is coming up! It’s June 17th through June 23rd, 2016. (These dates contain not only my birthday, but my wedding anniversary to Dana.)

This year I figured that I’d observe my birthday by attending the National Maker Faire, which happens to be on my birthday. Yes, I’ll be in Washington D.C. for my birthday, and hanging out with makers and seeing other Maker Faire Producers from around the country. Neat!

It’s also (somewhat of) a work trip. Carrie and I from BBCM are both headed there, and while I get to goof off do my own thing on Friday she’ll be representing Wisconsin and attending the President’s National Week of Making kick-off event at the White House, hanging out with Lady Ada no doubt…

See you at the Faire!

Maker Faire




The Sonic Titan

The Sonic Titan was created for Bay View Gallery Night in June 2016 and was displayed at Milwaukee Makerspace.

The Sonic Titan

Similar to the piece I created last year, The Sonic Titan has a musical connection, which is fitting for Bay View Gallery Night which is “A celebration of local art, music, business and community.”

The Sonic Titan

You can find out more about this device/object/thing by checking out the project page for The Sonic Titan.

Copper versus Tin

When I created the PCBs for my Learn to Solder kit I was going for quick and dirty and cheap, and I achieved those goals, but for better PCBs it would make sense to tin them. Tinning the boards puts a thin layer of tin over the copper, which helps prevent oxidation, which can make soldering more difficult.

For a Learn to Solder kit the last thing you want is something that’s difficult to solder. (Or maybe you do want that, so it’s a challenge!) Anyway, for the PCBs I made I was able to easily scrub them with some steel wool before using, and didn’t really see much oxidation when we used them, but take a look at the photo above and you’ll see the condition of the copper just a few weeks after I made some of the boards. The one in the middle is the exception, because it has been tinned.

Liquid Tin

Just like etching, there are a number of ways to tin a PCB, and since I haven’t done it before I chose to go with the easy/expensive option. MG Chemicals has something called 421 Liquid Tin in a 125 ml Bottle. At $15 a pop it’s more expensive than other methods, but doesn’t involve heating chemical solutions, or mixing up a bunch of chemical. Don’t worry though, this stuff is still pretty dangerous, as the label on the back of the bottle will warn you.

Copper versus Tin

Warnings aside, it was dead simple to use. I just put some in a plastic container with my PCB and a few minutes later it was all tinned!

This isn’t something I would have done to all of the PCBs in my Learn to Solder kit, mainly because one of the goals was to make the kits as cheaply as possible. I will be exploring the use of tinned PCBs for some future projects, some of which are more at the intersection of art and electronics, where aesthetics and how the final piece looks really matter.

MacBook Pro Power Adapter

This is a Hack. This is a Hacked thing. This thing was Hacked.

Hacking is an art form that uses something in a way in which it was not originally intended. This highly creative activity can be highly technical, simply clever, or both. Hackers bask in the glory of building it instead of buying it, repairing it rather than trashing it, and raiding their junk bins for new projects every time they can steal a few moments away. [1]

I decided to clean my MacBook Pro power adapter cable, which was good because it was filthy, but bad because in the process of (gently) wiping it, I somehow destroyed it. I didn’t realize until I was at work a few hours and noticed it wasn’t charging my computer.

I was down to 30% battery which would not last the day, and no one else at work has the same power adapter (Damn you, Apple!) I contemplated running to the Apple Store during lunch to get a new one, but instead decided that since it didn’t work, I had nothing to lose, so I cracked it open.

Oh wait, before I cracked it open I verified that no power was getting to the connector. I grabbed a multimeter first, got nothing, and then cracked it open. (Luckily the MagSafe Wikipedia page has some useful info.)

Cracking things open is sometimes the most dangerous part of hacking. I occasionally stab my own hand with a screwdriver. (It didn’t happen this time.) With the power adapter opened I saw two wires (black and white) leading to the thin round cable.

I checked the voltage on the black and white wires and got about 6 volts, which is way under what it should be according to the MagSafe info… but I figured that was due to there being no load, and that was correct, as verified by a note at the bottom of the MagSafe Wikipedia page.

I ended up chopping about 6 inches off the thin round cable and stripped the ends, then slid on some heat shrink, soldered things together, shrunk the heat shrink, and it all worked fine again. I had my power adapter back.

I fixed a broken thing rather that buying a new thing. I also managed to fix it in much less time that it would have taken to get a replacement. #HACK

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t see this as some amazing feat that will be celebrated by hackers everywhere, but it’s just one more reminder that if something is broken, you may have nothing to lose by trying to fix it. I mean, you could make it more broken but if it doesn’t work to begin with, there’s a chance you can revive it and get on with your day.

Keep on Hacking!

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