Dog Days of Summer

When Downtown Dogs in Dover,

Not so steamy

Not so steamy

NH noticed that the hot dogs weren’t, they came to Deesigned Studio to see if we could figure out why. Aside from not getting warm, the steamer was also tripping the GFI outlet in the kitchen. Strangely, our meter could find no connection between the hot and ground connections, so this was a bit of a puzzle.
Finally, taking the thermostat apart, we noticed that it had been arcing for quite some time. We installed a new thermostat, and the steamer is operating just like new, and hot dog fans in Dover are happy once again!

Field Day Filter

IMGP0535 IMGP0536 IMGP0537Based on a design by Lew Gordon, K4VX, this is one of three filters that will be used by the Great Bay Amateur Radio club for Field Day, this June.

This filter is for the 40 meter band, and the other two will be for 20 meters and 10 meters.

During Field Day, multiple transmitters and receivers will operate at the same time. The proximity of these stations result in interference between them. These filters will allow operation of the three stations with minimum interference between them.

Do you have a unique problem that requires a unique solution? Contact us!

A solar powered music box


John came to Deesigned Studio with an interesting problem. His wife had a music box made by her father, but they’d never heard it play. It appeared to be solar powered, but they couldn’t seem to make it work, so John asked if we could do something with it. We found that while the original solar panels would power the motor in bright light, there wasn’t sufficient power to run the music mechanism.
So we modified the design a bit, with a larger solar panel on top, rather than beneath the tinted plastic, and we had the solar panel charge a pair of high value electrolytic capacitors, and we added a switch so that the music box would be charged in the sunlight, but played somewhere else. And years after it was first made, John and his wife were able to hear the music box that her father had built years before. (John was kind enough to supply these photographs for us.) photo 1 photo 2 photo 3
Certainly we could build a solar-powered music box for you – or one powered by a miniature steam engine, or Sterling engine. We can build music boxes that you can program to play any song you like. But the point is that what we do at Deesigned Studio is to make your imagination come to life. If you can dream it, and you wish to see it happen, then give us a call and see if we can help you make it a reality.
Do you have an idea for a brand-new product, but you need an engineer to design the hardware and the software? Do you want to see if something is possible? Then, whether it’s as simple as a solar-powered music box, or as complicated as a brand new electronic musical instrument, give us a call, stop on by for a visit, and we’ll see if we can’t make your dream a reality.

Update on the X-harp

It’s been something over two years since Wayne From Maine came to Deesigned Studio to build a brand new instrument – the X-harp. Right now, we’re busy with the final touches for our first production model, which we expect to have for sale later this year. To give you an idea of what this instrument can do, here is Wayne improvising on Moondance.

The X-harp

About two years ago, Wayne Read (AKA Wayne from Maine) came to my office and asked if I knew anyone who might be able to help him build an electronic harmonica. It was an interesting challenge – he wanted an instrument that could sound pretty much like any other instrument.

Having worked in the MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical-Systems) industry, it was relatively easy to recognize that a MEMS pressure transducer could be used to detect the air pressure at the mouthpiece – the next issue was to use those signals to create actual sound.
We found something called the MIDI CPU by a company called Highly Liquid, and our first prototype used this to control an external synthesizer. For a proof of concept, this worked well, as you can see here:
This worked to show us that what we wanted to do was possible, but there were some drawbacks. For one thing, Wayn wanted some dynamamics – he is, after all, a musician! I tried a few things with the MIDI CPU, and with using a VCA (Voltage controlled amplifier) and modulating the output of the external synthesizer with that, but it proved a bit unsatisfactory.

In our development process, I became familiar with Cypress Semiconductor and their PSoC product. I realized that with a bit more knowledge, I could construct a more dedicated MIDI engine, designed specifically for the X-harp. So while maintaining the first version of the X-harp, we thought about what features we would want in a more advanced version.

