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Old 20th September 2014, 20:53   #1
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Default DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console

Have been running a tab as a ICE console in my Figo for the past few months and I believe time is now ripe for me to share the experience with fellow BHPians.

The whole of 2013, was doing a lot of reading on this subject. My parents' visit to US in November last for a couple of months, helped source the core items from there. Jan 2014, the project was kick-started. Me and my father were the partners-in-crime. It was 3 months, before it could go live on my Figo.

Expectation:
It is a known fact that the Figo comes with a decent enough audio system. However while this took care of satisfying my audio needs, I found myself shuffling between too many gadgets for navigation, internet radio, OBD monitoring etc, especially during those long drives. The tab seemed to be the silver bullet that could solve all these problems and offer numerous possibilities of adding more features.

To start with, these were the constraints that I expected my would-be setup to meet:
  1. No/Minimal modification to the stock setup
  2. Any modification done to the stock setup should be reversible
  3. No features should be lost by moving to the new setup

With these in my mind, my expedition began.

Last edited by sara.ramli : 21st October 2014 at 23:19.
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Old 21st September 2014, 22:42   #2
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Default The Inventory

The Inventory

Tablet
The most popular choice amongst other ICE tab enthusiasts was the Nexus 7 2012. This was mostly due to the form factor of the tablet plus Timur's ROM which was custom-built for in-car setups. However, the 3G model of this tab was not available in India and it was still being sold for a high price in the US, inspite of the N7 2013 being released. On top of that, the 3G version did not support voice calling. The other candidate that I was seriously considering was the Lenovo Ideapad 3000. It had received decent reviews plus it had both 3G+voice calling options. After quite a bit of contemplation and showroom visits, the Timur's ROM ultimately tilted the scales in favour of the N7. So it was a N7 2012 32GB that I settled for.

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Tab Accessories
Wanted to get a protective case to prevent the tab from getting scratched and to absorb the vibration/shock from the vehicle. The choice: Fosmon Snap-On Case. Also got a pack of anti-glare screen protectors.
The snap-on case has chipped and cracked in a few places now. Might replace it with a silicone based cover soon.

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-fosmon-snapon-case.jpg

DAC
While the N7's built-in DAC is good, the temptation to add an external DAC became stronger after hearing lot of positive things about them. Based on the reviews, had zeroed in on Sabre DAC. Unfortunately, at the time of ordering, it was out of stock and I did not have the luxury to wait till it came back in stock, since my parents were returning home shortly. After another round of reviewing the rest, settled for Behringer UCA 222. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise, since this DAC had an additional stereo line-in as well as a dedicated optical output.

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-behringer-uca-222.jpg

Amplifier
Decided to use the stock head unit's amplifier for now and lock it down permanently to aux mode. But this meant that I had to decide what goes into the center console and what goes elsewhere. Had the following options:
  1. Relocate the faceplate of the HU to an accessible place and retain the unit in its current place. This would free up the space for installing the tablet in lieu of the faceplate. The other components could probably be placed in the glove box
  2. Relocate the HU completely to the glovebox and have the tab and other components in the center console.

Option(1) was the preferred choice, as this way, I wouldn't lose the BT hands-free feature. However the faceplate was connected to the HU using a snap-on connector as against my expectation of a ribbon cable. And I wasn't even sure what the technical name of this connector was, lest alone I could search for it online. I found that Molex was a popular manufacturer of board-connectors and found that they had an office in Chennai. When I spoke to them over phone, they promised to provide whatever help they could. After looking at the HU connectors in person, they declared that these were proprietary and not standard connectors that I can procure in the market. However they did confirm that they were the ones who were providing these connectors for Visteon (the HU manufacturer), but helpless in this situation.

The proprietary connectors:

Female
DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-proprietary-connector-female.jpg

Male
DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-proprietary-connector-male.jpg

Also had a few email exchanges with Digikey's technical team with images of the connectors, but they too concluded that these were not standard connectors. Boom went the idea of faceplate relocation. Had to settle for option(2) for now. However, one of the future projects in mind is to write an Android app, that could make the tablet act as a handsfree for my (non-Android) phone, to reclaim the lost hands-free feature.

The modified HU with an aux-in cable
DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-amplifier-w.jpg

Power supply regulator
The initial choice was to get one of those el-cheapo 12V to 5V DC-DC converters. However N7 was known to be very finicky about the input voltage and even a minor voltage drop would make it switch to trickle-charge mode. Decided to play it safe and went in for this DC-DC converter.

