Revitalizing older products for next gen manufacturing can be tough. Does updating the design alter the spirit of the original? Oh and Tariffs.
Mike Geyer of Fictiv joins Parker and Stephen to discuss the State of Hardware Report, Tariff Engineering, the Production Gap, and Lean Manufacturing.
Parker makes small progress on the SDR Wagon Project and Stephen officially launches his new blog Analogeng.com.
Visit our Slack Channel and join the conversation in between episodes and please review us, wherever you listen (PodcastAddict, iTunes). It helps this show stay visible and helps new listeners find us.
Parker is an Electrical Engineer with backgrounds in Embedded System Design and Digital Signal Processing. He got his start in 2005 by hacking Nintendo consoles into portable gaming units. The following year he designed and produced an Atari 2600 video mod to allow the Atari to display a crisp, RF fuzz free picture on newer TVs. Over a thousand Atari video mods where produced by Parker from 2006 to 2011 and the mod is still made by other enthusiasts in the Atari community.
In 2006, Parker enrolled at The University of Texas at Austin as a Petroleum Engineer. After realizing electronics was his passion he switched majors in 2007 to Electrical and Computer Engineering. Following his previous background in making the Atari 2600 video mod, Parker decided to take more board layout classes and circuit design classes. Other areas of study include robotics, microcontroller theory and design, FPGA development with VHDL and Verilog, and image and signal processing with DSPs. In 2010, Parker won a Ti sponsored Launchpad programming and design contest that was held by the IEEE CS chapter at the University. Parker graduated with a BS in Electrical and Computer Engineering in the Spring of 2012.
In the Summer of 2012, Parker was hired on as an Electrical Engineer at Dynamic Perception to design and prototype new electronic products. Here, Parker learned about full product development cycles and honed his board layout skills. Seeing the difficulties in managing operations and FCC/CE compliance testing, Parker thought there had to be a better way for small electronic companies to get their product out in customer's hands.
Parker also runs the blog, longhornengineer.com, where he posts his personal projects, technical guides, and appnotes about board layout design and components.
Stephen Kraig began his electronics career by building musical oriented circuits in 2003. Stephen is an avid guitar player and, in his down time, manufactures audio electronics including guitar amplifiers, pedals, and pro audio gear. Stephen graduated with a BS in Electrical Engineering from Texas A&M University.
Special thanks to whixr over at Tymkrs for the intro and outro!
Hello and welcome to the macro fab engineering podcast. We are your host, Stephen Craig and Parker Dolman. And this is episode 130.
Chris Scannell on there the amp hour. He's a co host over there. They gave us a shout out for our Tariff discussion with Chris church on episode 127. That's cool them. Yeah. Awesome. It's also a landmark episode for them. It's episode 400.
Wow, they've been doing it for a while, haven't they? Yeah, a little bit. Congratulations, guys.
That congratulations. And also the best part of that episode is timestamp. 3404. Cuz gamble does a Wookie impression, and it is amazing.
Really? Okay, I'm gonna have to go right to that point.
Yeah. Steven, what's your walkie impression? This is my walkie impression. Got there. Steven, what's that box.
Uh, it's actually it's a TC electronics, G major. It's like up many, many years back model. It's an effects processor for guitar. And but I decided to pass my vocal through this for the podcast just so I can do a little bit of extra filtering and some compression and things like that from my side, just to make things a little bit easier. And I actually, this is the first time I've really I mean, I've used it in the past couple days. But first time using it for the podcast. And I figure I can just do a little bit of doctoring on my voice over here before it gets your wage. And I can do things like put a noise gate on it. So you can't hear when my air conditioning turns on.
Yeah, that sounds good, though.
Yeah, I'm happy with it. I spent I spent a little while the other day kind of just tweaking it, getting it tuned into your voice. Yeah, and it's totally not intended for this. I mean, all the inputs and outputs are quarter inch, it doesn't have phantom power, you know, so I had to buy a little external phantom power box for the microphone that I'm using. And then, you know, I had to reconfigure it. So it's, I mean, it's not really intended for microphone levels, or even data, but it works. And I can add effects
so I'll do I'll do my working impression you get. So, uh, yeah, that sounds really cool. Steven, hopefully we get you to do more voices and stuff in the future.
You know, this, this thing has tons of presets, like I have the macro fed preset. So I can just come from work, turn it on. And it's, you know, it's set up for what we do here. But I could do like a gazillion other voices and stuff. But, you know, we'll think we will figure out some reason why I will need to do that. Yeah. So, something came in this week, didn't it? Ah, I don't know what you're talking about. Stephen. The very first thing on your your
notes. Oh, the shitty add on update. Oh, yeah. The PCBs. Yeah. The hamburger board? Yeah. The hamburger board. The hamburger hotdog board. Yeah. So that the PCBs arrived. I think they get assembled this week.
Okay, well, yeah, yeah, they I guess they haven't arrived in your hands. But they're in there, your building?
Yeah, they're in the building. And I think all the parts are there. And I think the one I'm going to build, so I'm only building I'm only building one. But the thing is, I've noticed like, there's like four or five others people that have ordered them now. That's great. That's kind of cool. I so I got the salt, I started writing the software this morning. Basically ported over the the macro watch code since the same processor. And since it doesn't have a real time clock, I removed that part of the code. And then I started basically working on getting the timer interrupts working because I want to do it all. Like, I want to be able to add led patterns easily. So I want to just set up like an array of, of what the LEDs states would be to like do a array of 32 bit variables, right? And so you would just be like, okay, in that 32 bit string. These are the, if it's one two LEDs on if it's zero that LEDs off and then it just cycles through the array. So you can have multiples of these to make the patterns really easy. And so it will just be a timer a timer based or cycle to clock through them is the speed
that it goes through the array is that fixed and you just however you set up the array will set the timing I guess,
well, if you need a blank, you just put a blank line in the array. But so yeah, it goes through the array, each section of the array will be a fixed rate, it whatever the timer ends does
equal equal timing between? Yeah, steps in the array? Yeah, that makes sense. Yeah.
