Sparkfun Dumpster Dive!

Hey guys!

So recently I ordered a Sparkfun Dumpster Dive from, well, Sparkfun… Above is the video of me unboxing it. If you want to see the photos in a bit higher detail, then check below, also links to most of the products can be found below too (the ones I could find).

I unbox a Sparkfun Dumpster Dive box!

Dumpster Dive Link: https://www.sparkfun.com/products/12012

Eval Board for MAX2000-RAX: https://www.sparkfun.com/products/retired/343

Connecters: You try finding them 😛

MaKeyMaKey: https://www.sparkfun.com/products/11437

Arduino Cellular Shield: https://www.sparkfun.com/products/9607

GPS Eval Board: Can’t find any info on this… I assume it was a production test run or something…

Incremental Rotary Encoder: https://www.sparkfun.com/products/10932

Motor with Gearbox: Again, can’t find it…

Ultra Sonic Range Finder: http://www.maxbotix.com/Ultrasonic_Sensors/MB7360.htm

Pieces of plywood: Go to your local hardware store

More Connectors: See last set of connectors

Ethernet connector: https://www.sparkfun.com/products/8534

Opto-Interrupter: Not worth posting a link, you can get them everywhere…

Battery Holders: https://www.sparkfun.com/products/11892

Tactile Switch: https://www.sparkfun.com/products/97

TWR-K60N512 Freescale Tower Module: http://www.freescale.com/webapp/sps/site/prod_summary.jsp?code=TWR-K60N512&tid=vanTWR-K60N512

 

Hakko Fx-888D Review Take 2

Hey everyone!

This is a re-write of my review of the Hakko Fx-888D review, thanks to some brilliant people giving me feedback on the EEV Blog Forum – link to thread here.

So recently I picked up a new Soldering Station: the Hakko Fx-888D. This soldering station is a more substantial and robust iron than the one I had been using previously and is priced at a nice £100 ($150), so it’s a good price for hobbyists!

Specifications: For it’s price, the Hakko boasts some impressive specs! It is a 26V 70W iron with temperature control between 200ºC and 480ºC. At idle temperature it has an accuracy of ±1ºC. It features a useful preset mode, and password protection functionality for if you need it. As well as being ESD (electro-static discharge) safe and isolated from the mains. The heat up-time is a handy 40-50 seconds (depending on the temp) and it’s thermal recovery is excellent.

In the box: For the £100 you get the iron, along with a T18-B tip, the main unit, the manual, a stand for the iron, a sponge, and some brass wool (both of which fit in the iron holder.

Ease of use: This is one of the easiest irons I have used yet. If you simply want to get it running just plug it in, plug the iron into the main unit, switch the switch on the side of the unit and you are away! In this mode, setting the temperature is simple, just hold down the ‘ENTER’ button until the first digit starts flashing, then use the ‘UP’ button to change the value, and the ‘ENTER’ button to move to the next digit. The other modes can be accessed by holding the ‘UP’ button whilst powering on, and using enter to select the mode.

Performance: Well as expected the iron performs exactly as the specs said it would, heating from room temperature (21ºC) to 380ºC in just 42 seconds. The real-time feedback of the temperature is extremely useful because you know exactly what temperature you are currently on. There is a small LED at the bottom of the display which tells you when the iron heater is on too. The iron feels comfortable and solid in your hand but the cable is nice and flexible giving you the manoeuvrability you need when soldering. The footprint of the unit and stand is nice and small leaving you plenty of room on your bench (well, unless your bench is as untidy as mine) for working in.

Conclusion: I found the user manual to be a bit unclear on changing modes, but this did not affect the iron’s usability considerably. I also found that the tip they included wasn’t the tip I personally would have chosen, as I do mostly though-hole work, but I managed to buy another tip for only £6 ($10) more. Aside from that the iron was well-built, easy to use, comfortable, and in my opinion a great buy!

I would highly recommend the Hakko Fx-888D to anyone looking for a sub £150 ($200) soldering station. It is excellent value for money and does everything I expected it to! I am thoroughly pleased with it.

Hakko Fx-888D Review

Hey everyone!

So I’ve been soldering on my old Soldering Iron (Antex C15), which, don’t get me wrong, is a lovely iron for it’s price, for a while. But I’ve been doing a lot of soldering recently and it wasn’t quite good enough. So I decided to upgrade to a slightly higher priced and more professional Soldering Station, the Hakko Fx-888D.

