Feed aggregator

After open sourcing Windows Calculator, Microsoft is adding new features

Liliputing - 6 hours 8 minก่อน

When Microsoft announced earlier this month that it was open sourcing the Windows Calculator app for Windows 10, it honestly didn’t seem like that big of a deal. It’s a calculator app, after all. But unlike some of the company’s past efforts to release old software under an open source license for educational and historical […]

The post After open sourcing Windows Calculator, Microsoft is adding new features appeared first on Liliputing.

Kid Rover Is Six Wheels Of Awesome

Hackaday - 6 hours 49 minก่อน

There are plenty of ways to go about learning to TIG weld. Most involve a series of practice parts making butt joints and welding together various sections of pipe. [Kris Temmerman] decided to go a little bit farther, however. The result is a kid rover that’s sure to be the envy of every neighbourhood child for a few zipcodes around.

The chassis is an all-aluminium affair, making TIG welding the perfect choice for the job. Of course, [Kris] wasn’t content to simply build a basic go-kart or buggy. This sweet ride is inspired by the rocker-bogie designs of NASA’s Mars rovers, giving it the ride height and flexibility to roam over serious obstacles. Naturally, there’s six-wheel drive and four-wheel steering to complete the dynamic package. It should also be noted that yellow wheels are a stunning design choice that we just don’t see enough of.

It’s a beautifully crafted vehicle, and a testament to [Kris]’s machining and design skills. We can’t wait to see it given a shakedown run on the muddy fields of Belgium. If you’re eager to start your own rocker-bogie build, NASA’s got the open source designs to get you started. Video after the break.


Hacker Abroad: Visiting Espressif and Surprising Subway Ads

Hackaday - 8 hours 19 minก่อน

Thursday was my final day in Shanghai. After spending all of Wednesday at Electronica Asia, I headed over to the Espressif Headquarters which is just one subway stop away. This is of course the company behind the well-known ESP8266 and its younger sibling, the ESP32. My host was Ivan Grotkothov, Director of Software Platforms. The backstory on how he found his way to the company is truly interesting, as are the stories he shared on some of the legend and lore surrounding the WiFi capable chips the company makes — and the new one whose existence just leaked out this week.

Join me below for that and few other fun things from my last day in this city of 26 million people.

Why Did that 8266 Have So Few GPIO?

It’s no secret that Espressif is growing like crazy right now. The ESP32 chips are household name (in hardware hacking households) and are finding their way into smart devices by performing tricks like on-chip keyword recogntion. Today I even heard mention of rudimentary facial recognition.

They’ve come a long way since the early days of AT-commands and very limited GPIO on the original ESP8266 offerings. That said, it was the low cost to adding WiFi to any project made the chip revolutionary. Ivan provided some color to the story of those early beginnings — the original intent was not for the chip to itself serve as a main controller, but to be a simple way to add on wireless connectivity. This explains the AT command firmware that originally shipped with the modules. But the company realized that many devices, like smart light bulbs, didn’t need many pins or much computing power, so the chip began to be used as a standalone controller. That led to the desire for more GPIO, which we saw with the release of the ESP32. But check this out, there’s a new Espressif chip just around the corner.

A Peek at Something New: Chip-7

Earlier this week a Tweeted photo of a new chip sans specs started the rumor mill. The package has “Chip7″etched on it. Ivan let me take a photo of the board, which he confirmed carries an engineering sample. I couldn’t get much in the way of timeline from him, but he tease a few hints while we were recording an interviewing for the today’s Hackaday Podcast. The new part follows the lineage of ESP32 but will have more GPIO and will likely be similar in power budget and speed. Listen to the podcast for Ivan’s own words on the hardware, click the image for full resolution, and start your wild speculation in the comments below.

I am fascinated by the story of how Ivan came to be at Espressif. He had first learned about the ESP8266 while living in St. Petersburg, Russia and working on an idea for a car-sharing startup. He needed a way to unlock the shared vehicles using a smartphone, and WiFi was one method he was investigating. Non-technical issues, like how to insure drivers and shared vehicles, meant the idea didn’t take off. But meanwhile he was having fun with the chip, exploring beyond the AT commands to begin writing his own code.

