Basics of most common communication protocols

circuitbasics.com has published a series of tutorials on the most popular communication protocols, like UART, I2C, SPI etc. Check them on the links below.

STEMTera, Arduino Compatible Built-In Breadboard

Sydney backyard inventor, JP Liew, who invented MicroView that had successfully raised USD 573,000 in 30 days on Kickstarter two years ago has just launched STEMTera Breadboard on Kickstarter, an open source invention that solves many electronic prototyping problems and aids in teaching STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). The initial funding goal of USD 35,000 was reached in less than 64 hours!

STEMTera is the first breadboard with an Arduino compatible built-in that works with thousands of shields. With ATmega16U2/32U2 exposed, and native USB projects can be easily developed using the LUFA framework. It is specifically designed to solve common issues using Arduino with a breadboard especially in the lab or classroom. It came to reduce the headache of managing students’ messy wires flying around microcontroller board and breadboard during class, to enhance the current design (Arduino UNO) for native USB development without changing or adding extra components, and to Improve adaptability, mountability and protection, enabling more projects to be built in the lab or classroom. STEMTera is 111.8 x 79.8 x 16.1 mm sized and weighs 132 grams.

Thanks to exposing ATmega16U2/32U2, users can now develop native USB projects with an extra 21 IO pins. These extra IO pins can work directly with the LUFA framework without having a middleman to translate messages like the original Arduino UNO.

“STEMTera Breadboard was designed to help Australian schools teach STEM education and help students make and invent things. My demonstration video showed how easy students can build Hydroponics Systems, game controllers and musical instruments using the STEMTera Breadboard.” – JP Liew, founder of STEMTera.

STEMTera Features

  • Dual Microcontroller – ATmega328P & ATmega16U2: With a total of 41 IO pins of which 9 provide PWM. Pin-to-pin compatible with Arduino UNO R3 shield .
  • LEGO® Compatible Bottom Cover
  • USB Native Development – thanks to the exposed ATmega32U2
  • 4 LEDs (Power, TX, RX and L)
  • Strong ABS Enclosure
  • IDE Support
    • Atmel® Studio
    • Arduino IDE
    • AVR-GCC
    • AVR-GCC with LUFA
    • Scratch

Check this review by Sparkfun:

The STEMTera is available for pre-order and it will be shipped soon. You can pre-order it now for $45 on Sparkfun, on of the project’s distributors, and choose the color you prefer out of white, black or pink! More colors will be produced later.

More details about STEMTera can be found on the official website and the campaign page. Also check out JP Liew homepage to know more about his previous projects.

Power Topologies Quick Reference Guide from TI

17 of the most common hard switched power supply topologies and the Phase Shifted Full Bridge with the most important waveforms and equations are now available for you in an easy download-and-print option.

Power Topologies Quick Reference Guide from TI – [Link]

Dosime Radiation Meter: Know The Radiation Surrounding You Using Smartphone

Radiation is always present in our lives. We can’t see, taste, feel or smell it, but it exists. Excessive exposure to ionizing radiation may cause potential damage to our health. The new Dosime device helps you to track and understand radiation exposure in your environment and display them using an app on your smartphone.

Dosime Radiation Meter For your Smart Phone
Dosime Radiation Meter For your Smart Phone
Pie Chart of Radiation Sources
Pie Chart of Radiation Sources

Dosime is a hybrid smart home and wearable device. The device weighs just 57 grams and is only 6.8 centimeters in height, making it extremely easy to take it with you everywhere. Now, the most important question is, how necessary is it to measure radiation level if someone is not living by a nuclear plant? Well, a nuclear plant is not the only one who emits radiation. 82% of the radiation we are exposed to comes from natural sources. The remaining 18% comes from man-made sources. So, yes. It is necessary to measure radiation level in your environment. On their website the company says:

Healthy living includes managing your environment, including factors you can not perceive. Knowledge of radiation exposure empowers you to make informed decisions about your wellbeing.

