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  • charliex 6:51 pm on March 18, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: irritrol, RD1200, repair, sprinker   

    Irritrol–RD1200 Sprinkler controller repair 

    I always have issues with water, I’ve flooded a couple of houses over the years. So the new house’s sprinkler system is no surprise, we have almost 150PSI of water pressure going into an old metal pipe sprinkler system, and I’ve been slowly replacing the pipe and reducing the pressure under concrete and all that,. This week i noticed a large dome shape on the front lawn and it turned out there was a few hundred gallons of water under the turf, and another broken pipe. Also the new flowers I planted had started to die off while I’d been out of town. the people I’d used to replace some of the bad pipes had missed one sprinkler output which had covered these flowers, so it goes on. I went out to repair these and I noticed the sprinkler solenoid  was chattering. 

    Checking out the rest of them, they were all chattering, so its obviously a problem at the controller and not the solenoids. I checked the output of the transformer, about 26VAC, so that was fine, watching the sprinkler output it was swinging from about 6VAC to 18VAC, when it hit 12VAC or so the solenoids would chatter.

    So I opened up the control box. Remove, power, Remove the ribbon cable, me plastic tabs that just pop out, then two screws hold the PCB down, which keeps the flexible LCD connector in place.  it just lifts out after the screws are removed.


    A few minutes inspection revealed the issue.


    The electrolytic capacitor is slightly swollen and leaking, its a 220uF 35V axial style, radio shack carries them for about $1.40. Changed it out and  its all working again, but make sure when you reassemble the box that the ABC switch gets on top of the PCB mounted switch, otherwise you’ll be doing what i have to do tonight and take it apart again.

  • charliex 9:14 pm on May 20, 2013 Permalink | Reply

    layerOne 2013 badge 


    Update, PCB’s arrive

    Well at the least we’ve got PCBs to hand out Smile though why do you think i choose a coffee mug sized board, worst case is always coasters.

    Arrived at 10AM, after MY to TW to JP to USA, at 6AM it was noted as being in Japan..



    Funny that I made the tracks stylistic, but we can’t see them. Which is also awesome for debugging.


    Now to find out if they actually work! If they don’t well there’s always this option



    We’re at layerOne again, http://www.layerone.org  and it always seems to creep up on me. Even though I tried to follow Dark Tangent’s lead for Joe Grand and ‘Badges by Christmas’,  if Christmas is two days before layerOne then I’ve succeeded. I’m starting the 2014 badge after I finish this blog entry, well probably.

    We definitely had a tough year for free time this year, got married, bought a house, fixed it up and launched a bunch of stuff at work.  I was having a creative block on what to do, we first though lets do a mash up of  the TV-B-Gone(null) and then the Dangerous Prototypes IR toy,they’re both neat things but I just felt we needed a bit more so about a week and a half ago I scrapped everything and started over, which when you have no time left, busy at work and funds are looking low is a really good idea.

    I’ve thought about crowdsourcing the idea, but that doesn’t always work, in fact it rarely does. The ideas are either too crazy, impossible, cost about as much as yahoo overpaid for tumblr or only interesting to one or two people. Maybe 2014 we’ll try again.

    So little time in fact, the PCB’s don’t arrive til Wednesday, our supplier had a snafu or something and they were delayed a tad. So here is a quick render with eagle3d. If you’ve bumped into me recently, you’ll notice I’ve been pre-occupied, this is definitely the closest we’ve cut it in time.


    The USB is a mini not the giant one hanging off there, and the OLED is missing.

    The LED drivers are the super nice TLC5947DAP and I’m not using charlieplexing this time, so they’ll look great ( I hope !), we used this chip on the blinky ball and the Tron disc the CPU is an ATXMEGA32A4U-AU 

    Some of the challenges for electronics badges is making something everyone can build, have interest in and be interesting and be hack-able.,. Preferably  that they can also use past conference. we do tend to rework or use other proven designs because then we can see what the interest level is, last year we did the RC cars and people liked it but it wasn’t really well taken in and that was lot of work to get it right and find the right parts.

    I started off with a chip and wanted to try the ATXMega it was the one i was going to use for the IR toy since it has USB. I came across the xprotolab http://www.gabotronics.com/development-boards/xmega-xprotolab.htm and though that’d be a great badge since it has so much stuff on it and people can use it as a tool as well.  For the people that wanted one of the usual blinky LED toys, I slapped on a smaller version of the ‘Tron’ disc we made. This way we’ve go ta badge that is simple to build and looks purty, then a second circuit that is more complex to build , has an OLED and lots of features.  I pinged gabotronics about us using their design and they were super nice about it too. He’s also running a kick-starter for a portable version of the xprotolab too.


    I picked up 8,000 LEDs since typically we only use SMD  and NullSpaceLabs has like 1 million + LED’s in the back room, but not so much in the 3mm variety.  Found a local place in Los Angeles area that had them, they arrived overnight, the OLED’s I found in china. Rest of the parts given the short time frame I picked up at Digikey. Some of the parts can be had cheaper elsewhere, but when you add shipping it ends up being more.

    The badge has got all sorts of potential to hack though, the LED’s can be included in the xprotolab as well as be independent,  with the OLED and the extra expansion, as well as the ADC’s it’ll make some fun toys.

    I really didn’t have time to prove out a booster for the 3V to 5V even though gabotronics sent me a suitable schematic for the portable version, so that’d be a neat hack too.

    Add a Mic or other sensors with a beat detector or simple audio level device. Add on an IR LED and it can be a IR Toy/ TV-B-Gone too. Video game too!

    I extended a few of the pads on components that people typically have issues with, or lift pads , particularly the CPU. We have an on-going battle at NSL on lead vs leadless chips, personally I think leadless chips(QFNs) are easier to solder and don’t get damaged as easy, others don’t. This year i opted for the large TQFP44 package with legs. One year I’ll do BGA just for the heck of it.

    The PCB’s are posted on the Null Space SVN server the http://wiki.032.la has links to it.

    We will of course bring our pro as —- hardware hacking lab, probably a  dozen or more metcals, microscopes, hot plates, scopes, etc. I’ve yet to see another lab as well equipped as ours.








    Feature list of the xprotolab (taken from gabotronics site)

    • Mixed Signal Oscilloscope: Simultaneous sampling of analogue and digital signals.
    • Advanced Trigger: Normal / Single / Auto, with rising or falling edge and adjustable trigger level.
    • Meter Mode: Average, Peak to peak and Frequency readout.
    • XY Mode:
      - Plot Lissajous patterns
      - See the phase difference between two waveforms
      - V/I Curve tracer with an external resistor
    • Spectrum Analyser with different windowing options and selectable vertical log.
    • Horizontal and Vertical Cursors with automatic waveform measurements.
    • Arbitrary Waveform Generator with Sweep on all parameters.
    • Display options: Persistence, Different grid options, and more.


    Parts Breakdown

    The OLED’s I picked up from here



    as well as here, I split the orders since they looked like diff models.



    The OLED Datasheet  is here

    The 3mm LEDs I picked up from ( various colours )


    Useful since its reasonably cheap and ships from CA, they came within a day.

    The batteries are C123A’s and i got them from https://www.batteryspace.com along with the holders. They are the cheapest i can find, and we’ve used them before. its a hassle to ship lithium batteries in CA. You’ll see a lot of batteries (especially watch batteries) that are listed a ‘California’ only, they’re crappy, so avoid if possible.