So the, on the macro watch I was using the RTC in RTC basically would wake the device up, and then it would go back to sleep on the show yet on what I want to do is I want to use it actually doesn't need to sleep because it can just draw as much power as you know the board, it gets on as much as possible. So I want to do is I want to use a timer interrupt. I never use one of those on AFMA chip. So I'm going to try that. The good thing is I can use a macro watch to prototype it before my board shows up. So I got it compiles. I haven't actually tested it yet. But it will basically go in timer interrupt and then it's going to my test is it goes in the timer interrupt sets a bit, the one and then on the next interrupted sets at zero. And that bit will basically the whole The while loop what to do. Very cool. So I'm trying to think of like, what kind of led patterns I'm gonna do with this thing. I was gonna do one that, you know, lights up all the LEDs around the border of the logo and like a sequence, and then do like an LED Chase.
Yeah, that the ants in a line kind of thing. Yeah. So what,
what other patterns should I implement?
You haven't just count in binary, or haven't count. You know, one, then two, then three, you know, lit up.
Okay. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, that's cool. It's gonna go through a certain pattern like 10 times, and then switch to a new pattern that just keeps cycling different patterns. Because there's no, there's no user input to this thing. You know,
it'd be funny, you know, the, like, what a car alarm sounds, you know, the, how it gets cycles through different sounds. And everyone probably has that going through their head right now like those like default sounds. If you interpreted those in LED patterns, and have it do like a car alarm, but led pattern?
Oh, yeah, that'd be cool. I'd implement like a PWM. No, because there's that. Yeah, like that whole badge, like ramp up and down?
Well, you could do you could do the ramp, you could do the ramping function by just you know, that's like chasing the LEDs or increasing instead of PWM. And just one than the other than the other kind of thing.
No, I should implement a PWM. There's no reason not to. Yeah, I guess if you can, then me a runs at 20 megahertz off the internal clock. So it's going plenty fast enough. Cool. Yeah. And then over the weekend, I'll show us sending Steven pictures of my welding projects. And so based on recreating the skid plate on the wagon, because it's all rusted apart, and that's like the hardest thing I have ever tried to do in my life.
Just make make it from scratch. Yeah, as before,
because I was originally just going to take the skid plate out, and then just like, cut out all the rot, rusted rot, and then patch it up. But when I pulled it out, untire third of its missing. So I'm like, Okay, I can't actually recreate something. I don't know what's there, right? Yeah. So I started basically cutting up the old skid plate to kind of like, make patterns. And that got me kind of where I'm at now about 40% of the way done with it. I'm basically like, tweaking what I have. Because you know, I don't have actual measurements. There's no pattern. There's, I think what you said, I'm, I'm making something custom with no absolute units, right? Yeah. Like there's nothing about this thing. I can figure out
its artwork at this point. You're making a sculpture. Yeah. I'm making a sculpture out of sheet metal that fits of tank. Yeah, right. Right. Well, but but I guess that's one absolute that you had, you know, the mounting holes, right? Yeah. If
there's two mounting holes that it has to hit, and all the other ones, it doesn't really matter, because they're on the frame. And if I put it up and mount it, then I can just, you know, draw where those are at and punch the whole story
on skid. Oh, okay. Yeah. When you say doesn't matter. That means you could use them or put something else. It's not that you would leave them unpopulated.
Oh, yeah, they won't be that not unpopulated. There's there's two mounts that matter. Yeah, the relationship but the other ones, I mean, they're fixed on the frame. But there's a two inch wide by like four foot long piece of metal that they can go on. Yeah. And I'm basically just going to mark them on the frame. And then when I put the skid plate in and mount it to the two mounting points that do matter, them it's going to mark on the skid plate where those other mounts are at and then punch the holes in. Cool. So it's not those are more of like a those holes are more of a I don't need them to design and build this thing,
so to speak. Yeah, I guess that makes sense. The thing I'm most curious about, and I wouldn't be surprised if if other people would kind of get a kick out of this too is like, what is your process? Like? How do you look at it and say like, I've got a piece of sheet metal, and I need it to be not a piece of sheet metal, I need it to be a skid plate. Like what? How do you approach that?
So what I first did was I started with the bass, the bottom of it. And so I put the tank on the piece of sheet metal, because I bought a big five foot by eight foot piece of sheet metal. That's 14 gauge. It's huge. And I only got for 60 bucks. I mean, it's all it's called less than prime steel. So it's like been sitting in a steel yard for like two summers and been rained on and so it's not the prettiest piece of metal, it's kind of rusted up, but it's solid steel.
Do you know what the price would be for? You know, prime grade, same thing,
but 120 bucks more. Okay, so
it's about 3x the cost? Yeah,
so it's a third of the price for less than prime steel here in Houston. I think it probably depends where you're at, but but it just has surface rust. It's not pitted, right. Oh, it's pitted but not like bad. Okay. Okay. When you knock the rust off, it's not smooth anymore. Okay. Okay. But I guess for a skid plate. That's great. Yeah, it's getting, it's getting painted. So it doesn't matter. Yeah. Okay, cool. Continue, I put the tank down. And I traced the tank out, right. So I'm like, okay, that's the extent of the tank. So I cut that out with a jigsaw. And then I basically set it up and then started measuring off the old skid plate trying to like, recreate the sides. And so I measure it, and then I would, I would actually draw it out on on us using CAD, which is called cardboard aided design. So you would draw out the shape you wanted on a piece of cardboard, and then cut it out with an exacto so you would have the piece because you can do that, like in 30 seconds first, cutting it out with a jigsaw takes like 10 minutes to do it right. You know, set up your guide and run your jigsaw. So you actually would get a straight cut,
you know, a quick quick side tangent, CAD cardboard aided design. I had actually had a conversation with a guy just the other day at work about CAD. One of the best cardboards to use is cereal boxes. They're not big enough for what you want. But that cardboard is actually really great for cutting and tracing. Like, and it's in its thin to its thin
because it's what matches sheet metal. Yep. Well, I was just using like, corporate boxes, because that's one what I had in to a need to be big enough for some of these sheets. I was cutting, right? And so I do a couple pattern patterns. Basically, I was using the cardboard patterns. And it kind of like tape it together and kind of like, Okay, that looks okay, cut it out in metal and then just tack it all together. And so basically, I spent all Saturday and Sunday building that thing. It's only 40% way done. And And last night, all I did was cut tax and shift panels around as I'm like, trying to make it fit better the tank. It's getting there. So So
when when you say fit better, like what's not fitting well, right now.
