DCA Pro Transistor Tester Review | Workbench Wednesdays

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When it comes to transistors, there are only so many things a multimeter can measure. The DCA Pro from PEAK Electronics makes short work of testing parts like a transistor. This small device can determine pinout, component type, and essential parameters in a matter of seconds. Not only that, but it can be connected to a (Windows) PC and draw parameter curves.


Check out the video review to see how the device and software works. Then head over to the element14 page where you can download a zip file full of example parts I measured for you. Use the free DCA Pro software to open them.

You might also want to check out this MOSFET Curves post, which complements this video tutorial. Another resource you might find helpful on semiconductors, or transistors, is this post on MOSFET Myths.

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Hakko FX-888D Review

Pablo looks at one of the most popular soldering stations

My friend Pablo recently upgraded his firestarter iron to a Hakko FX-888D. Because of its popularity and his relative newness to the iron, I asked if he’d like to write up a review for it. You can follow him on twitter.

01-Hakko Iron and StandJust based on the color, the Hakko FX-888D seemed, at first, like it was a toy compared to other electronic tools and equipment. The color does make it easy to spot even if you are buried in a project. You can quickly find it because it stands out. The outside seems like plastic, but it is made from or encased in metal. Knowing that it was only a plastic enclosure made me feel like this will be with me for a long time.

I love how the iron holder is separate from the base. It easily can be placed anywhere in the work area. Also, keeping the base unit in one spot makes life so much easier. It gives the iron itself enough room so nothing nearby can accidentally be melted or burned by the iron.

The iron holder also has a convenient area for a cleaning wire and a cleaning sponge. I only wish that the opening for the cleaning wire was a bit bigger. As is, I regularly clean the tip using the same spot. Having the removable bottom makes it so easy to clean all the solder junk that collects at the bottom from the cleaning wire. If only the rubber legs were a bit wider, they would help keep the iron holder from sliding around my desk. (This could be just because of the type of tabletop I have it sitting on.)

Removable FX-888D tray

Removable FX-888D tray

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Measuring ESR with the PEAK ESR70 | Workbench Wednesdays Review

element14 Presents on YouTube

There are three capacitor measurements you need to know how to make: capacitance, leakage current, and equivalent series resistance. Capacitance is easy to measure if you have a current limited supply or can use a resistor. Apply a voltage, then time how long it takes to charge-up. You might need to use an oscilloscope or even an Arduino for the second part.  Leakage current is the easiest of the three, apply a voltage (ideally through a resistor) for a few minutes, and then measure the current. ESR requires some special tricks. Since it is the resistance of the “wires” connecting to the capacitive element’s anode and code, you have to measure resistance without charging up the capacitor. (Otherwise, you get leakage.)

In the post Measuring Aluminum Electrolytic Capacitor’s ESR, I go through those methods in more detail. I also introduce the PEAK Electronics ESR70. It’s a pocket-sized instrument that measures both Capacitance and ESR. There’s a button you can touch, or it detects when a new capacitor is connected. Check out my Workbench Wednesdays review where I go into depth about how the meter works (and whether or not I like it.) Oh one bonus feature, it works while in-circuit!

As of this post, it has been almost six years since I first wrote about capacitors on my blog. The article was the Arduino GSM Shield’s capacitor has a serious design flaw. Wow, how time passes.

More info on element14

Bald Engineer’s ESD Must-Haves | Workbench Wednesdays

element14 Presents on YouTube

Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) damage can occur without you knowing it. That’s bad. However, the good news is that with little effort you can prevent it. Duratool has a kit of the most common tools for any electronics workbench. It includes a large mat, grounding cable, wrist strap, ESD-safe cleaner, and a simple electronic tester. Don’t get shocked by electrostatic discharge; add these simple tools to prevent it.

This review is on a kit that includes:

  • Large ESD Mat
  • Ground Cable
  • Wrist Strap
  • Wrist Strap Tester
  • Electrostatic Discharge Mat Cleaner

Even if you aren’t interested in ESD, you might want to watch the first 30 seconds. Hopefully, the clever thumbnail explains why. 🙂

More info on element14

Penguin Bot from elegoo hands-on review of the kit build

Reviewing a dancing robot

Penguin Bot Black Red and Clear

Recently I received three packages from Elegoo Industries. They are a company based in Shenzhen China. Before those packages, I noticed there name several times on various electronics kits on Amazon. They asked me if I’d help them with a video that shows how to assemble their latest creation: Penguin Bot.