    I guess I’ll find out Wednesday night/Thursday if my board layout works! If it doesn’t guess what the hardware hacking competition will be Winking smile 


    We do have prizes for the Hardware Hacking competition, I have a pandaboard ex, beaglebone black and a pcduino to give away, and maybe some other stuff, we’ll see what goes down.

    Now to start actually designing a badge for 2014. Will the proxmarklcd re-appear?



    If you like this badge etc, I’ll be at layerOne, This is what i look like.


    If not



    Here’s some of other Null Space links :-




    • Niek 5:33 pm on May 21, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Does the back of the badge say “LayerTwo”?

      • charliex 7:33 pm on May 21, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        heh no, we did have a four layer badge a few years ago. the insides might have said something!

  • charliex 3:50 am on December 24, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: changing mac address, proxim   

    Changing the Mac address of a proxim 802.11abgn usb adapter 

    Windows 7 has a a limitation (That can be removed in the code of the individual driver) that you can’t set a fake mac id starting with 00 on a wireless usb So I did what any normal person would do, pulled apart the adapter, removed the eeprom found and edited the hardware MAC ID


    Use a spudger to open the case, its not glued or anything.

    I tried a few ways of programming the spi on board, but it just wouldn’t do it,, too much interference.


    The chip is glued down, some acetone will take care of that, desolder the chip and pop it into a eeprom reader its an ATMEGA AT61 series SPI EEPROM so easy enough. Once you have the hex file, grep for the mac address in hex. Edit it to what you want it to be and reflash it back to the chip, there is no checksum etc.

    You can send eeprom commands back to the chip via the driver, but I didn’t look into it too deeply;. Its pretty quick to remove it and change it, obviously this is more useful for cloning vs just changing.


    The Proxim / Orinoco is just a Taiwanese usb adapter, I haven’t seen it for sale under the different brands though, but its considerably cheaper.


    I’ll add some pictures to the post later.

    • Andrew Bailey 4:23 am on December 24, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Dumb question, why did you want a 00 MAC address?

      • charliex 4:33 am on December 24, 2012 Permalink | Reply

        Its the first part, so 00-90-a9-a2-1a-33 isn’t cloneable it has to be 02-90-a9-a2-1a-33 06-90-a9-a2-1a-33 etc. Useful for when an ISP uses your MAC to identify your NIC for home internet connections etc.

        • timd8137 12:58 am on September 15, 2013 Permalink

          Charliex Please whenever you find time send pictures regarding this, and any EEprom programmer you can recommend?

          desolder the chip and pop it into a eeprom reader its an ATMEGA AT61 series SPI EEPROM so easy enough


        • Tim 6:49 pm on September 27, 2013 Permalink

          Charlie , I am looking all over Amtel website to get some free samples but when I google ATML H118 64DM Y is says ST micro is the manufacturer? maybe your proxim had a different chip on it?

    • Freddy 6:06 am on June 29, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      How hard would this be to do for someone with no experience?? I have the exact same Proxim USB which i need to clone the MAC address.. Any change you could provide a detailed howto or even youtube video ?


      • charliex 10:02 pm on June 30, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        open it, remove the flash chip (small soic 8 pin surface mount )with acetone and a soldering iron carefully use low melt (chip quik at frys) , clone it with programmer than can handle spi based flash memory. solder it back, close up case

    • Tim 1:52 pm on September 13, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Charliex any reccomendations on a good programmer?

    • Tim 5:18 pm on September 15, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Charlie, another question, where do you suggest getting blank SPI Eeproms from, so I could burn some clones? or I could just go in and modify the existing one to the MAC I want right?

      • charliex 6:06 pm on September 15, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        it has like 1000 write lifetime so plenty, digikey, mouser, rs components, element14, farnell all should have it. http://www.findchips.com and punch in the parttno for finding it it easily

  • charliex 7:02 pm on October 2, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ARM, freescale, JL25Z, kinetis   

    Kinetis KL25Z Freescale freedom platform 


    Today my KL25Z dev board arrived from Newark,  I had it on pre-order as soon as i saw it, mainly because its cheap at $12.95 +tax and because its ARM M0+ that can go upto 48Mhz.

    Comes in a nice box you solder the headers in if you want too, otherwise you get nothing with it ( but that’s not a bad thing ) the box has a colour print diagram of the connections to the board on the underside and its a nicely packaged.


    Oddly, or not, the first thing I noticed was an unpopulated spot for an IC U5, a quick scan of the schematics and its for an AT45DB161D which is a 5V tolerant 3.3V SPI flash memory chip. Which is great because I just happen to have a stack of 16’, 32’s and 64’s at NullSpace. I’ll update the blog when I add it and see if it works, it is a fairly costly IC so that might be why its not included versus a build mistake.

    Underneath there is a space for a CR2032 PTH battery holder.

    It is a very nicely laid out board, going for the black mask with gold finish. Though placement of the RST button could be better, the placement of the pads underneath mean when you press the reset the board flips up, less so when the USB cables are plugged in, a minor annoyance. The captouch could also have done with something underneath as well, its just slightly off balance, again very minor and easily fixed.


    specs are :-

    • MKL25Z128VLK4 MCU – 48 MHz, 128 KB flash, 16 KB SRAM, USB OTG (FS), 80LQFP
    • Capacitive touch “slider,” MMA8451Q accelerometer, tri-colour LED
    • Easy access to MCU I/O
    • Sophisticated OpenSDA debug interface
    • Mass storage device flash programming interface (default) – no tool installation required to evaluate demo apps
    • P&E Multilink interface provides run-control debugging and compatibility with IDE tools
    • Open-source data logging application provides an example for customer, partner and enthusiast development on the OpenSDA circuit


    I dunno how I feel about the P&E stuff, Freescale must own stock in them or something, I have a bunch of P&E BDM’s, cyclones, cpu32/cpu16 etc. which i use for my reverse engineering work but they’re expensive and the software is about 1990’s level of basic, everything is an add on cost, the flash tool is one cost, programmer/debugger, capacity on the cyclone max etc. Also they don’t have a lot of protection, I’ve blown up my cyclone max with a bad PSU,  for such an expensive tool its poorly protected.

    Talking about questionable software, my old friend CodeWarrior rears its head again, anyone who has been in game development for a long time, especially console, probably has a special place for CodeWarrior, along with the Sony CD burners for PSONE. Freescale/Motorola bought them out a long time ago and so of course it keeps coming back to haunt me, and haunt me it does. Still I’m sure its gotten better?… I’m not sure why TI/Freescale etc wants to roll their own dev tools, maybe for QC or lock–in but GCC is OK enough to use it and ARM were smart and paid someone to make the ARM support better in GCC. Beyond that CodeSourcery seem to do a good job of keeping it all together. Maybe I do want to download another 1.5G Eclipse installer (not CW thankfully). I think its a mistake going down this route, but there you go.

    Link to CodeWarrior

    Keil  (needs a patch )and IAR have tools as well,

    Anyway enough of that, at least they’re trying and giving away what they can, my beefs lie with them mostly on the commercial side of things anyway.

