Category Archives: SMT

SMD August – Cooking SMD Stars

For SMD August we’re breaking out the toaster oven and controller to cook some SMD stars.  Participants are likely to end up with a working product but they’re more likely to end up more knowledgable about the electronics fabrication process.

Apparently real SMD hackers only use solder paste and toaster ovens so we’re here to prove them right.

Using a stencil you’ll be applying solder paste, a little better than I did I hope – am planing to add a template to make this easier.

Next you’ll be placing your components by hand.

SMD August – Cooking SMD Stars

Finally baking your project to perfection in the toaster oven.

SMD August – Cooking SMD Stars

There is only one stencil and one oven controller so I’m spreading the tickets out across the night.  Please make sure you can come at the allotted time or buy a ticket for another time. You’re welcome to come early and watch.

The end product is the smd star project from July’s beginners workshop but the focus is on the process.  The price reflects the need to buy the stencil and paste.

No special skills required except patience and reasonable hand co-ordination.

When: 28 August 2014, times vary
Where: VHS, 270 E 1st Ave, Vancouver
Cost: $8 plus Eventbrite Fee

Eventbrite - SMD August - SMD Star Paste and Oven Workshop (7pm)
Eventbrite - SMD August - SMD Star Paste and Oven Workshop (8pm)
Eventbrite - SMD August - SMD Star Paste and Oven Workshop (9pm)

MakeyMakey Bootloader programming over ICSP

I’ve been asked about how I programmed the bootloader so I’m putting the doco here. For all my AVR work I use a bus pirate v3 with the stk500 firmware. I have a cable I made that adapts the bus pirate to the 6 pin AVR ICSP connector.

For MakeyMakey I made an adapter cable to convert the 6 pin AVR ICSP connector to the MakeyMakey header. I prototyped the cable using individual 0.1″ socket to pin cables and then moved them to single 2×3/1×6 housings to make the cable permanent.

The MakeyMakey schematic decodes the header in two parts

MakeyMakey Bootloader programming over ICSP

A random ICSP image from google images.
MakeyMakey Bootloader programming over ICSP

The pin mapping is

orange  MISO   6x1-6   2x3-1
yellow  MOSI   6x1-5   2x3-4
green   VCC    6x1-4   2x3-2
blue    GND    6x1-3   2x3-6
purple  RESET  6x1-2   2x3-5
grey    SCK    6x1-1   2x3-3

MakeyMakey Bootloader programming over ICSP

SMD July – Build MakeyMakey on July 24th at VHS

When Kickstarter came to VHS to talk about launching campaigns they showed MaKeyMaKey as an example. They chose well. This has to be close to the most fun you can find in a circuit. You can find out lots about it online, it is even more fun than it looks!

MaKeyMaKey is open hardware, all the information we need to build the project is available online and we’re building them at VHS this month. “The code is beerware; if you see me (or any other SparkFun employee) at the local, and you’ve found our code helpful, please buy us a round!”.

The real MaKeyMaKey is a quality product finished in a nice box with clip leads etc.  You’re getting a bag of parts here and a cheap chinese pcb.  It works, it looks a bit substandard compared to the real thing, but it works well and you built it!

The parts on this board are mostly 0603 so the soldering is reasonably difficult.  The pins on the IC are 0.8mm apart, this is the same as the cpu on the internet of things board and not that hard (the very fine pitch stuff is usually 0.5mm or even 0.4mm spacing).  Please consider a beginners class before this one if this is your first time.  If you’ve made any of the other projects in our workshops you’ll be fine.  Please plan on coming for 2 weeks or doing some homework, there are a lot of parts on this board.

The socket connectors like the ones on the real MakeyMakey are quite expensive so I’ve added them as an additional option – you can see one in the photo below, there is just 1 at the bottom.  If you don’t choose them you’ll get pins like the 3 shown in the photo below to keep the cost down.  Both work fine, there is more risk of a short to something metal with the pins.

There are only 11 tickets for sale at the moment.  I’ll rerun next month with another 10 tickets – there seems to be a shortage on the cpus at the moment.  If there is more demand than that, I’ll do another pcb run (takes 4 weeks).

SMD July – Build MakeyMakey on July 24th at VHS

If you want clip leads, I suggest these on ebay for $2.30 inc. shipping, they fit the holes in MaKeyMaKey nicely.

Refunds are possible, please contact me – you may need to find someone else to do the project or do it another time.

What: SMD soldering workshop
Where:VHS 270 E 1st Ave
When:July 24th at 7pm
Cost:$18.50 plus eventbrite fees

SMD Soldering Beginner Workshop

This is a beginners SMD workshop. You’ll be taken through a technique for solder smd components and then get a chance to build the board shown in the photo.  The price is the cost of the parts including battery.

People should have some soldering experience – the focus will be on SMD soldering, not soldering in general.  All tools and materials will be provided.  Please consider bringing your own soldering iron with a fine tip – it is easier if you can keep working with the same tool.  Whilst anyone is welcome, first time SMD solderers are preferred.  There will be an advanced workshop on July 24, tickets and cost TBD.

If you are unable to attend you can receive a refund up to 1 week beforehand, after that you can receive your parts or nominate someone to attend in your place.

There are limited tickets for this event as this is the first run of this circuit.  There will be more of these events in the near future.

When: July 17 at 7pm
Where: VHS Bunker. 270 E 1st Ave
Cost: $4.50 plus eventbrite fee

Eventbrite - SMD 101 - basic smd soldering workshop

SMD May – programming jig


This week we’re building Logic Pirate open hardware logic analysers at VHS in our SMD workshops.  The ICSP header is 0.05″ pitch so I came up with a top and bottom programming jig to load the initial firmware.  Tickets are closed, if there is demand we’ll re-run the workshop later this year.

