The “Three Fives” Discrete 555 Timer Kit

555 kit

We’re pleased to announce our newest kit, the “Three Fives” Kit, a kit to build your own 555 timer circuit out of discrete components. Here’s a way to re-create one of the most classic, popular, and all-around useful chips of all time.

The kit is a faithful and functional transistor-scale replica of the classic NE555 timer integrated circuit, one of the most classic, popular, and all-around useful chips of all time. The kit was designed and developed as a collaboration with Eric Schlaepfer, based on a previous version (pictured here), and adapted from the equivalent schematic in the original datasheets for the device.  There have been a few other examples of circuits like these (such as the one that we featured in our article about the 555 contest), but we really like how this one has come together.

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The kit is designed to resemble an (overgrown) integrated circuit, based around an extra-thick matte-finish printed circuit board. The stand— which gives the circuit board eight legs in the shape of DIP-packaged integrated circuit pins —is made from machined and formed semi-rigid PVC foam.

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To actually hook up to the giant 555, there are the usual solder connection points, but there are also thumbscrew terminal posts that you can use with bare wires, solder lugs, or alligator clips.

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One of the really cool things about having a unintegrated disintegrated discrete circuit like this is that you can actually hook up probes and monitor what happens at different places inside the circuit.

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So that’s our new “Three Fives” Kit (shown above with an original NE555 for scale). It’s not quite as big as our 555 footstool, nor as tasty as our edible version, but it’s a great little circuit, and it’s got legs.

Roundup: Simple LED Projects

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We’ve put together a roundup of our simplest LED projects; easy things to put together mostly with a bare LED and a coin cell.

Pictured above, Basics: Simple LED Pumpkins

Headless horseman LED Ghostie

How to hack LEDs into Lego minifigures for Halloween, and LED Ghosties for Halloween

urchin - 13 RoboGames Awards (on)

LED-lit sea urchin shells, RoboGames Awards

5 mm warm white diffused-lens LED Throwies - 03

Picking resistors for LEDs  and Some thoughts on throwies

lanterns - 11

Quick, easy, temporary, and beautiful LED garden lights

toner - 15 Soft Circuit Merit Badge14

Paper Circuitry at Home: Electric Origami, and the Soft circuitry merit badge

EdgeLitCard - 49 Edge Lit Cards

Edge-lit holiday cards and part II, Refining edge-it holiday cards

Inside the ULN2003

Over at ZeptoBars, they have an incredibly detailed “take-apart” post on what’s inside the ULN2003 seven channel Darlington driver chip. The ULN2003 is commonly used for driving LED displays—you can find it, for example, in our Mignonette game.

We often receive comments that while out microchip photos are beautiful and interesting, it is completely unclear how integrated circuit implements basic elements and form larger circuit. Of course it is impossible to do a detailed review of an 1’000’000 transistor chip, so we’ve found simpler example: ULN2003 – array of Darlington transistors.

They’ve stripped off the outer housing and put it under the microscope. They then analyzed the photos to show you what parts make up the individual transistors, resistors and diodes inside the chip.

The Mug Marker

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Don McRae recently stopped by our shop last week to show off his homebrew CNC project, the “Mug Marker” — a wonderful little cardboard robot that can draw on mugs.

Much like the Mug Plotter on Instructables, it uses the same EBB controller board and stepper motors as the Eggbot, but with linear motion for the pen instead of rotation. However, unlike that version, Don has incorporated the same winch-drive mechanism that we use on the WaterColorBot to provide motion for the linear axis– meaning that it can go fast or slow, with very good accuracy.

Don laser cut the large white winch on the back of the machine from acrylic. It controls a string that pulls the pen carriage back and forth as it rides on a pair of rods:

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The pen holder itself slides into some additional bearings, and has a small protrusion on the back that rests on the servo horn, allowing it to be lifted up or lowered down.  Like the Eggbot’s pen-lift mechanism, this mechanism only (actively) lifts the pen, which means that it can ride over uneven surfaces, or plot on mugs with variable diameter.