    This is what the OpenSDA firmware zip file contains

    10/02/2012  11:48          79,583  DEBUG-APP_Pemicro_v102.SDA
    10/02/2012  11:48         213,461  MSD-FRDM-KL05Z_Pemicro_v105.SDA
    10/02/2012  11:48         213,461  MSD-FRDM-KL25Z_Pemicro_v105.SDA
    10/02/2012  11:48         213,501  MSD-XTWR-KL25Z48M_Pemicro_v105.SDA
    10/02/2012  11:47             177  Readme.txt
    10/02/2012  11:47         287,369  Updating the OpenSDA Firmware.pdf

    So no tools host side needed as such, just firmware for the connection to CW/PE multilinks.

    It supports ETM and SWD, OpenSDA this doc goes over how to setup and upload files.

    P&E’s tools are http://www.pemicro.com/opensda/pe_tools.cfm

    Its an CDC driver that should auto install on Windows, there are drivers for it available if not. After that its drag and drop binary or Motorola S record files, they note that the dev tools work primarily on Windows but CDC obviously works on the other platforms.


    < to be continued >

    • Erich Styger 5:55 pm on October 14, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Yes. This board is a really nice and versatile one! I already have published several articles around the Freedom KL25Z board on my blog, along with tutorials and software projects:

    • Chris Smith 2:21 pm on November 2, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      >I’ll update the blog when I add it and see if it works, it is a fairly costly IC so that might be why its not >included versus a build mistake

      Did you find out if the 16GB chip at U5 was functional. DigiKey has the AT45DB161E-SSHD-B-ND for $2.26 – pretty cheap IMO.

  • charliex 6:25 pm on June 21, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: soldercore   

    Soldercore quick intro 


    I ordered a SolderCore from Mouser yesterday, it arrived this morning. Its a pretty nice little device. Oddly I’d had some interaction with one of the creators at Rowley Associates, Paul,  on an email list talking about C compilers/assembler etc and it turns out we’re both Lotus people as well as having ECU related experiences, it is a small world.

    Haven’t done much with yet, since i’m not at NullSpace and all my stuff is there.

    From http://www.soldercore.com

    • Arduino Form Factor
    • Based upon a 80 MHz Cortex-M3
    • 512KB Flash, 96KB contiguous RAM
    • Built in Ethernet support with an on-board RJ45 connector.
    • USB OTG support with an on board microAB connector.
    • On board microSD holder.
    • Support for additional Flash and FRAM devices.
    • CAN, I2S, 2xI2C, UART, PWM, ADC, SPI and QEI supported
    • On board standard 10 way SWD JTAG header. (Only fitted to the Commando variant)
    • Power can be supplied via USB or the barrel jack (6V – 9V DC).

    So decent enough specs.

    Nice things are , no drivers, so no one whining about CDC driver support in Windows 7.  All the help, examples firmware are net enabled. All you need is telnet to edit.



    compared to a Pandaboard ES, and one of our NSL ADK boards. Soldercore in the middle.

    If you want the headers, you can solder them on. I like the idea Sparkfun has with single row headers and to offset every other one so its easier to solder, but these aren’t difficult, just hold and tack the first one very lightly with solder, make sure its straight and do the others. That first tack is important so its aligned and then you can re-align easily.

    I plugged it in, pinged as per the label on the back, then i use Putty to login  in to it. (change from ssh to telnet) also it uses ^H for backspace so edit that too. I then posted to the forums with a hello world, but then realised it was a program that did it. So i went off to find it, since it isn’t in the examples but in the help section instead.

    Had to edit a bit first. Mine didn’t like the command $NL so i used $LF instead. Then came along figuring out how to set NET.SMTPSERVER (which is fairly futile for me at this point so all my SMTP servers require a login) but trying anyway. I of course battled ahead and did NET.SMTPSERVER = “smtp.mail.com” NET.SMTPSERVER = “”  etc neither worked. It says ‘Digital I/O’ as the type.  My SMTP server will work even less with an IP address since it wants to use the FQDN to find it. But regardless..

    Luckily BASIC being immediate, i just did


    Which yielded

    [0, 0, 0, 0]

    Aha!, So

    NET.SMTPSERVER = [192,168,1,1]

    Easy enough. But i don’t have an open relay… So i got as far as ?SMTP server down in 60:

    10 SUBJECT = "Hello from SolderCore!"
    20 FROM = NET.NAME + “charlie@xxx.com”  ‘ fill in your own e-mail address
    30 TOO = "soldercore@googlegroups.com"
    40 BODY = "Hello from " + NET.NAME + "." + $LF
    50 BODY = BODY + "My device address is ." + $LF
    70 PRINT "e-mail away!"
    80 END

    It didn’t like the IP$(NET.ADDR) either so i replaced it with text.

    The original looks like http://soldercore.com/manual/corebasic_mail.htm

    > list ↵ 10 SUBJECT = "Hello from SolderCore!" 20 FROM = NET.NAME + "@local" ' fill in your own e-mail address 30 TOO = "soldercore@googlegroups.com" 40 BODY = "Hello from " + NET.NAME + "." + $NL 50 BODY = BODY + "My device address is " + IP$(NET.IPADDR) + "." + $NL 60 MAIL TOO, FROM, SUBJECT, BODY 70 PRINT "e-mail away!" 80 END > run ↵ e-mail away! >


    I concluded the problems/missing command might be an old firmware so I tried to do a firmware update with firmware run, but i realised it needed a FAT16 SD card (a good one not a cheap fakey one) All i had was  a 16B MicroSD so its too big, but normally you’d do. 2G is what you need.


    where n: is the drive letter. After a year or two , it’ll be formatted

    You should see something like :-

    “Insert new disk for drive J:

    and press ENTER when ready…

    The type of the file system is FAT32.

    The new file system is FAT.

    Verifying 15267M (this is a problem)

    You can also use this https://www.sdcard.org/downloads/formatter_3/ Which supposedly does a better job of the FAT format. I can’t try it at the moment, since format is still running.

    The soldercore.com website does go into this in detail, if the GUI doesn’t show FAT as an option, the card is too big..

    It has a few nice features, being able to update firmware over the internet is great, and you can type


    and it’ll list all the examples available, over the net. Typing

    example “welcome”

    will load the welcome.bas, so that is pretty neat, most of the examples look like they need one of the add on boards though. It is case sensitive on the example filenames.



    Seems equivalent to firmware catalog and it stops me typing catalogue(j/k)

    A lot of people might gripe about BASIC but what BASIC looks like versus what goes on in the background are completely different things, look at BlitzBasic etc, they’re very quick. Having to do line numbers is a bit of a throwback for sure.

    Here are a lot of builtin commands that do useful math, dot products, matrices etc. sin/cos, etc. Very useful. At worst case you can pop on a JTAG and write everything in C/ASM to your hearts content.

    I have had one  reset so far, but its probably the usb port i have isn’t giving me enough juice, it has external power port too.  If i find a small enough SD card, i can try to update the firmware. My firmware is also at 0.9.5 which is older than they list at the website, so I’m sure some of the stuff has been fixed already. I’ll update the blog when i find an SD card.

    I did all this with it so far, and no drivers installed and no software installed i can run it from android or nokia phone as long as it has telnet.

    The usual BASIC commands like EDIT, RENUMBER work, its just like being back on the BBC or Archimedes.

