The_Spark_Gap

Karl and Corey run The Spark Gap Podcast which is focused on embedded electronics. On Episode 25 they interview me about Capacitors. We covered all the major types of caps, plus some application bits. Check out their show notes for an impressive array of links on the subject.

Also, my favorite episode of theirs so far is episode 18.  The guys talk about different serial protocols like SPI, I2C, CAN, etc.  Really good stuff.

Date: January 28, 2015
Appearance: Capacitor Questions Answered on The Spark Gap Podcast
Outlet: The Spark Gap Podcast
Format: Podcast

iCircuit’s circuit simulation goes from iOS to Desktop

When it comes to schematic capture and circuit simulation on a mobile device, iCircuit for iOS got it right from the start. iCloud integration, intuitive touch controls, and fast application performance. Now (or Finally?), iCircuit is available for OS X.

iCircuit with 555 Timer

iCircuit is based on the Falstad Circuit Simulator, which sadly, is a Java-based web app. For years I’ve installed the App on my iPhone and iPad almost immediately after turning on iCloud [for Android users, that’s basically the first step of activating an iOS device].

10 Popular EAGLE Libraries

element14
Jan 15, 2015

Having good libraries in EAGLE is critical to making schematic capture and PCB design fast.  Dave at element14 put together a top 10 library link, which includes the list below.

Remember, if you’re having trouble Add Parts, you might want to look at this tutorial on enabling EAGLE libraries.

  1. element14’s RIoTBoard
  2. element14’s Raspberry Pi Compute Module Development Kit
  3. element14’s BeagleBone Black
  4. Linear Technology
  5. Molex
  6. Vishay
  7. Microchip
  8. Atmel
  9. Arduino
  10. Texas Instruments

10818399_10152509408852219_5757913693783094151_oUnderstanding what X2 or Y1 capacitors actually are and are not is important when designing them into an AC-mains connected power supply.  Recently Electronic Products Magazine ran an article I wrote on the proper role of X and Y safety rated EMI Capacitors.

The X2 capacitor rating means different things to different people–except for UL.  When I wrote this article to discuss some common misconceptions around what X2 Rated Capacitors are, and how they can be properly used.

In case the PDF reader doesn’t load, it’s on Page 20 of the November 2014 issue.

You can see the full article with the EP Reader, by clicking here.

Date: November 1, 2014
Appearance: Role of EMI X1, X2, Y1, Y2 Capacitors Ratings
Outlet: Electronic Products Management
Format: Magazine

The Gecko Zero EFM32 Weather Station Evaluation Board from Silicon Labs is intended to show off the low-energy or energy harvesting capabilities of the EFM32 Zero.  The ARM-based board has physical and cap sensitive buttons along with the LCD.

It comes pre-loaded with a demo program, which is the classic Space Invaders.

If you’re interested in more about the board, I wrote a road test of Gecko EFM32 on element 14. (Spoilers: I wasn’t impressed.  Not a bad board, but rough development environment.)

Clean Ground Planes on DIY Boards

If you’re making your own PCB with the toner transfer method, you might find that getting nice clean ground planes is difficult. John on twitter (@johngineer) realized a simple, but effective method.

john_diy_pcb_tip

Use a hatch pattern for your planes and then fill in the squares with a Sharpie. Simple, but effective. The paper detaches easier and the etch comes out cleaner.

For help on creating ground planes in EAGLE, check out this video tutorial I put together.

Article I wrote on some innovations KEMET has implemented in their capacitors:

There is no Moore’s Law for passive components like capacitors, but relentless development is delivering the kinds of devices engineers need to deliver cutting-edge new products for modern living. Capacitors have for many years enabled electronic designers to manage energy within circuits and fulfill basic functions like filtering noise or harmonics, correcting power factor, stabilizing feedback circuitry, coupling/decoupling, interfacing between voltage levels, and storing energy. But the demands placed on these components continue to increase, as electronic devices are expected to be smaller, longer lasting, more feature rich and more robust.

Read “Capacitor Innovations Address Emerging Opportunities” on Power Systems Design.

Date: December 30, 2014
Appearance: Capacitor innovations address emerging opportunities on PSD
Outlet: Power Systems Design
Format: Magazine

Installing Arduino Library from GitHub

install arduino library from github banner

What happens when you have a random chip or sensor you want to interface with an Arduino, but don’t know how? You search for a pre-existing library of course. And where are many libraries hosted and available from?  A place where eager developers hack together code, post updates, and collaborate with others: Github!

[App Note] Extending Soldering Iron Tip Life from OKI/Metcal

OK International / Metcal (via Newark)
05-14-2007

After mentioning how much I like using a brass sponge when soldering, I came across this App Note from OK International.  This is a great note to read through.  It discusses what is inside of a soldering iron tip, why they fail, and how to keep them in good shape.

Layers of a Soldering Iron Tip

Image from OK International’s Tech Note

The note actually makes me realize two of my own mistakes.

First, most cleaning should be done with a wet sponge not the brass sponge.  (Oops!)

Second, pre-made tip tinners are meant for occasional cleaning.  Moving forward I think I’ll modify my soldering behavior so that I start with a quick clean in the brass, use the sponge while working on a board, and then use standard solder to protect the tip when done.

Question: What other tips (no pun intended) can you think of for soldering tips? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Brass Sponge over Wet Sponge

Keep your soldering iron tip from oxidizing.

As it gets dull and gray, it’ll be harder to make good solder joints. My favorite tool to clean a tip is a Brass Sponge. The other option is a damp cellulose sponge, but I’m not a fan of those.

I have just never found a sponge gets the tip as clean as a light dabbing from the brass sponge.

Just be careful not to “scrub” too hard, you don’t want to scratch the tip. When you done soldering, make sure you clean it with the sponge then coat the tip with fresh solder. Leave that solder on the tip until the next time you use it. The layer of solder will prevent oxidation from building up while the iron sits unused.