Well, like when a tank goes in. It's got these two straps that hold the tank to the skid plate. Yeah. And when I was designing, I didn't really pay too much attention to that. I'm like, Oh yeah, it'll just work. Well, last night, I like putting them on. And I'm like, oh, I need to drop this panel by like half an inch. This one needs to go up a little bit. This one needs to be tweaked. So that the straps, the factory straps fit correctly. I gotcha. Cool, because I bought new factory straps that hold the tank down. And I'm like, I want to use those. And I know if I can make my skid plate work with those, then I'm probably really close to what the skid plate actually is supposed to be like. Yeah, so yeah, I'm probably after the podcast, I'll probably go back out there and cut more welds and move more sheet metal around. Nice. It's it's definitely the hardest, because prior to this, like I've mainly made like desks and frames and tubular things, which is very easy because almost everything is like 90 degree joints. Yeah, maybe a 45. And maybe a 45 is feeling fancy. I love that. And that's thing. I was always Oh going off a design. I would come up I would draw it in like sketch up or Autodesk. Yeah. So I knew like if I cut these pieces this size and put them together like this, it wouldn't make a desk
well and it's like the logical progression from woodworking with two by fours to metalworking, which is like yes, it just
translates it just works. Whereas this is like it is like freeform. There's no rules because I'm not trying to replicate the skip likes I can't because it's a pressed piece of steel. Yeah, like it's made out of one piece of steel that's been formed in a ginormous like, you know, setting And tonne press or something like that.
Maybe not that much. But yeah,
a ginormous press made this thing at 101 piece. So I'm like, How do I make this in my garage with just a welder in a basic jigsaw?
Well, this is your version of the freeform jazz, right? Yeah. freeform jazz. whelming Yeah, it's it's a freeform jazz Odyssey that's cool. So you're gonna post up some pictures?
Yeah, posted some pictures. It definitely looks better. It looks better on Sunday like yesterday I kind of mangled some of the panels just getting to look right. Sure. That's gonna be fine. Once I seen weld everything, but like, there's like tax on the metal that don't pack anything together anymore. And yeah, yeah. We'll get there. So Steven, yeah. What are you been working on? Not welding,
not not welding. This is going to be I guess the the mechanical special for us. Because yeah, it looks like that's kind of what we both and dealing with. So I've been spending some time on our mill at work. And I finally got my micro tracer, you tracer mew tracer enclosure onto the mill. And I got it here so Parker can see. See it? Ah,
oh, that looks nice. Yep. I like how thin like it was between your segments. How thin it got it didn't like rip them up or anything? Yep, it looks great. So
yeah, so got got this. And this was actually the first time I used that mill. But funnily enough, the mill at work, runs. It's a decade old, I think. And it runs Mach three, or at least a specific version of Mach three, which Mach three is the main program I've used for the past handful of years on my personal CNC at home. So like, it's just kind of like I, I could just get up and go with it. I also know how to program it. So
would you set that thing up in your apartment? But my CNC Yeah, where's that?
I actually, it's in my neighbor's apartment. They don't know yet. No, I so that that's a project for the future. Because once once I get a home and a basement, you know, fingers crossed, the CNC will come back alive, mainly because I'm itching to cut some more guitars because that was so much fun. But I at least I get my fix at work now. So even though I've said it already, probably 100 of times outside of the podcast. Thank you, Bill for letting me use the mill. He's a he's a listener now. So he will get that. So yeah, so I got I got the the enclosure cut. And I'm happy with it. It's basically exactly what I wanted. Which, which is great. Because I've done I've done a little bit of steel milling in the past, not a whole lot. And so this one was kind of like, well, we'll just see how it goes. If it comes out good. It comes out good.
So how'd you design
it? You know, I
did, or the layout for the
panel. The the layout for this kind of spawned? Now that's it, that's actually a big question. And I won't spend too long on it. But I did, I did the majority of the design of that in Inkscape. Because this project is so dependent upon someone else's board, the actual new tracer board, I'm kind of doing like, dip trades in Inkscape up at the same time, and anything I change anytime I change something in dip trace, like I make sure that the mechanical drawing in Inkscape matches. And the reason I use Inkscape is because it'll spit out a DX F. And I can use DX F to play you know, generate a G code for the for the mill. And I use a program called cam BAM cmba M for generating G code, which it's not fantastic. It's it's pretty, it's just like a budget like hobbyist version it gets gets the job done very much gets the job done. If for flat stuff where it's just like make a circle, make a square, that kind of stuff. It's super fast and super easy. So I've been using that for years because the original intent was I was cutting, you know, guitar cabinets with finger joints, which that's just a four by eight table that you just draw rectangles with fingers on the end and then press go. And it was fantastic for that. So yeah, I'll post up some pictures of the enclosure. There's a little bit more that needs to be done on it. The power and the USB. I'm showing Parker picture, the power in the USB enter up on the on the front side. Yeah, on the edge. So the one thing is this box is pretty shallow. It's two inches deep by 10 inches wide man six inches. The depth is two inches. So setting it down on the mill and holding it in the in the vise is pretty easy because it's kind of flat. But being able to mill the top side I have to hold it kind of vertically and that's on the thin side. So I'm going to work out how I want the Jaws the vise to hold it, it's probably fine. But I'm just considering like, is it gonna rattle? Is it gonna do something funky? I'm not sure.