    Haven’t done much else with it yet, but I’m really interested in at as we use the Stellaris chips for other projects. I also really like Paul from the small interactions I’ve had with them, and Rowley Associates , I don’t know Iain or K&I but they did a nice layout job, so I’m looking forward to where they go with it. Anyone who’s a Lotus nut is ok with me !



    I realised my Skyrocket had a 2GB card in it, so I swapped that out, formatted it as FAT16 and made the top level SYS folder, plugged it into the soldercore and typed

    firmware run

    After a few seconds its at 0.9.12 now. I retried the original syntax of the Mail  example and it accepted it fine, i still can’t relay the email but it does accept the commands that were missing. Easiest firmware update ever.

    Quickly, an open relay! To hMailServer !

  • charliex 8:28 pm on June 18, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    NSL gets a laser cutter 

    We’ve been trying to sort out a laser cutter for a while now, last year we bought a 40W tube and a PSU and burned holes into things. While hugely entertaining, it lacked some precision


    That was as far as it went, so i had enough and just decided to order one, after a few stops and starts we bought an LC900N directly from wklaser in China, they’re the same ones FS laser and hurricane etc sell but they do some mods to the software/boards, but nothing that is worth the price increase that i can see. It cost us under $4,000 USD for a 90W laser with a 600x900mm cutting area, with a motorised Z table from china to us.

    We’re on the third floor and our elevator is ( A ) too small ( B ) out of order, so we had to levitate it in.. Having hindsight we could have taken it apart, but had  been previously assured we couldn’t do that. Anyway…..

    We did what anyone would do and removed the window, hired a crane and lifted it in through the window.


    Taking it out to inspect the contents etc.


    Building a landing table

    Scientific weight test, the window is gone and 3rd floor, proceed to start jumping. Some people were confused about what don’t go past the blue line meant.

    Yes this is a good idea.


    Test lift

    We put out cones, people removed them and parked anyway, I told a few people they may not want to park there, most people got annoyed and asked why not? So i explained, most of them changed location. But only most….


    ok we’ve gotten it to here, what now ? Time for a meeting.

    The tricky part, removing the first strap, everyone pitched in to help.

    The Rapunzel method started off well but we discovered a problem in the hair length dept.


    And its in!

    Books are useful. Dropping it the last meter was harder than getting it from China.




    Put the window back, respackle it and no one is the wiser.


    Ok so the laser is purchased, shipped from china, craned in through a window. What next?



    First install the tube


    The laser needs a vent, preferably hilarious. (needs video)

    Obviously take it apart and improve it.

    The height setting tool needed improvement, so made that and labelled it as such

    Test cuts. Lots of test cuts.

    Align mirrors, the manual came in useful here. (bits of paper)

    Now change mind, remove the mirrors, turns out they’re dirty! So we swapped them out for ii-iv’s, increasing the power 20%. Interestingly there is a technique to make CO2 laser mirrors from hard drive platters hard disk platter co2 laser mirror

    Frostbite hand.

    The new lens vs old one.

    Ply Wood 5.2mm 8speed 90power OLD LENS
    ply wood 5.2mm 15speed 40power NEW LENS


    The T4 28” fluorescent bulb burned out after a day or so so we replaced it with some halogens, especially since they’re hard to source locally, test fitted with duct tape. The whole machine gets covered in grease for shipping so lots of cleaning first.

    Next well they said we can’t cut steel. So quick trip to home depot for some O2.

    The glo-stick is vital

    well it is cut but…. not really useable, however great progress


    vertical video!

    Here we cut some 1” acrylic



    The GUI is full of odd chinese-english conversions, but they use a UTF8 .ini file so you can edit it all you want. Instead of Datum, it is now Home . Just edit language.ini or use Resource Editor on the .exe for permanent changes the software does nt self check, even though it uses a senselock dongle.


    Next is hack the software, we figured out the control software, reversed most of the API it actually rasterises vectors in the PC side and sends them over as points!! I’m shocked and amazed since the machine has a ‘DSP’ based controller board. It generates a TXT file and compiles it ,then uploads it the API has move, p-move, arc and circle functions but the software never uses them..


    CLASS_DECLSPEC int APICALL M05_m_fast_line2(int chx,long disx,int chy,long disy);
    CLASS_DECLSPEC int APICALL M05_m_set_vector_profile(double ls,double hs,double ac);
    CLASS_DECLSPEC int APICALL M05_m_set_vector_profile2(double start_ls, double hs, double end_ls, double ac, double dc);
    CLASS_DECLSPEC int APICALL M05_m_curve_vertex();
    CLASS_DECLSPEC int APICALL M05_m_curve_begin();
    CLASS_DECLSPEC int APICALL M05_m_curve_end();
    CLASS_DECLSPEC int APICALL M05_m_set_period(double period);
    CLASS_DECLSPEC int APICALL M05_m_set_power(int LowPower,int HighPower);
    CLASS_DECLSPEC int APICALL M05_m_set_laser_mode(int mode);

    The are all set ramp speeds, laser on, move here, move here move here, move here. Not set point, radius calculate in controller.


    Oddly the first command we figured out (unintentionally) was fire the laser at full power indefinitely.

    Is it off, no, is it off now , no ? how about now ,, no ? OK what’s the tube temp? still not off ? Easy to fix though, its just a toggle on/off. You also can’t easily jog the laser head around with the laser on, it’ll work but you can’t turn it off easily!


    Knock out a quick GUI in Visual Studio.

    I updated the header file for the DLL on our SVN. I’ll document it as i go along


    Example of the txt file, which it compiles on the PC side.

    CMD409,416,880,3000,41666,900,5000 //set  ramp speeds and power
    CMD050,1,1 //laser on
    CMD001,63556,42631 // move
    CMD050,1,0 //laser off
    i’m surprised it rasterises the vectors though, i was expecting to see a command for a circle that defined a center,radius etc.
    speed change. 100 to 300
    power change 9 to 99 ( *100)
    horizontal line moved in y
    horizontal line moved in x

    Lots of boxes were cut

    boxmaker scripty thing

    Found a nice dragon box on thingverse

    bVector made  a nice mod to that case.

    So this ends our first week with the cutter, we have to decide if we’re replacing the controller, Leetro apparently want us to buy $25,000 of stuff to get the SDK documentation, but we’re so far into reversing it, that won’t matter. The controller might be ok. It has some strangeness we want it to speak GCODE so maybe another GRBL based controller like we did for Pickobear.

    We’re also building a new frame for it, and updating it to 170W laser tube (maybe)

    more to come….


    • Sascha 9:00 am on June 20, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Great post & congrats on getting yourselves a laser!!! I bought a laser 18 months ago from WKLaser and had a wonderful experience dealing with them. Oh, and I had to remove a window to get my laser inside, too :)

    • Hugo 12:56 pm on June 20, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      I’m curious (and surprised about your modest successes cutting steel. I had heard that (due to the reflectivity of the molten steel?) attempting it can damage the laser or the head/nozel/lens and that metal-cutting CO2 lasers have an additional polarizing filter system to control the reflections. Have you noticed any problems since cutting steel? Or any plans to improve the cuts in the future?

      • charliex 4:38 pm on June 20, 2012 Permalink | Reply

        The mirrors and the last part of the laser ( the focus stage ) are consumable basically, the very last stage will get eaten simply away with the heat etc, so we are looking to change them out to a copper ends and increasing the lasers power. We will probably only keep cutting the same thin steel but its useful for us. The 170W tube should get us where we want to be.

