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Garage Fix (Again 2!)

I’ve got a new garage door fix. Again. I forgot to explain the last fix, which sort of worked, well… worked fine for years I guess, but now it doesn’t. Oh, start at Garage Fix (At Last!) if you want the back story… The short version is, with a combination of sunlight, snow, and a specific time of day, the garage door will not close due to the electric eye being affected by light from outside the garage.

After the first repair (mentioned in the blog post linked above) it didn’t quite do it so I ended up moving the electric eye sensors to the top of the garage. The illustration above is a view from inside the garage looking out, with the door open. The red sensors are the old location, and the green sensors are where I moved them to. I also ended up making a flag below the sensor because this solution also did not always work. Arrrgghhhh. Oh, I should mention that the sensors where they are will never detect a child running under the door, but the alley kids are all six years older now, so they should know better. ;p

So these fixes worked pretty well (for years actually) until last week, so on to another.

I realized that if you pressed the garage door button (which I replaced years ago with a green arcade button) the door would start to close, then when light bounced off the door and hit the sensor it would stop and reopen. I also realized that if I pressed and held the button, it would close!

Well that’s easy! All we need is a way to press and hold the button for as long as it takes to close the door. While it was -0 degrees out I prepared an Arduino and a relay, a pink arcade button, a chunk of wood, found a 12 volt power supply, and hot glued it all together. I wrote some code that would close the relay 5 seconds after the button was pressed and then open the relay 30 seconds later.

So here’s what happens now. When I leave in the morning I pull out of the garage and use my remote to close the door. If it does not close I get out of my car, go into the garage, press the pink button, and then walk briskly out of the garage before the door closes and crushes me. The door closes as I get in my car, and we’re all good.

This is one of the ugliest builds I’ve done it a while! As mentioned, I literally threw this together as quickly as possible. I did not design anything, did not build an enclosure, didn’t make labels… nothing. I drilled a hole in the wood and screwed it into the drywall and wired it in parallel with the existing button which usually works to close the door.

So now it’s, press the green button to open and close the door, and press the pink one if the green one doesn’t work. If you drive out of the garage and your remote won’t close the door, get out and use the pink button. Yup. Sigh.

Obviously the next step is to design an enclosure, add proper labels, rewrite the code, add status and indicator lights, probably a 7 segment display with a countdown… and then hey, might as well use an ESP32 so I can add remote control via WiFi. Oh, I should probably also add a sensor to check if the door is opened or closed. And also a status web page I can then check with a service running locally on the network, tied into Pushover to send me alerts. Ah, plus a real time clock module so I know when things happen in case I need to correlate times with the security camera.

I expect to have the new version done within 18 to 24 months.

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SparkFun Soldering Iron Fix

sparkfun-iron

A long time ago I picked up this 50W Soldering Station from SparkFun, and it’s worked well over the years. (Also, props to SparkFun for still listing retired products on their site!) The nice thing about this iron is that it can use Hakko tips, and since I can get Hakko-compatible tips super-cheap on eBay, I’ve got a lot of tips in the shop so I’m never without one.

I could have got a Hakko, but they are more than twice the price, and while I do use a Hakko at work, I went cheap at home because sometimes I’m cheap. (You may remember the time I had to fix a Hakko FX888D Soldering Station.)

iron-handle-907

The one thing I didn’t like about the SparkFun iron was that the handle seemed a little flimsy. Not at first, but after years of use. It finally got to the point where the heating element was wobbly on the handle, and when I took it apart, I couldn’t get the tip off easily, and when it came off, the end of the heating element broke. (I should note that I probably solder things a few times a week, so it definitely got some good use.)

atten-907

I had to find a replacement handle, and it requires one with 7 pins. After browsing around eBay for a bit I found the 7-Pin 907 Soldering Iron Handle For AT936b AT907 AT8586 ATTEN Soldering Station, which seemed like it was the right one. I figured that for under $8.00 I’d just order it and hope it worked. And it did.

I also learned that the SparkFun iron is basically an ATTEN 937b Anti-static Rework Soldering Station, which you can find cheap on eBay as well. (I mean, lots of things are cheap on eBay, because they may be knock-offs or just not that good. YMMV.) Also the ATTEN 937b is basically a knock-off of the Hakko 936 ESD Soldering Station with Medium (907) Handpiece. Oh look, the “907” handpiece. Of course.

Happy Soldering!

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Hakko Soldering Iron Fix

Hakko Soldering Iron Fix

Once upon a time at the museum we found an old Hakko FX-888D soldering iron for Sam to use. He tried to solder things, but it did not work. I tried soldering things with my Hakko FX-888D soldering iron and it worked great! I looked at his iron and declared it “not working properly” and then we stopped using that one.