Yeah, you might need to put two plates on each side to hold it. Yeah.
And yeah, I I'm not entirely sure yet. So that depending on how things go, I might end up doing that tomorrow so that basically it's just I need two more rectangles cut out of it one for the USB jack and one for the power jack. And then everything's milled. Pretty happy
with what about how you're gonna do the graphics? Yeah,
so I finalized and I'm using air quotes here, I finalized the graphics. The other day, I'm pretty happy with them. I just printed them out on my printer and put it on the box. I was like, this looks cool. I'll go with this. But, but I did also the graphics in Inkscape. So I did the mechanical drawing and the graphics at the same time and Inkscape sucks it like I know everything lines up. And we have a mamaki inkjet printer at att Wow, okay, yeah, like thing. And, yeah, I think I talked about that the other week. And so I just basically need to load that up, align everything and print it, you know. So it's funny with all the you know, to print an area that's 10 inches by six inches, you know, that that printer will do a fantastic job, and it'll look gorgeous. The print is probably, I don't know, five minutes, but I bet you I'm gonna have to spend an hour and a half aligning, you know, just because this is a one off thing and and that machine doesn't really work on absolutes. So you pretty much have to put it on the bed of the of the printer, put some paper on it or like saran wrap or something print on the that see where it is readjust print again, see if you like it, you know, you kind of have to print to see where the print is
something going to guess with your production stuff. You do a
light fixture for everything. That's right. Yeah, actually. So I've actually designed a handful of fixtures already for a lot of our products, then the fixtures themselves have fiducials on them. Okay, the machine see those know the machine can't see him. But we can basically made a cross sign or a plus sign as a fiducial. So basically, we just print over the fiducial, measure the offset, apply that and then we're good to go. Gotcha. So it's, you know, if you if you're doing a one off thing, like what I'm doing, it's, you know, it could be four or five prints just to align it exactly right. But with the fiducial and a jig that mounts, you know, nicely. Hopefully, well, not hopefully they would the the plan is that it's one print, you move it to adjust the fiducial or maybe not, you know, you may get it right on the first time. So yeah, that's, that's done and the layout is still coming on. The you tracer, I just kind of wanted to get the enclosure going. And I'm happy with it so far. So probably by the end of the week, I'll have the enclosure, like, basically complete, like waiting for a board to go in. Oh, that's gonna be cool. Hopefully
you don't need to move parts.
Well, yeah, I mean, I've already I've already measured the holes on the box, you know, and so it's where I wanted them to be. So if I have to move parts, it's gonna be a way bigger problem. That's like buy a new enclosure kind of problem, you know?
So, so one of the things that I thought would be fun to talk about, because I guess this is our little mechanical thing is I actually tried a handful of feed and speed calculators online. Because, you know, most of my CNC experience has been wood and plastic, but you know, wood and a whole bunch of different varieties and plastics in you know, plastics, but just plastics. Yeah. But I haven't done a whole lot of metal milling some, but not a whole lot. And most of the metal milling I've, I've done, I haven't had to, like guess on feeds and speeds they've they were either provided to me or like, you just knew them for whatever reason. But this this particular project, it's you know, it was 20 gauge steel, it's which is point 036 inches. That's pretty thin stuff. Yeah, yeah. And I was using an eighth inch drill mill to mill it. I'm like, How fast do you go and how fast do you spin? I don't know. So I actually ran through and did a handful of calculators online, and I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out. All all said and done. I think I think I spun it 3300 rpm, and I did three inches a minute, which is pretty slow. I probably could have gotten a lot faster. But in terms of the burrs that I was getting, they were they were there but it was like one swipe of a D board burr tool and everything was cleaned up and it was like very, very much on the surface like the actual cut of the holes is super clean.
Did you find that the online calculators piece of calculators plural? Did they all agree?
No, no, that's, that's one thing. And they show the calculations for feeds and speeds is actually really, really simple. Most of the equations that you're dealing with is like, in order to find your answer, multiply this number by this number, or, you know, in order to find another solution, like the number that you previously calculated from a multiplication, add this number to it. And so it's not like really difficult calculations. It's just like, basic arithmetic, the hardest thing that I found was like, you have to pick things off of charts, like, okay, is this high carbon steel, or if it's high carbon steel, then you need to use this number in this calculation, or, you know, like, if, you know, there's just, there's just a lot of different, not a lot, but there's charts that you have to kind of understand what you're getting at, there's more variables than you would think. Right? There's also like previous knowledge, it's not as simple as like, Oh, two flutes on my end mill, and I, you know, and I'm cutting steel, you can't just like type in the word steel, and it tells you how fast it goes. You know, like, there's a lot behind that. So I spent a while, you know, kind of digging through a handful of different calculators. And really where the difference comes in, in the calculators is, some of them will try to guess for you. So like, you can, you can choose what's called surface feet
per minute, or SFM, which is basically like, how it relates to how fast the bit is spinning and how much like distance, the spin travels, it's kind of a, this is this is an electrical engineer trying to explain this, there's probably mechanical guys listening that are like, Oh, my God, what's wrong with you. But at the same time, there's also a variable called chip load, which is how much you're loading down the teeth on the end mill, and you get to choose your level of loading. Depending on how you select that you, you'll get different calculations from every calculator, but what I found that's good as you usually get within the same general range, you know, this calculator might say, Go 10 inches a minute, and that one might say nine, but at least they're close, you know. And so I ended up using those calculations thrown it on there, and the box came out great, so I have nothing to complain about. But at the same time, this is really thin steel, and it's probably not some crazy alloy or anything like that. It's probably just like really, really mild steel, mild steel. Mild actually, you know, it's it's probably the same crap that you're making your skin.