    • Dan 1:26 pm on June 20, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Awesome! Keep us up to date on the controller reversing – I’ve got one with an MPC6535 controller and the lasercut software can be quite limiting and badly behaved on occasion.

    • oktane 12:48 am on June 21, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Congrats guys, wish I was still in LA to see this and help reverse that controller app, sounds like fun. I volunteer for the first NSL laser tattoo, just spray my arm with flat black spraypaint. (semi-serious here) Remind that distinguished rapist enzo to send me the nsl stickers! (he promised)

  • charliex 5:50 am on May 24, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: conference, hackerspace, , ,   

    Preparing for LayerOne 2012 at Null Space Labs 


    http://www.layerone.org  our awesome hacker conference in Anaheim, CA on 5/26/2012!

    This year for our electronic badges we wanted something that people could maybe get some more interaction out of than is usual. So I figured lets make the badges into RC cars. The idea being the badge itself was the chassis for the car.

    First off I thought buy some wheels, motors, gears from some hobby/robot store and use those to build up the cars, well that didn’t go well unless our budget was $100’s per car, its crazy how much people charge for the little wheels and motors kits.

    We looked at the usual Tamiya kits which aren’t terribly priced, strangely even though Tamiya is about 10 miles from us, it was cheaper to buy them from abroad and ship back, but still very costly. Also I wanted tanks, but sadly no.

    These are about $18 ish, it varies. It does have more parts though but the gearbox though a sheer master of Japanese ingenuity and design, won’t work for us.

    Next was the usual hobby and robotic online stores, waaaaaaaaaaay more expensive, motors alone were crazy priced, especially the geared ones. So plan C, China.. Remember we need motors, mounting hardware, hearing, wheels, axels, steering mechanism, remote control parts.

    I live on the edge of the Toy District in Downtown Los Angeles, so I wandered around and looked through the various stores for suitable donors.

    We pulled apart a bunch of these figuring we could just take all the motors and wheels off and re-use them, and we could at a massive saving the FX Race car I picked up for $3.50

    Pulling the cars apart we found they all used the RX-2B/TX-2B chips, I contacted the OEM in China for some of the chips and we brought in a bundle of them. Silan Electronics. http://www.silan.com.cn/english/product/ProductItemDetail.aspx?id=18&pid=2859&c=%E9%81%A5%E6%8E%A7%E7%8E%A9%E5%85%B7%E8%BD%A6%E7%94%B5%E8%B7%AF

    https://www.google.com/search?q=rx-2b http://pro-radio.ru/user/uploads/126799.pdf Data Sheet

    Of course its such a popular chip, others have come across it too



    krs did a way more awesome schematic though

    We didn’t manage to source the SMD version which some cars had, some of which are a knock off of the Silan. For a very simple short range RF setup with 5 functions its not bad at all. The (RX-2B/TX-2B) chips themselves has nothing to do with the RF stage, it just encodes or decodes the pulse train into an on/off for each of the 5 outputs.


    So I started working on  a prototype car I used the electronics out of the car, and the wheels and motors, the top part of the PCB we reverse engineered the remote control and added it to the badge pcb, it was designed to snap off so you could drive the car part around and it’d still identify you as a conference attendee.

    Paper aeroplane with wheels. Back to the drawing board.


    Note to self, check wear on router bit first…..

    But now we’re getting to the basic shape, the rear and front are both measured up to fit.


    Here it is compared to our cheapest car and the most expensive (at the toy market and its still only $12!!) Geared motor and motorised steering. Yes they’re cheap motors and they’ll wear out but the kits are $3.50 – $4.50 ish and you get two motors.

    Its drivable at this point, the front wheels get stuck the maximum turning angles.

    Back to eagle, to refine it a ‘tad’. Add three batteries, remote and the car. We’re using CR123a’s


    Cut it out. Basically Model T to well a Model T really..


    This is how Ferrari started BTW

    Add some more bits, to hold the rear drive motor we had to go around the wheels rather than sleek, this isn’t great but not really an easy way to hold the rear on.

    this one only has one battery, and so its running at 3V, a bit less since its an old battery. Adding two batteries its a lot faster. Of course all the video we shot of the nicer cars and other driving, seem to have disappeared..


    The tuneable inductor was going to be the tricky part, krs and mmca sat and tried out different settings, a resistor is used to set speed of the encode/decode time allowing multiple cars on the same frequency. See page 6 of the data sheet


    The nicer cars have a 27.145Mhz carrier frequency crystal, the cheapest cars didn’t use crystals at all.. The FCC has been informed obviously. However they are surprisingly accurate.

    The crystals were ‘hard’ to get , read unpossible in the USA. eBay as usual came through, one seller agreed to DHL them to me and I got them in a few days from again China, which is great, of course all the others I bought that had ‘30 day’ delivery times also turned up the next week. So I have quite a lot of 24.145Mhz crystals for you know all those things that I use 24.145Mhz for, don’t be surprised to see us selling them on eBay Winking smile 

    We built a test harness for the chips to see how it works, it mixes a a frequency with a pulse train, sends that out, strips out just the pulses and the chip decodes it into a single pin on the ic, left, right up down etc.

    Everything was going pretty well, it wasn’t going to break the bank for us and we had a pretty good car running around. It was zippy and as easy to control as the normal ones.

    So I think ok better buy all the cars, head back to the same store, with one of the cars, the business card and quote from the first few we bought. The guy swears he’s never sold them, even though I have pictures of us in the store buying them. So that’s a problem the next cheapest car is $5.50 I haggle him down to $4.50 and knowing I have some of this newer type at NSL, I head back to take it apart and see how it goes together so we can mod the PCB chassis.

    I take apart all of the other cars, not one of them is suitable for mounting as easily (of course) I find the distributor, they’ve either gone under or changed names, I find the new supplier in the same address but they don’t carry that line…

    So what do we do, time is getting short.. OK I think, we’ll just give people a finished car and a remote, but that’s not much on the badge.  So of course what do we add to it, yes everyone’s favourite  “open source/hardware” begins with an A ends with ‘sounds terrible to the average Italian’.

    We can still use the parts from the slightly more expensive cars as bases for PCB cars and robots but we’d need some more standoffs and bits to mount the motors, much easier when you’re building a few of them at the space, but the idea is to get people up and running as quickly as possible at the conference so they can hack on them and enjoy the rest of conference.

    I redesign  the badge and have them sent out for quick turn PCB at Pentalogix.

    A few minutes later and here it is. We stripped off everything not needed and made it able to run off 3V or less and 5V USB with magical jumpers. I forgot one of the power traces, so a quick wire jumper after the old, why isn’t it booting up! We’re using the slowduino boot loader (page is down) so it can run at 3V albeit at a slower clock rate of up to 8Mhz. We left the pads for the xtals too though so it can function as a full speed device.


    So now instead of it being  car, it’s a remote control that has the inputs wired to the ATMega CPU so that it can be controlled via USB, autonomous, strapped to the car, add sensors , switches etc. We left in the blink LED well because LEDs and the duino..

    The QRCODE came from an eagle script on a forum post from honken http://dangerousprototypes.com/2011/10/01/qr-code-generator-script-for-eagle/ on Ian Lesnet’s dangerous prototypes forum, which is a great place btw

    The top part you can cut off and the two parts still work, like everyone thinks worms can do. Though if you cut it off badly, neither will work…

    New donor car, sadly not as awesome. I did try!

    mmca and krs further tune and identify the parts we need. Spec Ana time, looking great.


