Can you use voltage dividers as regulators? What if you add a Zener Diode? In this AddOhms episode, I show what happens when you try to power a complex circuit like an ESP8266 with a voltage divider instead of a regulator. (Spoiler: Get a voltage regulator.) This video tutorial is related to a write up I did recently on Zener Diodes. For questions or comments visit the AddOhms Discussion Forum.

Behind the scenes

A significant change for this AddOhms Episode is that I moved from Final Cut Pro X to Premiere Pro. I also shot the entire video in 4K, even though the output is 1080p. Animations were still done as 1080p compositions. One snag I ran into, the color corrections I applied in PPro, didn’t seem to get exported. You might notice when the breadboard is on screen, it has a very slight yellow tint to it.

I’ve been changing how I produce the videos. It’s shortening the cycle time. The key is that I’m not trying to animate every scene. The amount of work involved is just too much. I animate practically every frame. So in a 6-minute video, that’s just too much.

By the way, there are two easter eggs in this episode. Can you find them?

Voltage Dividers as Regulators on YouTube

5 Voltage divider circuits that go beyond dividing

voltage divider circuits

Here are some ideas of what you can do with the humble voltage divider. This elementary circuit has a few inventive uses. To be upfront, one of these uses is NOT as a voltage regulator. If you need a voltage regulated, get a voltage regulator! At some point or another, I’ve built all five of these voltage divider circuits. For me, the voltage level shifter is the most common.

  1. Measure Battery Voltage
  2. Signal Level Shifter
  3. Reference Voltage
  4. R-2R Ladder
  5. One Analog Input with Many Buttons

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PWM a 3-pin PC fan with an Arduino

Note: 4-pin fans already have a PWM signal

Aeroscope Measuring a Fan

A question came up on IRC regarding how to PWM a 3-pin PC fan with an Arduino using analogWrite(). Controlling the fan was seemingly straightforward. The problem was that the hall effect sensor, or TACH signal, was incredibly noisy. The noise made it impossible to measure the fan’s rotation. Working through the question, I found three issues to tackle:

  1. You need to use a PNP transistor
  2. Filter capacitors help
  3. Create a non-blocking RPM measurement (with millis())

This post addresses all three issues regarding how to PWM a 3-pin PC fan with an Arduino.

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Share projects on one of these 4 platforms

Contribute back to the open source hardware community

share projects

Sharing is the maker community’s foundation. When you share projects with others, you contribute to the community. In the past, you might just post your project on a personal website. Today there are many options to share projects.

This weekend I “finished” my reflow oven controller, Open Vapors. Believe it or not, five years ago there were not a bajillion similar projects. In fact, I based my design on the only completely open source project I found. It is a reflow oven controller Arduino shield from Rocket Scream.

After completing my controller, I was excited to share the project. Then I started to think about where to post the files. Obviously, here at baldengineer.com is one option. But I wondered. Is there a better place where others could benefit from my work?

This post is a few notes on the platforms used to share projects. At first, these might seem like they all serve the same purpose. From a high level that is true. However, there are small differences that you should consider when you share projects with the open source hardware community.

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Best Sorting Resistors Method 

At least, according to me.

sorting resistors method

When you buy a grab bag of components, you might need to tackle sorting resistors. Here’s how I sorted some bags of random resistor assortments last week.

Objectives

Then method I use for sorting resistors achieves these objectives:

  1. Fewer Bins. It doesn’t take long to create a large matrix of resistor values. My resistor sorting method is relatively compact.
  2. Quick to find. When I’m building up a circuit, I don’t want to spend time sorting through a pile. Once I know the value I need, I find a single package and then look for a single color band.
  3. Works with 4-band and 5-band resistors. Let me be upfront: I *hate* 5-band resistor color codes. While the 5th ring is supposed to be slightly offset, or wider, or a different type of color; it doesn’t matter. It’s nearly impossible to tell read a 5-band resistor color code when they are in a pile. However, using my method for sorting resistors, it doesn’t matter if I’m looking at a 4-band or 5-band resistor. I can immediately identify the resistor value.

