Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Sunbeam Coffee Maker Teardown

The bad Kenyan grid has struck again. There is very little built in surge protection in the system, so all appliances plugged to the wall end up with in-house surge protectors. This time the victim was my beloved coffee machine which had served us well for more than a year.

So I decided to take it home and spend some quality time with Pascal tearing it down. He is always curious about stuff and what is inside, so the Coffee machine is a complex beast capable of keeping him and myself occupied for hours on end. First we took of the top and looked at the heater and the electromechanical assembly controlling the hot-water head and frother was exposed. Also was exposed the heating tank with dual heating elements and a thermistor (I am assuming a thermistor rather than a thermocouple).

When we took the back plate off we found the main controller board. There is to obvious transformer in the set-up so I assume to whole power supply is cap-drop. There is a giant heat-sink attached to a 3-pin device which I assume is a triac or SCR for controlling the heating elements.

The bottom-left corner has a water pump with its own switching mechanism driven by relatively thin signal-wires from the main board.

There are some more interesting details on the main processor board including thick high current traces driven by the silicon switch with exposed copper and extra solder on top to increase thickness and provide a lower current path.

The main CPU is TQFP packaged micro-controller which is covered by the conformal coating the entire PCB is covered in. A macro image on twitter helped establish the lineage of the processor. It is a chinese 8051 variant with the datasheet here. Any help in translating it will be highly appreciated. But most of the schematic is legible.

Next up will be powering on the processor with a suitable 3.3v supply and examining the analog and digital buses. As well as powering on the whole thing to see why it turns of immediately on start. If the machine is unfixable I am planning to scavenge the thermistors, heating elements etc. to build a reflow mechanism.

All the water circulation mechanism is really interesting as well and can possibly be shoe-horned into a water cooler for a 3D printing system.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Nairobi 2nd OSHW meetup

After a many month hiatus we finally put together the 2nd Nairobi Open-source hardware meetup. This time we were at the Tav Irish Pub near Nairobi Garage on Waiyaki way. The pub was chosen due to proximility to Nairobi garage and possible use of that venue. As it turned out none of us were memebers paying the $60 per-month fee so we ended up co-opting the pub in Chicago 3H fashion.
PCB Lineup
PCB Lineup
I had collected PCB's over the last few month from Aisler, OSHPark and PCBWay all shipped to Kenya from Germany, US and China respectively. So we lined up to try various soldering techniques on 0603 Jellybeans and some 20pin TSSOP IC's.
Soldering demo
Soldering Demo
The techniques we we tried were the tack, finish and reflow one using the iron and an experimental one with paste and dry-iron I had picked up recently. I didn't have a temperature profile controller for the dry-iron method. So we were just going to wing it by the eye.
Part Placement
Part Placement
We pasted up the boards using screwdrivers and tweezers. Started the reflow till the parts settled. Then simply turned off the iron. I am sourcing a K-Type thermocouple and SSR from KTechnics to get a better handle on this for next time. However the dry-iron does reach sufficient temperature for leaded solder reflow.
Dry iron reflow
Dry iron reflow
By the end of the session we had assembled x2 CS5464 Breakouts. Next step from here will be suitable MicroPython and Arduino drivers to ensure these things actually work. We had a lot of fun over the meetup and I hope to continue having these sessions. Next time one of the participants has promised to bring his Weighbridge Automation and IoT set-up.
Scavenging Coffee Machine
Scavenging a Coffee Machine
Following the meetup I have been hunting for accessories to make the dry-iron reflow less of a fire hazard and more controllable. (Un)fortunately the coffee machine at work has been fried by the spikes prevalent in the grid in Kenya (especially during the rainy season), so I have a spare K-type thermocouple I can work into the build. I have also co-opted a tissue holder we had on our dining table to stabilize the inverted iron during reflow.
A stand of opportunity
Stand of opportunity
Onwards to the next Meetup.

KiCon 2019 - Chicago in a weekend

Getting away from a fast paced start-up to attend conferences is a hard ask. However I managed to get away for a few days to attend the inaugural KiCad conference in Chicago a few weeks ago.
The pace has been such that only after about a month I am getting a chance to write it all up. The first night I managed to attend the Hardware Happy Hour at the Ballast Point. I got to see some amazing stuff including pneumatics for an autoplaying piano using layers of PCB.
The huge selection of beers and the chicago dogs were definitely unexpected bonuses.
Tour of MHub assembly area with pick and place machine and large Molex sign. Also got to see Chris Gammell's desk and pick up some Amazon and Mouser shopping to bring back to Nairobi.
I could definitely use the pick-n-place machine in my house and I hope Chris makes use of it whenever he can.
I also got to speak to some companies I have worked with remotely but not met the principles and representatives in person, including CrowdSupply, Aisler, SnapEDA, Hologram and of course DigiKey. It was great to speak to the KiCAD dev team as well, perhaps I can contribute on the MSVC windows native build. I also managed to score credits freebies from all the sources.
Here are pure notes to self on various topics that I picked up on 2-days of super varied and dense conferencing. Some are commands I would like to run some, are techniques I learnt and some are pure stories I picked up.

Schematics are a drug, use code instead

  • pip install skidl

Auto-routers are evil but useful

  • Triangles (Topological/ Using TIN mesh)
  • Maze solving
  • Shape based ( Rectangles)
  • Channel Based
  • FreeRouting
  • Adaptive heuristics using deep learning
  • Linear increase in PCB complexity

High-frequency simulation (in GhZ range) for PCB's

  • OpenEMS ( MEEP)
  • Wilkinson filter
  • Important in Radar Design

Prototyping in a few hours

  • Isolation milling
  • Midwest Circuit Technologies
  • Bantam tools. Binary save.
  • 1/32" end mill 0.8mm tool
  • 10 mill trace

Rendering photorealistic PCB's

  • Render layers to image texture
  • Use Blender cycles based render with bump maps for silk-screen and traces

Contributing to KiCAD

  • Development in LaunchPad + Github
  • Starter bugs are available

More HF PCB's

  • 30MHz to 3Ghz, with narrow bins
  • 5.6GSPS digitizer
  • Tuned lines. Right angles create problems.
  • Use footprint, Arc or Trace around edge cuts.
I woke up pretty early on Saturday morning and walked around and almost hopped on a fire-engine tour. Always wanted to do that. Then I checked the radar, another thing missing in Nairobi, and a huge snowstorm was inbound. Snowstorms at this time in Chicago are atypical, but hey everyone stays in for the coference. By the time the conference finished and I headed home from the after-party everything was covered in snow.
The last day (Sunday) was spent taking an Uber Pool , a novelty for me, to a Vietnamese grocery and spending around 2 hours getting additional exotic food-supplies to bring back to Nairobi
I saw a Harvey milk tail fin and took to the skies back to hop across the Atlantic and Mediterrnean to Nairobi. Flying 40 hrs to conference for 48 hours and shop for 6 is a real pain. Will have to bring the KiCAD movement back home to Nairobi and pour more effort into the local hardware scene.
So long Chicago, see you next conference.