The LP is currently OOS at Seeed (, I’m selling the extra PCBs on Tindie (

The doco page on the LP is at As above you need a pickit to program the initial bootloader and firmware image. The hex file can be found at

The Mouser project is at

SMD May – Logic Pirate




The dangerous prototypes logic pirate is a new 8 channel logic analyser design from the home of the bus pirate.  It uses the open SUMP protocol supported by the ols java client software (Mac, Windows, Linux).

This project is of similar difficulty to the internet of things arduino, except none of the chips are so fine pitched (the usb connector is however).  There are parts on both sides.  The board is very small 3cm x 3cm making a nice compact tool.  If you are a competant with through hole soldering you can easily tackle this project.

It is recommended that you bring your own soldering iron, tweezers and magnifier, limited supplies are available.  It is not necessary to arrive on time, please arrive when you can and plan to attend catchup nights if necessary.  Practice boards are available for use before you start your project.

From the website….

Here are some of its features:

  • 8 channels
  • 256 kSamples recording size
  • 60 MHz (overclocked) sampling rate (20 MHz and lower non-overclocked)
  • No compromise when combining the values above
  • Simple configurable edge detection triggers on all inputs (simple OR trigger)
  • Configurable ratio of samples from before and after the trigger (rolling sample buffer)
  • 5 V tolerant inputs (LOW-level voltage < 0.8 V, HIGH-level voltage > 2.0 V)
  • About 500 kB/s transfer speed to the PC (256 kSamples take about 0.5 seconds)
  • Data capturing can be stopped from the host software anytime
  • Cross platform host software for Windows, OS X, and Linux
  • DIY-friendly 0603 parts and SOIC packages used on a 2-layer board
  • On board 3.3 V regulator can supply up to 400 mA to an external circuit
  • Tiny 3cm x 3cm PCB
  • Firmware updates via built-in USB bootloader
  • Probe cables and acrylic case available from Seeed Studio
  • Open source PCB (EAGLE) and firmware files

Some features of the host software:

  • Precise measurement by using up to ten free placeable cursors
  • Automatic period, frequency, and duty cycle measurement
  • Displaying channel groups as HEX values and/or as an analog signal
  • Analyzers for a large number of protocols: 1-Wire, I2C, JTAG, SPI, UART, etc.

When: May 22nd and May 29th, 6:30pm ish
Where: VHS Bunker, 270 E 1st Ave, Vancouver
Cost:$22.50 plus $2.34 Eventbrite fee, click on the orange button below to buy tickets

Eventbrite - SMD May - logic pirate Eventbrite - SMD May - logic pirate


SMD April – USB Isolator

In one of the earlier SMD workshops I managed to temporarily kill my new macbook pro when I plugged in a prototype.  I revived it by removing the battery all the time chanting to myself, must get a usb isolator, must get a usb isolator, must get a usb isolator…..

This is a nice simple soldering project that does exactly that, isolates your USB port from connected devices.  There are two input usb connectors, one carries data and power from the computer the other supplies power to the output.   The output comes from a 3rd USB A connector.  There is no power/ground/data connection between the computer and connected devices other than through the isolator chip.  This board has two grounds, two power supplies etc.

The isolator chip is an ADUM3160, it is most of the cost of this workshop – “The ADuM3160 is a USB port isolator, based on Analog Devices, Inc., iCoupler® technology. Combining high speed CMOS and monolithic air core transformer technology, this isolation component provides outstanding performance characteristics and is easily integrated with low and full speed USB-compatible peripheral devices.”

I did manage to get some samples from  There are two ticket types, one for those who can get free samples and one for those who can not.  I suggest you find a friend and order two sample at a time.  Please wait until you have the sample confirmed or denied before buying a ticket, otherwise you will create a lot of work for me in refunds etc.

We’ll be getting the ADUM3160 from Farnell/Element14, you can see more details on the isolator at their product page.

When: April 17th and 24th 7:00PM
Where: VHS Bunker, 270 E 1st Ave Vancouver
Cost: $15/$5 plus Eventbrite fees, depending upon whether you have a sample chip
Tickets: Eventbrite - SMD April - USB Isolator Eventbrite - SMD April - USB Isolator

SMD March – Arduino Internet of things kitbuilding

There’s a lot of work that goes into putting workshops on at vhs.  In the photo below you can see some of the parts for the SMD March Internet of things board laid out ready for packing.  Many SMD components have no identifying markers – once they leave their supplier packaging it is tough to identify them.  Here they’re all colour coded, cut into strips and then bagged.  Each kit comes with a colour coded photo that helps you match the components to the PCB.  I’m assembling 20 kits to start with, these are almost all sold but I will buy more as needed – you can find out more at

You can also see tweets from my test board at – I’m hoping we can add these boards to stuff like the laser cutter and furnace, this will let them tweet when they’re in use!  The random number on the end is there to avoid tweets being marked as duplicates.

See you next month perhaps?

SMD March Kit building

SMD January – demo video now available

Here is a demo video of the awesome vhs led badge designed by Richard Sim.  These are mostly assembled, we’re holding workshops in January to finish the build and learn about how they work.

This board has a Atmega 168/328 CPU connected to a 8×16 LED Matrix with both red and green leds via a cpld.  It is powered by the Nokia cell batteries available at VHS (external charger required). The matrix is driven by an Altera MAX V cpld that you can program in verilog or vhdl using the free (as in beer) Altera quartus software.

Example code for the cpld can be found at and matching code for the cpu at

Tickets still available at

Event is running on Thursdays in January starting January 9th, 7pm onwards.