Probably Probably, yes, it's Taco Bell steel. Very low. Yeah.
Yeah. Made from seven different ingredients. So yeah, just shuffle together in different ways. Just yeah, that's how you make different steel. Yeah. Cool. So onto the RFO.
The RFO. So this week, we had the return of Radio Shack.
Dun, dun, dun. Wait, wait, wait, wait, hang on, on on. Oh, no,
no, no, no.
That's gonna get old really fast. Oh, yeah. We're just gonna use it in this episode. Yeah, this is this is a we promise we'll try to make this not get old. Okay.
So there's a company called Hobie town, which I've never heard of before. And they're going to start having Radio Shack expresses in their store. So it's like a it's a Radio Shack inside another store. Whoo. And they're going to sell a bunch of components.
And there's going to be a Pizza Hut inside the Radio Shack Express inside the hubby? Yeah.
Well, it's like when you go to like a gas station. And they have like a Pizza Hut attached to the gas station. Yeah, we're at the convenience store. That'd be like that, I guess. Yeah. But it's gonna be like a small like they said 500 square feet. So it's 25 feet by 25 feet kind of thing. Cool. Yeah, it's gonna be you know, it's just interesting that you know, that Hobby Town would do this because I looked in the Hobby Town and they're like a, they offer a lot of RC components. Electronics for hobbyists, like, not like, like, electrical engineer hobby or makers, but more like train like RC trains or I'm sorry, RC trains, model trains, RC vehicles, drones, that kind of stuff. Helicopters,
boats. Yeah, so they're gonna have like a whole aisle of servos and stuff like that.
Yeah. So it sounds like they're going to be doing a lunch group components kind of like, you know, you know, back in the dusty area radio shack where like, no one knew the drawers back there. Yeah, the drawers Yeah, that's probably worth going to have like the remember when you went to renew shack and you're like, Can I get a like 100 Ohm resistor and they, you know, they like you want to buy a cell phone?
Yeah, they're like, is that an iPhone?
Is that the new Yeah, yeah, exactly. But no, no. So they're just gonna have that apparently they're also going to do like iPhone or, well, they're gonna do phone repairs as well there.
Which, you know, so I was reading this article earlier today and I was like, Oh, that's cool. I've always enjoyed Radio Shack, just because before I knew how to get parts or where to get parts, I started at Radio Shack. Yes, I'm here. That's just what what you do. And, and actually funny enough, when, when Radio Shack was going out of business, the other guy who ran the shop when I was running, Craig amplification, he went over to Radio Shack and offered them $40 For all of their electronics. And they gave it to him. He walked out of a radio shack with everything that they had like switches, batteries, every resistor. So do two books. He had two trash bags filled with the Radio Shack parts, and he still has tons that regardless, the whole thing that I was getting at here is like, as soon as Radio Shack started getting into the cell phone game, it was like, Okay, well, you guys have kind of given up on life. You know, it's just like, because once you get into that game, like you have to play it so hard, that it became their focus, you know?
Well, and you gotta think it was back when when radio shake made that move. The Maker Movement was not there. It was still people that were just alone doing electronics. The real weirdos. Yeah, it was like ham radio and when, like us and like, we were just building electronics just to build electronics for
ourselves. But at that time, it wasn't cool to build electronics. No, it
wasn't apparently it's cool now to be a nerd or whatever. Yeah. Man, that's a whole podcast.
Yeah. Yeah, let's not go down that let's not go down that right now. People faking to be nerds. But I'm, I'm excited. I mean, the whole thing is HobbyTown. Is, is what I research. It's kind of a North Eastern thing. So it's not like it's gonna affect either one of us. We're not going to see a Radio Shack Express, like soon. But but but at least they're like, at least they're kind of getting back to their roots. You know, they're putting themselves in a hobby area. And they're offering components. That's cool.
Yeah. But I was thinking like, why is because hobby talent, because if you look at their websites, they they clearly offer components like our like, they offer servos. And, you know, modules that you can use to build RC cars and stuff. It's like, why don't they just do components themselves? It's not that far of a stretch.
No, it's not that far of a stretch, but I bet you not bet you it's almost a guarantee that they have some kind of deal with radio shack where Radio Shack handles all the crap, you know, so they just have to say like, yeah, no. Logistics. Yeah, it's kind of like the bread aisle, at most grocery stores. Like the grocery doesn't handle that. It's, you know, what, there's, there's some third party. Someone that doesn't so because like handling bread sucks, you know, so I'm sure handling like discrete components is not particularly fun. And so it probably works out better for for both of those
companies, probably. And I was thinking like, why not, like, team up with added fruit or SparkFun? Because that both those companies also handled discretes as well. Yeah. And those, those two companies are more in tune to the makers than Radio Shack is,
you know, I just got a random curiosity. I wonder if add fruit or SparkFun would even be interested in that. Or if they'd be like, RadioShack. Now get out of here.
Oh, yeah. Well, they might be interested in getting to like Hobby Town or something like that. Yeah, I don't know. And this also reminds me of like, the I come in, was it like six or eight years ago, there was a lot of those vending machines that would pop up in your school that would sell components. You'd feed a crumpled up dollar bill and get a two and 39040 Yeah,
This is this is interesting. I'm on hobby town's website right now and and up at the top, there's like a find a store locator thing. And what's great is you can put in your city and state and it has a pulldown list for the radius that that you want to look. And it has three options. It has 150 miles, it has 500 miles or 3000 miles as it's like
options. First of all, the whole reason to have a a place like Hobby Town near you, so you don't have to order or go for and stuff quickly. Yeah. 150 miles. That's like a six hour round trip.
Yeah. Yeah. Especially if it's like in a town with traffic and everything. That would be a very little bit like 3000 bucks. Like
I want to go to Colorado. And back to go buy components
that would be less than 3000 miles roundtrip. Oh, that's great, but it's funny because I typed I did type in Houston and search through it. I still haven't found out yet because like I obviously not within there's not a single one within 3000 miles of Houston. Wow.