This week I tried using my Hakko FX-888D soldering iron and it just did not work. I ‘raised’ the temperature and it still didn’t work. Meanwhile, Becky soldered about a dozen buttons while I was still trying to do one. The solder would melt but not stick. Weird, and then I discovered that I probably managed to “adjust” the temperature instead of “change” the temperature. Yeah, confusing, right?

This is (sort of) explained in the Hakko FX-888D soldering iron manual, very poorly, but start on page 5 and see if it makes sense. If not, watch this video.

If you don’t want to watch the video, here’s the procedure for resetting the Hakko FX-888D soldering iron to the factory defaults, which totally fixed my problem of it not getting hot enough to make good solder joints.

  1. With unit turned off press both UP and ENTER buttons
  2. Turn the unit on while continuing to press both UP and ENTER buttons
  3. The display will flash the letter “A”
  4. Release both the UP and the ENTER buttons
  5. Press the UP button
  6. The display will show the letter “U”
  7. Your iron is now reset!

I’m posting this here because future me will probably screw it up again, and then I’ll read this post and know how to fix it. Also, if Becky ever screws it up, she can look here too!

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Hot Glue Gun Repair

Glue Gun Repair

I spent some time after class in the Physical Computing Lab repairing the hot glue guns. During class students told me that the triggers didn’t seem to work, and they had to push the glue into the gun by hand to get anything out the hot-end.

I removed all the screws (about 8 of them) and opened one up and it’s a lot of plastic inside, besides the hot bits. There’s a plastic piece that snapped, due to (I’m assuming) pulling the trigger too hard. It’s a poor design, but I was able to repair it by drilling holes in the two pieces and adding some wire through the holes and twisting it tight. This was enough to pull the pieces close together. (I contemplated using cyanoacrylate, but didn’t have any, and wasn’t convinced it would work.)

Glue Gun Repair

Two of the guns were in good condition, except for the snapped piece of plastic, but the third one must have been repaired before, because the rubber retaining ring and a tiny spring were missing, and the larger spring had been replaced by a not-quite correct replacement spring. The third one (once assembled) didn’t do a very good job of pushing the glue forward. I may have to try further repairs, but at least we have two working better now.

Glue Gun Repair

The other issue, which may have cause some of the problems, is a “HIGH/LOW” switch on the handle. When I held the gun, I ended up switching it to LOW. If someone had been using it on HIGH and accidentally switched it to LOW, they might have kept pressing hard on the trigger while the temperature dropped, and snapped the plastic bit inside.

Glue Gun Repair

I added some tape to the switches so they don’t get accidentally set to LOW. We only have high temperature glue anyway…

Glue Gun Repair

The third gun, which doesn’t work very well, got labeled “Not Great” so we remember which one is the crappy one., which can still be used, as long as you don’t mind (possibly) pushing the glue forward with your hand.

Glue Gun Repair

Reminder: Hot Glue is Hot!

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Garage Fix (At Last!)

Beam Emitter

Since we move into our house nearly 18 months ago we’ve been dealing with the super-annoying “sometimes it works” garage door opener. Or perhaps “garage door closer” is more accurate. In the olden days garage doors just closed, and if you got crushed it was your own damn fault. Somewhere along the way (in the name of “safety”) manufacturers added “External Entrapment Protection Systems”, which are typically an infrared emitter and an electric eye that sees the beam from the emitter. When the beam is interrupted (like when a stupid child runs under the closing garage door) the door reverses and does not close. No child crushed, no harsh lessons in being careless learned.

Look, I’m not in favor of crushing children, but with the sun shining directly at our garage opening, 75% of the morning we’d leave the house we couldn’t use the remote to close the garage door. I didn’t want to completely disable the sensors, as it would probably get us sued if a child did get crushed. Also, I’m all for safety. (Really. I am. Tell the insurance company that.)

My first attempt at a fix was adding a gaff tape flag to the electric eye. This did almost nothing. I did find that blocking the sun with my car and/or body sometimes worked. So imagine that when I pulled the car out of the garage I had to get out and stand in front of the door (very close to it, in fact, almost close enough to be hit by the door) and try to block the sun. Sometimes it worked, and often it did not. When it didn’t work we’d have to go into the garage, use the manual release to shut the door, lock it, and then reverse the whole procedure when returning home. #PITA

Eventually I added a button (duh!) to attempt to manually override the sensor. Sometimes it worked, other times it did not. Occasionally it would get 90% closed, then open again. Argh! Reflecting light? I don’t know…

Electric Eye

Supposedly you can added some tubes, but I never got around to that. The garage not closing when you leave is just annoying enough to aggravate you, but not annoying enough to spend real time trying to fix it.

The new solution (which is working well so far) involves extending the electric eye a bit further in from the door, and angling it to point at the emitter. Some scrap wood and zip ties pulls it all together quite nicely.

New Garage Beam Layout

Here’s our new set-up. Granted, there is a bit more room where something could get crushed, but it probably won’t be me, because now I don’t need to stand centimeters from the door as it’s closing.