Merging modern software development with electrons and metal
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Posts from — March 2015

Sometimes Paper Is Better Than Tech

If you’re one of the elite few who has followed my blog for a while, you know that I like quality pens, pencils, and paper, as well as technology such as 3D Mechanical CAD.

I’ve been working on the electrical portion of a new machine, and this week I started on the layout.  We normally let our tech do the final layout since he does the actual wiring, but I need to make sure everything will fit, and with his help, want to get as close as possible to the final arrangement.  (Ideally, I want to work with our mechanical engineer and tech to get all the DIN rail and component holes placed correctly, because it’s a lot better when these holes are made by the sheet metal shop.)

I thought about trying to use 3D MCAD, but decided instead to cut sheets of vellum to match the panel size, and print life size profiles of the various components.  (I used vellum because I can easily tape and re-tape the cutouts to it).

This approach works well because:

  • I don’t have to create 3D models.  Some manufacturers do not supply 3D models.  Using 2D prints, I can use a PDF (by using Print View and scaling the output – thanks Adobe!), a 2D file such as DXF or DWG, or 3D (by scaling the print or creating a projection).
  • It’s much quicker to move the component prints around.
  • And, to be honest, I like the tactile touch of moving the paper cut-outs around and that everything is life size, not downsized on a smaller computer monitor.

Doing a full 3D model does have some advantages; working in 2D, I have to make sure I accommodate how deep the components are.  But even in 3D, you have to add extra space for hard to model items like cables.

March 28, 2015   1 Comment

Another Way To Make Your Own Metal Buttons

I have to say someday I’d like to make my own metal buttons.

In the past, I’ve covered Microchip’s mTouch metal-over-cap technology (here and here), which uses capacitive technology.  Microchip has a groovy app note which shows some of the ways you can use it, and has an eval kit available for ~$150 (base mTouch kit plus metal over cap accessory kit).

Now TI has a reference design for creating your own metal buttons using TI’s inductive sensor technology.  TI’s reference designs provide that: a reference design with layout, calculations, and notes.  You can’t buy them pre-made, but you can use them as a good starting point.

I’ve glanced through the manual for this reference design, and it is full of good info – and the design is pretty neat, too.  For example, it includes two different haptic types, ERM/LRM and piezo.  I have the HapTouch Booster Pack which features the same ERM/LRM haptics technology, and I’m not too impressed – it’s similar to the haptic feedback from a current smartphone.  (Note that I think the problem is with the basic ERM/LRM technology, not the controller).

Other approaches to non-moving metal buttons include piezo electric and ultrasonic.


March 19, 2015   No Comments

Awesome Pen Swag: Frixion Ball 05 from NEC/Tokin

NEC Tokin Frixion Pen

NEC Tokin Frixion Pen

NEC Tokin Frixion Pen

NEC Tokin Frixion Ball 05

I swiped a lot of pen swag at the Photonics West 2015 Exhibition, but NEC/Tokin’s giveaway deserves to be highlighted: a Pilot Frixion Ball 05 retractable erasable pen with 0.5mm tip.

NEC/Tokin makes an interesting mix of materials, sensors, and components such as capacitors, chokes, and relays.  Somebody there must like pens, because the Ball 05 isn’t a cheap pen made to be customized.  It’s a cool pen that’s not even available at retail in the US (and is currently $3.80 at JetPens).

My theory is that NEC/Tokin has been infiltrated by a secret pen addict – and I’m very thankful 🙂

Now onto the pen…this is my first retractable Frixion, but not my first Frixion.  I still have mixed feelings about Frixions, but this one is definitely a keeper.

I’m still getting used to the knock being the clip – half the time I still press the eraser, but nothing happens….of course, Pilot’s choice makes sense, it just takes a little getting used to it.

I like the tip size (05=0.5mm).  I also like the tip size of my Frixion Point 04 (0.4mm), but I find the US market Frixions to be too big for my normal writing.  On the other hand, the black ink isn’t as dark as a gel, and the tip isn’t as smooth as a gel either.

Frixions do have a reputation for running out quickly; I felt my US market Frixions didn’t last very long, but my Point 04 is still going strong, so I hope this Ball 05 will be similar.

March 8, 2015   1 Comment