I'm out of luck. Well Wait, wait, hang
on maybe maybe I didn't do my my search right. Right Houston, Texas Here we go 3000 miles a Houston, Texas. Oh, wait, no, no, no. Oh, you know, actually wait, no, I guess I did my search wrong. Look, it appears that there's hobby towns all over the United States. In fact, there might even be one. Okay, so there is one too outside of Houston. Actually, technically, I guess it's not outside of Houston because it's so damn big.
What loop are they on?
There's one on on Highway six. Actually, there's one. There's one that's probably 20 minutes from you.
Oh, cool. I have to go check it out. I wonder if they'll get a a Radio Shack Express?
Yeah, I thought I read somewhere that this was like a northern thing. Oh, you know what? Well, I'm looking at the Colorado right now. And there's like more than one in Denver. There's four of them in Denver. Nice. Right. Okay. Check them out. Maybe I'll have some Radio Shack experience in the near future.
Yeah, maybe I'll buy some more protoboard that's like all I bought at Radio Shack for a certain reason. They would sell one resistor for $1. But you can get proto boards for like four bucks. And it was like sold the cheapest price reports you can ever pi.
Yeah. Yeah, that's true. I tell you, what if I walk in that in one of those hobby towns, and then a guy walks up, and he's like, Excuse me, sir, what cell phone do you use? I'll just be like, amen. Later. Excuse me. I'm getting out of here.
Well, I hope I hope Radio Shack Express does well,
I bet you, I bet you it's a trial thing for something bigger to see like, will it stick? That kind of thing?
Cuz it'd be nice to be able to buy some components, like, just transistors and and, and resistors. And stuff would be nice. I mean, I already have like Ace electronics here. But they only have like really old stuff.
Yeah, they have done like carbon composition. resistors and stuff.
Yeah. It'd be nice to get some newer kind of stuff. Yeah. Maybe get some like SMD S Yeah, SMD parts.
I do know that this is a little bit of a drive for you. But EPO, electronic parts outlet in Houston. Kind of just did a big revamp of their entire transistor aisle, like top to bottom everything. And they actually, it's not that wasn't organized before, but it's like way more organized now. And so go check that out.
Are they still like Katha stores like alley Express?
Inflatable pizzas things.
We shouldn't be dunking on too hard. Because I'm in the local here in Houston. Like they're a surplus electronic store. But like they used to be really cool. When they had that entire backwards is full of junk. Oh, yeah, I had so much fun going through there and finding something that looked weird and just buying it just to like, tear it apart. And then they got rid of like, and then I went to college and came back and they got rid of that whole section. And now it's like, car audio. And I'm like, I do not care about that.
Yeah, I remember those days. It was like, gosh, it was just a trash heap in the band, basically. And they've just let you dig through it. It was awesome.
And, and then they got rid of a lot of their components and stuff too at the same time. I'll go check it out.
Yeah, I'm friends with some of the guys there. And we've we've certainly talked about running a store of that type. And it's really tough for them, you know, and they're trying they're trying everything that they can but you know, Amazon kills you know, it's just so easy to get stuff because I mean you know, it's not that like Mouser and Digi key and guys like that hurt their business too much because you have to have knowledge with with you know Mazzer Digi key it's kind of daunting the first time we go there but Amazon's not daunting and all the same stuff that's in their store you can get on Amazon so you know why drive down the street? It's it's what a lot of people's mindsets are
well I mean I do the same thing like you know Houston so big it's like I'd rather order something on online and have it show up at my house couple days later then drive 30 minutes somewhere in traffic and then drive 30 minutes back.
Yeah, yeah. But inflatable pizzas.
So sell stuff that you can't get on Amazon like good discrete level components and good kits and stuff like that.
Well and and To be honest, you don't know what you're going to find when you go into a store like that. So you might find something that you needed, or you would need or you will need for a project. And at the same time, like you kind of just get to shoot the shit with other people who are, you know, into that kind of stuff. And that's always been true with EPO where I'm not trying to sell it, but I mean, I'm just being dead honest. Like, you go in there. And if he you know, if someone starts talking to you, they're like, What project are you working on? And like, it's, you know, they actually care there.
Yeah. But you hit a good point, because I've definitely gotten the EPO looking for like a switch. And it didn't have it, but it was like something I could just bought on Mouser. And save like two hours of my life.
Well, yeah, that's true. That does happen. That's
the that's the problem. If you're looking for a very specific thing, like stores like Radio Shack Express, or EPO, or ACE electronics isn't going to work out. Because you need there's one thing in the world that you need in the store, and those stores probably won't have it. Oh, yeah, yeah, of course. And so it's best to kind of order that online. But if you need to, like repair something that's using a jelly bean part, or you're like, Okay, if I need something that's kinda like this three, parrot, those stores are really good, because you can adapt to it.
Oh, for sure. Yeah, you pretty much have to adapt no matter what with the stuff you buy from those stores. You go to that store, if you need a switch. Yes, you don't go to the store if you need like, this one very particular switch. Correct. But yeah, support support your local electronics store, because they are going away, unfortunately. And they're really awesome places.
I've been to a couple of the local ones that are in New York City. And those are pretty crazy. Yeah. You walk in, and it's only enough like room for like, a single file line to get into it. Oh, yeah. Over in Chinatown, and that kind of area. So if you ever go to New York or check those out?
Interesting. You know, any names?
No, this is was we were doing a a New York City hot dog call. Like, I think it was for man. 20. Yeah, like 2012, the open hardware Summit. And we did like a hot dog call. And we also went to like a lot electronic places and stuff. Here's crazy. That's cool. Hey, too many hot dogs, like for hot dogs?
Oh, Jesus a lot. And there's probably beer involved, too. Right?