 

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Underneath the pen carriage, the opening of the mug fits onto a three-jaw coupler on the motor shaft, and the base of the mug is held against a rubber faced spring loaded plunger. Small copper tubes are used as bushings to allow the coupler pieces to rotate inward or outward to allow mugs of differing diameters to fit on. A little silicone on the surface of each of the three parts provides a gripping surface, and the upcurved lip keeps the mug from sliding too far.

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Looking down through the pen carriage, you can see the mug below held in the coupler.

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The chassis of the machine is made from cardboard, either hand or laser cut to slot together, and held together very cleverly with pins. The whole machine is put together from a combination of off the shelf parts and found materials, many of which are laser cut for the correct shape. For software, Don uses the Eggbot Inkscape extensions with very reproducible results.

Thanks to Don for bringing it by and letting us take pictures!

WaterColorBot Kickstarter Update #1

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Our sincere gratitude goes out to all of our Kickstarter backers and everyone who has helped to spread the word about our WaterColorBot Kickstarter campaign. It has been incredibly rewarding to see each new pledge come in, from friends both old and new. We’re thrilled to announce that we exceeded our funding threshold of $50,000 after just over 60 hours: WaterColorBots are coming!

Today we recorded a little video that you can see on our update page of the WaterColorBot saying (well, painting) “Thank You.” One of the questions we have heard a few times (and have added to our FAQ) has been, “Can the robot go get more paint when it runs dry?” The answer is yes, as you can see in the video.

So is it all in the can and ready to ship? No, not quite yet. You may notice one goof in the video: an unnecessary color change. We’re still sanding away at the rough edges, in order to make sure that everything is ship-shape before we ship.

Thanks for all of the great questions and comments. We’ve already started adding to the FAQ based on your feedback, and we’ll continue to do so as the fantastic questions keep coming in. We’ve already got some excellent suggestions for future software directions, and changes and additions to the API. Getting real feedback from all of you about the different ways that you hope to use the WaterColorBot is immensely helpful in guiding us forward.

We’ve seen the project posted all over the internet, including on AdafruitBoing BoingEngadgetTech CrunchGizmodo Germany, and even as far away as Indonesia at Jeruknipis. Many of you have posted it to Twitter and Facebook, and we’re grateful for all of your support.

We had planned to post an update after a couple of days, but we didn’t imagine that we would get to post about surpassing our threshold so soon! We’ll be posting more updates in the near future. There are a lot of interesting details about the WaterColorBot that we haven’t yet written about and are looking forward to sharing with you.

Oddities at the Electronics Flea Market

eFlea July 2013

Today was the monthly Electronics Flea Market in Cupertino, and we came across some gems this month.

Above, an AN-OIL-IZER. The seller said her geologist father used it for testing oil purity.

It’s described in patent number 3182255, a device for capacitively testing lubricating oil (e.g., engine oil) for contaminants, by looking for changes in its dielectric constant. To use it, you place a drop of the oil in the holder, and the ball bearing into that drop of oil.  The bearing is held down by a leaf spring, keeping it indexed against the holder.  This forms an oil-filled capacitor between the ball bearing and a lower curved plate that is insulated from the bearing. The capacitance will vary as the dielectric constant of the oil changes due to contamination.  It comes with two ball bearings, as well as oil samples for calibration.

eFlea July 2013

The E-Z-Code Jr. is a tool for learning morse code: when you draw the “electric pencil” through the slots, it crosses contacts in the correct spacing to make the characters. It also has a hinged telegraph key which can be tucked away below the device.

eFlea July 2013

The seller of the E-Z-Code Jr. told me that the thing I really should be photographing was this magnetron. It is a beautiful old piece of hardware, with its wave guide and high-power tube.

eFlea July 2013

We found a book on Magnetic-Bubble Memory Technology. We also saw a book on tube delay memory.  We’re not sure if these are a step up from the single-bit flip-flop memory in our Digi-Comp II.

eFlea July 2013

I’d love to see the circuit diagram for the Cosmic Energy System by Psy Herabel [sic] Health Town, Inc.!  (Sadly, their domain no longer seems to be active.)