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Post Free-Day Saturday New Product Post

Now that Free-Day is over we have to get back to the normal grind. Here are the new products for this week.

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Now that Free Day is over, we can get back to our regularly scheduled product posts. We have some stuff that blinks, some that doesn't and some that melts. Let's see my top picks for this week.

Wow, it looks like my prediction was right! Not bad for a shot in the dark! Moving on. So, with the aftermath of Free Day, we don't have a ton of products to talk about, but let's see the list for this week.

Although this might look a lot like the RGB LED strips we had a couple of weeks ago, it's not. These LED strips are addressable, which means that you can control each one of the RGB LEDs individually. So instead of the whole strip being one color at a time, each LED on the strip can be a different color. They look awesome in person and can be controlled easily. Check the example code and the video above.

Touchpads have always been cool. They are useful when you don't want a mechanical switch. The MPR121 Capacitive Keypad is a touch keypad based on the MPR121 touch sensor that has 12 individual touch pads and a simple I2C output. Check out the video and see how it works!

Last year we announced that we had found the best solder in the world. Many of you were asking us to help test this claim by providing samples. After a lot of waiting, we finally have samples and smaller spools. This is fantastic solder and quite possibly the best lead-free solder you will ever melt. It is also water-soluble so you can easily wash the residue from a board. We have them in 4 varieties (in addition to the two large spools we already carry), 0.020" and 0.032" 20 foot samples, and also 0.020" and 0.032" quarter pounder (hold the cheese) spools.

If you are looking for a low power display that has great contrast, you might want to check out our new 10x2 character e-paper display. This is similar to what's used in e-book readers, but in a character display. It has fantastic contrast, no backlight (for use in direct sunlight) and very low power consumption. Plus, you can freak out your friends by pulling the power and watching in amazement as the image remains until you power it back on and refresh it. We also have a mating connector and will be releasing a breakout board soon as well.

Last week we announced all of our new EL wire products. We mentioned that we were getting a wall-wart style inverter. Well, here it is. This inverter will drive more wire at once (about 10-15 meters) and plugs directly into the wall. If you don't need portability, you might want to look at the wall-wart inverter instead of the 3v inverter. And we have already ordered replacements for the EL wire that just sold out. Please be patient while we get more stock, it's on its way.

A couple of weeks ago we unveiled our new LiPo Charger Basic. If you are looking for a charger that you can hook up to your project and has the ability to select your charging current, check out the USB LiPoly Charger. It uses the same IC as the basic charger, but has a SYS OUT which allows you to have your project connected while you are charging your battery. It also has a footprint for an external LED and some holes for mounting. This is the replacement for our other LiPo charger, which is now discontinued.

The lowly mighty FTDI Basic has many uses. Anytime you need to read serial data from a board through USB, these can come in handy. With our products showing up in new places, we are now doing more and more retail packaging for our most popular products. We now have the FTDI Basic 3.3v in a fancy retail package. This is the same FTDI Basic you know and love but in retail packaging. You can still choose to buy it without the retail packaging of course.

In addition to the FTDI Basic retail package, we have a handy LED Starter Kit as well. The kit includes an assortment of 26 LEDs, some resistors, and a coin cell battery to power everything. If you're getting started in electronics, you might want a basic assortment of LEDs and some resistors to limit the current so you don't burn them out. This kit gives you just what you need to have a nice selection of LEDs on hand for the next project.

We have a new revision of the 9DoF Sensor Stick. This new revision fixes the missing trace. Other than that, it's the same board as before, but now doesn't have that ugly wire filling in for the missing trace. Right now we are waiting on our first build to complete the testing phase, but that should only take a day or two and might be available by the time you read this post.

Some of you may have noticed that we are having trouble keeping the new Arduino Uno in stock. We have had issues getting a good supply of them. One of the main reasons is that the Uno uses the PTH version of the ATmega328 IC. These are harder to get in large quantities and has resulted in a shortage of the Unos. Arduino has responded by releasing the SMD Uno which uses an SMD ATmega328. The two versions are identical except for the footprint of the IC. Of course, you can't remove the SMD IC without a hot-air station, but we have found that most people won't need to do this anyway.

That's our list for this week. Thanks for participating in Free Day and congratulations to everyone who were lucky enough to get money. We'll see you again next week for more products.

Comments 63 comments

  • Isn't it suspicious that he knew EXACTLY how long it would last? I TOLD YOU Free-Day was a scam!!!!

  • Big caveat with water-soluble flux: you MUST wash it off within 72 hours if you want your boards to last. It's far more corrosive than the rosin-based solders. And don't be fooled by water-soluble -- you have to scrub with hot DI or distilled water or drop it in a heated ultrasonic cleaner. Harbor Freight sells entirely serviceable models very, very cheap, so it's not a big deal.

