Replacing a Smartphone Screen

When my phone slipped out of my pocket and landed on brick, the shiny touch screen shattered instantly. In a second, it gained new textures. I got sad. I got even sadder when I remembered that I had rejected the broken screen coverage offered by my carrier.

Eventually, I realized that it wasn’t the end of the world to break the screen on a phone, for a few reasons:

  • The screen replacement coverage seems to have a deductible, of perhaps $100 (Since I didn’t have the coverage, I didn’t look into it too carefully)
  • Taking the phone to a store and having it done would cost about $100, and would take a day or two for it to be returned.
  • Buying a replacement screen online is possible, at a fraction of the replacement service cost.
  • Replacing the screen yourself is possible, at a cost of $0, plus the relatively small cost of the screen and a few tools.

What I chose to do was buy the screen, and replace it myself. Though I had heard of people doing it, I had never had a broken screen. This is only the third phone I’ve owned, and the other ones never fell in just the right way.

There are many guides available to repair lots of the popular phones available. Ifixit and Instructables are good places to start. You can find videos explaining how to remove your screen, how to break it, how to disassemble your phone and much more. Although this video explains how to disassemble the rest of the phone, but not the screen, it was very informative. If you are wondering about the wonders of Gorilla Glass, check this longer video for an explanation and some festive experimentation.

Safety glasses, hair dryer, Circuit City gift card, screen replacement tool kit including: plastic pry tools, guitar pick, screw driver, work gloves,
Replacement screen, rubbing alcohol to clean the screen, packing tape
Plan on spending at least an hour to do this project for the first time.
Remove the phone’s battery.
Wear your safety glasses! This process will cause the glass to crack and shatter more. You don’t want these parts in your eyes. When you are done, clean the area with a vacuum or wet cloth to remove glass shards.
Put a circle of tape on the back of the phone to hold it to a sheet of cardboard to keep it in place.
Using the hair dryer, heat up the adhesive holding the screen to the phone
When the adhesive is soft, pry the screen up and off the phone. You may find that some of the tools work better than others. I found that after most of the screen was off, I needed the longer Circuit City gift card to get the center of the screen to release.

When all of the glass is removed, clean the digitizer with a micro fiber cloth and some rubbing alcohol or lens cleaner.
Replace the screen, placing the buttons back in place as needed. Each phone model is a bit different, so yours may not even have the two buttons mine did.
When you have everything back together, put the battery back in, turn it on, and enjoy your reborn phone.

There are photos of this project.

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4 Drawer Resistor Storage

Storing resistors can be a little bit of a pain. If you just drop them all in the same bin, you won’t be able to find the correct value when you need it. Many electronics benches dedicate a lot of space to storing each resistor value in its own drawer. This can be a challenge if you only have a few of a particular value, or if you need to add to the system after the drawers have been ordered.

I’ve been using a simple drawer system for storing resistors, and this has worked for me over at least a decade of experimenting in several different spaces. You don’t even need to know what the color codes mean to use this system, provided you label the drawers and have a multimeter handy, nice for people with less experience with electricity experimenting. I keep a color code chart nearby for reference. There are also some good online resistor color code calculators that can be pulled up on a nearby computer, tablet or phone.

Here’s how simply store a bunch of resistors:
Set up the drawers in a regular parts bin rack, sorted by the third band, the multiplier. Use one drawer, or a half drawer for each color: Black, Brown, Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Violet, White, Gray. This will use 10 drawers, but chances are very good that you won’t need to store any White or Gray third band resistors. Almost all of the resistors I use come from the brown and red drawers, and a few each from the black and orange drawers. When I see what the value of the resistor the circuit calls for, I head for the 100’s drawer, or 1,000’s drawer. I almost never need anything from the high value drawers.

Over the years, I’ve seen and inherited parts bins with every drawer labeled for a single value resistor. This can take up dozens of drawers in a rack. It also makes returning the resistors a pain, because you have to figure out the value of every single resistor you want to put away. I guess that makes it a good exercise in learning to read the codes, but it is certainly not a very quick process for people who don’t have the resistor color chart memorized. When I get enough resistors that I’m in a mood to put them away, I just grab a handful, and sort by the third band. It goes pretty quick. I can put a fistful of resistors away in a few minutes.

Finding the resistor you need is fairly easy as well. If you know you need a 470 ohm resistor, you go to the brown bin, or x10 Next, you look inside the bin for the yellow and violet bands. There probably won’t be much else that is even close, since there is a lot of 470 out there, and not much that doesn’t combine the yellow/4 with any other number. Pretty much the only 400 range resistor (yellow first and brown third) will be the 470.

This system allows you to allocate just 8 drawers, and most likely only use half of them for most of what the average maker would build. If you find that you have a lot of a certain value resistor, it may make sense to give that collection of resistors its own drawer. It is easy to scale this storage system up and down for individual supply systems or classrooms. I believe it is especially effective in a group environment, since it is easy to store and retrieve the resistors. When you retrieve them, you will also reinforce the meaning of the color bands by looking up the specifics at that time, if you need to.

There are photos of this project system.

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Grocery Feedbag

At horse barns, they use a lot of these bags of feed. They have a nice picture on them, and seem to be made of sturdy material. I took one bag to do some experimenting with, and it appears that these can be turned into an excellent, reusable grocery bag.

The first sewing machine I tried had some issues, it was clunking and not sewing effectively. When the needle snapped, I set it aside, along with the project. This second sewing machine turned up a few days later, and worked very effectively for this project.