There is not much point in sharing that video with you unless you’ve purchased one. So instead, here is my review, or hands-on, of the kit. I will, however, show you a short Instagram video I made to show off Penguin Bot’s cuteness

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Autodesk released EAGLE 9. This new version continues the improvement that Autodesk has been providing since acquiring the infamous ECAD tool. There are three areas I look at in this AddOhms Livestream.

How I looked at EAGLE 9

In the beginning, I use an old training class I wrote about five years ago when I was using EAGLE daily. It shows how to design a 555 flashing circuit from schematic to PCB. A follow-on class taught how to mill the PCB on a Shopbot. I might update the course and release it if I have time. The exercise class helps me find some surprises with EAGLE’s incremental improvements.

After that, I check out three new features. I also looked at the “Design Blocks” stuff which is a way to incorporate completed schematics like the Adafruit PowerBoost circuit. I need to come back and look at that function again later. Also, I am not positive, but I think that feature was introduced before 9.

1. Quick Routing

The quick routing reminds of the old “follow me” option. You can select individual airwires, entire nets, or multiple signals to route interactively. Unlike the Autorouter, which routes the board as the whole. In the video, I build a simple 555-based PCB. I couldn’t try out routing multiple signals, like address and data for DDR memory. The value I see most from this feature is selectively routing your critical signals and then quick routing the remaining non-critical nets.

2. Device Manager

This informational window provides a clean break-down of many pieces of data. Need to know what layers a footprint use? How about the length of an entire net? In the video, I show that you can use this feature to verify all of your passive components have the same package style. The information is all there, Device Manager brings it to your attention.

3. Breakout

Spoiler Alert: I really like the Breakout Feature. (For those that say I don’t smile in videos, I did this time.) Long story short, this is a shortcut to expand all of the pins for an IC. A great example is in the AddOhms Pyramiduino DIY PCB episode. In the beginning, you can see my time lapse as I break out each of the GPIO pins. That can happen in EAGLE now with a single click.

Check it out

Have you had a chance to check out EAGLE 9 yet? If so, what are your thoughts?

Watch EAGLE 9 First Look on YouTube

FPC1500 Review, a Rohde & Schwarz Spectrum Analyzer

An entry level spec an with VNA features

R&S FPC1500 Review

Everyone’s first piece of test equipment should be a multimeter. Next is probably a power supply with current limiting. For many engineers, the next step is an oscilloscope. At least those working on digital electronics. Even if you are not working with RF, do not overlook a spectrum analyzer. The Rohde & Schwarz FPC1500 is three instruments in one: a Spectrum Analyzer, RF Signal Source, and a Vector Network Analyzer. In this post, I combine an FPC1500 review with an introduction to these frequency domain tools.

tl;dr; I recommend buying the FPC1500.

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I have been soldering circuits for twenty-six years. Well, except for the last 6 weeks. I have had a Weller Zero Smog EL fume extraction unit in my lab. It has changed the way I solder. When I first used it, I thought “yes, this is nice. But not a necessity.” Then the other day I didn’t feel like moving the extractor to my secondary workbench. I was immediately irritated with myself for being lazy. The smoke was so annoying. I don’t know what else changed me so quickly.

The unit under test is the Weller Zero Smog EL Fume Extraction Kit. They sent it to me in partnership with element14 as a Roadtest review. (My previous review was on the 10 MHz Picoscope.)

Read Full Review on element14

Appearance: Weller Zero Smog EL Review on element14
Outlet: element14
Format: Other

Adafruit Feather Review and Selection Guide

Project with a battery? Consider these handy boards.

Adafruit Feather Banner

Four days ago, I found out I needed to make a piece of a costume. The idea was to combine a TFT LCD with a microcontroller and Bluetooth Low Energy. I checked my microcontroller bin and found some Adafruit Feather Boards. In this post, I will introduce the feather family and provide a decision chart for choosing the right one for your project.

The Feather board have a standard footprint and pinout. Most(All?) have a USB connector, a microcontroller, two rows of pins, and a battery charger. They measure 50.80 by 22.86 mm, which is 2.0 by 0.9 inches.

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Watch Archived Video: Unboxing Hackerboxes

Over the past year, I have been a Hackerboxes subscriber. When the first couple arrived, I opened them up immediately. In fact, I got my first ESP32 through Hackerboxes.

Sadly, I got caught up in so many things I stopped opening them causing them pile up. So to close out 2017, I’m Unboxing Hackerboxes live while answering your electronics questions. (more…)

Date: December 31, 2017
Time: 09:00-10:00 PST
Appearance: Unboxing Hackerboxes and more Q&A on AddOhms Live
Outlet: YouTube
Format: Vlog