  • RobertC.:

    If you've ever used leaded solder and then switched to lead-free, you know there's a pretty big difference. Our lead-free acts a LOT like leaded solder. Just try it out if you need some solder.
    I think I've got used to working with the lead-free, but I remember it being a bit of a struggle at first. Rework jobs would certainly be easier with something a bit more lead-like. So yeah, next order I'll make sure to try some out.
    p.s. What am I doing wrong that my replies/quotes don't appear inline? Is it a browser issue or is it PICNIC[1]?
    [1] Problem In Chair, Not In Computer.

  • N.Poole:

    Also... Uncalled-for correction, I'm sorry, I have NO IDEA why it was so important for me to call that out, lol.
    I'm not a chemist so I'm really talking out of my A**, you could be right for all I know, hahaha
    Uncalled-for counter-disclaimer: I'm not a chemist either, so I could be talking out of my proverbial too, but I recall reading the antimony argument a couple of years back (some solders, particularly plumbing solders have >5% antimony) and the informed opinion at the time was that it's not as bad as many other common metals.
    But my partner IS a chemist, so maybe I should ask her :)

  • Meh, antimony is less toxic than silver and WAY less toxic than lead. Antimony trioxide's not much good for you, but I don't think soldering makes any of that, so you should be ok.
    But forgive me for sounding like a cynic, what exactly is it that makes this solder so awesome?

    • If you've ever used leaded solder and then switched to lead-free, you know there's a pretty big difference. Our lead-free acts a LOT like leaded solder. Just try it out if you need some solder.

    • Well... no.
      Silver has toxic effects on, say, bacteria... yes.
      Not on humans so much... that's why fillings are still made out of it. (Some... mine aren't)
      And Antimony's compounds and toxic effects thereof are similar to Arsenic. (Although at .15% per volume, I'm not too worried about it in this case, lol)
      As far as Lead being more toxic, you're probably right about that, given that lead is neurotoxic whereas Antimony poisoning attacks the liver and kidneys.
      Like I said though, I'm not worried about it, PET bottles are probably leaching more Antimony into my drinks than I'll ever encounter soldering, lol.

      • Also... Uncalled-for correction, I'm sorry, I have NO IDEA why it was so important for me to call that out, lol.
        I'm not a chemist so I'm really talking out of my A**, you could be right for all I know, hahaha

      • Also... If you wanna know why it's so great why not just buy some and find out ;) lol

  • Oooh... I'd been wanting to try out that solder. Come ON people, send me my tax forms already. I need to spend my refund already!

  • RobertC.:

    If you guys want it, we carry it, simple as that.
    Nice to see that Sparkfun is so flexible.
    What are the chances to buy some SBCs from you (preferably ARM)? I understand that you get a lot from China, so it would be interesting to find some of their more elaborate products here.

    • SBCs and COMs wouldn't be a bad direction...
      Maybe some gumstix? Those are pretty nifty.
      Thumbs up at Beagleboard, tho, I haven't gotten one yet but I'd like to, I have a project that's screamin' for one, lol

      • It's a very nice piece of hardware (I have a US made BB clone), but you should be careful with the voltage levels on the pins. They are 1.8 V, not 3.3 V.

        • It would be nice to have a daughtercard for the Beagle Board with nice level shifters to deal with that issue.

    • Sparkfun as some BealgBoards...

      • I know. Some diversity wouldn't hurt, though. Do a Google search for armkits and you'll see what I'm talking about.

  • It's funny that so many of the new sparkfun products are similar to the new adafruit products. Who is copying who? My examples are the EL wire and now the addressable LED strips.

    • Both of us are just carrying what's popular really. I don't think we are copying each other. If you guys want it, we carry it, simple as that.

    • The first time I read about those led strips was from macetech months ago, and the EL wire is like and in/out fashion over the years, some years you are all over it, others its forgotten and then its just re-discovered, now its because all the Tron look-a-likes everything hype.

  • These product posts would be even better without the background musak.

    • eh, you should hear it without it.... it sounds very unprofessional as the background noise is annoying and distracting. we might try toning it down a bit, or use something less 'invasive'. It's hard though since we do have a working office right outside of where we shoot the video, so we need something to mask the sounds of people walking by and such.

      • If background noise is an issue, just DEMAND everybody to wear there slippers around the office when a video is being recorded?
        Nice work on freeday BTW, yes, I did join only a couple of days in advace, and yes that was the reason. Being from Belgium I thought I didn't have much chance, but the world is to those who dare to risk! :)
        I've known for your site for quite a while now and allways like the cool stuff you guys have. Just recently I'v gotten even more serious about electronics and get some cool stuff!
        Keep it up! :)

      • No. I say more music, make it dramatic. Like This American (or developer's) Life. Each product post a story of passion and humanity. If I am not moved to tears for 20-30% of product posts, you have failed.

