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Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 10 months ago



A word of caution: Take safety precautions! Be careful of sharp metal, exposed circuits that may carry current, naked computer monitors, etc. Wear safety gear. Be aware of the safety of the people around you.


This is not about destroying, it is about reusing. You can learn a lot and get some interesting parts by harvesting parts out of other devices.


It can be a good idea to keep a selection of junker devices around. To source your donor equipment, look to the electronic waste stream. The Duxbury Transfer station often has a good selection of unloved electonics. Check also with the garage, basement or closets in your own and friends' houses. If you want to go shopping, try the MIT flea market, yard sales, junk stores and other cheapie outlets.


Usually, older equipment will yield larger, easy to remove components. Newer equipment will often have simpler switches and more complicated digital circuits. An old tape deck will usually have some good switches, motors, maybe some meters and potentiometers. VCRs will have three or four dc motors, momentary switches, reed switches and other sensors. Old disk drives will have optical sensors, stepper motors and aluminum chassis parts. Old computers will have wires, steel from the case, disk drives, and components that can be used in other computer projects.


Remote control cars have a couple of good items worth considering as systems: radio reciever on the car, the front axle is usually motorized with one motor, the rear axle usually has one motor driving the two wheels forward and backward, the battery box will usually hold a few batteries or a battery pack, the more expensive ones will have better components, maybe even a charging circuit or higher quality motors. The remote controller can be handy in sending a signal wirelessly to another device. Usually with the remote, you will want to keep it pretty much intact, and take advantage of its designed ergonomics. You can, however, modify it to work better, just plan on using as much of it as possible.


Keep the parts as intact as possible, generally you should keep the wires on the motors and switches, and use any housings you can.

Check with people in charge before taking anything apart.

If you are at home, check with your parents or the owner of the device before scavenging it.

Here are some basic guidelines of Parts Harvesting


For tools and supplies, you will need some of the following:

screwdrivers, phillips and straight, sometimes torx

wrenches, often the small ones will be handiest, pliers can work

Soldering iron, desoldering ribbon or bulb

Pliers, needlenose will be useful for lots of things

wire cutters, side cutters are very handy, strippers can be good


Let the device tell you what it is and how it works

Look for markings on circuit boards and components, lots of times there will be words printed on them. These markings and words can tell you what kind of part it is, or even what the sytsem does. Look at the layout of parts, real people designed the part in front of you, and they thought a lot about how to design it.


Don't destroy what you don't have to

Look to use as much of the device as possible.


Take it apart carefully, so that it can be fully used, or maybe even reassembled if you change your mind about using it. Lots of times you can unscrew panels or pop apart plastic housings without destroying them. You may be able to use the housing for another project.


Many cultures have traditions of slaughtering animals in ways that make use of every single part of the carcass. You should try to do this as much as possible - strip it like a buffalo, and use as many of the parts as you can. Sort the parts and keep them in labelled bins for future projects.


When you get to the point where you are done with the parts, dispose of it responsibly. Metal can be recycled, most electronics as well.

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