He knew the true potential was in multithreaded behavior. After taking a protothreads approach and implementing a few other modules, he landed on the idea of porting portions of the Arduino ecosystem to the chip. His hobby project was the best handling of the WiFi stack for ESP8266 at the time and others joined in the effort to flesh out the rest of the peripheral support. This caught the eye of Espressif’s CEO and he reached out to offer Ivan a job. Seems the company is hiring hardware hackers doing interesting things with their chips (Jeroen Domburg — Sprite_TM — has a similar path to the company) and I like that philosophy!

POV LED Billboard for Your Commute

After my visit so Espressif I set out for the subway to make my way back to the airport and happened upon some unique advertising. The subway between the Zhangjiang High Technology Park stop and Longyang Road Station featured an LED billboard outside the train… while it was moving at full speed. The display uses persistence of vision so that to your eye the video ads are moving along with the train, rather than whizzing by it.

POV displays are notoriously difficult to capture well on camera and this one is no different. The rolling black bars are not present when viewing this in person but I think the installation interesting enough to share this video anyway. Actually, I thought it neat enough that having missed the show the first time, I rode back one stop so I could see it (and film it) again.

Off to Shenzhen Huge open pavilion greets you at Shenzhen airport

From the subway I transferred to the maglev once again to fast travel to the airport. My Thursday flight to Shenzhen was a late one, but it means a full Friday to catch up with our friend Scotty Allen, for the Hackaday Meetup at X.Factory Friday evening, and to spend the day in the electronics market on Saturday. I let you know how that goes in future articles.

For now, here’s a pair of photos of the delicious street-food breakfast I grabbed on this final morning in Shanghai.

Eve Tech is crowd-developing a mini PC, monitor, headphones, and docking station

Liliputing - 8 hours 51 minก่อน

Plenty of companies turn to crowdfunding in order to raise the cash needed to manufacturer and ship their products. Eve Tech made a splash a few years ago by doing something a little different — the company “crowd developed” a Windows tablet by incorporating feedback from potential customers along the way… and then launching a crowdfunding […]

The post Eve Tech is crowd-developing a mini PC, monitor, headphones, and docking station appeared first on Liliputing.

Retrotechtacular: Nellie The School Computer

Hackaday - 9 hours 50 minก่อน

When did computers arrive in schools? That should be an easy question to answer, probably in the years around 1980. Maybe your school had the Commodore Pet, the Apple II, or if you are British, the Acorn BBC Micro in that period, all 8-bit microcomputers running a BASIC interpreter. That’s certainly the case for the majority of schools, but not all of them. In early 1969 the BBC’s Tomorrow’s World visited a school with a computer, and in both technology and culture it was a world away from those schools a decade later that would have received those BBC Micros.

The school in question was The Forrest Grammar School, Winnersh, about 35 miles west of London, and the computer in question was a by-then-obsolete National Elliott 405 mainframe that had been donated four years earlier by the British arm of the food giant Nestlé. The school referred to it as “Nellie” — a concatenation of the two brand names. It seems to have been the preserve of the older pupils, but the film below still shows the concepts of its operation being taught at all levels. We get a brief look at some of their software too — no operating systems here, everything’s machine code on paper tape — as a teacher plays a reaction timer game and the computer wins at noughts and crosses (tic-tac-toe). One of them has even written a high-level language interpreter on which younger children solve maths problems. Of course, a 1950s mainframe with hundreds or thousands of tubes was never a particularly reliable machine, and we see them enacting their failure routine, before finally replacing a faulty delay line.

This is a fascinating watch on so many levels, not least because of its squeaky-clean portrayal of adolescent boys. This is what teenagers were supposed to be like, but by the late 1960s they must in reality have been anything but that away from the cameras. It’s a contrast with fifteen or twenty years later, the computer is seen as an extremely important learning opportunity in sharp opposition to how 8-bit computers in the 1980s came to be seen as a corrupting influence that would rot young minds.

