Tag Archives: electronics

Aligni Wants To Let You Use Their BOM Software For Free

As Bunnie pointed out on his blog, managing the Bill Of Materials (BOM) for a project can become quite complicated. Even a simple project, if it needs to be manufactured by someone else, would benefit from a BOM-specific tool

One such tool is Aligni, a web-based tool that can be used to construct the entire BOM, coordinate with manufacturers and manage inventory. Oh, and Aligni wants to let open source projects use the site for free.

I interviewed Jake Janovetz on what Aligni can do for open source hardware.

Can you give me some background on where Aligni came from and what it’s been used for?

Aligni was created out of a need to manage parts for a small electronics company.  Everything on the market was either too big (SAP, Oracle, Agile, Arena PLM), dead (Parts & Vendors), or would not handle inventory (Agile, Arena, etc).  We wanted a one-stop shop to handle things from design, part management, BOMs, cost info, inventory, assembly management, quoting, and purchasing. Interestingly, some products out there solved some of these.  QuoteFX is a widely used platform for doing quoting via database.  I think it runs in the $100′s per month per user.  Which is absolutely ludicrous.  It’s just a piece of what Aligni does and we do it much better!

What open projects have used Aligni successfully?

Unfortunately, none, really.  Some small projects have started and left over the years.  We haven’t really pushed hard on Open Aligni.  The commercial version of Aligni has lots of successful companies using it.

What do you, or the Aligni team, think about open hardware in general? How do you think it compares to the proprietary approach? Strengths and weaknesses?

We love open hardware.  As it has become better defined over the years, it is easier to talk about it.  Early on, it was confusing what it really meant.  Both open and proprietary are very valid.  In particular, a corporate entity will often get a lot of value from using proprietary hardware.  It’s simply a matter of motivation and accountability.  But Open Hardware is profoundly useful and disruptive (that’s a good thing). We originally introduced Open Aligni because we felt Open Hardware lacked a venue and a proper presentation.  The Open Hardware projects out there tend to cobble together some Google Docs or spreadsheets or other things in an inconsistent and hard-to-maintain manner.  Aligni is a more structured, disciplined approach to presenting hardware designs and managing them.
More after the jump… Continue reading
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Bunnie’s Factory Tour Part 1: How To Make A BOM

Bunnie Huang posted an extensive explanation of how you’re doing your Bill Of Materials (BOM) all wrong. Here’s a taste. For the whole 5-course meal head over to his blog.

Most Makers trying to scale up quickly realize the only practical path forward is to outsource production.

Every single assumption, down to the color of the soldermask, has to be spelled out unambiguously for a third party to faithfully reproduce a design. Missing or incomplete documentation is the lead cause of production delays, defects, and cost overruns.

Here’s some of the things missing from the [typical] BOM:

  • Approved manufacturer for each component
  • Tolerance, material composition, and voltage spec for passive components
  • Package type information for all parts
  • Extended part numbers specific to each manufacturer

A complete BOM for an LED flasher also needs to include the PCB, battery, plastic case pieces, lens, screws, any labeling (for example, a serial number), a manual, and packaging (plastic bag plus cardboard box, for example). There may also need to be a master carton as a single boxed LED flasher is too small to ship on its own.

 

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RepRap Generation 7 Electronics

This design is by Markus (Traumflug) Hitter and should be of particular interest to the RepRap side of 3D printing. RepRap stands for Replicating Rapid Prototyper because Dr. Adrian Bowyer’s project was focused on creating a machine that could more-or-less reproduce itself. We have the RepRap project to thank for the recent explosion in amateur interest in 3D printing and it was the RepRap’s self-reproducing feature that made the explosion possible. The more parts the machine can make, or process, on its own the easier it will reproduce. Traumflug’s Gen 7 electronics are simple and single-sided, so the board can be milled on a suitably equipped RepRap.

You can buy the electronics from Traumflug or find the files at github

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Arduino Leonardo

The new board from Arduino, the Leonardo, is pretty much an Uno except that it doesn’t have a dedicated chip for USB communication. The serial port runs in the same chip that runs your sketches (the ATmega32U4). This means that if you reset the board you also reset the USB connection. However, because the serial port is virtual it means that the board can run as a (HID) keyboard or mouse.

Arduino Leonardo

Freetronics LeoStick

The simpler physical wiring means that the Leonardo is cheaper ($20), but it also means that there’s less flash memory and some of the pins have changed, so Uno shields might not work with the Leonardo.

If the Uno footprint is just too big there’s the LeoStick from freetronics ($30).

Additional Links

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DIY Totally Open Source Arduino GSM Cell Phone by Zach Wick

Cell phones (like this and this) are turning out to be a reasonably popular open source project. It makes sense when someone points it out. They are pretty much the Swiss Army knife of the digital world. More importantly, they are useful and versatile but they don’t require any real hardware hacking. That’s important since most of the people doing open source work are comfortable with code and soldering irons…not wrenches.

Here’s an outline of the open source hardware necessary to physically assemble your own touchscreen phone. Zach Wick grabbed all of this stuff off-the-shelf (his or someone else’s).

Continue reading

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Solder Free 3D Printed Circuit Board

3D printing is moderately useful. It will become much more useful when it can produce more than structural parts.

Automatically placing and connecting electrical components is still a ways off, although lots of people are working on it. Until then, CarryTheWhat has demonstrated an impressive DIY method of producing circuit boards on a 3D printer.

The key to how this approach works is a series of pegs connected by conductive thread. By strategically wrapping the conductive thread onto a peg board generated in OpenSCAD, the components of the circuit can all work together.

It’s a bit bulky and crude, but it works. For example, here is a flashlight…

If you’d like to see a step-by-step description of the process, CarryTheWhat wrote it up on Instructables and on Thingiverse.

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