IMG_20130819_102436The Hakko's image in profile

I’ll start with some of the issues I had with the Antex, so we can compare them. First, the Antex had no temperature control, and although many people who have used a non-temperature controlled iron for a long time will say this doesn’t strictly matter, it makes a lot of difference to me. Secondly, the Antex is not isolated from the mains, and if you are not careful this can REALLY mess you up. Thirdly, it took a long time to heat up (about 4-5 minutes in my case) and if you just want to do something quickly, then this isn’t fun. Finally, it has a hefty cable connecting it to a mains plug which doesn’t flex very much, making it awkward to manoeuvre sometimes.

So how does the Hakko compare? Well, first off it does have temperature control. This can be useful in many cases, if you are often switching between leaded and unleaded solder this is a blessing, because they both should be used at different temperatures. And if you a switching a lot between soldering small components with a small thermal mass, and big beefy cables with a very high thermal mass this again can help a lot. There is nothing worse than trying to solder to a large thermal mass object with just a small 15W iron.

The Hakko's temp readout midway in heating up

 

Secondly, the Hakko Iron is not only isolated from the mains, but it is also ESD (Electrostatic Discharge) safe. ESD is a problem that can occur when humans, who build up a lot of static electricity, touch components, and the static is discharged through the component, sometimes breaking it. To avoid this the rubberised handle for the Iron is made of a special conductive rubber which itself is connected to ground, ensuring when you pick it up all the static electricity is discharged to ground making you ESD safe.

The size of the iron

 

Thirdly, and for me this has made the most difference, this iron is very quick at heating up (for me it takes about 45 seconds). This means if you want to quickly make a small alteration to a prototype it isn’t a hassle to wait for the iron to heat up and you can be done in 2 minutes.

Finally, the design of this iron is in my opinion superb! The unit itself doesn’t take up much space on the bench, and the UI is (mostly) simple and easy to use. The iron itself is comfortable to hold and easy to manoeuvre (the cable is nice and flexible and light) and the custom holder that comes with the iron is very convenient, having a place for a sponge and some brass wool to clean the iron tip (both supplied with the iron).

The iron holderThe Iron stand supplied with itSponge and brass wool to clean the tip

To say this iron is without flaws though would be a lie, for one, the manual supplied with the iron gives very poor instructions on how to change the modes. And the tip it is supplied with is a conical tip, which in my opinion isn’t the greatest tip type in the world. I bought myself a small chisel tip along with the iron which greatly improves the functionality of the iron as a whole.

If you are looking for a sub-£100 soldering station, I would highly recommend the Hakko fx-888D!

Tom Cousins

 

Getting into Electronics

Hey there everyone!

So, I’m presuming if you’re reading this you’re fairly new on the electronics scene, or you’re just wondering how easy it is to get into electronics nowadays? Well I’ll tell you simply — very.

In my opinion, electronics has never been quite so interactive and fun as now! And in all honestly, I feel privileged to be growing up and learning in such a great community and atmosphere. But let’s back up a little?? How to start?

Well if you’re serious, it’s going to require a little bit of investment, but honestly? I think that investment is TOTALLY 100% worth it. There are some amazing companies out there specifically tailoring for people joining the electronics world, companies like Little Bits (An electronics company who make magnetic “Snap Together” modules – Check them out!!!) or Arduino, which is an open-source company who build development boards around the ATMega series of micro-controllers from Atmel. In my experience, once I got my hands on an Arduino board, the possibilities just opened up for me, using the IDE that they provide you can go from a couple of components, a breadboard, and a blue thingimabob, to a fully working prototype in a matter of minutes. Plus there are some AWESOME tutorials for how to get started, how the Arduino works and how you code it out there, my personal favourite being Jeremy Blum’s great Arduino Tutorials. From there you can start to move up, as I have, to more complex designs and more interesting idea’s. That’s how I did it, and I would certainly recommend it.

But….

You are the one who has to put in the work here, and you have to have the drive and interest to see it through.  It’s just like learning a new language or a musical instrument, you’re not going to learn it all overnight!! I get a surprising amount of people asking me things like “How did you learn all this?”, and the answer is surprisingly simple, I put in an inordinate amount of hours and I devoted myself to it.

So go out there and surf the net! Find your own favourites and learn in your own way! It doesn’t work if someone forces you into it, you have to do it yourself.

Good Luck!

Tom

My First Arduino running with an AXE133Y 16X2 OLED display!

My First Arduino running with an AXE133Y 16X2 OLED display!

P.s. If you want to look at some of my tutorials take a look at this page.