Of course, these youngsters are not entirely representative of British youth in 1969, because as a grammar school the Forrest was part of the top tier of the selective education system prevalent at the time. There would certainly have been no computers of any sort in the local Secondary Modern school, and probably the BBC’s portrayal of the pupils would have been completely different had there been. In 1974 the Government abolished the grammar school system to create new one-size-fits-all comprehensive schools, one of which the Forrest school duly became. Following the vagaries of educational policy it is now an Academy, and there is probably not a room within it that does not contain a computer.

So what of Nellie? Because of the film there are plenty of online references to it in 1969, but we could only find one relating to its fate. It was finally broken up in 1971, with the only surviving component being a delay line. More than one Elliott machine survives in museum collections though, and your best chance in the UK of seeing one is probably at the National Museum Of Computing, in Bletchley.

Daily Deals (3-22-2019)

Liliputing - ศุกร์, 03/22/2019 - 23:55

Amazon’s Fire tablets are some of the best cheap tablets around, with prices typically starting at $50. While their Fire OS software isn’t to everyone’s liking, the tablets have proven fairly hackable — you may be able to install the Google Play Store and/or root your tablet. Fire tablets make decent devices for watching videos, […]

The post Daily Deals (3-22-2019) appeared first on Liliputing.

Archos Play Tab is a 21.5 inch Android tablet for tabletop games or something

Liliputing - ศุกร์, 03/22/2019 - 23:30

French electronics maker Archos was one of the first companies to release an Android tablet… way back when Android was a smartphone-only operating system that didn’t officially support tablets. In recent years company has become better known (if it’s known at all) for making cheap phones and attempting to get in on the smart home […]

The post Archos Play Tab is a 21.5 inch Android tablet for tabletop games or something appeared first on Liliputing.

Hackaday Podcast Ep11 – Weird Keyboards, Salvaging LCD Screens, and Mike Interviews Ivan of Espressif in Shanghai

Hackaday - ศุกร์, 03/22/2019 - 23:01

With our intrepid Editor in Chief Mike Szczys off being kind of a big deal in China, Managing Editor Elliot Williams is joined by Staff Writer Tom Nardi to talk about all the hacks that were fit to print over the past week. Join us as we talk about the wide world of custom mechanical keyboards, reviving a woefully antiquated display technology, building your own RC transmitter out of stuff you have laying around the lab, and the unexpected parallels between Pepto Bismol and rocket fuel. We’ll also look at what it takes to build a robust embedded system, and see if we can’t figure out a way to draw schematics worth looking at. Plus, hang around until the end of the episode to hear Mike interview the man instrumental in getting the ESP8266 to play nice with Arduino, and now running firmware for the ESP32.

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always, tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Direct download (76 MB)

Places to follow Hackaday podcasts:

Episode 011 Show Notes: New This Week: Interesting Hacks of the Week: Quick Hacks: Can’t-Miss Articles:

NexDock 2 is a new laptop shell for your smartphone (crowdfunding)

Liliputing - ศุกร์, 03/22/2019 - 22:49

Nearly three years after running a crowdfunding campaign for a laptop dock powered by your smartphone, the folks at NexDock are back for another round. The NexDock 2 has a better screen, a more compact design, and an aluminum body (rather than plastic). You can connect a smartphone by running a cable to the USB-C […]

The post NexDock 2 is a new laptop shell for your smartphone (crowdfunding) appeared first on Liliputing.

Robot Telephone Operator Handles Social Media For You

Hackaday - ศุกร์, 03/22/2019 - 22:30

Social media has become pervasive in modern life. It can be impossible to get so much as an invite to a party without offering up your personal data at the altar of the various tech companies. [David] wanted to avoid the pressures of seeing countless photos of people climbing mountains and eating tacos, but also didn’t want to ostracize himself by avoiding social media altogether. Naturally, automation was the answer.