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It is explicitly built for automotive purposes, though the price was a bit on the higher side. But it had its own pluses with support for programmable timing and output voltage. Even with this unit, the tab acted up initially and kept switching to trickle charge mode. After tuning the output voltage to a certain level (slight boost to compensate for the eventual drop due to load), the tab returned to happy charging ways.



Enclosure for the power supply:
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FM Radio
Now that the HU is going to be locked away in the glove-box and out of my reach, and mine being a pre-facelift Figo with no steering stalk controls, there was going to be no way I could switch between FM and other sources while driving. I had two options:
  1. Get a FM tuner hardware that could work with the tablet
  2. Assuming that my HU has support for a wired-remote, get the steering stalk controls alone fitted from FASS or design/fabricate one on my own

To play it safe, I went with a dedicated FM tuner. The key for these to work with android harware is the RTL2832U chipset. SDR touch was the only decent front-end in the play store and it needed this chipset for it to work.

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-nooelec-dvbt-sdr.jpg

However for the records - we were able to design and build our own remote for the Head Unit later. Would like to reserve those details for a separate post/thread.


Internet Connectivity
Was already in possession of a 3G wifi router and it just had to be integrated into this setup, so that it can be kept charged all the while.

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Remote Control for the Tab
The popular choice was to get a Joycon Ex/r/d and program it to control the tab as one desires. However this required steering-stalk/wheel controls to be present in the vehicle. I contemplated sourcing one explicitly for this purpose. However when reading through the Joycon manual, realized that all it was doing was to simulate a HID keyboard. An idea bulb glowed - what if I could get a bluetooth keyboard instead? I could program it instead as I wish for my control needs. The search began for the same and soon had divulged into looking for BT controllers instead of keyboards, since anyway I wouldn't be typing anything when driving. Shortlisted the following three after doing some extensive reading:
  1. satechi bt remote
  2. motorola remote
  3. impulse controller

Settled for the Satechi remote, based on the positive reviews and immediate availability. However the Satechi website listed two variants of the same product and claimed that the white remote was android-compatible while the black version was for iPhone. I wanted to get the black one though. The buyer reviews on Amazon helped alleviate my fear of the black one not working with Android devices. Relieved, placed an order for the black one.

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Power supply
For the 12V supply, before running a wire from the battery terminals, wanted to check the fusebox, if there are any unused live points, which I could tap into. Luckily, there were three such live points, which were left open. Probably these are being used by Figos sold in other countries - not sure. Two of those points were providing power permanently while the third was ignition-powered. This turned out to be a perfect option to use with the DC-DC converter. The converter can take two inputs one from power and one from ignition and programmed to turn itself on, only when the ignition pulse is alive.
Ordered these fuse taps for this purpose.

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OBD Setup
Was already using an ELM327 BT OBD Device. However there were two primary gripes with it:
  1. Kept forgetting to remove the device from the port after a drive.
  2. Accessibility of the port was a slight issue as well, with me having to bend down and reach it for installation/removal

To solve the first gripe, decided to add a power switch to the device. That somebody had already done it, made it easy for me to follow suit. Got a three-pole toggle switch and and routed the pin 16 connection via this switch. For the second gripe, got this extension cable, so that I could fix the device in an accessible location. Right now the device sits in the driver-side mini storage compartment.

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-obd-extension-cable.jpg

USB hub
Needed a USB-hub to connect the FM tuner, DAC and any future peripherals to the tablet. I was looking for one with toggle switches for each port, so that I could turn on/off the devices on will. Picked this one. That the toggle switches came with LEDs was an added advantage. The idea was to install it in the dummy switch to the right of the hazard switch if it fit. However the hub turned out be a tad big for that switch cut-out and had to be concealed away behind the tab.

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-4-port-usb-hub.jpg

Voice Control
This was an unexplored area, but still wanted to get the necessary hardware and work on setting it up at a later stage. Got this noice-cancelling microphone, which people claimed to work well in an in-car setup.

