May 11, 2016

How to support Zeptobars

Our Motto is "We love microchips - that's why we boil them in acid" - we love what we do regardless on whether we get paid, and results are kept open source under permissive "CC BY 3.0" license to benefit as many as possible. I guess you've also noticed that we do not run any advertisements on our blog - they generate way more suffering for the readers than money. Same goes for "branded" merchandise - all these t-shirts and prints leave majority of the money to middleman party.

Absence of external funding meant that our budget was somewhat tight. Main microscope was Chinese one with most parts being replaced to used Olympus ones over time. We managed to improve image quality quite a bit: compare one of our first shots 3 years ago and 1 year ago. But the limits of what we can reach with our own resources are already visible and every next step is much more expensive than any previous ones. This is where you can help us move forward if you find our work interesting.

We are not going to make a living out of the blog. Any funding from our Patreon campaign or direct donations will go exclusively to equipment upgrades and to get more interesting chips for decapsulation - all to get higher-quality content to our readers, as always, open source.

If you like our work on microchip photographs you can finally support us using one of the following ways:

Let people know about us

We always appreciate anyone reposting our photographs and articles with a link back to us. Feel free to use our materials for any educational, work and fun activities. The more people read us - the warmer feeling we get when heating up the acid.

Support us via Patreon

Patreon allows you to schedule small donation every time we publish new die shot. We aim to publish 4 dies per month, but often it drops to 1-2 per month due to high load. Some "pledge levels" also offer few extra perks for the Patrons.

You can always cancel your pledge or set specific monthly maximum. Our compaign is here.

We are grateful to our current and past Patreon supporters: Michael Zappe,, Adam Mayer, Richi, Game Preservation Society, Josh Bluett, Michalis Pappas, Robert W Miller, Charles Lohr, MaximusPsychosis, jslee, Graham Sutherland, Suzanne Gildert, Project 54/74, D J Capelis, Full Name, DeuxVis, Erwin Kooi, Nurelin, Mikhail Sokolov, Evgeny Boger, Andrey Alekseenko, Vladislav Knyazkov, Anastasia, John Peterson, Matt Jones, John Rehwinkel, Tomáš Mládek, John Murray, Tomáš Franke, Eric Smith, Kent Lundberg, The LED Artist, furrtek, Mikkel Green, Nikita Sokolov, Ryan Rix, Brian, Alexander Purikov, Thomas, Artem V, Joan Montserrat, Raoul, Eugene Sandulenko, Ciaran Geaney, JP Burke, Kean Maizels, Frank Buss, JM Blandin, Thanapat, DextersLab2013, Jonas, Martin Konečný, Robert Perry, Gabriel N, John Schussler, Oom Lout, Hunter Schallhorn.

We also have:
Bitcoin: 1ZeptoBhGA4wewwVv3BZTYyaBtc87nMNg

If you represent a company - drop us a mail and we'll figure out how to allow you to support us with minimal bureaucracy and produce more interesting material for the readers (could be especially interesting if you already suffer from fake ICs...).

Help us with software

If you are a software developer interested in image processing, there are a number of things you can do that would allow to increase image quality and make our work more automated (and get more results in the same time) not only at Zeptobars but for everyone working in the area. We will provide datasets and examples for these interested:
  • Help with a script or contribute to Hugin to allow pre-calibrated chromatic aberration correction done during panorama stitching. This will allow to have only 1 image re-sampling vs 2 we have now (chromatic correction using tca_correct + panorama stitching with geometric distortion correction and rotation).
  • Contribute to Hugin to improve control points detection on regular structures (like DRAM/SRAM arrays), where control points should only be detected in non-regular parts.
  • Contribute to Hugin to support "sequential XY" control points detection, where global coordinates of each 2 consecutive frames are translated by X or Y, but not both. X/Y vector common for all frames to be detected (basically, angle between XY stage and camera). This will greatly improve CP detection on regular structures with low overlap.
  • Contribute to Hugin to improve multi-threading in cpfind (it's not always using all cores on >4 core machines on all stages of processing).
  • Contribute to Hugin to improve final panorama stitching speed for large projects, improve CPU utilization on large CPUs (25+ frames). Possible "RAM vs speed" trade-off.

Send us some interesting chips

It could ether be your idea, or something from our wanted list:
  • Chips in metal can package, especially early analog/PLL/low-density logic.
  • Intel 4004 and other historical pre-1985 chips, especially "firsts" and "originals" (like original 1971 Signetics 555, TMC 1795 e.t.c).
  • Civilian dual band GPS/GNSS (BCM47755 e.t.c).
  • Early metal-gate CMOS.
  • Known pairs of fake/genuine parts.
  • Leakage-hardened parts (200°C Silicon e.t.c).
  • Non-silicon products (SiC, GaN, diamond e.t.c).
  • Precision analog/RF/ADC/DAC.
  • SDR chips (like AD9361/AD9364).
  • Tiny/advanced packages (SOT23-6, DFN, QFN and smaller, chip-scale packages).
  • MEMS and multi-chip assemblies

Chips in plastic package typically require 2 pieces minimum, for metal-ceramic package 1 piece is often enough.
They don't need to be operational. Static-zapped/desoldered chips look exactly the same as good ones.

Please send us email if you'd like to help us with the chips.