[David] aptly named his robot Telephone Operator, and that’s precisely what it does. Stepper motors and a servo allow the robot’s capacitive appendage to interact with the touch screen on [David]’s iPhone. A camera is fitted, and combined with OpenCV, the robot is capable of a great many important tasks.

Liking Instagram posts? Done. Reposting inane tweets? Easy. Asking your pal Mike what’s up? Yep, Telephone Operator has it covered. Given the low quality of human interaction on such platforms, it’s entirely possible [David] has the Turing Test beat without even trying. The robot even has that lazy continuous Sunday morning scroll down pat. It’s spooky stuff.

Of course, if you’re too in love with social media to trust an automaton, you might instead prefer to wear your likes on your sleeve. Video after the break.

[Thanks to dechemist for the tip!]




Intel ceases development of Compute Cards (in the latest modular computing fail)

Liliputing - ศุกร์, 03/22/2019 - 22:07

When Intel unveiled its Compute Card platform in early 2017, the company painted a picture of a modular future where you could buy a smart TV, internet-connected home appliances, or even computer docks and upgrade their processors, memory, and RAM in the future by simply swapping out a credit card-sized device. That future never really […]

The post Intel ceases development of Compute Cards (in the latest modular computing fail) appeared first on Liliputing.

Faster Computers Lead to Slower Experiences?

Hackaday - ศุกร์, 03/22/2019 - 18:00

Ever get that funny feeling that things aren’t quite what they used to be? Not in the way that a new washing machine has more plastic parts than one 40 years its senior. More like “my laptop can churn through hundreds of gigaflops, but when I scroll it doesn’t feel great.” That perception of smoothness might be based on a couple factors, including system latency. A couple years ago [danluu] had that feeling too and measured the latency of “devices I’ve run into in the past few months” (based on this list, he lives a more interesting life than we do). It turns out his hunch was objectively correct. What he wrote was a wonderful deep dive into how and why a wide variety of devices work and the hardware and software contributors to latency.

Let’s be clear about what “latency” means in this context. [danluu] was checking the time between a user input and some response on screen. For desktop systems he measured a keystroke, for mobile devices scrolling a browser. If you’re here on Hackaday (or maybe at a Vintage Computer Festival) the cause of the apparent contradiction at the top of the charts might be obvious.

Q: Why are some older systems faster than devices built decades later? A: The older systems just didn’t do much! Instead of complex multi-tasking operating systems doing hundreds of things at once, the CPU’s entire attention was bent on whatever user process was running. There are obvious practical drawbacks here but it certainly reduces context switching!

In some sense this complexity that [danluu] describes is at the core of how we solve problems with programming. Writing code is all about abstraction. While it’s true that any program could be written directly in machine code and customized to an individual machine’s hardware configuration, it would be pretty inconvenient for both developer and user. So over time layers of sugar have been added on top to hide raw hardware behind nicer interfaces written in higher-level programming languages.

And instead of writing every program to target exact hardware configurations there is a kernel to handle the lowest layers, then layers adding hotplug systems, power management, pluggable module and driver infrastructure, and more. When considering solutions to a programming problem the approach is always recursive: you can solve the problem, or add a layer of abstraction and reframe it. Enough layers of the latter makes the former trivial. But it’s abstractions all the way down.

[danluu]’s observation is that we’re just now starting to curve back around and hit low latency again, but this time by brute force! Modern solutions to latency largely look like increasingly exotic display technologies and complex optimizations which reach from UI draw functions all the way down to the silicon, not removing software and system infrastructure. It turns out the benefits of software complexity in terms of user experience and ease of development are worth it most of the time.

For a very tangible illustration of latency as applied to touchscreen devices, check out the Microsoft Research video after the break (linked to in [danluu]’s piece).

The Multichannel Field Recorder You Can Build Right Now

Hackaday - ศุกร์, 03/22/2019 - 15:00

Field recorders, or backpackable audio recorders with a few XLR jacks and an SD card slot, are a niche device, and no matter what commercial field recorder you choose you’ll always compromise on what features you want versus what features you’ll get. [Ben Biles] didn’t feel like compromising so he built his own multichannel audio DSP field recorder. It has a four channel balanced master outputs, with two stereo headphone outputs, eight or more inputs, digital I/O, and enough routing for multitrack recording.

