One of the common reactions that people have when they first see our Three Fives kit is to joke “Now all I need is a giant breadboard!” Well, Michael Pechner actually designed and made one, and put the files up on Thingiverse. He built the design in Fusion 360 with a little help from Michael Gregg and printed it out in
PLA ABS on his 3D printer.
Thus far, the design is “plastic only,” without the metal inserts that one would find in a real electronic breadboard — but that’s okay, since the aluminum legs on the Three Fives kit are also decorative rather than functional. But, there are holes in the tops and slots in the bottom in case someone would like to add them.
Today we’re introducing version 2.0 of our “Three Fives” Discrete 555 timer kit. Version 2.0 has a number of little tweaks and improvements, with a cleaner design and — coolest of all — an all-new set of smooth anodized aluminum legs.
The Three Fives kit is a faithful and functional transistor-scale replica of the famous 555 timer integrated circuit — one of the most popular and well-loved chips of all time. (An original NE555 IC is shown above for scale.)
We are also releasing the first version of our educational supplement for the Three Fives kit: A detailed description of how the 555 circuit actually works, with plenty of opportunities for further exploration. You can find it on the downloads section of the product page or on our documentation wiki.
Our Three Fives Kit was featured in this month’s IEEE Spectrum. From the article:
Just as DNA models, star maps, and periodic tables serve as reminders of fundamentals that can get obscured by day-to-day minutiae, so too the Three Fives kit is a reminder that even the most complex digital processor is still at its heart just a collection of very simple components.
You can read the full article and see pictures of it in use in a sample circuit over at IEEE Spectrum.
Ben wrote in with a great question:
I had a quick question regarding the Three Fives Kit. First of all I just wanted to say that great job on the kit! I LOVE mine and it was a blast to put together. I just had a quick question about one of the packing items used when the kit is shipped. I loved the resistor organizer/holder you shipped the resistors and have been trying to figure out where to get them. The best I could guess was that they are sewing needle holders, but I have been unable to find them as such.
Many of our soldering kits have multiple resistor values, but the Three Fives kit is unusual among our projects in having nine individual resistors of different values. This presented an interesting problem: how to make user friendly packaging to make it easy to find the right resistor. Sure, you can read the color code stripes, but that can be a pain for folks with color blindness or just plain old poor vision.
Our solution was to design a custom wallet, modeled after needle packets, to hold and label the resistors with their locations & values. The resistors are dropped into slots, secured with a label, the cover flap is closed over them and then tucked under a tab. During use, each resistor is simply pulled out from under the adhesive label.
The wallets are laser cut out of sheets of 60 lb manila cardstock. It bends easily along the perforations, but is very sturdy and can withstand many repeated bends. (Aside: this weight is very similar to punch cards, which—to go full circle—is what I use for storing sewing needles.)
We reused the wallet with a different label when we released our multi-colored Menorah and breadboard Menorah kits, which also happen to use nine resistors in a variety of values.
Today we’re releasing this resistor wallet design in two versions: one for nine resistors, and one with slightly narrower spacing to hold ten.
If you use our resistor wallet, we’d love to hear about it or see pictures in our flickr pool!
This newly minted (date code: 1403) 555 footstool comes to us via Martin on Twitter, who writes:
My 555 footstools arrived. Build by my father-in-law, based on design files from @EMSL
Here are our original project post and our design. This is the first time that we’ve seen someone else build one based on our design. Nice!
Over at EEVblog, the (simply wonderful!) Electronics Engineering Video blog, Dave Jones has posted episode #555 — about our “Three Fives” discrete 555 timer kit. It’s an hour-long video, in which he builds the kit on camera, and more importantly walks through the the equivalent schematic to explain (and show) how it works, right down to probing the circuit with a scope. If you’re interested in how analog electronic circuits work, you’ll likely find it to be an excellent use of an hour, even if you’ve already built the kit yourself.
By popular request, we are releasing the design files for our famous 555 Footstool project.
The design is made from 23 pieces of 1/2″ hardwood plywood, laminated together, in a sort of manual 3D printing process.
The design files are in Inkscape SVG format, and you can download the design here (a 28 kB .zip file).
Dan at Maniacal Labs posted a review of our Three Fives kit:
… yay for creative kits that cause you to go out and (re)learn stuff! The cool thing about the 555 chip is that it is very much a building block to bigger things. There are plenty of resources out there for 555 applications and project ideas. I’d like to thank Eric Schlaepfer for his awesome kit idea and Evil Mad Scientist for helping make it available to the masses!
After building up one of our Three Fives kits, Ed wrote in to say:
I have been an electronics hobby enthusiast for well over 45 years building many, many kits, hacking my own stuff, others’ stuff, designing projects, etc. I have to say, your Three-Fives kit is truly the nicest commercially available kit I have ever had the privilege of assembling.
I was inspired to create a small, flexible wire harness with an 8-pin header on the end to effectively create an “In-Circuit Emulator” interface. You can prototype a circuit and then quickly pull the chip and insert the “ICE probe” and use a scope to probe any part of the chip you want to see what’s going on “under the hood.”
Thanks to Ed for sharing his project with us— and what a cool idea!
Maker Faire New York is almost here! We’ll be in the Atmel booth, showing a few of our favorite AVR projects, including Meggy Jr RGB, Art Controller, and Octolively.
We’ll also be bringing our new Three Fives timer (despite it not having any microcontrollers). The schedule for the fair is up, so if you’re in the area, you can start planning your weekend now.