Connection problem with modules

@pmdillon Just a thought here, but are your kiddos using the shoes or mounting boards? If the kiddos move the bits even a little they sometimes will disconnect and it is hard to tell visibly that they have done it. I have found that the shoes help to alleviate that issue. If the bitsnaps (legs) are not loose and the connections are clean this could be the problem.

Hi @tinytreasures1,

I think it will be highly appreciated by the whole Littlebits community if you could please share your final version of your “Proper Care and Handling” instructions…
So we can all learn from it… :blush:

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Oh I would be happy to do that.

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Sorry for this ‘bump’ but i wonder if there are general issues with stable connections between modules. I have many littlebits modules, used mainly for demonstrations and without any additional mounting - just the magnetic snaps.

With brand new modules, the connections usually seem satisfactory as long as the bits are on a flat surface. combinations over 3 or 4 bits soon become problematic, but at least if the modules line up, they connect OK.

I am now about 3 or 4 months after first use. Most modules have seen adult and demo use only, but have not been used for may be a month. I am finding that most modules no longer connect reliably. Often, there is no response at all from output bits to the control input. Wriggling the bits eventually gets the required response, but the connections seem very fragile and unstable. This is not related to snaps becoming disconnected from the circuit boards. It is just the connection between modules. The gold-plated snap contacts easily get blocked with eraser swarf and can easily bend inside the snap so they no longer spring in and out correctly. I have some fibre-glass cleaning pencils used for contact cleaning but again I am worried about any debris getting stuck in the connector.

Given that a very high proportion of my modules have become far less reliable in such a short period of gentle use, I wonder how other users are getting along with theirs.

Hiya @JDTech, If you are worried about residue from an eraser (I clean mine with a regular pencil eraser, and do not experience the problems you describe), try a micro fiber cloth. Don’t let people eat while using them, and when not in use, put them in a closed box.

I clean my bits’ contacts after half a dozen uses or so.

If you would like, we can troubleshoot with you and give you some additional assistance. Just drop us a line at support@littleBits.cc with reference to this thread and I’d be happy to help you out!

Generally speaking, I would always recommend cleaning with dry, clean cloths rather than anything that could produce unwanted debris…

I have wanted to hurl my little bits against a wall for all the problems I have had with lousy connectivity between bits … and this is THE answer. I just cleaned the bits I used most with an eraser and they work great again. Thanks so much for this information! (I use a white eraser on a pencil tip then a brush to make sure no debris was left behind.)

Against my better judgement I just had ordered new audio bits, thinking that USB power input or clips between bits would solve this. I had done all kinds of searches, obviously using the wrong terms, to find other with this problem. (I don’t snap bits to boards, just use the magnetic connection). My bits aren’t used by many, just me and my son. But this problem has been a hugely negative part of my little bits experience, which is otherwise wonderful. I love them, especially the audio/synth, but ultimately they became frustrating and useless. So why isn’t the issue more public and the solution as well - If this was more of a front page item in a troubleshooting FAQ, I wonder how many people might be able to avoid the frustration I had.
Anyway, didn’t mean to rant at all but I am just so happy to find a solution

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Thanks for the kudos @ThompsonO - I’m glad the eraser trick worked for you.

In addition to cleaning, handling is also very important. I tell anyone who uses my bits not to touch the ends with the magnets and contacts. I also store them in a plastic compartmented box that closes tight.

Without knowing your son’s habits, sticky or oily hands (such as from handling while eating) get the bits gummed up real fast, so we don’t eat while playing with littleBits. And the standing rule is to wash and dry hands before and after lab work of any kind. This goes a long way toward keeping the bits clean to start with.

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Thanks for the white eraser trick.

I’ve got some 99% isopropyl alcohol (from Bartells), this is what LittleBits support suggested.
But if white erasers work I might try that first.

One suggestion I have is be very careful with bit shoes!! They’re not visible from the top, and if you try to snap them loose without realizing the shoes are there… ur bits might get bent!

I’ve done exactly that with the velcro shoes! A fingernail between the shoe, and the edges of the two bits splits 'em apart with a single flick, but ya have to know it’s there, … Right!?

Isopropyl alcohol is very useful for cleaning electronics - it’s great for removing flux, or other organic/oily residue. But I try to keep it as a last resort, especially where glue, paint or plastic products are involved. Alcohol is slightly acidic (although isopropyl is less corrosive than methanol by far), and you never know what surface reactions happen even if the substance is not soluble in alcohol. Certain thin polymer films, such as styrene and urethane, may become prone to cracking after alcohol cleaning. Also it’s flammable and requires ventilation.

When I do use solvents, I apply it to a q-tip and daub it on, then flip the swab over and remove it.

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Hello, where having a very similar problem.

We have tried everthing suggested - cleaning the contacts, supergluing any loose ones etc. The symptoms are various - but clearly entail poor conectivity. This however does not appear to be just confined to the direct 3 point connections on littlebit modules. Is there a problem with oxidisation within or between conncections in the modules ? Are the tiny sprung connecting points loosing there spring and therefore not connecting? This seems to be system wide and very troubllesome - all it takes is one in operative connection, particularly with the synth kit, and the whole construction does not work. We have had our little bits for a couple of years now and this problem is rendering them all but useless…

Hi Redmond,

I’m sorry to hear you’re having trouble. I would love to have our support team get a look at your Bits. Can you please send some photos of the connectors to support@littlebits.cc?

Best,

Katie

We haven’t tried to us our Library since the end of last school year. I have an afterschool circuit class today and I will have them give them a go. First we’ll wipe them off, then white eraser them and see if they work. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Aloha,
Matthew

THANK YOU!! The white eraser suggestion has reduced my frustration tremendously. The kids get excited using littleBits, but when the final design doesn’t work, due to unreliable connections, the whole mood changes during a workshop! I have now worked cleaning of the littleBits into the project of the day… #happykids #troubleshootingskills :blush:

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I have a connectivity problem with the pins being recessed on the left connector of a bit. Is anyone aware of a technique to restore these to their normal sticking-out state?

Hi there! Please send us a photo of this to support@littlebits.com and we’ll take a look for you.

Here’s my semi-broken i35 next to a w18 in good pin condition for comparison:

They are probably dirty with finger grease, etc. Take a swab (like a q-tip) and wet it with alcohol, rub it on the connectors, then press on them with a fingernail to wiggle them around. You may need to repeat this a coupe times.

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In this case they are recessed and simply do not make physical contact.

I just took another broken bit as a donor, de-soldered both connectors and re-soldered the good one onto the good i35. A simple solder pump was ineffective for me, some good quality braid more-or-less did the job. The 5v is straightforward, the signal pin needs care to avoid a nearby component, the ground is very hard due to requiring a LOT of heat - there must be a copper plane on the pcb dissipating it. I made a real mess and also melted the connectors a little. With all the wiggling I was lucky not to mess-up the donor connector. To my great surprise, I now have one working i35 module!

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Hi @kjw, thanks for posting these, however we do need an email at support@littlebits.com to get the replacement request started. Let us know if you’re still having trouble.