The Dosime radiation meter can measure radiation levels up to 100 R/h with a maximum dose of 1000 rem. The range of the measurable energy is 50 keV to 3 MeV. It can detect X-Rays and Gamma (γ) rays, but not Alpha (α) rays and Beta (ß) rays. Unfortunately, they are also sources of harmful ionizing radiation.

The Dosime device seamlessly connects to smartphones via WiFi and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). It comes with a built-in rechargeable battery and an AC/DC module. The battery lasts for about one week on a single charge. At home you can dock it in the charger, giving it access to the Wi-Fi network. The app for this device runs on iOS 9 or later, or Android KitKat 4.4 or later.

The Dosime device is available for purchase at a price of US $249.00 (+ $4.81 shipping). You can order it at Amazon.

Upverter, The Online Hardware Design Hub

If you are a hardware DIY enthusiast who is interested in open source hardware and want to share projects and designs, you have to learn more about Upverter.

 

Upverter is a web-based EDA (Electronic Design Automation) system which enables hardware engineers to design, share, and review schematics and PCBs (Printed Circuit Boards). It does for open-source hardware design what GitHub have done for open-source software development, providing a collaboration platform. And also offers a Wikipedia-like electronic-component libraries which would ease the burden of electronic design substantially.

Upveter’s Tools and Services:

  • Schematic Design

Upverter’s Schematic Capture tool is a simple editor that features a real-time syncing and error catching, which enables the teams to work on the same design at the same time. In addition, the in-design search allows you to find a part, net, or an attribute in your design.

  • PCB Layout

Intelligent and responsive PCB layout editor, tightly integrated with the Schematic Capture tool to create an efficient work environment. The netlist and footprint updates appear automatically so that there is no need to manually import the changes.

  • System Design

This tool enables engineers to capture their high-level ideas without losing them as the design moves forward. It allows them to create system architecture, alongside the circuit diagram and PCB layout design.

  • Real-time Collaboration

A very important feature for teams that makes them able to work and develop the designs together, at the same time, and from different places. With Upverter’s automated version control, every action by a team member is logged, synced, and stored, enabling infinite redo/undo stack and quick jump back to a previous instance.

  • Verified Parts Library

A growing and updated large library with the ability to create or order your parts if you couldn’t find them. For accuracy of the schematic symbol, footprint, and key part attributes, Upverter verifies all the parts’ designs, removing the risk of symbol and footprint errors.

  • 3D Rendering & Export

Upverter helps hardware designers to visualize their boards as a real, three dimensional objects before sending them to manufacturing. The rendering is automated and does not need time. You can also export your model in many file types to bring your product to the real world.

The service is free for open-source circuits and boards enabling most features, the professional and premium plans allow private project with access to more features starting from $1,200 per year.

Sign-up and start explore Upverter more by yourself.

 

DIY Generic Curve Tracer

Stoneslice has shared a Curve Tracer tutorial on Youtube that uses an X Y mode Oscilloscope to test components and their characteristics. Using the on-board Phase Shift Oscillator to provide the test signal, passive and active parts can be tested.

These are the  components needed to build the project:

  • 1 x NPN Switching Transistor
  • 1 x 1K Resistor
  • 1 x 4.7K Resistor
  • 1 x 8.2K Resistor
  • 2 x 10K Resistor
  • 1 x 2M Resistor
  • 3 x 4.7nF Capacitor
  • 1 x 1uF Electrolytic Capacitor
  • 1 x DPDT Switch
  • 4 x Sockets
  • 4 x Test points

In this video Stoneslice demonstrates the project sharing all the technical details and information needed, check it out:

Inspired by Stoneslice’s tutorial, Paul Gallagher (tardate) has developed further on the Curve Tracer by using a simple DC Powered oscillator to drive a test signal across the device under test, instead of relying on an AC power supply. Paul also added a DPDT switch to toggle and compare two devices under test.

X-Y signals are plotted on an oscilloscope to visualise the characteristic curve for the component.

  • X is the ground-referenced voltage at the anode of the device under test (DUT)
  • Y is the voltage across the resistor at the cathode of the DUT, which is proportional to the current flowing through the DUT.