Every single place we went to. So we have a another question from Decimus. From the Slack channel, and it's a lot of times on the map, you guys mentioned What college did not teach you. So not counting the actual degree? Do you feel that going to college is absolutely necessary to learn what you guys know now, or as college nothing more than just a structured way of learning? What can be learned elsewhere through personal study, research and experience?
First of all, that's a really well organized question. Yes. Yeah. Like, what way to go on asking that question. That's really good. Yeah.
And, and this is the thing I thought about this is like, because we both went to a electrical engineering school. But how our school taught us the stuff was two different ways, as well,
you know, for sure, yeah. And it's gonna, you know, it's gonna be that way for, you know, any other school or? Sure. So, so one of the things I think is actually important to start off with like, yes, Parker and I shit on our education and, and our colleges. And we've done that multiple times on on the podcast. And I'm speaking from my side here, that, you know, that's entertaining, entertaining to talk about and fun, and yes, we do talk shit about it, but like, my education was still great. Like, I and I still look back on it like fondly. It's just a lot of times it's easier to talk about the things that I was upset about, as opposed to like the positives to it. So you know, if our listeners got a kind of a, an overall negative outlook of college, because of the way we talk, I apologize about that. Like, I don't want to dissuade you from going to college, just because we talk crap.
I mean, I mean, I would agree with that. But it's definitely true where college pretty much teaches you more theory base instead of practical like board layouts, I self taught myself board layouts, which is up that's fine. I used all the theory I learned about circuit design, and I'm able to design circuits and lay them out because of that theory knowledge. Right?
Yeah, right, of course. And Can you do a board? Without that? Of course you could. But does it give you you know that that rock solid firm understanding? To You know, if you don't go to college? Maybe, maybe not, because that would be up to you. And I think that's really where a lot of that lies. If you don't go to college, can you learn all of these things? Absolutely. It's all available 100%, you can, but but at that point, it would be all up to you. If you if you do pursue a degree at college, it's not necessarily up to you, there would be someone else dictating and kind of guiding you towards understanding and knowing these things. And so, you know, all the piece of paper at a college really says is, you've put up with a whole bunch of crap for four years, but you've also gained a body of knowledge that this college feels that you know, you are worthy of you've learned, yeah. And you're also worthy to, you know, call yourself a graduate of blah, blah, blah. Yes, there is, you know, it's very valuable for sure. And, and the theory side of thing is great, don't I certainly wouldn't say that I use it on a daily basis. But like what Parker was getting at when doing a board layout, like those things creep in, you know, those those things that, you know, you may have, you know, thought back in college, like, Oh, I'd never use this, like, that stuff does actually start to, you know, come in and you think about it, for sure. And I
would say the good thing about college is, I mean, at the time, you take all these classes that you're like, This has nothing to do with engineering, why am I taking this class? Like, why am I taking English? Why am I taking history? That thing? Why am I taking philosophy, you know? Sure. The thing is, though, is is after leaving college in, you know, working for a couple years is you, I tended to look at that and be like, Okay, the reason why that I took what they make you take those classes is it expands how you think about problems and how you approach problems in engineering.
That's a very engineering mindset of thinking about doing non engineering.
And at UT, University of Texas, is, when you take all these extra classes, you don't take like your math class, you don't take math for engineers, which is actually really popular thing in other schools, you take math, and it's with math major. So like, 80% of your class is math majors. And like, you think you're smart, cuz you're an engineer, engineer, and then you go take a math class with math majors, and you realize you're the dumbest person in the room, you get your chemistry, you take chemistry, and you're taking it with chemists, and chemical engineers and your electrical engineer, and you're like, I have no idea what's going on. This is chemistry, like 301. Yeah, yeah, sure, sure. Um, it's just, I love it kind of throws you into the, into the, the foreign just because you're exposed to so much more stuff. And you have to absorb it. And I and I actually apply that, like, I apply chemistry and how like, materials act in board design, like when you start doing mechanical stuff, like mounting holes, and how does, you know, what's the optimal reflow profile for this board? You know, that stuff? Is chemistry mechanical based?
Of course, yeah. And and you see what, what college has really kind of given to you is the ability to approach that problem and think about it from many different lights in many different directions. You know, you could certainly, it's not hard to look up a reflow profile and find it on Google. But it's also like, yeah, there's a lot of different aspects of technologies that goes into what's happening during a reflow profile. And you've at least touched the, you know, each one of those disciplines in college, so you have an idea of what's happening in chemistry, you have an idea of what happening on the actual engineering side. And so, I think, I think, I think that's, so we're going back to it like, yes, once again, you could you can learn all this stuff outside of the college, but college has pieced it all together into like, one cohesive body. And so he was something I haven't found outside of college is like, a list of, if you want to, you know, understand what an electrical engineer would do in college, you need to learn all of these things. Like if there was just like a whole list of it, you could go and learn exactly the same thing. But really, you know, one of the things I did at a&m that I really I tried to gear, my college experience, such that there were things that I did at college that you could not do anywhere else. Because I knew I could teach myself something outside of college. So I particularly took classes that had specific labs, that were things that in on everyday experience, I would not be able to do that. So I did semiconductor physics, I actually got to make my own silicon chips in a silicon wafer fab that was on call of the college campus. That's something that like, your community college in your town is not going to have that you can't, you could you can read about it, but you'd never be able to do it unless you went to
high school student build a PCB fab and or a silicon lab into his garage?
Well, okay, yes, he did, but it's not but But what I'm getting at is like, that's not something that you could just wake up and be like, you know, I want to learn about this, and I want to do it, you know, like, you're not going to be able to do that. And, and that's not an experience that you'd have at any college that was probably specific to a&m, but every college is going to have those kinds of things. At the same time. If you go do like honest to god engineering at a college, you're going to have lab work that is guided by somebody which you can find, you know, maker spaces and things that effectively do the same thing. But you're not going to have it guided by somebody who they themselves are an educator, you probably just had a guided by somebody who they themselves is just someone in the community, who knows what they're, you know, knows what they're talking about. And that's not to say that that's like, worse in any way. But with college, it's just structured. You know, that's really what you're getting at, there's structure to your life.
