Aldi Torque Wrench Testing- Is it any Good?

Last week, Aldi was selling a torque wrench with 1/2 inch drive for $29.99. I was a bit shocked when I saw the price because that’s not a lot of money for a torque wrench.

Honestly, I was a bit skeptical of its performance and a bit hesitant to part with $29.99 for what could be a dud. However, I did go and check it out in-store before completely dismissing it. The wrench came in a durable molded plastic case and came with an extension bar, 17mm, 19mm and 21mm sockets. I was sold, so I shelled out $30 and brought the thing home.

First impressions are that its not too bad. I’m no torque wrench expert however the quality seems pretty reasonable for its price. The ratchet works, the ratchet is reversible and the whole device feels pretty substantial. Its stated specifications are; adjustable range of  28-210Nm with an accuracy of ±4%. The measuring scale is a bit difficult to read because of the bright chrome finish, but I think this can be fixed by rubbing a paint marker over the indentations and wiping of the excess paint to emphasise the scale markings.

Aldi torque wrench
The $29.99 torque wrench, its accessories and the case.

However, is it accurate? There’s not much point tightening bolts to a required specification if the wrench itself is way off the mark.

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Status Update and Random Links

Apologies for the long wait between drinks folks, however a few things have been taking up my time; supervising 2 construction  projects at work, then starting a new job, as well as buying and selling an apartment.

To sell my apartment, I’ve had to pack up my 2nd bedroom that doubles as a workshop to prepare for all the house inspections. People who don’t spend their time building, making or tinkering with stuff wouldn’t have a  workshop as a high priority on their list of “Pros”. A friend agreed that I needed to pack up my workshop, he politely noted, “It would be hard to visualise that room ever being a nursery”.

So, I’ve been without a means to build, break, print or experiment with stuff for about 8 weeks now and it has been frustrating. To fill the void, I’ve spent a lot of time learning some new things from YouTube and reading other’s blogs. Below are some of the more interesting or less well known content I’ve found. Continue reading

HP5082-7340 Hexadecimal display

Happy New Year everyone. A quick post to get the new year started and I recently scored a few HP5082-7340 hexadecimal LED display chips. These are cool looking integrated hexadecimal LED displays measuring 10mm wide and 14mm high with standard 2.54mm pin spacing.

A great feature of these displays is that each chip contains all the decoder and driver logic internal to the device. Unlike a Texas Instruments TIL302 which requires a BCD to 7-segment display driver chip such as a SN74LS47, the HP5082-7340 requires 5V, 4x pins for a BCD representation of the character, an enable signal and an optional display blanking signal.

Additionally, there is no need for current limiting resistors, this is handled on-chip.

To demonstrate how the display looks, a quick breakout was made, a schematic of the circuit shows the simplicity of interfacing one of these display chips to a microcontroller.

Interfacing an HP5082-7340 hexadecimal display to an Arduino microcontroller

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Printing Heat Shrink Cable Markers with a Dymo Labelmaker

Recently I saw you can buy heatshrink tubing cartridges for Dymo label makers. This would be really convenient to make professional looking markers to identify individual wires and cables in some of my larger projects. (Cable and wire markers for industrial applications such as these have been around for at least a decade now, but are pretty expensive. This solution from Dymo seems to be somewhat more mainstream, but it still is too expensive for the hacker)

However, my hopes were dashed when I realised that the cartridges aren’t compatible with my $35 Dymo LetraTag. Also, each cartridge is $50, so I wasn’t keen on buying one hoping that I could get it to work with my label marker.

So I got thinking about making my own and I managed to cobble together a somewhat effective method using some regular heat shrink and some 180 grit wet & dry sandpaper.

Somewhat successful printed heat shrink cable markers

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Multimeter Accuracy and AD587 Performance

Having built a small, portable 10.000V reference using the Analog Devices AD587 reference chip, now is a good time to evaluate its performance with a bunch of multimeters.

However, I have a feeling that the AD587 with its 10.000V ±5mV @25ºC is going to be the better performer than some of the multimeters being tested. In today’s performance shootout, ranked in order of their pedigree we have:

  • Fluke 789 Processmeter
  • Fluke 12 Multimeter
  • Extech EX330
  • Pro-Tester 03-150K
Today’s contenders. From left to right; Fluke 789, Fluke 12, Extech EX330 and Pro-Test 03-150K.

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Simple Electronics Workshop Tool Rack

Last week I had to have a huge tidy-up of my workspace, things were getting out of control. Finished projects, half completed projects, tools, test wires, components and general junk were just piling up. It was becoming unworkable – things were getting lost, projects forgotten and enjoyment was fading.

Whilst watching YouTube (to avoid the inevitable task of cleaning up), one of those YouTube “Recommended” videos popped up with Adam Savage talking about his workshop. Anyway, in typical Adam Savage fashion, he said a few one-liners. One of them being, “Drawers are where things go to die”, 0:58. I had a laugh at this, thought nothing of it, watched some of his video about his tool stand and stopped watching after about 3 minutes because the whole video is about a tool rack.

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AD587 Battery Powered 10V Reference Tutorial

Following on from a previous post discussing the Analog Devices AD587 precision 10.000V voltage reference, I built a portable device to utilise the chip.

Some requirements of the project were:

  • 10.000V ±5mV output
  • 10mA output
  • Battery operated device
  • Visual, low battery indication
  • Small, aluminium housing
  • Clear front panel
  • Low cost (under $50), readily available components

A low battery indication was a desired feature to prevent the device being used in an important test and the battery level drops low and compromises the AD587’s performance. A simple green LED will suffice. Output performance of 10.000V (± 5mV) couldn’t be compromised so there is no protection to prevent high current draw from the chip, I’ll just have to be sensible.

Battery powered AD587 10V reference.
Battery powered AD587 10V reference.

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Analog Devices AD587 10V Reference

Voltage references are a humble piece of hardware, their sole function is to provide a stable, known voltage. This constant, known value of voltage can then be used as a reference for ADCs and DACs as well as provide a precision current source.

I recently got hold of an Analog Devices AD587KN high precision 10.000V reference chip.

AD587KN 10V precision reference

This model of chip has an output value of 10.000V ± 5mV (that is, an output value of 9.995V to 10.005V) straight out of the factory. A voltage drift of 10ppm/°C at 25°C meaning that the output voltage will drift by 10μV for each 1°C the chip is exposed to. Additionally, the chip has a voltage trim input, so if you have access to a precision voltmeter, the chip’s output value can be adjusted even closer to 10.000V.

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Matrix MFG-8216A Function Generator Teardown and Repair

Hey folks, sorry for the long wait between drinks, a few things have been going on – holiday, work, demolishing a leaking bathroom.

Anyway, after years of telling myself to get a function generator and watching eBay for quite a few months, I finally took the plunge and bought one. A broken one. Yes, I bought a broken function generator from eBay.

faulty Matrix MFG-8216A function generator
The Matrix MFG-8216A function generator without sine wave output

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