Designing electronics devices doesn’t end with building a PCB board. Most of the finished products are placed in enclosures. Even if you don’t use enclosure – the board has to sit somewhere or has some mechanical attachments like heat-sinks, holders, etc. One way to be sure everything fits nicely is to put everything together in mechanical CAD like Google Sketchup which is free. The problem is – how easy to transfer PCB image into Sketchup. There is no direct export to format that 3D CAD would understand. So RS Components (EU electronics component distributor) have put all pieces together. They developed a simple solution that clears the gap between PCB and 3D CAD formats. Their small software takes IDF file format (Intermediate Data Format) that is supported by most of PCB software packages. Then with the RS program, this file is converted to Collada (.dae) file which can be imported in most CAD packages like Google Sketchup. Once imported, the board can be made to look realistic with additional 3D models of electronics components and put into enclosure virtually. This way your design can be finished virtually before anything is manufactured and it costs nothing.
If you electronics man/girl, probably you have circuit capture software installed on your PC. But there are situations when you are away from your desktop and need to draw circuit just to show some ideas for your friend or make some adjustments for existing project. In such cases online circuit capture software becomes really handy. dz863 have been developing a free online circuit draw application which has several handy features. It supports most of widely used browsers. Application area looks really handy and easy to use. It has grid, menu, part selection po-pups. Schematics can be saved or exported as png, jpg and seems that there will be pdf supported. Part library is growing – if you don’t find one – you can draw it right away. What else can you expect form online software?
Over a week ago I’ve got a notice that Texas Instruments (TI) is giving away a 50% coupon for MSP430_FRAM related devices. Without hesitation ordered their MSP-EXP430FR5739 TI experimenters board that price went down to $14.50 including free shipping. With all functionality and on board peripherals included – its a give away. Experimenters board came in nice hard paper package that feels really solid and professional in hands.
Probably you’re following Dave’s eevblog. He regularly publishes great stuff for electronics engineers and enthusiasts. Following video might be useful for someone who deals with small SMD parts like LGA. Soldering those might be tough, but there is always a way out of the situation. This video demonstrates how to solder three-axis accelerometer on to prototyping board in dead bug style. By following this technique, you can solder almost any SMD chip that is meant for re-flow soldering.
I mentioned on a previous post that many projects use LEDs as light detectors – well I searched in google and well “I take that statement back!”. This doesn’t really involve a microcontroller – it explains how to use LEDs as both emitters and detectors of light; thus by using two LEDs we can build a two-way optoisolator. By using a LED as a detector and a 4011 NAND gate to drive another indicator LED this tutorial takes you to the concept behind LED-based communications – the 4011 has Schmitt trigger inputs thus eliminating the undefined regions in the response of the detector LED. It also pulls down to ground one of the pins of a LED indicator through a current limiting resistor to indicate that the detector received data from the sending LED.
Unlike most projects featured here this one does not really involve a specific microcontroller – since it can be used with any microcontroller having two available digital pins – both must be input output capable. This is not actually new – this paper as published July of 2003 yet we haven’t seen many projects using this as means of communication. This method is the cheapest wireless communication means that ive heard of – in terms of components just two LEDs and viola! Wireless communication! LEDs are usually light indicators but they too can be light detectors when operated in reversed bias mode it will act as if it was a photo transistor – neat huh? Both emitter and detector in a small low cost package – to switch the LED from forward bias to reverse bias mode one must switch the digital pins from low to high thus only half duplex communication is possible when using 2 LEDs – still very cheap even compared to the IR pairs available in the market this is a steal if you can make one run on your project.
Eagle is a great PCB designing software. But if you need to do some fancy graphics like specially shaped outline you will get stuck. Why not leave drawing tasks for other programs that are designed for. In this helpful tutorial you will learn how to draw complex shapes with Illustrator and then import it to Eagle. Tutorial explains how to add anchor to lines so Eagle wouldn’t approximate curves with straight lines. The other process is easy – Export image to DXF R13 on Illustrator and then import to Eagle by using modified ULP script.