  • It would need to have individual volume on a per-hole basis
  • It would produce sounds internally
  • It would have a functional user interface
  • It would have external MIDI capability
  • It would be quick and responsive
  • multiple tunings – major, minor, blues, pentatonic, etc.
  • It could be field-upgradeable
  • It would have an internal rechargeable power source.
  • It would have a joystick for effects such as vibrato and tremolo.
  • And a host of other features we’re still dreaming up.

So I began development of the hardware and firmware, and the Cypress Semiconductor PSoC with its ARM core has proved to be an amazing platform to work with. I found a digital synthesis IC that we implemented internally, which I’m really happy with, and overcame the problem of producing sound at different volumes on a per-hole basis. This was a huge lesson in MIDI programming, because no other wind instrument operates in this fashion. While most keyboards are capable of playing different notes at different volumes, they aren’t required to duplicate the breath dynamics of a wind instrument.

The approach I took with the X-harp was to consider each hole in the X-harp as a separate MIDI channel. This has the added benefit of being able to assign different instruments to different holes – much like a keyboard split, but on a per-hole basis. The result is a very playable instrument. Here is Wayne playing one piece on the second prototype:
So what’s left? The joystick is working, but we don’t have any videos of that yet. We have an internal battery, and we’re finishing the charging circuit. We will be adding a headphone amplifier and USB support so the instrument can be upgraded in the field.
Wayne is building some awesome cases and mouthpieces with his print-bot, but for production, we both have work to do. I’ll be designing the circuit board, and he’ll finalize a case design, and then we’ll be able to get them manufactured – hopefully sometime in the next few months!

This is more than the story of a product – it’s a demonstration of what Deesigned Studio can do for you as well. The skills involved in this product are the skills that can help your next product come to fruition. From programming, embedded systems, mixed signal design, circuit board layout, fine-pitch prototyping by hand and working hand-in-hand with mechanical designers, all with an eye to creativity and thinking “outside the box” – these are the skills that truly enable something to become more than an idea.

“What if” is a great question! But finding the answer to that question takes dedication, talent and creativity. Deesigned Studio is there to help you answer that question. Feel free to contact us.

Able Residential and Community Options

Able Residential and Community Options, in Manitowoc and Two Rivers Wisconsin assists children, families and young adults with special needs. They wanted a web site that reflected their corporate culture, and their child-centric philosophy. The web site needed to be something that their non-technical staff could use to keep the public aware of what they were doing, without the need to know HTML code. They also wanted a mechanism to communicate with their employees.

They could have purchased a web site package and, using templates, built something on their own. They could have found someone to design something that partially achieved their goals. Instead, they came to Deesigned Studio, and now have an extensible website that fulfils their current needs, and which can grow as their needs grow.


One of the skills everyone who works in the electronics industry in any sort of hands-on fashion requires is soldering. Soldering is how connections between electronic components and wires, or between components and a circuit board is made. If that connection is faulty, then the circuit is interrupted and current cannot flow between the components or circuit elements. To make a good connection, sufficient heat, but not too much heat, must be applied to the joint to be soldered. 

To some, it seems counter-intuitive, but to avoid overheating components during the soldering process, having enough heat to heat the joint quickly is the best solution. Metcal makes some fine solder stations that are able to heat solder joints very quickly. This means that the heat does not need to be applied to the joint for nearly as long as with a low-powered iron.

If this doesn’t make sense, consider this … heat moves along the conductors. An iron with insufficient heat will be on those conductors for a long time, and the heat will be drawn away from the joint, and into the components which are larger, and act as heat sinks. On the other hand, an iron that is able to heat the joint quickly will be able to make the solder flow more quickly. Then, the heat is removed. While the initial temperature of the joint was higher, the total thermal energy applied will actually be less than with a lower temperature, inefficient iron.

This also means that the solder tips should be in good condition. A dirty tip will be less efficient at transmitting that thermal energy directly to the solder joint.

Metcal MX-500

Metcal solder / rework station

Deesigned Studio

Deesigned Studio makes available a wide array of skills and abilities, allowing small business to achieve what was once only available to larger corporations with significant capital. A broad range of experience, creativity and intuition, coupled with relationships with some incredibly talented and creative associates, enable us to help you take what’s in your imagination and bring it to reality.