Yeah. And, you know, I'm gonna expand a little more on what I was talking about is like it, how it's how college teaches you this stuff, too, because it is, it's more about learning how to tackle and look at a problem and solve it. Instead of actually solving the problem. It's like, okay, it's like the difference between knowing two plus two is four. And knowing how addition works, if that makes sense. It's like, the difference between like a technician, and engineer and engineer will, will figure out how to solve the problem. A technician goes, Oh, that's the problem. Here's the solution that I already know about. Sure. I see this a lot in, in software development, where you have computer engineers, a tackling a problem, and you have software developers that are kind of self taught, which is not a bad thing. The best software developers I know are self taught software, guys, but it's how they tackle the problems are completely different.
Oh, for sure. Well, and there's okay. So when it comes to, we'll just do electrical engineering, in particular, there's sort of three kind of things that you can have. And and these are not hierarchial. In other words, it's not like one's better than the other. They're just three ways of approaching it. And I think whoever is looking in to get into electrical engineering should kind of like experience or explore all three of these. First of all, there's the self taught the guy, the basement warrior, who just sits in makes, you know, circuits on his own and is amazing at it. That's one thing that like, hey, go for it, if that's your jam, the other thing is called et, which is engineering technician or technical engineer. And they're basically electrical engineering that still spends, you know, time on a four year college campus. They don't learn really much, if any theory, they learn very hard, practical examples, like these are guys that you would have as manufacturing technicians on your on your manufacturing floor. They may not be the guy who's designing the schematics, but they're sure as hell the guy who's fixing broken boards and things like that.
They're they're debugging, right? Why? Why the designs not working or being manufactured. Right, exactly. or repairing it in the field? Yeah. Like a field application engineer, Fe,
right, exactly. And, and then the third group is the traditional classical electrical engineer that they have an education that's really heavily grounded in theory. All three of them are very, you know, valuable and valid. It just kind of like which whichever one floats your boat, you can make money and do well at any one of those in in, you know, a huge variety of jobs. So it's kind of just like, take like, figure out which one of those buckets you fit in if you want to be an electrical guy and then like just like eat it alive from there.
Yeah. And, and always be and we've said this before is always learn Yeah, always read, you know, read application notes. Look at the latest products coming out. Look at lots and lots of projects. I mean, that's how I learned a lot of my original stuff was, I looked at other schematics and like, how does that work? How do you repair the supply? Appliance because that's how I got started was, you know, hacking, Atari consoles and fixing, you know, washing machines.
And actually, you know, funnily enough we, when I was at Mac fab, I talked to a, there was a guy who was looking for an internship, he was a student at the University of Houston, and I had a chat with him because he stopped by the shop, find some problem that you want to solve. And that doesn't necessarily mean you have to look for a problem. But another word, like find your niche, find your link, that thing that you get jollies off of, like, obviously, for me, our listeners know that like, audio electronics is my jam. I love that stuff. It's so much fun. So like, find your whatever that is, and just start like playing around within that like, boundary area. Yeah. Yeah. And, and like, consume every bit of information you can find in that area.
Yeah, and I would say definitely, like, I think one thing we don't touch on a lot is looking at other people's projects in the space. Like how, how do they? You know, how do they mix audio together? How does that stompbox work? How does in my case, like how does
how does the Jeep work?
They don't work Steven. Why did the Jeep engineers design it like that? Know what Jeep stands for?
No. It's probably some goofy acronym, right? Jerks engineered
You know, there are a ton of Jeeps up here like oh, yeah, loads of Jeeps. I guess. It's just mountain crawlers and hippies, I suppose.
Yeah, mall crawlers. Yeah. I so. Stay in school kids.
Do your homework and drinking milk. Yeah.
Take your vitamins. And we have one more question Is Jared asks, What's your favorite ice cream?
Or favorite flavor of ice?
Well, the same thing,
I guess. Yeah.
Yeah, go for it.
I am a I'm a weird person. I like Rocky Road. Or pistachio ice
cream. Oh, pistachios. Excellent. Yes. It's
hard to find sometimes, though. Yeah.
So I don't want to sound like a like an elite snob or anything like that. But I but no, no, like, you won't be like Ben and Jerry's. Whatever flavor. No, no, it's even worse than that. No, I make a Earl Grey tea ice cream. And I love it. Oh, it's super good. No, it's really really good. So I I picked that.
You got to make some for me then.
I thought I did at one point in time. No, no. Okay.
I think I want to remember Earl Grey tea. Tea is it's really really, really good. Can you make a Lipton tea version?
You know, I mean, I just I just stamp it in milk. So you pick the tea and I can make it for you.
Without that'd be like everyone in the South would buy that if you made Lipton iced tea flavored ice cream.
Yeah, but yeah, and it would be it would be a bowl of ice cream that's lifted nicely but it would still have ice in it like ice cube. And like a lemon and lemon on Yeah. Yeah, right. And a bowl of gravy on the side for whatever reason. The Dip
your ice cream in did.
Now that would be a southern meal, fried chicken waffles gravy and ice ice cream and lift a nice ice cream.
So that was the McWrap engineering podcasts. We're your hosts Parker Dolman and Steven Gregg. Later everyone.
Take it easy and keep
cool with that Lipton ice cream Thank you. Yes you our listener for downloading our show. If you have a cool idea project topic or ice cream flavor that you want Steven Knight to discuss, tweet us at Mac fab or email us at email@example.com. Also, check out our Slack channel. If you're not subscribed to the podcast yet, click that subscribe button that way you get the latest episode right where at least is and please review us wherever you listen as it helps the show stay visible and helps new listeners find us
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