ElectroneX is the premier trade show for electronics design and assembly in Australia, and is held in Sydney and Melbourne in alternating years. This year, they were back in Sydney at the Australian Technology Park at Redfern, making it easy to attend.
The show floor was officially open on Wednesday 10th September from 10am to 6pm and on Thursday 11th September from 10am to 5pm. Preparations took place from about 2:30pm on Tuesday 9th September, and take-down occurred from 5pm to around midnight on Thursday 11th September.
Two years ago, when they were last in Sydney, I ended up missing out because I had something else going on that I couldn’t reschedule around. At that time, element14 was selling the original Raspberry Pi Model B’s, and I was still struggling to get my hands on it.
It was a big surprise as well as a big honour to be invited to demonstrate the new Raspberry Pi Model B+ for element14 at ElectroneX 2014. As a community member and enthusiast, I was enthusiastic about such an opportunity – it’s not everybody who can say that they’ve manned a trade show expo stand!
At the element14 Stand
The element14 stand was B11 this year, a large double-size stand with an eye-line to the entrance/exit doors. It was nice and bright, and eyecatching because of the lack of “standardized” banners and stall-frames.
On Tuesday, I came in at about 3pm to an almost completely set-up stand, and came in to check my XBMC demo and dump1090 ADS-B aircraft-tracking demo were functioning properly. We finalized the cable routes and items for display, and I was entrusted with the cabinet key for set-up.
On Wednesday, the first show day, I came in at 9:25am to an empty stall. First on the stall, I set up the demo and started roaming around for a quick view of everyone else’s stall. Before long, the element14 team members arrived with the (pricey) exhibits and we finalized the set-up. It was much the same for Thursday, with the exception of a new set of team members and the fact I turned up even earlier – public transport is sometimes a little unpredictable. I was the only one there at the stand for all of both days!
Initially, it seemed a little strange since I wasn’t actually an employee of element14 to be on-stand representing them, but my instincts (from my retail and teaching days) kicked in. It helped immensely that element14 is one of the shops I most enjoy buying things from and I know what they do, and how they work.
I had conversations with many people with a variety of backgrounds, including industrial designers, hobbyists, teachers, consultants, hams and managers with different ideas and motivations to get into the embedded systems space.
It proved to be both exciting and tiring to have been on my feet for a good amount of both days, and I almost lost my voice in the course of it all. However, it was exceptionally rewarding to see quite a few dedicated people who were willing to return to my (at times, inconveniently timed) aircraft tracking demonstration presentation and to be in contact with some other enthusiasts. When like minded people with a similar vision get together, it’s so easy to talk and bounce ideas off each other.
It seems that the Raspberry Pi is extremely recognizable – I actually decided to grab one board and have it on my lanyard – and when asked why I was wearing one, I would reply that “it’s extremely fashionable, the latest stuff … it’s in season!” Maybe I should stop making jokes.
(Titled: Worst pre-show selfie ever.)
The crowds were not consistent, with waves of people coming through interspersed with quiet periods. It seems a few people took advantage of our showfloor shop and special offer in getting themselves a new Model B+, enclosure, power supply, and NOOBS microSD card in various combinations.
It was just a bit of a shame that every time I ducked off for a quick check of other stands, there’d be someone there who is interested and waiting to talk to me. At the end of it, I didn’t end up taking many breaks at all – last time I did, I took it too late and there wasn’t any food left!
In all, I think it could only be called a success, and I definitely appreciated the supportive nature of the element14 staff which I had not had prior contact with. They were always up for a conversation, and their sense of humour was definitely important in passing the time during lulls. Of course, whenever there was a purchase request or something serious, I would have to defer to them … so it was great that they were around …
“… uh, it makes the PCB shiny.”
Yes … it does … but more importantly, it’s there to protect the circuitry from influences of its environment, such as moisture/humidity to ensure the circuitry performs properly in extreme circumstances.
I got a good laugh from this one though, and it helped me get through the day.
I did end up taking a can of the Chemtools stuff home for a bit of fun. Having worn a Raspberry Pi Model B+ all day on my lanyard, I was sure it would be damaged by ESD. When I got home, I gave it a test, and sure enough it behaved strangely – it took a few goes to boot up, and showed random coloured rectangles and locked up. But it would make a great board to test out the coating … and entomb it forever under a layer of acrylic.
