Here’s the MT50 controller from EpEver, that interfaces with it’s Tracer MPPT solar charge controllers, and gives access to more programming options on the charge controllers, without the need for a laptop. The display is a large dot-matrix unit, with built in backlight. Above is the display on the default page, showing power information for the entire system.
The rear plastic cover is held in place by 4 machine screws, which thread into brass inserts in the plastic frame – nice high quality touch on the design here, no cheap self tapping plastic screws. Both power & data arrive via an Ethernet cable, but the communication here is RS-485, and not compatible with Ethernet! The PCB is pretty sparse, with comms & power on the left, LCD connection in the centre, and the microcontroller on the right.
On the left of the board is the RS0485 transceiver, and a small voltage regulator. There’s also a spot for a DC barrel jack, which isn’t included in this model for local power supply.
The other side of the board holds the main microcontroller which communicates with the charge controller. This is a STM32F051K8 from ST Microelectronics. With a 48MHz ARM Cortex M0 core, and up to 64K of flash, this is a pretty powerful MCU that has very little to do in this application.
The front of the PCB has the ENIG contacts of the front panel buttons, and the LCD backlight assembly. There’s nothing else under the plastic backlight spreader either.
The front case holds the LCD module in place with glue, and the rubber buttons are placed underneath, which is heat staked in place.
The LCD is a YC1420840CS6 from eCen in China. Couldn’t find much out about this specific LCD.
When I ordered the tiny USB soldering iron, I decided a proper iron upgrade would be a good idea. Looking around for something that didn’t require AC mains power turned up the TS100, a Chinese design, that unusually is actually very good! Above is the handle itself, with it’s small OLED display & two operation buttons.
This iron is controlled by a STM32 ARM microcontroller, the firmware & schematics are completely open-source.
The bottom end of the iron has the main DC input jack, designed with laptop chargers in mind (DC input range from 10v-24v). Above that is the micro USB port for programming.
The iron tips slot into the other end, many different tip types & shapes are available. The one supplied was the simple conical tip.
Plugging the iron into some power gets a standby screen – it doesn’t just start heating immediately, for safety.
The left hand button starts the heater, which on a 24v input voltage gets to operating temperature well within 10 seconds.
The right hand screen icon changes when the temperature has stabilized. The control PCB has an integrated accelerometer, leaving the iron hot for a few minutes triggers a timeout & it powers down. Once picked up again, the heater instantly restarts.
The operating temperature is adjustable with the pair of buttons, from 100°C to 400°C.
Here’s a selection of bits for the iron. The design is very similar to the Hakko T15 series of irons, but these are a much shorter version. Like the Hakko versions, the actual tips aren’t replaceable, once the bit burns out, the entire assembly is replaced.
Here’s the iron fully assembled. The entire device is about the same length as just the heating element from a Hakko T15!
Everyone at some stage must have seen these EAS security tags in shops, usually attached to clothing with a steel pin. As some of this year’s presents had been left with the tags attached, I had to forcibly remove them before wrapping could commence.
These are just a plastic disc about 50mm in diameter, with an internal locking mechanism & RF tag inside.
After some careful attack with a saw around the glue seam, the tag comes apart into it’s halves. The RF coil & it’s ceramic capacitor can be seen wrapped around the outside of the tag. The capacitor in this case isn’t even epoxy dipped to save that extra 0.0001p on the manufacturing price. In the top centre is the pin locking mechanism, enclosed in a small plastic pill.
Popping off the back cap of the lock shows it’s internals.
The lock itself is very simple. The centre section, held in place by a spring, carries 3 small ball bearings. The outer metal frame of the lock is conical in shape.
When the pin is pushed into the tag, the conical shape of the lock chamber causes the ball bearings to grab onto it, helped by the action of the spring that pushes the ball bearing carrier further into the cone.
This also means that any attempt to force the mechanism causes it to lock tighter onto the pin.
In normal operation, removal is achieved by a strong magnet that pulls the ball bearing carrier back slightly against it’s spring, allowing the pin to disengage & be pulled out.
This design is incredibly simple & cheap to make, and gains it’s locking strength from friction alone.
I would consider the RF coil being around the outer edge of the device a bit of a security risk – a quick chop with a sharp pair of wire cutters would disable the tag’s alarm functionality instantly. Making the coil slightly smaller & keeping it out of reach of the edge of the tag would help in this regard.