Of course I’m talking about gerbv! For those of you who don’t know, gerbv is a free Gerber or RS-274X viewer that comes from the gEDA Project. It’s free, it’s open source, it’s cross platform… (quick link to windows version download here) and that’s awesome.
So, why do you care? Well, if you are building your own circuits and want to get a PCB made then usually the format you’ll need to export your design into is a gerber. The reason you should grab gerbv is to double check for errors. When you design a PCB in your favorite circuit layout tool, whether it be Eagle, Altium, or my favorite DipTrace, you should double check for errors.
When I build personal projects, I like things to be modular. You never know when the LCD you just wired up could be grabbed and used in another project… and wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to desolder/cut wires just to re-position something tightly stuffed inside of your project enclosure? This probably explains why I end up making so many wiring harnesses and consequently crimping wires.
In the past, I used a pair of pliers and a soldering iron to connect these crimps to whatever wire I happened to be using at the time. This worked, but it was tedious and the outcome could have looked better. Why wouldn’t I use a pair of crimp pliers might you ask? Well, when I searched for crimp tools in the past, such as the ones recommended for JST XH crimps, they were priced close to $500! Absurd!
I think some of the folks at the hacker space still think I am a crazy for raving about these things as much as I have, but I just can’t get over how having the right tool for the job simplifies things. They let me crimp things easier (no more cursing as the crimp flies across the room), make stronger crimps (I hadn’t realized how critical it was to crimp the wire jacket until using these), and crimp way faster than before.
In particular, they are a HUGE help when you have to crimp lots of things at once. In my case, I needed them to assemble cables I include in SX2 Mini mill tachometer kits I put together. I was rather concerned about the time it would take me to crimp all of those connectors, but with the right tool it turned out to be a breeze.
Thanks to Bill from I Heart Engineering, we now have a pair of these crimp pliers for the space too! If you ever need to use them, swing on by!
I picked up a SX2 Mini mill recently via Little Machine Shop (They call it the HiTorque Mini Mill 3900). When I received it, I noticed there was a port for a digital tachometer readout on the side of it. I though this might be useful, but felt 125$+ for it was a little excessive for what it was. Atop of this, they were out of stock.
I ended up reverse engineering the protocol, building some less expensive kits, and documented how exactly I figured out the protocol. Along the way, I also discovered how to make the mill run in reverse!
If you wondered how a reverse-engineering problem like this is approached or what tools are used, this could be an interesting read:
I recently purchased this logic analyzer. It’s a clone of the Saleae logic analyzer. Available for 50$ here with 10 mini grabbers. It appears to perform exactly like the Saleae except its noticeably larger. It even uses Saleae’s software. It does ship from over seas, and might take a little while but it did arrive, and had free shipping.
The cable that ships with it doesn’t have wires broken out for the power supply pins, but it appears there are 2 extra pins, 3.3v and 5v power sources. I’ll have to see about adding 2 more pins to the connector to utilize them. The factory cable has 8 logic wires, and 2 grounds, but the connector has lots of extra spots for wires, extra grounds and those power supply pins.
Anyway, you can’t beat the price. Oh it’s also supported by Sigrok, an open source logic analyzer that is multi platform.
One of the main reasons for me starting this club is to create a space for all my tools. Here are my two newest tools which will hapily be loaned to the organization once we get one going. These were aquired with the intention of using them to build a RepRap (www.reprap.org) from Birch plywood.
I plan to use transfer paper to print out the shapes at their full size. Then I will cut the shapes as close as I can with the scroll saw and finish them up with the drill press??? Yes, I said drill press. That’s because I purchased a Drum Sanding adapter that turns the drill press into a drum sander. I’ll of course use the drill press to drill the required holes as well.
As you can see this is not your typical scroll saw and drill press. They are miniturized to some extent. The scroll saw is only 16″ long and the drill press is roughly 18″ tall when fully assembled. The price also matches the small size. The scroll saw was aproximately $70 from my local harborfreight and the drill press was $80 ordered online.
I will feature more tools under the Tool Shed category in the near future.