The team member was right – it does make it shiny! After several coats, it seems to have built up a pretty good layer … so I guess the stuff works. But not having used it before, I’m not sure how well it deals with sharp edges or whether there are any pin-prick holes. I didn’t bother trying to mask any of the connectors – it’s not going to ever be used again anyway. I will keep this as one of my momentos of the show.
I suppose it would make a good layer to protect my case-less Arduinos provided the connectors are masked somehow.
A Visit from Ross Mitchell
In some unexpected turn, I was visited by Ross Mitchell while at the element14 stand, and told about his new domain and place for community projects around the Raspberry Pi at the very memorable http://raspberrypi.education. He also took the time to let us all know about the OzBerryPi hackerspace meetups every month which accommodate people of every experience level.
I suppose these resources could come in handy for some people who are getting started with the Raspberry Pi, but then he also took his hand in helping out customers on the stand! That was pretty unexpected and very nice of him!
Visiting the Other Stands
When I wasn’t busy at the element14 stand, I took some time to visit some of the other stands. Sometimes, they even took the time to come and visit us!
One of the stands I was most looking forward to visiting was the one for EEVBlog‘s Dave L. Jones. He’s a great character when it comes to his videos, with a great sense of humour and a level of experience I could only be envious of.
Meeting him in person was a bit difficult as he was inundated with people at his stall. It seems that his status as an internet celebrity cannot be understated! But having had the chance to meet him in person, he’s the most down-to-earth person and he always seems to have a smile on his face.
It turns out he had some freebies to give out at the show as well – something he calls the μRuler.
This was his original version of his ruler, and when I took one home from the first day of the show, I thought it was pure genius and the best abuse of PCB manufacturing I’ve seen for a long time!
The thing has very handy drilled holes along the side which comes in very handy to sort out very small drill bits (I’ve dropped my packet of bits more than once, and lets say, it’s definitely very useful!). It also has conversions for ounces of copper to micrometers, different mil-spacing rulers, SMD footprint tables with power dissipation, mil to millimeters, inches conversions, voltage spacing, current for given temperature rise for traces and VIAs, square pin to round hole conversions and tantalum size codes.
But then, it seems, there’s a newer version of it which I got the next time I turned up at the stand.
This time, there’s a few more conversions and even an “ohms law wheel”. There’s also some lead forming spacing at the end of the ruler. This thing is incredibly useful – it takes someone technical to appreciate it! It also got me thinking about what I’ve been doing wrong all these years …
The first thing I thought was, this thing definitely deserves a mention on my blog, and earns him a link! So here it is – if you’ve ever wanted to see video teardowns, or learn about designing things, Dave’s style is very enthusiastic and energetic and his humour is refreshing.
While at the stand, I was also fortunate enough to have seen Rod Elliot of Elliot Sound Products. While the name won’t be familiar to all, the ESP website at sound.au.com has been a great source of schematics and information on analog design topics, as well as other fundamental tutorials about electronics. I learnt quite a bit from his site, and while he does sell PCBs and kits, if you’re able, you can always build these things yourself! It’s also interesting to be able to put a face to a name.
While we were there, I also had a reciprocal visit from Ng Hwee Choon of Tektronix/Keithley who recognized me from the PA1000 RoadTest I did earlier on. I enjoyed visiting their stand and looking at the latest 6-in-1 Tektronix scopes being demoed on the MDO Demo Board.
Some of the companies I was already familiar with were there – Emona were demonstrating the latest Rigol Ultravision oscilloscopes, Hammond were showing their ranges of enclosures, Keysight Technologies were there with their new brand (formerly Agilent Technologies), Congatec were showing their computer-on-module and single-board computers. Other big names include Silicon Chip magazine, Mathworks (Matlab), Entech and Weller just to name a few.
Overall, I’d have to say that despite it being very tiring, I enjoyed my time at ElectroneX, both as an exhibitor and as a visitor. It’s a bit of a different event, given the trade-only nature of it, but it’s been humbling to have been amongst the most important people of the electronics industry.