    Tuning the antenna lengths, by (A) doing the maths, (B) guessing and cutting lengths.  The peak is the 27.145Mhz the blips are the encoded data for the remote


    Guessing worked better,, science!! oh wait!

    Also you can see our spindle for the mini CNC PCB we’re building, its been sitting there since late last year…never enough time…

    This actually worked for the proxmark, just a spool of wire. I think our best antenna was around a metre


    It drives..



    OK so now that’s working back to the store and pick up cars and hoping the guy still sells cars, that lady is the one who originally sold me the other cars, and she remembers but its all too late now.


    This left side is pretty much all helicopters and cars. As I wait for krs to come pick me up they try to sell me helicopters and all sorts of other things, those ones are IR LED based for the remote control, but that’s another story.


    Cheap $4.50 crap you say? Well consider this

    Those ‘drift’ cars come with one on/off led headlights, tail lights, motors, spare wheels, rechargeable batteries, aa batteries, remote and some other stuff, I picked them up for $8 for staff and other volunteers. the other boxes have the $4.50 cars. Also they drift awesome since they have shiny plastic wheels, lots of fun and great donor parts.For $8 ! Granted we’re limited on what we can do with it as a robotic base, but for lots of cheap steerable bots its great.

    For that price its really well made too. its got a can style electrolytic cap!, actual connectors and lots of screws holding things together.


    Our pile of donor cars gets bigger along the way.. The engrish on these is great btw. It is all FAST YOU GO and SPEED BECOMING etc


    And our neat pile of cars gets reduced


    krs making the test boards.

    With a prep sheets to help people build them at the conference.



    I redesign the badge and send it in to Pentalogix’s off shore PCB fab.  We got them today (Wednesday), the conference is on Saturday.

    Looks ok right? Granted I admit I didn’t spent as much time on the graphics this time…. The QRCode works great but I did waver on changing the URL to a bit.ly or something so we could have changed the link during the conference.. Ahh well. I also have a QR code for NSL with the URL as a graphic inside it but I didn’t want to push my luck on how well it read. I spent a more time drawing the L1 logo, rather than stick with the BMP to eagle conversion, I did that the over drew it with rectangles and a circle, since its more of an even finish and easier to scale. the www box was meant to be place holder.. We used the standard 2×3 ICSP header instead of usual 6×1 which was a hassle since all our 2×3 to 2×3 cables had been converted into 2×3 to 1×6 adapters.. But easier for others. Which reminds me to go place an order for 2×3 IDC crimped headers..


    But wait what??? The PCB is twice as thick!! its .125 vs .0602ish. I check the email order and sure enough I ordered .125 , I talked to Pentalogix and sure enough I did order that, the quick turns were .060s . I thought ‘oops’ so after some investigating I found a slight bug in the element14 to Pentalogix Eagle PCB quote web page, which Pentalogix are now aware of, it doesn’t properly transfer the thickness of the board and changes it to .125” you can change it here, but to be honest ‘finish thickness’ I didn’t notice as being 0.125” as the thickness of the PCB, plus defaults, It’s my fault though, I should have spotted it.


    Anyways no biggie, it can probably stop bullets now. Its solid…

    Blink ! krs built this while I was writing this post. One nice thing about the thick board is that the pins don’t protrude out the other side, so for a badge that’s great! since no pins to mess up fabric

    We also get to break out Pickobear for the speaker add on, it’s a shield that plugs in and it’s a remix of the last years badge, but designed as a quick build with a few days turnaround.


    Getting crazy! (still have to write the code for it!) its 11:17PM Wednesday….. Plenty of time.. It has a TI TPS61040 boost convertor on it too. Also we have to test it… yes hackerspace….


    Batteries and holders arrived today as well, AA’s and CR123as and the battery holders .. super cheap too! from http://www.batteryspace.com luckily paypal screwed something up, I’d ordered them from elsewhere and batteryspace had them cheaper, so I was able to reorder.


    We’re giving away some prizes to people who do the best car/badge hack at layerone , they’re not awesome prizes but hopefully someone likes them, they’ll still have a RC car and a ATMega based controller board.


    There’s a lot more I’m going to add to this post, especially technical details. All our projects are open source and are available in our SVN in 032.la including all the screw-ups right from the start.. I’m exhausted after this project, and we haven’t even got to the conference yet ! We’ve also got out PCB CNC we’re designing too.

    It’s a shame we didn’t get the PCB car thing, I wish we had but it was just time and uncertainty and these are much more hackable with the CPU added.

    Packing all the stuff for layerOne, as usual we’ll have an awesome HHV with scopes, Metcal irons , hot air guns  and hot plates, and we’ll be teaching as well as building kits. Hope to see some of you there.


    If we’re using shoelaces as lanyards, the lanyard supplier let us down and they didn’t turn up on Friday morning…. the parts from Digikey are supposed to be in on Thursday PM..  Talk about cutting it tight, this is why Joe Grand did an awesome job at Defcon a much larger conference.


    Also our 90W laser cutter we imported from China decided to clear port on Wednesday as well, so that is fabulous it would have been really useful to have it earlier  and now it gets to sit in a box in a warehouse til after layerOne.




    next years badge ?



    Fuses (when I get to the conference, and think OMG what are the fuses, even though we’re preprograming)

    E 0xff
    H 0xDA
    L 0xE2

    • Morten 6:48 pm on May 24, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Is that some OBD connectors i can see? What are they for? :-D im a mechanic btw.

      • charliex 7:02 pm on May 24, 2012 Permalink | Reply

        Hey Morten,

        Yes it’s my ECU test harness. The OBD II connectors are Y’d and split into different ECU harnesses with various capture and sniffing tools, which i use when i’m reverse engineering an ECU.

        You can see some of my scan tools in the pictures too ( orange box which a lot of OEM’s use, tesla, ford, gm etc) , maybe a mongoose, and my own standalone CAN tool too.


    • Rob Pait 7:06 pm on May 24, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      What are the approximate dimensions of the car? I’m looking at bringing some king of model tank kit to build around the car, and want to make sure I bring something the correct size.

      • charliex 7:13 pm on May 24, 2012 Permalink | Reply

        i’ll post up the dimensions when i head to nsl today rob.

  • charliex 4:59 pm on February 11, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: blinky ball, kickstarter   

    The LED Blinky ball at [NullSpaceLabs] 



    I’ll add some clarifications after reading comments on various forums.

    It doesn’t need a 70Mhz ARM CPU, all it does is shift bits into a shift register, that’d be a total waste.

    There aren’t 16 CPU’s. the slices are designed to be either slave or master, just one ATMega328P chip, they’re chained together, each slice could be independent but it only needs one master.

    charlieplexing wouldn’t have been better, it’d have increased the complexity of the board layout and the LED’s wouldn’t anywhere near as bright, the CPU would also need to be faster and its harder to do cool looking patterns, we’ve done a lot of charlieplexed projects. charlieplexing is awesome within its field.


    We wanted to kickstart one of other projects at NullSpaceLabs but its a much more narrow field project and we’re going back and forth on what is best, working prototype or solidly laid out plans, partial prototype and partial laid out machine and software, with previous similar builds.