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-noise-cancelling-mic.jpg

Power Supply for the Test Rig
For testing the setup at home, bought a PSU from a local electronics shop. It had two 12V DC outputs. Used one as constant power and one as ignition to simulate various conditions and ensure that the circuitry worked as expected

Last edited by sara.ramli : 21st October 2014 at 23:02.
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Old 21st September 2014, 22:54   #3
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Default Connection Diagram

A diagram depicting the key components and their connections:

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-connection-diagram.png

Last edited by sara.ramli : 28th September 2014 at 12:21.
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Old 21st September 2014, 22:55   #4
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Default Cables Up-close

A close look at the connecting cables:



OTG Y Cable
DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-otg-y-cable.jpg

Fuse box to DC-DC Converter
DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-fuse-dcdc-converter.jpg


USB extension cable with ferrite core for external drives
DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-usb-extension-cable-ferrite-core.jpg


Head Unit Extension Cable for relocating it to the glove box
DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-head-unit-extension.jpg

Female End (sourced from Ritchie Street)
DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-hu-extension-female-end.jpg

Male End (sourced from GP road and modified)
DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-hu-extension-male-end.jpg

Custom Connector for easy removal
DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-custom-connector.jpg

Antenna that came with the FM tuner
DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-fm-tuner-antenna.jpg
The wire and the connector from this setup was used. The antenna in the setup was replaced by a RF female pin, so that it can mate with the car's roof antenna connector. The RF pin had to be modified to remove the outer ring.

Here's the roof antenna connector that normally goes into the back of the HU
DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-roof-antenna-connector.jpg

Other cables used (sorry no pictures)
DC-DC converter to USB female x 2
OTG cable to right-angle micro USB
USB male to mini USB male for charging Wifi router

Last edited by sara.ramli : 21st October 2014 at 23:04.
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Old 28th September 2014, 15:40   #5
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Default Center Console Mod

Center Console Modification

This was one of the tasks to which a lot of thought had to be given upfront, since there were no precedents as far as the Figo is concerned.

Most of the online forums claimed that the N7 was a perfect fit for a double-din sized opening. I just went by their words and ordered the tablet. However, to my horror realized that while the height of the tab was okay, it was wider than the opening (in landscape orientation).


Got down to the task of modifying the frame to suit the tablet.

Took the help of a local stereo shop to remove the head unit (Have also bought the U-shaped removal tool later from here). The Figo service manual came in handy, for further instructions on removing the frame.

First had to take out the dummy switch covers on the right and the dummy+defogger switch on the left. A picture taken after removing them:

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-center-console-switches-removed.jpg

The two connectors you see are for the defogger and the hazard light switches.

A close-up view of the switch cavities.

Left:
DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-dummy-defogger-switch-cavity-left.jpg

Right:
DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-dummy-switch-cavity-right.jpg

The little notches seen ^^ are where the switches get locked and are key to removing them with ease.

The frame is held in place by three screws, which have to be removed, before taking it out. Two of them you would have already noticed in the switch cavities. The third one can be seen with a bolt-head at the bottom-right corner of this picture:
DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-center-console-frame-third-screw.jpg

Having removed the screws, the frame had to be pulled out one side at a time with slight force, as they were still being held together with tension clips on either side.

The removed frame:
DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-center-console-frame-removed.jpg

The naked console without the frame - note the two oblong holes on either side where the tension clips of the frame where holding on to:
DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-center-console-naked-without-frame.jpg

Last edited by sara.ramli : 21st October 2014 at 23:07.
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Old 28th September 2014, 16:09   #6
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Default Console Frame Mod

Console Frame Modification

To accomodate the additional width of the tablet in the frame, the initial idea was to make a slit on the left lip of the frame, since that was closer to the glovebox, where the head-unit would eventually be placed. However, between the frame lip and the dashboard, there was very little space - too little to run up a cable comfortably. So the slit was made on the right lip. Also a cut was made as shown in the picture along the entire length of the lightning symbol, to provide some leeway for the tab to be inserted, without being forced. This cut detaches the right lip from the bottom lip and makes it movable backwards. This comes in handy when inserting and taking out the tablet.

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-frame-right-lip.jpg

The frame after the mod:

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-console-frame-after-mod-1.jpg

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-console-frame-after-mod-2.jpg

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-console-frame-after-mod-3.jpg

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-console-frame-after-mod-4.jpg

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-console-frame-after-mod-5.jpg

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-console-frame-after-mod-6.jpg


With the rest of the components yet to reach India, I was doing daily runs with just the tab on the modified frame. A few pictures taken at that stage (pardon the low-light pictures):

Music Player
DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-just-tab-music-player.jpg

Torque
DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-just-tab-torque.jpg

Maps
DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-just-tab-maps.jpg

Internet Radio
DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-just-tab-internet-radio.jpg

Last edited by sara.ramli : 21st October 2014 at 23:10.
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Old 3rd October 2014, 23:40   #7
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Default The Mount

The Mount

Next, we needed a structure where the components could be mounted and attached to the console frame. Taking cues from other projects, had initially decided to build a box-like structure using acrylic sheets. However, my dad came up with an ingenious idea of a simpler and effective design.