Making a grocery bag out of this ‘plastic burlap’ material was pretty easy, and took a bit more than an hour. The design of the bag includes a square, flat bottom. Sewing this panel on was fairly challenging. It would probably be much easier to turn the material inside out, and sew the bottom in one straight line. The bag wouldn’t sit flat on the floor as easily as it does now, but the bag would be much simpler to sew.

Bags like this would be good to use as a fundraiser, and people who are interested in horses would find lots of uses for such a sturdy bag.

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Decorating with the EggLathe

Decorating with the EggLathe allows your egg to turn, while you can draw on it with a pen, or paint brush.

This EggLathe was built of laser cut corrugated plastic, and is an early iteration of the design. The first parts were cut of cardboard, but future parts should be cut from either acrylic or baltic birch plywood.

The sides were designed to have lots of slots, which will allow the interior parts holding the motor and gearbox to slide. This will allow for adjustability to accommodate a variety of objects in the EggLathe. The interior parts have a type of slot known as a TNut, which are shaped in a t pattern, and allows for holding a nut and washer captive. Compression is achieved by tightening the machine screw through the outside part.

This design was inspired by the Egg-Bot by Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories.

There are photos of this project. You can download the files for this design.

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Threading a Sewing Machine

Getting started with sewing is a bit easier if you know how to thread the machine. My friend Gina came by to help me with a machine I picked up at a yard sale. First we threaded the top of the machine, then we threaded the bobbin in the lower part of the machine.

Chances are good that you won’t have this exact sewing machine, but from this process, you can get the general idea. Sewing machines are usually designed to be easy and logical to thread. If your machine is already threaded when you start, you won’t have to do this immediately, but if you want to change color, or when you run out of thread on the top or in the bobbin case, this step will become important.

Once you have your sewing machine threaded and working, you can start to sew simple things. Making little pouches is a great way to learn the basics of sewing, since they are quick, functional things that you can sew from scraps or old clothes.

Sewing is an excellent way of getting started with manufacturing. There are many connections between sewing and industry, fashion, culture and economics.

There are photos of this project.

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Starting with Arduino

Here is some hardware and information you might find useful in beginning your experiments with Arduino. There are lots of people who are doing interesting and innovative things with Arduino. Some of what is shown off online seems to be wildly complex. It seemed important to explore the basics. It might even make sense to build a few simple and easy circuits with their associated programs daily while building up a strong base of knowledge and experience with the system.

One strategy that proved effective for these experiments was to leave the circuits installed on the breadboard. This allowed for maximum experimentation time by reducing the time to build, dismantle and rebuild the circuits. If a new idea surfaced after experimenting with a circuit, even if another had been built, it was easy to reload the code, and make some changes to test the idea. If the circuit had been taken apart, this would have been more difficult.

These circuits and programs were the result of several days of tinkering, unlike most of the projects in this series. The experimentation also occurred in a variety of locations, though most were done in the main studio. By keeping the Arduino and components in a small box, it was possible to leave the project built, and keep the supplies handy in the same place in the box.

The most useful information for this project turned out to be the example projects that are embedded in the Arduino software. These projects are listed on the Arduino site in the tutorials section. The book Getting Started with Arduino from the Maker Shed, and the workshop handout for the LilyPad Arduino Protosnap from Sparkfun also provided valuable information.

Once you have the computer playing nice with the Arduino, here are a few things to keep in mind.

What was most effective was to use the programs listed in the Examples section of the Arduino program. In the comments of each program is a brief explanation of the circuit, and a mostly line by line detail of what the code is designed to do. In each code, there was a link to the web address of the code.

Programming and adjusting the code to see the effects of changes is super important in learning this system. By using an iterative programming process of planning a change, making a simple adjustment, and seeing the results of the change, it is possible to gain a greater understanding of how the programming system works.

By saving the code you work on, and recording notes in the comments, it will be easier to open the files again and continue to experiment with your ideas.

The programs or sketches I worked with during this exploratory process were: Blink, Analog Read SerialFade, Tone, Button, Photo Resistor, and Analog Input. The information in the Sparkfun presentation for the ProtoSnap kit was extremely useful.

There are photos of this project.

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Techniques for Sketching

Making sketches of objects is a very effective way of communicating your ideas about shapes. This skill is one that anybody can build, and the more you draw, the better you will get at it.

To do these drawings, you just need a pencil and a piece of paper. An eraser is nice, but not essential.

The main drawing techniques for engineering are: Orthographic, Isometric, and Multi View Orthographic. By drawing an object using one or more of these techniques, you can communicate quite a bit about the shape, and how the parts relate to each other. WISC-Online has an interactive set of images that help explain Orthographic and Multi View drawings. There is another for identifying Isometric drawings.

These techniques do not show Perspective, where the lines converge on a vanishing point. The lack of a vanishing point, and the presence of parallel lines means that the actual dimensions and proportions of the shapes can be shown. If you draw using these techniques of Orthographic and Isometric with greater accuracy, you can show the actual sizes or even scale dimensions of the objects. Having good drawings of your ideas will help you to share your thoughts with other people, and develop your designs before committing them to solid materials.

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards has a number of good exercises in drawing, including these techniques. You may also find information about sketching in older books on drafting. Unfortunately, many newer books on Computer Aided Design and drafting seem to skip the skill of sketching.

Grab a pencil, a piece of paper, and look at some of the objects around you. Sketch them out, and develop your drawing skills.

There are photos of this project.

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