Soldering Tool Upgrade Paths

element14 - Workbench Wednesdays
06-FEB-2019

Right after the digital multimeter, or DMM, a soldering iron is a must-have tool for electronics work. Like most tools, there is a vast variety of options available. In this episode of element14’s Workbench Wednesdays, I look at a range of instruments from Weller. They offer everything from a cheap $10 “fire starter” (sorry, it is what we call them!) all the way up to a full-blown surface mount rework station.

Whether you don’t have a soldering iron or you have a  $100 station, this video will show you options to consider when thinking about an upgrade.

After you watch the video, head over to element14 and tell me for you favorite solder tips! (Or your most burning questions!)

Send James your Solder Tips

 

 

Answering BJT questions with Karen on element14’s The Learning Circuit

element14's The Learning Circuit
2019-01-02

Over on element14, Karen hosts The Learning Circuit. It is a tutorial show geared towards learning STEM basics. So far she has covered subjects like soldering, diodes, and how to make a DIY electromagnet. She did a great job on introducing BJTs and how they work. While I thought she provided a clear explanation of the internal workings, some members of the element14 community still had questions.

She invited me on to revisit BJTs and transistors to (hopefully) clarify the connection between how transistors physically work and how to use them.

 

Looking through my parts boxes, I have counted at least 15 distinct “Arduino boards” in my collection. Either they are variants of the Uno form factor or they have different processors from the 8-bit boards. That number easily goes to 30 if I include boards with just the “Arduino header” on them. This pile of microcontrollers got me thinking, how does anyone ever choose the right board?

For example, I have had several people tell me the ESP32 is the “ultimate Arduino.” But is it? Well, yes and no. Extra hardware you do not need can lead to complexity and unexpected behavior. When using an advanced module like the ESP32, it is important to learn how to use sleep modes to limit current consumption, especially for battery applications. But if you need WiFi, Bluetooth, I2C, SPI, UART, and high-performance processing, capacitive touch, GPIO, and analog inputs then the ESP32 is an obvious choice.

As for the other boards, I have written a guide to picking the right Arduino. You can find it over on the Hackster.io blog.

Read: Picking an Arduino

Appearance: How to pick from all the Arduino boards
Outlet: Hackster.io Blog
Format: Magazine

I have been soldering circuits for twenty-six years. Well, except for the last 6 weeks. I have had a Weller Zero Smog EL fume extraction unit in my lab. It has changed the way I solder. When I first used it, I thought “yes, this is nice. But not a necessity.” Then the other day I didn’t feel like moving the extractor to my secondary workbench. I was immediately irritated with myself for being lazy. The smoke was so annoying. I don’t know what else changed me so quickly.

The unit under test is the Weller Zero Smog EL Fume Extraction Kit. They sent it to me in partnership with element14 as a Roadtest review. (My previous review was on the 10 MHz Picoscope.)

Read Full Review on element14

Appearance: Weller Zero Smog EL Review on element14
Outlet: element14
Format: Other

Signetics Write Only Memory 25120 Datasheet

1972

Signetics 25120 Page 1-torn

Signetics started as an IC manufacturer. In 1975 they were bought by Philips Semiconductors, which is now NXP. Interestingly the address in the datasheet, I think, was the original site. Today, it’s home to a Lowe’s Home Improvement Store. According to this Wikipedia article, it was created by John “Jack” Curtis. Apparently, it was included in a real Signetics catalog as a joke! Imagine that happening today. Additional information about the joke is available on sigwom.com. (Which may be written by Jack himself, not entirely sure.)

Download Signetics 25120 WOM Datasheet

 

2017’s Best Bald Engineer Tutorials, Articles, and Reviews

The popular tutorials, links, and videos fans watched most.

2017 Enginerd Review

As 2017 comes to a close, I looked back to see what readers made the most popular. It was an exciting year. The Arduino family came back together, Adafruit trolled the internet with rumors of a RadioShack buy out, and for me, I changed jobs.