Rather than explaining it, will let the pictures do the talking:

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-mount.jpg

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-mount-2.jpg

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-mount-3.jpg

The top sheet is acrylic and the bottom one a foam-board. Wanted the top one to be see-through - hence the choice. The four bolts serve the purpose of holding the two sheets together and maintain the right spacing between them. The red sketch marks indicate the positions onto which the DAC, usb hub and FM tuner would be fixed. The holes along the periphery of these sketch marks were made initially with the thought of using zip-ties for fixing the components onto the board. Later decided against it and used 3M dual-lock tapes.

Some pics of the mount attached to the frame:
DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-mount-frame-1.jpg

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-mount-frame-2.jpg

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-mount-frame-3.jpg

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-mount-frame-4.jpg

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-mount-frame-5.jpg


The mount with the components affixed:

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-mount-components-1.jpg

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-mount-components-2.jpg

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-mount-components-3.jpg

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-mount-components-4.jpg

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-mount-components-5.jpg

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-mount-components-6.jpg

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-mount-components-7.jpg

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-mount-components-8.jpg

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-mount-components-9.jpg

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-mount-components-10.jpg

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-mount-components-11.jpg

Last edited by sara.ramli : 21st October 2014 at 23:13.
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Old 4th October 2014, 00:12   #8
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Default Amp Aux In

Amp Aux In


The head unit had to be placed side-on in the glove-box, with its display hidden away towards the left side, so that the glove box can be closed. This meant that the aux-in socket of the HU would be inaccessible. Luckily, the aux-in socket was connected internally to the circuit board via a three-wire setup. Tapped into this setup and hooked up a custom stereo cable directly from the circuit board. As shown in the connection diagram, this cable would be connected to the DAC's output on the other end.

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-amp-aux-1.jpg

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-amp-aux-2.jpg

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-amp-aux-3.jpg

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-amplifier-w.jpg

Last edited by sara.ramli : 21st October 2014 at 23:16.
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Old 4th October 2014, 00:21   #9
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Default OBD Device Mod

OBD Device Mod

As mentioned earlier, the OBD reader was modded to include a toggle switch in the power circuit, to easily switch it on and off, without having to unplug it.

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-obd-mod-1.jpg

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-obd-mod-2.jpg

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-obd-mod-3.jpg

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-obd-mod-4.jpg

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-obd-mod-5.jpg

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-obd-mod-6.jpg

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-obd-mod-7.jpg
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Old 21st October 2014, 21:52   #10
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Default The Mess

As it goes with all DIY projects, the fun was in putting them together, the numerous hiccups, the dead-ends and the overcomes. Sure could have gone with a ready-made solution, but motherhood has to be undergone to be understood. If you know what I mean.

By this time, a lot of ideas/thoughts/questions should have started cropping up in your mind. Will leave you in peace for now, with a few pics of the mess that my mom had to put up with for a couple of months.
Attached Thumbnails
DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-mess-1.jpg  

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-mess-2.jpg  

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-mess-3.jpg  

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-mess-4.jpg  

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-mess-5.jpg  

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-mess-6.jpg  

DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console-mess-7.jpg  


Last edited by sara.ramli : 21st October 2014 at 21:55.
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Old 22nd October 2014, 06:54   #11
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Default re: DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console

Mod note: Thread moved from Assembly Line to DIY - Do it yourself. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 22nd October 2014, 07:14   #12
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Default re: DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console

Quote:
Originally Posted by sara.ramli View Post
Have been running a tab as a ICE console in my Figo for the past few months
Excellent thread, and very nicely explained. Could we have a few pictures of how it looks during the day?

Thread rated 5 stars
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Old 22nd October 2014, 07:22   #13
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Default re: DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console

Wow! Great detail for anybody who wants to embark on a similar journey. The workmanship is excellent.

Hope you enjoy your gift for many days to come. Rating this thread a well -deserved 5 stars
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Old 22nd October 2014, 17:42   #14
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Default Re: DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console

This is one of the best DIY project which I came across. Kudos mate. The whole process has been explained very well and if someone else wants to attempt the same task, this reference guide will help them out.
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Old 22nd October 2014, 17:54   #15
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Default Re: DIY: Tablet as an In-Car-Entertainment Console

Wanted to do that for a long time. Seen a few similar DIY links, perhaps on Lifehacker but didn't had the guts to go through. Whenever I have tinkered with the hardware, it never ended well.

I love what you did here. Will keep an eye on this thread for future updates regarding usability, long term reliability, etc. You know, these tablets haven't been exactly built to handle the temperatures and vibration that you'll be exposing them to.
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