Paul tested multiple components like resistors, diodes and capacitors demonstrating the charging and discharging cycles.

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Below is the schematics of Paul’s circuit.

Paul has launched LittleArduinoProjects series, a collection of electronics projects often involving an Arduino,  and this project’s number is 245! Check his two technical blogs: LittleArduinoProjects, and LittleCodingKata – where he tests tools and talks about software development topics.

Further details about this Curve Tracer are available at Github, where you can find schematic, detailed tutorials, the project snapshots in action and resources.

PSU Burner – a power supply tester

Bob @ electrobob.com tipped us with his latest project. It’s about a power supply tester.

What does one do when designing a power supply? Well, build a power supply tester, of course. One of the simplest things to build is a constant current load. This will allow for testing of the endurance of the power supply, as most of the designs out there are using slow components.

However, I wanted to make a better one: one that I could hook up to my Analog Discovery and generate a test waveform to be able to connect and disconnect the load fast. This is a weekend project, so all parts are not the best for the purpose, just what I had around.

PSU Burner – a power supply tester – [Link]

Teardown, Repair and Experiments with a Tektronix RSA 6114A Real-Time Spectrum Analyzer

Shahriar @ The Signal Path did a teardown and repair of Tektronix RSA real-time spectrum analyzer.

In this episode Shahriar attempts a difficult repair of a Tektronix RSA real-time spectrum analyzer. This well-equipped instrument reports several error messages during startup POST including LO Unlock as well as Signal Path failures. The service manual of the instrument does not provide any detailed block diagram and no schematics. Most failures require the instrument to be serviced by the Tektronix factory. The equipment has various advanced options including 110MHz analysis bandwidth, digital modulation analysis, wide-band IF output and deep memory.

Teardown, Repair and Experiments with a Tektronix RSA 6114A Real-Time Spectrum Analyzer – [Link]

ChargEST, A Travel Adapter To Charge Your Devices

When you travel, it’s a bit frustrating to fill your luggage with lots of chargers, cables, and adapters to fit your charging needs. In addition to the space it takes which makes it harder to bring every kind of charger you may need.

ChargEST is designed to become your charging companion anywhere in the world you might be, so you can power up all your devices with a single accessory. It is compatible with USA, UK, Europe, Australia and 150 other outlet and plug standards, that charges cable-less up to two mobile devices with its fast-charging integrated pins and any other devices with the three USB ports.

The ChargEST is a small 8x8x4 cm portable device that fits in your pocket. It is built using high-quality materials and has three fast-charging USB ports, GoGreen on/off button, two height adjustable MicroUSB pins, and USB-C and Lightning plug extensions. You can charge up to six devices at the same time with 6.3A total charging power.

Safety comes as a top priority for ChargEST. Equipped with child-proof design and protection for overheating, short-circuit, voltage variation, and overcharging, you can be assured of having a safe charging experience every single time.

In addition to the ChargEST adapter, there are another two versions: ChargEST Bank, and ChargEST Double. The Bank provides you with extra 6300mA battery for your ChargEST to stay charged wherever you are on the go. It can fully-charge your iPhone or Android smartphone up to 3 times and also has an additional USB outlet to charge any other device.

ChargEST Double is the same of the original ChargEST but with an extra socket to connect other devices.

Six days left for the Indiegogo campaign with a goal of $20,000. However, they raised around $200k till now.

LTC2944 – 60V Battery Gas Gauge with Temperature, Voltage and Current Measurement

The LTC2944 measures battery charge state, battery voltage, battery current and its own temperature in portable product applications. The wide input voltage range allows use with multicell batteries up to 60V. A precision coulomb counter integrates current through a sense resistor between the battery’s positive terminal and the load or charger. Voltage, current and temperature are measured with an internal 14-bit No Latency ΔΣ ADC. The measurements are stored in internal registers accessible via the onboard I2C/SMBus interface.

LTC2944 – 60V Battery Gas Gauge with Temperature, Voltage and Current Measurement – [Link]