Mechanically, the design of the system is a 3D printed box studded on every side with various connectors and patch points. This is what you get when you want a lot of I/O, and yep, those are panel mount connectors so get ready to pony up on the price of your connectors. The analog front end is a backplane sort of thing on a piece of perfboard, containing an eight channel differential I/O.

Of course any audio recorder is awful to use unless there’s a great user interface, and for that you can’t get any better than a high-resolution touchscreen on a phone. This led [Ben] to use Bluetooth to connect to an app showing the gain, levels, a toggle for phantom power, and a checkbox for line or microphone. If that’s not enough there are also some MIDI knobs for volume, because MIDI is still great for user input. It’s everything you want in a portable recording rig, and yes, there is a soundcloud demo. You can also check out a demo video below.

A Steady Hand Makes This Chip Work Again

Hackaday - ศุกร์, 03/22/2019 - 12:00

What do you do when you’re working with some vintage ICs and one of the tiny legs pops off? That’s what happened to [Kotomi] when working with an old Super Nintendo. A single lead for the sound chip just snapped off, leaving [Kotomi] one pin short of a working system (the Google Translatrix). This is something that can be fixed, provided you have a steady hand and a rotary tool that’s spinning at thousands of RPM.

Fixing this problem relies on a little bit of knowledge of how integrated circuits are built. There’s a small square of silicon in there, but this tiny die is bonded to a metal leadframe, which looks like the ribcage of a robotic centipede. This leadframe is covered in epoxy, the pins are bent down, and you have an IC. Removing just a tiny bit of epoxy grants access to the leadframe which you can then solder to. Don’t breathe the repair, it’s not pretty, but it does work.

While this technique makes use of a Dremel to break into the chewy nougat center of a vintage chip, and in some ways this could be called decapsulation, it really isn’t. We’ve seen people drop acid to get to the center of a chip and a really hot torch will get to the middle of a ceramic chip, but this technique is just accessing the lead frame of the IC. All ICs have a stamped (or photoetched) metal frame to which the silicone die is bonded. Running a Dremel against some epoxy doesn’t access the silicon, but it does grant access to the signals coming off the chip.

Make Your Own Quantum Dots

Hackaday - ศุกร์, 03/22/2019 - 09:00

Quantum dots certainly sound as if they should be something cool, but carry the hazardous baggage of being sometimes made from cadmium which can be dangerous. What are they? In essence, they are nanometer-scale particles, so small that when high energy light hits them, the photons will be absorbed and re-emitted at a lower energy state. You can easily make non-toxic quantum dots in your kitchen. Apart from the cool factor, they can be used as fluorescent dyes, inks, and possibly paints. [StrangelyAmusing] explains how in the video below.

You don’t need much in the way of equipment. A microwave oven, a Pyrex (borosilicate) container, and gloves. You’ll also need plastic pipettes and a blacklight — possibly the most exotic two items on the list. The ingredients are equally mundane: vinegar, baking soda, water, and sugar.

The vinegar allows the sugar to breakdown (or invert) faster and the baking soda neutralizes the vinegar once its done its job. You are left with fructose and glucose. Once the sugar solution is at the right pH, it remains a matter of heating it again to cause quantum dots to form. The dots will glow green under a blacklight.

According to [StrangelyAmusing] the whole process takes about ten minutes. Other than glowing, what can you do with them? We aren’t quite sure. Commercially, quantum dots have applications (or potential applications) in lasers, solar cells, light emission devices, and even biological markers. However, we don’t have any idea how you’d go from fluorescent sugar solution to any of those devices. If you figure it out, be sure to drop us a tip.

We’ve looked at making different sized dots before. We don’t recommend dealing with the cadmium dots, but we have seen it done in a proper lab.

