Tag Archives: repair

Repairing a Canon G11 Dial

I take most of the photos for my blog with a beat-up Canon PowerShot G11. It’s an older prosumer camera with a known hardware issue: the control dial for the manual settings will gradually fail, and setting exposure, shutter speed, and manual focus becomes progressively more difficult and eventually impossible.

The fix is pretty simple if you’ve got a small Phillips screwdriver, an electronics cleaning solvent, and some patience. I followed the steps on this forum, and took pictures with my phone as I went along.

Apparently the latest in the PowerShot line doesn’t have this problem, but I’m not one to skip a chance to vivisect a gadget. Also, the discretionary budget for electronics in Casa de Zheng is tapped out.

WARNING: This will void your warranty, might destroy your camera, yadda yadda yadda. Proceed at your own risk. Take the battery out first, so an errant slip of your screwdriver doesn’t short something in the camera.

Tinkering 101 tip: Have an ice cube tray, egg carton, or other segmented container handy to separate the screws for each step.

Also, never, ever work near a floor register. Trust me on this.

Step 1: Remove the screw next to the preview button.

Step 2: Remove the screws on the bottom of the camera.

Step 3: Remove the screws on the left side of the camera. The strap harness is a separate piece and will come off easily.

Step 4: Remove the screw on the right side of the camera, next to the AV door.

Step 5: Open the AV door and remove the screw inside.

Step 6: Gently pry open the case with a flat tool and pull the case straight back. Some fiddling may be required to get things apart. There’s a ribbon cable holding things together, so don’t yank too hard.

Step 7: Flip the little tab holding the ribbon cable in place upwards. Be gentle.

Step 8: Remove the clear plastic covering these screws, and then remove the screws. Gently pry the metal piece off, making sure to save the small L-shaped bracket on the lower left.

Here’s the the dial assembly.

Step 9: This is where the magic happens. Lift the front of the dial away from its contact pad a little bit. Don’t try to pop it off, just create some space between the two pieces. Spray your solvent into this space. I just dribbled some isopropyl alcohol in there and then rotated the dial around a bunch of times to clean out the mystery gunk that was causing my dial to fail.

Follow these steps in reverse order to reassemble. I used some packing tape to replace the plastic removed in step 8.

Getting the ribbon cable back into its socket can be a little tricky, but the rest of the case snaps back together in less than a minute.

How does my toaster work?

TL;DR summary: I fixed a busted toaster in 16 minutes without burning or electrocuting myself. HUGE WIN. Also: toasters are more complicated than you’d think.

WARNING: Grody photo of a crumb-crusted toaster follows.

Our toaster stopped working a week ago, sending ripples of calamity through our breakfast routine. Then the family went away for Thanksgiving and upon our return I noticed that the toaster had failed to heal itself in our absence.

The toast wouldn’t stay down. Push the plunger, the bread pops right back up. I supposed maybe a spring had come loose, so I popped the cover off and took a look at the mechanism.

As I worked I was half-hoping that I’d screw it up badly enough that I’d need to buy a new toaster and use this one as the body for a toasterbot or something.

No springs seem to be out of place, and nothing looks bent, broken, or obviously amiss. No butter or fried mice gumming up the works, although there’s about half a pound of toast particles rattling around in there.

Ho ho, what’s this? This seems like an awful lot of electronics for something as simple as a toaster. Bears further investigation, obviously.

When the plunger’s down, the little plastic lever to the right drops a metal strip across the two contacts, completing a circuit.

And what’s up with that coil? Electricity flowing through that coil creates a magnetic field, which will keep the metal strip and in turn, the plunger, stuck in the down position.

A timer elsewhere in the unit must turn off the electromagnet when the toaster thinks the toast is ready, releasing the spring-loaded lever.

So. If the circuit were to fail, the electromagnet wouldn’t keep the plunger in the down position.

Sure enough, there was a crumb shorting out the electromagnet. A quick puff of air and she’s working again.

Twenty bucks saved.

Repairing a Toy with 3D Printing

My daughter bought an inexpensive headlamp recently, and like many inexpensive toys, it broke within hours of purchase. She can’t wear it anymore because part of the buckle assembly snapped off and we managed to lose the broken piece before she could glue it back together.

Here’s the damage.

This is a perfect opportunity to fire up the MakerBot Replicator.

If you look carefully in the back of the photo you’ll see an AppleCore earbud wrap, which I highly recommend if you’ve got a bazillion small cables in your life. AppleCores are great stocking stuffers for geeks, BTW, and the holiday shopping season is nigh.

Moving on: let’s test one of my expectations about Living In The Future: in The Future, one will be able to repair broken household items quickly and easily using a 3D printer.

TL;DR version: we don’t live in The Future yet. But we’re getting there. This whole process took about an hour and a half of human-time.

The first step is to get a scan of the broken part. Scanning it with 123DCatch is probably too much hassle for what’s basically a flat object, so I put the headlamp down on a flatbed scanner and covered it with a few sheets of office paper and a black piece of cloth to keep too much light from getting in.

And then a little levels adjustment in Photoshop to bring out the contour I need for tracing. I’m going to add an entirely new backing to the headlamp instead of trying to replace just the broken bit.

I brought the photo into Maya, and traced the edges with NURBS curves. Next, extruded the poly surface, made sure the dimensions were correct, and exported to ReplicatorG. After 45 minutes of vertex wrangling I had this shape:

The slice and print went quickly. I glued the 3D printed part to the original with JB Weld.

(JB Weld also makes a great stocking stuffer for geeks. I once owned a ’92 Toyota Corolla [R.I.P. Felipe] that was 30% JB Weld by weight, not including the zip ties and the fuel door I machined out of an old PC case.)

Wait 24 hours to cure, and we’re done.

Totally functional, if not the most beautiful repair ever. I debated putting the STL for this up on Thingiverse, but this model is useful to exactly one person in the world so there’s not a lot of point in sharing it. If you must have one, email me or DM me.

Why We Don’t Live in The Future Just Yet: The barrier to entry on doing this at home is still pretty high for most people– computers and software are cheap, but the 3D printer required to do this hasn’t hit the sub-$300 range yet. Five years, maybe?

The technical skills for working in 3D aren’t too common yet either, but the easy availability of apps like SketchUp and TinkerCAD will take care of that in time.

BUT. I could see a service like this being offered at your local hardware store in The Future. Bring in your busted genechtagazoink and an eager nerdling will drop the part in a yellow, overbuilt scanner made by DeWalt, flop the geometry around in some yet-to-be-announced Autodesk product, and then print you a replacement part while you wait, sort of like the way house keys are copied now.

(If you ever meet me in person and want to start a good rant about legacy technology, ask me how I feel about house keys.)

Naturally, I found the broken-off piece this morning. Next to the fridge. Feh.