    But while we ponder all of that, the blinky ball came from nowhere, its been a popular build at the space, and generated a lot of attention, but its an expensive one off build, so why not kickstart it to reduce costs. (one off’s in parts cost alone would be more than the the total cost of the kickstarter version)


    The idea came from a build we saw on Hackaday. The PCB’s have a dedication to the  original ball maker, Nikolai, his is different to ours and ours is a scratch build . If there is one thing we really like at NullSpace its blinky LED’s.


    We wanted it too!

    So from the post on Hackaday

    this :-


    then this :-

    Then this!

    To this!


    Earlier prototype of a slice. (this was earlier but no pictures!)



    It is split into 16 slices, each slice can operate as a slave or master, you just build one differently its powered by an ATMega328 so easy to use on avr studio/arduino etc.  The master slice can be independent,

    The bluetooth module is connected to rx/tx of the blinky so it can be remote controlled from anything with bluetooth SPP, unfortunately that means none jailbroken iPhones are out of the picture, you might be able to do something with xcode and your own phone, but i’m unaware of such a thing. Android is no problem, or meego/symbian/windows mobile etc. Windows/OSX/Linux are all fine too.

    I made a simple app that pushes 8 bits (it scales it to 12 bits internally since that is the resolution the LED drivers can handle) via bluetooth and then when its received a push command or the buffer is filled the ball displays that frame of data. That makes it really easy to make patterns and so on.

    The sample code on the ball just draws a few patterns, some of it uses modified octobrite code. You can do each led/slice individually by shifting a slice at a time, or the whole ball at once.

    The accelerometer is the MMA TI 3-Axis we’ve used before, its SPI and easy to use.

    A microphone is also available on an ADC to do sync with music etc ( also can be done remotely)

    The ISP is broken out using out 6 straight pin format that we use on all our boards, it ‘ll work with just about any ISP, on Arduino you can bootload over the bluetooth with the right setup.

    The battery is a really neat LiFePo4 unit that is much better than the Lithium Ion we’re used to seeing, it gives it a really great runtime of upto 10 hours, depending on brightness of the LEDs.

    We’ve published all the information on the ball on our SVN as usual, the kickstarter is simply to get  parts costs down and for us to figure out kickstarter. We’ve got five prototypes that are being slightly modified for easier build for the kickstart DIY version.

    The ball works with TLC LED drivers that ‘shift’ the state of the LEDs down the ball, it’s a bit like a framebuffer in a computer you load up the pattern you want and refresh it to the chips and it’ll appear, there are 4096 levels of brightness.


    Pictures and videos

    Its hard to take still pictures of it, the LEDs look like they’re out, but its just the pattern




    Matt from CrashSpace http://www.crashspace.org . his first test slice


    This is one of the changes we’re making if the kickstart goes through, the wires are just too fiddly to install








    Big thanks to Nikolai and Hackaday for showing us the way though, its been a really enjoyable experience so far!

    blink on!

    • Geoff 1:37 pm on February 17, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      I can see so many ufo sighting coming thanks to this little guy. Awesome work iv never seen anything like it.

    • cloudstrf 2:34 am on February 19, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      hey, what’s the program you used to make the schematic diagram in your second picture?

      • charliex 3:01 am on February 19, 2012 Permalink | Reply

        cadsoft eagle.

    • Rasmi Ranjan Nayak 5:04 am on February 22, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Excellent.. Keep it up

    • Karsten 12:11 pm on May 22, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Nice Project :)
      which pcb version (v2 / v3) works with which firmware?

      • charliex 6:43 am on May 24, 2012 Permalink | Reply

        Hey Karsten,

        The current one in subversion should work with all of the firmwares


    • sp2013c 5:31 pm on June 23, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Do u think share this project file ?


      • charliex 7:45 pm on June 23, 2012 Permalink | Reply

        its linked in the article

        • sp2013c 2:38 pm on June 24, 2012 Permalink

          Why i can’t found :/ I’ve found different this here..

    • Mat Hale 12:33 am on January 28, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Very COOL! What would be the ballpark cost for making a ball 32″

      • charliex 4:35 pm on June 18, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        probably around a couple of thousand, pcbs would be the big cost

    • Kurt Van Kelst 3:06 pm on June 18, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      does anybody have the latest schematics-and code for this magic ball ?

      • charliex 4:35 pm on June 18, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        everything’s in the 032 svn repo, look it up on wiki.032.la

  • charliex 11:35 pm on December 28, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    On to the next project, CNC rebuild into a (well you’ll see) 

    This is one of those Chinese CNC machines on eBay that’s got all those qualities where you think, maybe its good enough for the price. Of course they never are but that never stops us. $700 all in. CNC 3020 will lead you to them, but really don’t.

    They generally are sold as shipped in the USA and actually drop shipped from China. Takes about 7 days usually.

    Very well packed, but as usual has that weird smell that everything we’ve bought has from China.  So dispose of the bubble wrap as quickly as possible.

    Cursory glances the power supply has what sounds like a loose screw rattling around, the machine looks cheaper than the photographs,  but then again who expects to get a hamburger from McDonalds that even barely resembles the pictures on the advertising. You know what you’re signing up for when eBaying, Las Vegas rules here. To be fair to the Chinese companies though their advertising pictures are about 9000 times more accurate than the McDonalds ones though. It also looks smaller than it did on eBay, this is why size reference pictures need an apple.

    Apparently it uses something called a ‘Parallel Port’  (I keed, I keed), well that won’t last for long.

    Our LPKF is a lot nicer, (not as nice the AccurateCNC), but it is going under the chop too.

    Well ok we might ARM a few.

  • charliex 2:15 am on December 13, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , pickobear   

    [Null Space Labs] = Juki 360 Rebuild, Part IV. Yes we’re in LA. 

    So it been a while since my last update, my lil’ dog of 16 years had to be put down and I wasn’t feeling it, then family visited from so we stalled abit.

    So quick updates for the tl;dr people :-

    • Head rotation works, but have to add an encoder wheel since we ‘forgot’ about the tool home position inside the head tool pickup…
    • Y axis is all upgraded, new stepper motor drivers are in 1/2 step is on.
    • Switched to GRBL and StepDir, instead of, uhh, not stepdir.. Though using the
    • OpenPNP base firmware revision, i didn’t realise it was different til after porting it.
    • GUI is almost done, it can place one full board from feeders and trays
    • Replaced hoses as the old ones burst, which only happens when you say right lets video this.
    • Trapezoidal for the servos courtesy of Grbl.
    • Still having some issues with the vacuum sensor, might be bad or low pressure or something else, turned it off for the moment.

    Pickobear uncut.

    So we’re able to pick up and place with the new Grbl firmware and the updated GUI, its all GCODE now. I’ve moved more of the functions into the GCODE vs individual move, drop , vacuum, since the communication is just serial rx/tx and serial is a PITA for this sort of thing, since its all ACK/re-ACK. With an M command its just e.g. M21 pickup part, M22 putdown part and the machine reports yes/no. FTDI’s are decent chips but they will break down comms after long datastreams, I’ve had a lot of problem with them and high speed streaming, as well as overlapped IO support is meh, events don’t work that well so multithreaded serial comms based on events is in theory great, but the practise doesn’t always work well. so its all software handshakery.

    We’ve done a lot of changes since the last update.