Volkswagen Tools Turned To The Space Age

Hackaday - ศุกร์, 03/22/2019 - 06:00

The Volkswagen Beetle, and yes the bus and the sexiest car ever made, are cars meant for the people. You can pull the engine out with a strong friend, and you can fix anything in an old Volkswagen. VW realized this, because in the 1950s and ’60s, they came up with plans for tools designed to tear apart an old VW, and these tools were meant to be manufactured in a local shop. That really turns that right to repair on its head, doesn’t it?

While working on his van, [Justin Miller] came across a reference to one of these tools meant to be made at home. The VW 681 is a seal puller, designed to be manufactured out of bar stock. It’s an old design, but now we have interesting tools like 3D printers and parametric CAD programs. Instead of making one of these DIY seal pullers with a grinder, [Justin] brought this tool from the space age into the modern age. He took the design, modelled it in OpenSCAD, and printed it out.

The VW reference book that lists this tool is Workshop Equipment for Local Manufacture, and for this seal puller, it gives perfectly dimensioned drawings  that are easily modelled with a few lines of code. The only real trouble is filing down the pointy bit of the puller, but a bit of boolean operations fixed that problem. After 15 minutes of printing and a few hours finding the right documentation and writing fifteen lines of code, [justin] had a plastic VW 681 in his hands. Yes, it was probably a waste of time as a regular seal puller could have done the job, but it’s an excellent example of what can happen when manufacturers support their local repairman.

Old Wireless Switches Join The Internet of Things

Hackaday - ศุกร์, 03/22/2019 - 03:00

Just about any appliance comes in an internet enabled version nowadays. However, even the oldest gear can be switched on and off with an Internet connected power socket. [Bill] is in the process of automating his home, and found some old radio controlled power sockets that badly needed to join the 21st Century. Hacking ensued.

The first set of switches [Bill] came across were easy to work with. Eager to keep things as functional as possible, ESP8266s with Tasmota firmware were wedged into the enclosures. With a bit of circuit sleuthing, [Bill] was able to set up the switches to respond to commands from both the ESP8266 as well as the original push buttons and radio remote.

[Bill] later came across some black switches, which were not up to his standards. These switches were gutted entirely, being used only for their mains plug and enclosure. The relays inside were replaced with 5V versions which were easier to trigger from the ESP8266’s outputs.

[Bill[ readily admits that the cost benefits over buying off-the-shelf Sonoff modules don’t really add up, but good hackers rarely let such concerns get in the way of a fun project. Around these parts, we see plenty of hacks to automate your house – like this zero-intrusion light switch mod. Happy hacking!

Now’s as good a time as any to change your Facebook password

Liliputing - ศุกร์, 03/22/2019 - 02:49

So you may have heard, but the past few years haven’t been so great for Facebook when it comes to public relations. But if you’ve been wondering what could possibly make things worse, here’s an idea: what if it turns out Facebook was caught storing hundreds of millions of users’ passwords in plain text? Oh […]

The post Now’s as good a time as any to change your Facebook password appeared first on Liliputing.

Microsoft’s antivirus software is now available for Mac

Liliputing - ศุกร์, 03/22/2019 - 01:45

Microsoft’s Windows operating system has included some form of built-in antivirus software for more than a decade. But the software formerly known as Windows Defender is getting a new name… and for good reason. It’s now called Microsoft Defender, and the company is dropping Windows from the name because it’s no longer a Windows exclusive […]

The post Microsoft’s antivirus software is now available for Mac appeared first on Liliputing.

Hacker Abroad: Massive Conference Brings Big News of Hackaday Prize China

Hackaday - ศุกร์, 03/22/2019 - 01:30

My first full day in China was spent at Electronica, an absolutely massive conference showcasing companies involved in electronics manufacturing and distribution. It’s difficult to comprehend how large this event is, filling multiple halls at the New International Expo Center in Shanghai.