      ...Sorry, I like the cheesy music, it adds to the aesthetic, I'm not sure I could describe the theme of SFE's Graphic design, videography and presentation, but there is one and i dig on it.
      ...that being said, if the final sound track was mastered differently it'd be nice, maybe a gate on the music or something to keep it from crowding when his voice and the music get close on the EQ.

  • ok... i spend my free order yesterday with some other things i wanted to buy...
    But now i want more things! like that display! xD

  • This is the kind of presentation that keeps a personal, small shop image to what you do, bravo. I love this stuff, It's like LEGO for grown ups and kids.

  • That e-text screen looks great. But what I really want is a few of those 128x32 graphics LCDs from Kent (their Part # 01594101208). They would be awesome for informational displays around the home !

  • Oh man, those addressable RGB strips are (almost) exactly the number one thing I wanted ou guys to find and stock!!
    I am definitely in for one unless you might be coming out with more spaced out ones (xmas lights for next year) - Is that in the cards at all?
    Either way, free day funds are gonna get something that blinks!

  • I'm psyched about e-paper. I've been trying to dig some up for a while now, it's not easy to get ahold of and the developer's kits are insanely pricey.
    Not that I really have an acute NEED for a bistable display in my next project, but it'd just be cool.
    Do you expect to stock some graphical e-paper displays in the future?

    • I'd also like to see color e-ink bitmap displays. It wouldn't surprise me if some cellphones in Asia are already using those.
      So if (or when) color e-ink matrix displays for cellphone exist, it will only be a matter of making a breakout board for them. If SparkFun ever sell something in the same size and aspect ratio as your 1.7" OLED display, I'll take one.

  • I have noticed that you guys have now videos on the products news. It is awesome !!!
    Great way to present new products, much more fun than reading about them and a plus to see them working !!

  • Did you really mean that the new solder is "water soluble"? That's, uh, troubling...
    We talking about the flux being water soluble, right?

    • Haha, yes, it's lead free and has a water-soluble flux core.
      Water soluble solder would be such a bummer

      • "Water soluble solder would be such a bummer"
        No problem! Just don't use your gizmo in the rain! ;-)

        • And keep it in a ziplock bag whenever possible.
          ...and don't use it if it's too humid out...
          ...oh and you probably shouldn't wipe away excess flux with a wet sponge...
          ...but yeah, you're right, it may not be so bad, hahaha
          (side note: Interesting to me that they move away from lead in solder and then replace it with Antimony... lol)

          • "(side note: Interesting to me that they move away from lead in solder and then replace it with Antimony... lol)
            What's got you lol'ing -- the toxicity of antimony or the primary source of the stuff? I've got to confess, I hadn't thought about either issue until you mentioned it.
            Of course, I'm going to be completely un-green and continue to use my big reel of Kester 44 solder. Besides, throwing out prematurely burned out tips isn't very green, now is it?

            • btw, I just ordered some of this stuff... I'm excited to see if it really is the best stuff ever, haha

            • I'm not so amused by the impact of mining its sulfide ores... although I'm sure there is an impact, it's surely nowhere near as big of an environmental impact as... well almost anything else we mine. The toxicity makes me 'lol'. (although, there is VERY little antimony in the solder, and some alloys are more toxic than other, and I in no way think the presence of antimony in these amounts in solder pose any sort of health or environmental threat) It's just funny to me, I like leaded solder but I'm moving away from it, taking my queue from the industry as a whole...
              I know it's a weird thing to notice but I have an eye for the subtle.
              And yeah, burn that 44 all you like, my friend, I drive and Jeep and smoke cigars so you won't hear any health and environmental arguments from this Vegetarian sandal-wearer, lol

      • not really if you used it correctly. correctly meaning being able to save that perf board i ruined...

  • Working on Saturday?!?
    (me too...)

  • Some of that solder is def. going on my free-day order...
    Hey, nice guess :P
    what do you wanna bet some idiot gets on here and goes:
    "Isn't it suspicious that he knew EXACTLY how long it would last? I TOLD YOU Free-Day was a scam!!!!"

    • There's no way I'm taking that bet... I think all of those people have already forgotten about our site by now. They are on to being mad about something else trivial.

      • Hahaha
        Fair enough, they've probably moved on to bigger and better things like... arguing about which Nickelback album is the best, or trying to prove that 9/11 was a hoax.

        • But that's not possible... They're all best! Nickelback is an epic win!

          • I picked a good neutral statement because no matter which side of the Nickelback issue you're on, there's no way you'd admit to them having a "best" album. lol

        • i think my guess was around 2:07:52 or something. i think i was off by a few minutes though

    • Isn't it suspicious that he knew EXACTLY how long it would last? I TOLD YOU Free-Day was a scam!!!!

  • I love how much real estate got freed up on the Uno by replacing the IC package, hahaha. It looks so empty

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