Lately I’ve been working on firmware written in Rust for the SAMD21 microcontrollers – these are the same as used in Arduino Zero for instance. The Rust ecosystem for microcontrollers is still in its early days, but is moving quickly and I think in a good direction.
One of the most exciting developments in this new Rust firmware world, is the first-class tooling, including for debugging. I gave a little “show and tell” at the November session of Code Craft, and wrote up a summary there – check it out if you’re interested!
If there is enough interest, maybe we could organise a series of evenings where we put together some little thing that involves a microcontroller and programming it with these new tools?
I recently went away for Christmas holidays and caught up with some old friends. One of my friends had recently acquired a second hand electric skateboard but was having problems charging it. I offered to take a look and in process of doing accidentally put 40V across a couple of electrodes I shouldn’t have, this blew up a component on the board immediately and I sought to figure out what it was.
I couldn’t easily read the remaining markings on the package that hadn’t been melted off but knew is was a 6 pin package, had a D notation on the silkscreen (presumably for diode) and ‘KL’ marking at the least melted end. Luckily there was 3 others like this on the board, they were symmetrical components that all had the marking KL6C8.
I googled KL6C8, diode, semiconductor, array, pcb component to no avail so turned to EEVBlog Forum for help. Within a day someone had replied with the datasheet for the component I was searching for, after thanking them I asked how they found it and got linked to a very useful website smdmark.com where one can look find a component by searching it’s markings.
Today at makerspace: we applied knowledge of sizing resistors for limiting current through LEDs, to reduce the brightness of this fancy nightlight! It was far too bright initially, but the hot air station at makerspace made it easy to remove the original current limiting resistor (R5 in the photo below), which was replaced with a higher-valued one. Thankfully, the case of the nightlight is held together with screws, so it all went back together easily and is now working better than new!
The first I heard of 3D printing machines was in the mid-90’s; I remember hearing of things described as “Santa Claus Machines” (perhaps this old Wired article https://www.wired.com/1994/05/santa-claus-machine/ had something to do with the name) which used computer-controlled UV light to harden a special resin. Dad bought a little bit of the resin, which I remember hearing was hideously expensive, and we had grand plans for making things with it, but we still haven’t got around to finishing the required CO2 laser’s power supply…
Fortunately, here in The Future, we can easily and inexpensively get UV lasers with power supplies, or even simple UV LEDs (remember, when that Wired article was written, blue LEDs were still a year or two away from Digikey’s phonebook-thin pages). The resin is still fairly expensive at ~$150NZD/L, so you’ll not want to be asking Santa for anything too big, but it’s approachable.
Of course, now everyone and their uncle has an FDM-type 3D printer, so dealing with the expensive resin and UV light isn’t so appealing anyways…
Except! SLA printers work really really well, and you can pay someone else to do the printing for you. Not even very much money – our friends at Dangerous Prototypes sent me the part at the top of this post (along with some circuit boards) for $3USD, and look at the quality!
Lots going on at VCW and the Makerspace today, as part of Tech Week. We’ve got SMT soldering demos going, instruction writing (to go with the new Arduino kits), tinkering with LoRa radios, 3D printing, and more!