I’ve seen the equipment used for PCB assembly many times before. But at this show you get to see another level below that, machines that build components and other items needed to build products quickly and with great automation. There was also big news today as the 2019 Hackaday Prize China was launched. Join me after the break for a look at this equipment, and more about this new development for the Hackaday Prize.

First Ever Hackaday Prize China! Representatives from Digi-Key and Supplyframe — sponsors of the Hackaday Prize China — pause for a photo along with EEFocus and Hackaday crew during the launch of the contest

For the past five years, the Hackaday Prize China has been open to engineers from around the globe. But this year we’re stepping up the effort to help involve a lot more people from China who enjoy developing new products. On Wednesday, a large audience gathered at the Bom2buy booth (one of Supplyframe’s China-based companies) to celebrate the beginning of the 2019 Hackaday Prize China. This design contest is specifically for hackers, designers, and engineers who are more comfortable documenting their development process in Chinese. Up to ten finalists from the Hackaday Prize China will be invited to the final round of the soon-to-launch Global Hackaday Prize with the assistance of translation services in order to share their product development process with in English. We know there’s all kinds of amazing work going on here in China and this will make it easier to share those stories with the non-Chinese-speaking Hackaday community.

It was great to meet some local hardware hackers at the launch ceremony. This is Yoyojacly who gave a talk about the Raspberry Pi based arcade console he built. This is obviously an eye-catching build, and I got to speak with him for a half hour or so afterward and his projects run deep! He and his office colleagues have automated everything from the fish feeder to the lights. They recently picked up a used LIDAR sensor and are working on building an autonomous robot to take out the garbage after seeing much success with their Donkey Car (a tensor-flow based autonomous rover) project. Yoyjacly is a member of the Mushroomcloud hackerspace here in Shanghai.

It’s really cool that two people from the Dexter robotic arm team were able to make it to Shaghai for the conference. Dexter won the 2018 Hackaday Prize and were invited to exhibit in the Bom2buy booth. Dexter has silky-smooth movements and great positional awareness thanks to its high-accuracy optical encoder scheme. It had no problem attracting a crowd throughout the day.

Cool Machines That Build Parts and Assemblies for the Electronics Industry

Six years ago I attended Electronica in Munich, but I don’t remember seeing the sheer number of eye-popping automation displays I found on Wednesday at Electronica Asia. Perhaps this is because technology has advanced quickly over those years, but I suspect it’s more that the close proximity to such large manufacturing hubs means it is easier to transport these machines for demonstrations.

To really grasp what these machines can do you really need to see them in action, and I plan to put together video of many examples once there is more time to do the editing work. There were demos of machines that separate silicon dies and put them into trays and die-bonding machines that place the slivers of complex silicon and connect them to the metal leads.

I saw the injection machines that create the familiar black plastic packages for those chips. There were IC sorting machines used to automatically test completed parts and to flash code to microcontrollers when you order them preprogrammed.

There was an entire hall devoted to cable making where mesmerizing robotic precision measured wire to exact length, cut and stripped each end, crimped connectors onto each, and inserted them into plastic housings. All of this is a dizzying stack of manufacturing that has been optimized for efficiency at every conceivable step from raw material, to component, to assemblies that go on to produced finished products. And it pulls back a curtain that was previously hiding remarkable industrial automation.

Up Next: Visiting a Favorite Chip Design Company, and Heading to Southern China

After a very long day at a very large conference, we unwind with amazing hot pot! “Noodles” on ice in bottom right are actually tofu. Red-tipped bottle is delicious plum liquor I lovingly refer to as “jet fuel” (use with caution). Alas, this my only full day in Shanghai.

On Thursday morning I’m meeting up with Ivan Grothotkov at Espressif, makers of the ESP8266 and ESP32. We plan to record a segment for the Hackaday Podcast to cover how he joined up with the company and what they’re up to these days. Later in the afternoon Sophi Kravitz and I will depart for Shenzhen where we’ll meetup up with our friend Scotty Allen and head to Seeed Studios’ X.Factory for a Hackaday meetup. I’ll let you know about those adventures in the next installment so keep your eye on Hackaday!

Syndicate content