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I don’t etch circuit boards very often, so I can’t really justify purchasing or even storing much specialized equipment for it. Once in a while, though, I do need to produce a batch of boards, and having something as simple as an automatic agitator for the etchant tank can make the job much easier.

So what’s a poor hacker to do? In cases like this, having a pile of junk and rapid prototyping tools such as the Arduino come to the rescue. In less time than it would take to agitate a single board by hand, I was able to re-purpose an old servo project as an improvised agitator robot. This allowed me to start soldering components onto the boards while the robot did the tedious work. I’m happy to report that this simple construction worked will through the whole build, gently rocking all 12 of the boards that had to be etched.

This is a pretty specific case, but the idea of building temporary tools can be a valuable labor-reducing skill. Do you cobble together one-off machines to help you finish tedious tasks? Have a favorite contraption you have built to solve a simple problem like this? Chime in in the comments, and let us know!

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  1. teknohippy.myopenid.com says:

    I’ve never cobbled together a tempory tool like that, as I’ve only just started to explore physical computing.

    I have done the same from a programming point of view though, write some code that saves me time and only gets used once.

    1. Matt Mets says:

      Yeah! One-off software tools can be really useful too. The nice thing about these physical computing tools is that they are pretty much just building blocks that you can snap together :-).

  2. rahere says:

    A small ultrasonic bath’s always a useful thing to have around, not expensive, and comes in useful for jobs like this – all you do is perch the etchant tank on top and keep an eye on it to ensure it doesn’t get shaken off.

    1. Matt Mets says:

      Ha, good idea! I’ll keep on the lookout for one for our hackerspace, that would certainly come in handy!