Recycling used electronic gadgets is a fantastic way to build a parts inventory for your projects. It is extremely useful to always have a few parts on hand for when you need them. However, when salvaging parts, some devices prove more bountiful than others.
Devices like these are a goldmine of parts. In all of these items you will be able to recover small gears, motors, sensors and switches, not to mention a plethora of circuit boards with components that can easily be unsoldered for use in other projects.
These devices usually have a few useful parts that can be extracted. The parts used in the circuit boards for cell phones are typically too small to unsolder from the circuit board. The only useful parts that can be recovered are speakers, microphones and vibrator motors. Cell phones may also contain a tiny CMOS camera which is usually too small to be able to easily integrate into other projects.
Items like these typically have nothing of value in them for our robotics projects. You will probably only find one useful item.
In addition to the items listed above there are some rare items which you do not want to pass up if you have the opportunity to get. These items include electronic children’s toys, treadmills, and power wheelchairs. Any children’s toy with electronic parts is going to have a bountiful selection of high quality parts. In addition, treadmills have a selection of motors in them. As for power wheelchairs, if you can get one of these you pretty much have a mobile robot base already. All that needs to be done is to set up a remote connected to the control panel on the chair and you’re good to go.
Gear boxes are gold for robotics projects and if you strip one down to just a motor and a pile of gears then you have lost a valuable part. Gear boxes make it very easy to move parts on your robot and you will find that many times just a motor on its own will not suffice. Circuit boards are another valuable resource. There will be times when you can tap into a circuit board and use it, as well as other times when you may just need one capacitor from the board. Some parts are more useful as a whole.
Some electronic devices contain components or materials which can be potentially hazardous. All electronic devices contain the toxic element Lead. Lead is used for the solder which attaches electronic parts to the circuit board.
Be careful not to damage batteries, batteries contain acid and other toxic chemicals. Some batteries contain Cadmium, an extremely toxic metal.
Most smoke detectors contain a artificially produced radioisotope, americium-241. You’re not at risk for radiation poisoning from standing near a smoke detector but don’t take these items apart.
Infrared lasers are used in cd and dvd players, be careful if testing a part from one of these devices. Shining any laser into your eye will damage it, but the human eye can’t see infrared light so you can damage your eyes without you even being aware of it.
Capacitors in old monitors and televisions can store a charge of several hundred volts without even being plugged into an electrical socket.
Most devices are completely safe to take apart. It is better to be safe than sorry so do research on the devices you are taking apart. You will soon learn to quickly identify what gadgets contin useful parts and what ones you don’t need to waste your time with. Stay safe and learn what these used devices have to offer.
Large sheets or blocks of various types of metal and polymers. These items can be machined or milled into nearly anything.