A printed circuit board or a PCB is able to provide mechanical support to electronically connected electronic parts of a device using traces which are etched using copper sheets, conductive pathways, etc. laminated on a substrate of a non conductive nature. Usually, there are preset IPC organization standards that help to design the PCB layout, maintain a certain level of quality, and follow a proper assembly pattern accepted by the industry. PCBs usually follow the IPC 2221A standard in terms of design and quality control, and it is the same for any material the PCB is made with. An insulator is a prime component of any PCB, which is home to a variety of layers of materials attached to the insulator itself. All these layers act as a form of grounding to the entire PCB. Now coming to the copper traces – they are created either by mechanical laying of individual lines, or by applying a copper coat to the entire board and stripping away what is left after your work is done. The second process is much more efficient, as this ensures that you have the exact amount of copper traces required on the PCB for connecting electronic components.
I bet you face lots of problems in design process where you simply need to test power supply, or LED by providing/drawing constant current regardless to voltage change. Such device is called a dummy load. You can find lots of DIY dummy load projects and we won’t be talking about commercial ones right now. Nick found out that most DIY dummy loads tend to be complicated or unavailable. So without struggling he decided to start his own simple and reliable load. He wanted it to be simple, self powered and indestructible. Indestructible means that it won’t burn in voltage range up to 30V. With BTS141 FET this became possible as it has built in over-current and over-voltage protection built in. Controlling is done with simple potentiometer attached to operational amplifier positive input. Negative input is connected from current sense resistor. The project is OSHW which can be found on github as re:load. [source]
Writing software is complex task. In every microcontroller program you usually try to reuse previously written libraries, downloaded code and other data that is being updated. What if you are developing something in team? How to keep track of everything? Storing project files in directories eventually get messy – eventually you loose track of whats done. For instance some time you have written LCD library and used in several microcontroller projects. But eventually you found a bug, or optimized code. Normally you would have to copy new library files in every project to keep updated. This is hard when you already have dozens of projects. There is one way to stay organized by using version control software. In this case we will talk about SVN. Subversion (SVN) is an open source system that allows controlling files and folders, keep track of changes made during time. Simply speaking SVN is a virtual file system that keeps track of every change in files, directories. It’s a smart way of storing project files either you are working alone or in team. Using this system smart you will always have things organized and never loose version of your files gain. TortoiseSVN your repository tool…
Designing a good PCB requires some knowledge and good calculator. First one can be obtained gradually by making tons of PCBs and learning from failures. Different thing is calculator. You cannot have all things in mind when tracing crucial traces in your PCB. What is high voltage is present? Or if there are large currents floating. How one or another configuration will behave when high frequency signals are used. There are always a tradeoffs between materials used and price. So measuring things right may save time and cost. Saturn PCB Design Inc. knows these problems and put their experience in a nice free calculator which covers many designing routine calculations. Here you are be able to calculate things like via/trace resistance, capacitance, inductance. By changing inductor width and thickness find its power dissipation. Also you can do quick thermal calculations that will allow to decide if you need a heat-sink. Other things include planar inductor parameter evaluation, spacing between traces on different voltages, crosstalks and more. Units can be selected between imperial and metric. Calculator is refined with many releases and can be downloaded here.
Writing formulas and equations for some publication or websites is time consuming task. Usually there is LaTex syntax used to enter formulas. But when formulas get more complex it gets really hard to remember all short-codes and it is easy to loose end in a long line. At school we are used to write equations by hand so why not to transfer that experience in to computer. Here is a nice small script that simply converts hand written equation in to LaTex and MathML XML codes. All you have is to open a MyScript demo website and start drawing. Algorithm analyzes hand drawn formulas and tries to convert them in to code. It previews your progress so you could redo last steps to match your needs. I should say it does job really great. So if you do lots of formulas you may give a try – could be faster than typing.
As an electronic enthusiast, you probably have a pile of resistors, capacitors and other electronic components. Most of them are color coded, and to use any of these you need to identify each of them. Usually, resistor color band table works fine or multimeter. But how to speed up the process a bit, free your hands and even eyes from looking at charts or multimeter. Anthony coded a simple application (EEspeak) which listens to you what type of element and colors are identified. Imagine sorting things out – sitting around with the pole of resistors and reading each color values aloud. Voice recognition seems to work great without any training. It can tell color coded resistor, capacitor and inductor value with its tolerance. Simple commands enable it to read values aloud and display on the screen. The program is free so give it a try – at least it’s fun.
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?