    Grbl’s great, its easy to use and easy to add on too, we were already using the AtMega2560 anyway so lots of space, even with all the stuff I’ve added to it, we’re at maybe 17%of the  flash space. I had looked at it when we first started out, but it needed StepDIR and were using – + , our original drivers didn’t support StepDIR. Even luckier I’d put all the stepper controls on the same ports.

    Changes for the 2560 are minor, just an interrupt rename and i don’t the sleep mode is working as it ought too, i assumed it was and then wondered how to handle the panel switches but turned out when i added the head movement ACK that it was, I was going to use timer3 to handle switches but then i noticed the main loop was executing constantly, some of the AVR’s have different sleep rules.

    One thing i did do though is since the mega ICSP is under the shield and its on the machine, which is 3 metres away from desktop. I left the Arduino serial boot loader  on the chip, this way i can just script AVR Dude to load the firmware built in AVR Studio 4 to the mega over serial. so its a lot easier, the downside is that if you press a key too soon the boot loader seems to kick in, i haven’t checked this to be the reason for sure, but it seems like its that. Not a huge deal.

    Running a test of the GUI

    Pick and placing, it takes a lot to just do this seemingly simple thing.


    Head rotation

    Head motor, luckily we used a double ended shaft motor in case we needed an encoder, which it turns out we do. Look closely at the top of that shaft, see some thread? yeah we didn’t…. We CAD’d up a mount and fitted the motor.

    The motor is 1,000 steps for a full 360 degree rotation, should be able to place the craziest of our boards, we like some gangsta lean in our part placements.

    As a side note the magnetic sensor on top of the head, really don’t like the way they’re made or mounted, that wire takes a beating and it’ll fail again so we have to fix that too. You can see all our temporary fixes for the hoses that keep cracking, they’ve lasted 20 years though. The red line is the new one we’re using, which is way more high tech than what was available in those days, it should last longer than the tech is needed.

    The rotation head needed a larger power supply, so that is now installed. Its the 24V power supply previously mentioned from all electronics.

    Since we made the shield with the extended pins its easy to add things on to it. And now we’re on StepDir its just one wire to control the head ( Though we make a semi-fatal error at this step in choosing which direction the motor runs )

    Setting up a test

    After the rotation head was added to the software, i test placed two parts, they’re off, at this point i think its the solder paste or tape missing, so we add some. As you can see though the parts are rotated as they should be. We were uStreaming with the second camera so its all hanging off in space at the moment.


    Krs adds some paste to the test pads. She’s the one who wants this thing finished the most as she builds most of our boards Smile

    I’m remotely moving the head with the camera view. First home, then moving to the PCB to register the location of the part, then going through the steps of the part placement.

    So the mistake in the choice of direction for the head rotation is that the head can unscrew itself and drop down the tool, the sensor doesn’t know the head is down and the tool is now below the PCB holder and auto changer, so the head will gleefully zip around and bang it into whatever it can find, which bends the head, which is not good at all.  So we’ll reverse the direction of the motor and use lots of Loctite. This is why the test videos show the parts poorly placed.

    Pity these lessons learnt cost us a head each time.. But we move on..

    A trial run through all the parts ( using 1206 resistors since they’re like .00004 each) as you can see they placed perfectly.

    Ok, maybe not what you’d call perfect but they did place in the right spots, the head down motion was a little too strong and there’s no paste to hold the parts in place so they’ll wander around every time a part is placed. Still the software is working.

    The vacuum sensor needs to be set quite accurately or it’ll do things like this :-

    The tool is sitting perfectly on the vacuum test pad, the head brought it down to see if was there, blocks the air coming through the tool, but since it wasn’t picked up correctly ( head wrong orientation ) it just left it there.

    The head moves to the pad, goes down, the air comes on, there is a settle time, then the machine reads the vacuum sensor, if its not blocked there is no tool, if it is, then there is a tool.  That is how it decides if the tool needs to be picked up or put back.


    Finally we place a board with paste and all !

    So last night(this morning) we finally managed to run a real board. For some reason i decided to go through each of the components and rotate them 90 deg rather than change the rotation in the feeder…. derp… As we did this the vacuum test failed, so you can see me going in change the code ( incorrectly!) and re running, it the bit you might not see is the machine doing a loop of picking up a part… i fix that and we move on.. First run we do a step by step. I noticed a few bugs as we go along so there are some pauses as we fix those.

    Stencil pasted a board, you can read about this in our Arduino Mega build blog entry. Its a CNC’d brass sheet.

    I taped the board down to stop it moving around, probably not needed.

    Some of our feeders need some love and i wasn’t super careful about where i was picking up the parts from so it was a little sloppy, however it was 2AM and i ended up having to leave and come back after one of the alarms at work went off Smile

    MMCA used one of his awesome swiss files to ‘fix’ one of the feeders that was catching

    Here are some more GUI videos, they’re probably only interesting to those of thats like watching these things over and over..



    Annotated some of the steps in the GUI.


    One of the feeder pickups i didn’t setup properly, so it was placing them off!

    Onto the hotplate, i wanted to see just how bad we could place parts and if they’d fix on the plate, all but one pulled onto the pads, the other worked but was right on the edge of a pad, it’d work fine. All we have to do is take more care when tell it where to pickup

    Krs also has a bunch of videos of the machine placing that first board.



    Anyway that is mostly it, we’re down to the tuning and bug fix stage so its been pretty fun.

    But if you’ve got minerals help out the OpenPNP guys they’re doing good work, our stuff is available to everyone, but its reasonably specific to the Juki though it is GCODE.


    Small update: Last night, I started adding the second USB port of the ADK to Grbl as well, its almost finished. I based it on the usb.cpp from ADK but i converted it to C  since the c++ generated a larger firmware and there is only one USB port, I want to keep the firmware tight.

    BTW If you’re reading this and are on the yahoo zevatech list the moderator who’s apparently building a commercial retrofit for this machine is blocking our posts sharing this open source project. He said he wants credit for a CPU suggestion neither his or our project uses, a fix that wasn’t broken, and a camera solution we didn’t ask for advice on, or use.



    Miss you girl

    • phil 11:37 pm on January 30, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Hello. See your work on the Juki 360. My 360 just stopped working because of scratched 5 1/4 floppy. No backup. Can I buy a a copy of a good system disc from you? thks, Phil

    • phil 5:30 pm on February 1, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Hello again. How much and where do I send $ to? Phil

    • charliex 3:15 am on February 2, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      the floppy is available on here , you can download it and make a floppy of it.


    • phil 5:17 pm on February 3, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Thks. We’ll be attempting to make a floppy from it soon. Thks again! Phil

    • phil 3:36 pm on March 5, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      After weeks of trying to get an old pc ( which has a 5 inch floppy drive) going, we’ve come up short. Unable to download your file. Any possibility of making a floppy at your end and sending it to us?

    • phil 3:32 pm on March 8, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Sent you an email with contact info. Thks, Phil

      • charliex 9:42 pm on March 12, 2012 Permalink | Reply

        havent seen an email phil

    • phil 7:05 pm on March 19, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Sorry. What is your email? I sent it to: –yep thats it — charlie!. Thks, Phil

    • charliex 7:16 pm on March 19, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      i’ll check my junk mail folder

    • phil 1:16 pm on April 12, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      I sent email with info just now. thks, phil

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