IoT, Robots, Printing, Cutting and Engraving

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Where to buy your hardware (and software).

For the budding electrical and electronics student we have certainly seen some amazing changes over the last few years, actually over the last 5 decades the most astronomical change has been from evacuated glass tube amplifiers and switches to microelectronics, switching microamperes to thousands of Amperes. Huge emphasis from electronic engineering to mechatronics (Thank you Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mechatronics)

Internet of Things

For those parents of curious young children, mechatronics is very much around solution providing and where more apparent would one find these youngsters plying their wares than on You Tube.

I became interested in electronics in standard 5, I believe this is now called grade 7 and if you are an overseas reader, I reside in South Africa – this would mean I was 12 years old. Thanks to my father, who although was in banking was very much an out of box thinker and solution provider. The problem area for the tinkerer at 12 years of age, in 1970 was that you were playing with your life – all the gear I experimented on had working voltages of up to 450V DC – and higher. I was given all my gear by my parents and grand parents. I wonder if a parent could put life insurance on a 12 year old. Moving on ten years I found myself working on gear with working voltages of 3000V DC and up, Radar, SSB transmitters. In the early 80s this was familiar territory, note that radio or vacuum tubes were and still do lend themselves to high powered transmission gear, way easier than semiconductors can and they are also phenomenally resilient.

Times have changed, moving through the 70s from vacuum tubes to transistors, to ICs, digital equipment and then in the 90s, Windows and Windows based PCs. Thank you Mr. Gates (and Mr. Jobs of course). in the mid-90s there was a mammoth explosion in the home PC market, driven of course mainly by multi-media and W95. I won’t discuss Windows 3.11 which may have been a game changer, Windows 95 was the BIG one.

Arduino R3

Computers and to be more exact, the use of digital electronics and embedded systems has become the forefront of all electronic design through the last two decades but only now, over the last few years have we seen the swing to the home market, the DIY Maker fraternity. And this is just the beginning. If you want something, you print it. Additive (3D printers) and subtractive (CNC machines) have become low cost non luxury items. Youngsters are becoming very fluent in CAD and other design work. Many of these youngsters are not even doing it for the money, but make no mistake, the money comes naturally.

I am currently in the computer industry and can see how this market is already shifting, with the current economic climate the game changers are all in the service industry – just look at the electrical, plumbing and general services industry. And the biggie is not just solar but energy audits – this aligns with the Internet of Everything (of Things) – we are totally inefficient. BUT, the big one, thanks to our power utility in South Africa, Eskom, we are proving our resilience and this drives innovation.

The most inefficient power hogging device in our home is the water heater or geyser, a device that became popular in the mid to late 1800s, thanks to Benjamin Maughan. Although a modern geyser is more often found with a an electric heater much like a kettle, it has not advanced that much either over the last 50 years. Except, again, for solar.

With mechatronics now being the next best thing we should very swiftly see how all the inefficiencies of the past will be addressed, time managing everything based on solar / weather activity and our work / sleep patterns. It’s all to do with control.

So, just in case you have read everything up to this point and you do want to trigger that curiosity gene in your child, just where should one start.

Firstly, and I am being biased here – kick off with an Arduino Kit. Buy the one with the most amount of sensors, the best you can afford.

Arduino website – https://www.arduino.cc/

Spark Fun – this is really the ultimate website – https://learn.sparkfun.com/tutorials/what-is-an-arduino/all

Lastly – the ever great Wiki again, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arduino

Learn about microcontrollers, the Arduino is the BEST tutor, then the Raspberry Pi. There is a difference and I found this write up gives the best description: https://www.geeksforgeeks.org/difference-between-arduino-and-raspberry-pi/

Understanding the Arduino and RPi is a great way to get into the field of Mechatronics.

Raspberry Pi 4 Model B 4GB

Where to shop? Well, in this case I am going to give the company names affiliate only to South Africa and in most cases I have had business dealings with them.

Arduino and Raspberry Pi (and sometimes 3D printers, CNC machines and parts and of course IoT).

https://www.netram.co.za/ Netram Cape Town
https://3dprintingstore.co.za/ 3D Printing Store, Boksburg and Centurion
https://www.diyelectronics.co.za/ DIY Electronics Durban
https://www.communica.co.za/ Communica in JHB and CPT
https://nde3d.co.za/ Next Dimension in Cape Town
https://www.robotics.org.za/ Micro Robotics in Centurion and Stellenbosch
https://www.fort777.co.za/ Yebo Electronics in Plumstead and Bellville
https://www.robofactory.co.za/ Robo Factory Online only – very good recommendations
https://www.rabtron.co.za/ Rabtron, Vereeniging

https://mantech.co.za/ JHB and CPT

This list is by no means complete

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