Based on #3 alone, you might be wondering what is the fantastic method (and how much will it cost to get it!) Here’s the basics of my method for sorting resistors. (For FREE!)

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Four Current Flow Myths Addressed

Just what is "electric current flow?"

what is current flow?

Current flow (direction) is the topic I’m planning for my next AddOhms tutorial. While preparing the script, I started to realize there are some myths or misunderstandings about electricity and current flow.

Ben Franklin Father of Current Flow

via Wikipedia

Everyone probably knows Ben Franklin. He discovered electricity, of course! Yet, he didn’t. Franklin was the first to prove that lightning was composed of electricity with his famous kite experiment. He was also the first to provide electricity’s well-known labels: positive and negative. And somewhere in there Franklin became famous for “inventing” conventional current flow.

This convention creates a lot of confusion around conventional and electron current flow. It’s a concept that has been covered by many others and may even be covered by an Electronics Tutorial Video Series in the future.

Instead, I want to explore some common current flow myths even I believed at some point.

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Switching Voltage Regulator Tutorial

AddOhms #18 covers the basics of switching voltage regulators

Switching Voltage Regulator - AddOhms Banner

A switching voltage regulator is one of my favorite circuits. In school, they were the first circuits I built where I understood how transistors worked. In fact, they were the first circuit I saw an inductor being useful! Switching regulators are incredibly efficient when designed properly. Of course, this detail about design is important. They are not as simple as a linear regulator, which is basically an IC and two caps.

To understand the basics of a switching regulator, I released AddOhms #18 this week. This is video tutorial dedicated the Switching Voltage Regulator. If video tutorials aren’t your thing, then keep reading for my written tutorial.

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The latest AddOhms looks at why you need a pull-up resistor when using push-buttons. This video goes into what happens when you leave a pin floating, what a floating pin means, and how the pull-up actually works. You can get more information about the video on the AddOhms Episode page.

This is the 2nd time I’ve made a video on pull-ups. Despite being a single resistor, it can be a difficult topic for new hardware designers to understand. The pull-up video was the first video tutorial I ever made. In fact, the YouTube version uses YouTube’s “stabilization” algorithm, which gives the video a very warped feel.

AddOhms #15 shows improvements in skill over the past couple of years!

Question: What’s another topic that I need to cover in an AddOhms Tutorial? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Which Arduino Starter Kit is the Best?

Need an electronics kit? Check out these 4 options.

Which Arduino Starter Kit is Best

The other day my friend called me up. He told me how much he missed building circuits and wanted to start again with the Arduino.

So he asked me “which Arduino starter kit is the best to buy?” At which point, I drew a long breath. Easy question, not always an easy answer.

Picking out an electronics kit depends on a number of factors. You should consider:

  1. Your budget
  2. What you already have
  3. What you want to do

#1 and #2 are probably pretty easy to figure out. For many beginners, it’s “not much” and “nothing.” When you don’t know #3, what you want to do, then it gets trickier. Coming back to my friend, what did I do? Well, I went out and bought each one of the kits in this post. I put myself in his shoes and maybe these are your shoes as well.

Assuming you have about $100 to spend, have no components on-hand now and just want to “get started” consider one of these 4 Arduino starter kits.

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What’s the difference between Series and Parallel Circuits?

Example of Circuit and Parallel Circuits

Tutorial on schematics basics

The funny thing about schematics is that they are much easier to draw than they are to read. There are many common circuits. When an experienced engineer looks at them, it’s like a second language. When someone less experienced looks at them, it looks like random lines and symbols thrown together at the last-minute. (Or maybe that’s just the schematics *I* draw.)

Other than reading Schematic Symbols themselves, one of the basic skill necessary to read a schematic is recognizing series and parallel circuits.

In short if the same current flows through all the parts, they are in series.  While if current has different paths, they are in parallel.  Keep reading to dive into this tutorial on how ohm’s law applies to series and parallel circuits.

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