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MacroFab Engineering Podcast #185

What You Are Designed To Do - A Joe Grand Manufacturing Adventure

Related Topics
Joe Grand: The Origin Story

Guest Joe Grand aka "Kingpin" discusses the beginnings of DEF CON electronic badges.

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August 14, 2019, Episode #185

The KINGPIN returns after two years to discuss off-shore versus on-shore manufacturing, Tariffs and Chinese Customs, and Defcon Badge designs.

The MacroFab Engineering Podcast Design Contest sponsored by Mouser Electronics deadline has been extended! We have cash prizes up to $1000 for the winners. The deadline is August 31st and it is closing fast! Here's more information!

Joe Grand

  • Also known as Kingpin
  • Computer engineer, hardware hacker, product designer, teacher, advisor, runner, daddy, honorary doctor, TV host, member of legendary hacker group L0pht Heavy Industries
  • Proprietor of Grand Idea Studio.
  • Has been creating, exploring, and manipulating electronic systems since the 1980s
  • Previous podcast appearance was on MEP EP#73: Joe Grand: The Origin Story

On-shore Verse Off-shore Manufacturing

  • Pros and cons?
  • Dealing with the difficulties
    • Time difference
    • Language barrier
    • Cultural differences
  • Impact of tariffs
  • Supply Chain Security
  • Delivering instructions for unique and custom designs
  • Production: What is it like to spin up 30K units?

Defcon Badge Design and Manufacturing Challenges

  • Hardware and Software timeline
  • What made you go with the Kinetis KL27 Microcontroller?
  • Near field magnetic induction (NFMI)
    • What made you go with NFMI verse NFC or RFID type technologies?
    • How does NFMI work?
    • “How the hell were you able to buy NXH2261UK’s? I’ve been watching this part ever since it came out & I still don’t have a data sheet!” -Tom Paden from Hackaday comment section
  • How do you design for abuse knowing ~30k people are going to bang the living hell out of that hardware

Additional Questions

  • Based on the talk you gave this year and releasing some information early. Will Defcon change its policy of keeping digital badges super secret? If hardware folks had some lead time we could actually get some crazy stuff done at the con.
  • Design reason behind no SAO connector on the badge?
  • What do you want to see out of defcon 28?
  • Who’s a better engineer? Matt Damon from the Martian or Matt Damon from interstellar?

Visit our Public Slack Channel and join the conversation in between episodes!

Joe Grand of Grand Idea Studio showing off the Defcon 27 badge.

Joe Grand of Grand Idea Studio showing off the Defcon 27 badge.

How the Lanyard works on the Defcon 27 badge.

How the Lanyard works on the Defcon 27 badge.

All the different types of badges for Defcon 27.

All the different types of badges for Defcon 27.

About the Hosts

Parker dillmann
  Parker Dillmann

Parker is an Electrical Engineer with backgrounds in Embedded System Design and Digital Signal Processing. He got his start in 2005 by hacking Nintendo consoles into portable gaming units. The following year he designed and produced an Atari 2600 video mod to allow the Atari to display a crisp, RF fuzz free picture on newer TVs. Over a thousand Atari video mods where produced by Parker from 2006 to 2011 and the mod is still made by other enthusiasts in the Atari community.

In 2006, Parker enrolled at The University of Texas at Austin as a Petroleum Engineer. After realizing electronics was his passion he switched majors in 2007 to Electrical and Computer Engineering. Following his previous background in making the Atari 2600 video mod, Parker decided to take more board layout classes and circuit design classes. Other areas of study include robotics, microcontroller theory and design, FPGA development with VHDL and Verilog, and image and signal processing with DSPs. In 2010, Parker won a Ti sponsored Launchpad programming and design contest that was held by the IEEE CS chapter at the University. Parker graduated with a BS in Electrical and Computer Engineering in the Spring of 2012.

In the Summer of 2012, Parker was hired on as an Electrical Engineer at Dynamic Perception to design and prototype new electronic products. Here, Parker learned about full product development cycles and honed his board layout skills. Seeing the difficulties in managing operations and FCC/CE compliance testing, Parker thought there had to be a better way for small electronic companies to get their product out in customer's hands.

Parker also runs the blog,, where he posts his personal projects, technical guides, and appnotes about board layout design and components.

Stephen Kraig
  Stephen Kraig

Stephen Kraig began his electronics career by building musical oriented circuits in 2003. Stephen is an avid guitar player and, in his down time, manufactures audio electronics including guitar amplifiers, pedals, and pro audio gear. Stephen graduated with a BS in Electrical Engineering from Texas A&M University.

Special thanks to whixr over at Tymkrs for the intro and outro!

Related Podcasts

Joe grand origin story

Joe Grand: The Origin Story

Guest Joe Grand aka "Kingpin" discusses the beginnings of DEF CON electronic badges.