Project wise I got my RetroPie SNES build completed, using an old Super Famicom case. This case is one I bought in Japan for 500 yen (about $5.) This work also led me to discuss voltage divider circuits. And I looked at a couple of scopes.

In case you missed it, here is what you as a reader found interesting over the past year.

Continue Reading »

What are aluminum polymer capacitors? These are a solid type of capacitor that replaces the liquid electrolyte with a solid polymer material. Sometimes you might hear these capacitors called “organic aluminum.” Technically, they are still “electrolytic” capacitors. However, the colloquial term of “aluminum electrolytic” refers to the traditional wet electrolyte-based capacitors.

In this video, I meet with Amelia Dalton of EE Journal, and we discuss these capacitor types. Mouser and EE Journal developed the video in joint with KEMET. (Previously I talked on Amelia’s Chalk Talk about SSD Capacitors.)

For me, the release of this video is bittersweet. It is one of my last projects before my departure from KEMET. However, I am excited to talk about aluminum polymer capacitors because they represent one of the “newer” technologies when it comes to capacitors.

Difference between Aluminum Polymer Capacitors and Aluminum Electrolytics

As mentioned, the key difference between the capacitor types is the electrolyte. In a traditional aluminum electrolytic, there is an electrolyte that connects the cathode plate of the capacitor to the cathode electrode. In a polymer capacitor, a solid conductive polymer material replaces the wet electrolyte. The most common polymer material is PEDOT. The use of this material provides an exceptionally low ESR which makes the capacitors can handle more ripple current. Also, because there is no electrolyte to “dry up” or “wear out,” the operational lifetime of these capacitors is much longer. Overall, aluminum polymer capacitors are an excellent alternative to traditional electrolytics.

Learn about Aluminum Polymer Capacitors

ArcAttack is a band that performs at the Bay Area Maker Fare, among other places. They feature massive signing Telsa coils. (Here’s a video I show when I saw ArcAttack in 2013.) Singing Telsa coils are awesome. Everyone knows that. Which is why I found when Dianna Cowern, the Physics Girl, visited the band ArcAttack, electromagnets are just as cool. In addition to talking about their music, ArcAttack’s Joe does something amazing. He splits an aluminum soda can with just an electromagnet.

There are a few other neat tricks and some slow-motion stuff too. Near the end, he compresses a quarter with the scariest magnet setup I’ve ever seen. This video is definitely worth watching if you like anything related to Tesla coils–or electricity!

Wolfenstein 3D on Gameboy Color

http://www.happydaze.se
23-OCT-2016

Wolfenstein 3D defined the FPS genre in a way no one could have predicted. Just like the Gameboy defined portable gaming in a way no one could have predicted. Cartridge based computing and gaming offered something that disk (or disc?) based media never could: additional hardware.

The most famous example of additional hardware is the “SuperFX” chip that debuted with the SNES game Starfox. (It was in used in others in addition to a successor.) Most NES cartridges had other hardware too: mappers, sound generators, additional ram, etc. (more…)

If the Moon Were Only 1 Pixel

Josh Worth Art & Design

A tediously accurate scale model of the solar system

scrolling scale model of solar system

When I was growing up, I watched a lot of Star Trek. Over time I’ve looked into other Sci-Fi series. The occasional hit, like the reimaged Battlestar Galactica, caught my attention. But, for me, the voyages of the Enterprise defined “space” to me. Or the stories on Deep Space Nine. (There are no other Star Treks.)

Seeing a new alien or planet each week warps (see what I did there?) your mind to think that space is relatively small. But when you consider it takes almost 500 seconds for the light to travel from the Sun to the Earth, you begin to realize space is freaking huge.

That’s why this scrolling model of the solar system is so fantastic. It offers a unique sense of how “big” the universe really is–at least our solar system. Check it out on joshworth.com.