Free PADS PCB packages from Mentor/Digi-Key

by Graham Prophet @

Two versions of the PADS software package (by Mentor, now a Siemens business) have been made available through distributor Digi-Key. Positioned as design software for “the aspiring innovator” both the free and the $499 versions include access to parts libraries and to a circuit simulator.

Free PADS PCB packages from Mentor/Digi-Key – [Link]

Embedded vision development kit targets mobile & ‘edge’ applications

by Graham Prophet @

Lattice Semiconductor positions its Embedded Vision Development Kit as the first of its type, that is optimized for mobile-influenced system designs that require flexible, low cost, and low power image processing architectures, by which the company refers to Robotics, Drones, ADAS, smart surveillance and AR/VR systems

Embedded vision development kit targets mobile & ‘edge’ applications – [Link]

Printed Two-Dimensional Transistors

Researchers from AMBER (Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research) and Trinity College (Dublin), together with the TU Delft have succeeded in producing printed transistors, which are made solely from two-dimensional nano materials. These materials have characteristics with much promise and, importantly, can also be produced very cheaply. Possible applications for this procedure are food packaging with a digital countdown timer for the use-by date, wine labels which will show when the contents is at the optimal drinking temperature, security for bank notes and perhaps even flexible solar cells.

The researchers, under the leadership of professors Jonathan Coleman and Georg Duesberg, have used standard printing techniques to combine nano sheets of graphene, which are used as electrodes, with two other nano materials (tungsten diselenide and boron nitride) that function as channel and separator. The result is functional transistor made from nano sheets using only printing technology.

Two-dimensional transistors, as such, are not new – they have already been manufactured using a chemical deposition from the vapor phase. A significant disadvantage of this and other existing methods is their high cost. In comparison, printed electronics is based around printable molecules formed from carbon compounds, which can easily and cheaply be turned into a usable ink.

The material of the printed electronics comprises a large number of nano sheets of different sizes (which are sometimes also called ‘flakes’). During the printing process these are layered in a random pattern. The consequence of this is that the printed material is somewhat unstable and the performance has some limitations.

The transistors printed this way are a first important step towards printed 2D-structures made from a single nano sheet. This would dramatically improve the performance of printed electronics. This is the subject of current research at the TU Delft.

Jonathan Coleman from Trinity College is a partner of Graphene flagship, an EU initiative that in the next 10 years has to stimulate new technologies and innovation.

Source: Elektor

Zephyr Project Hosted by Linux Foundation — Yet Another RTOS for IoT

What is Zephyr?

Zephyr is a small footprint IoT RTOS (less than 10kB) with no user-space and dynamic allocation which make it suitable to run on resource-constrained platforms. Moreover, it’s modular and supports multiple architectures, including ARM, X86,ARC, NIOS-II and others).

Zephyr is an open source project under Apache 2.0 License and hosted by Linux Foundation. However, Being hosted by Linux Foundation doesn’t mean that Zephyr project is a scaled version of linux OS.

As connectivity is one of the main concerns in IoT, Zephyr provides support for IEEE 802.15.4, Bluetooth V4.0, NFC, WiFi and 3GPP. While security is another concern it also provides a cryptographic library based on TinyCrypt2 and mbedTLS.

Why is Zephyr?

Zephyr claims that its kernel offers a number of features that distinguish it from other small-footprint Oses. Zephyr works on single address-space, where both the application and kernel are combined on a single image and execute in a single address-space; they like to call this feature as library-based RTOS (“kernel-less”) so there is no need for dynamic loading at run-time . Moreover, Zephyr has two Kernel modes : “Nanokernel” — with limited functionality targeting small footprint (below 10k) and “Microkernel” — a superset of nanokernel.

Where is Zepher?

Zepher supports variety of architectures and development boards including X86 boards like MinnowBoard, Genuino 101, Quark D2000 and others; and ARM boards like Arduino Due, ST Nucleo F401RE and others.

The Development Environment supports Windows, Linux and MAC OS. To get started with Zephyr, refer to the official getting started page.
This young and fresh RTOS is already adapted by commercial products like Grush — an interactive Bluetooth toothbrush.


What Is Household Ground?

Image source: RimstarOrg Youtube channel
Image source: RimstarOrg Youtube channel

RimstarOrg published an interesting video on his Youtube channel to demonstrate why In north America you can find 3 holes in the electricity socket; which are hot, neutral and ground.

Image source: RimstarOrg Youtube channel
Image source: RimstarOrg Youtube channel

The hot wire goes to a breaker-panel and then to electricity grid and finally to a transformer somewhere. While the neutral line is connected with a bar in the breaker-panel and goes directly to the electricity grid and then to the transformer. Mostly, these wires’ colors are respectively black, white.

Breaker-panel — Image source: RimstarOrg Youtube channel
Breaker-panel — Image source: RimstarOrg Youtube channel

To understand why having a ground in household appliances is important, the video explained a use-case; a microwave-oven with 3 wires electricity plug where the electricity flows between the hot and the neutral, while the ground is connected to the external case. However, if the hot wire isolation gets damaged and attached to the case, the grounded case will make a low resistance path for the electricity. This will protect you from an electric shock because the electricity in this low resistance path will be very high forcing the breaker switches off.

Image source: RimstarOrg Youtube channel
Image source: RimstarOrg Youtube channel

Having a ground in the electrical system can play a role in the places where lightning can occur by forming a discharging path for charged cases in your house.
To understand more about household ground and other different meanings and applications of earth and ground watch the complete video below:


Source: Adafruit Blog

PIC Development Board for RS485 & DMX512 Applications

This PIC development board has been designed to develop RS485 based and DMX512 applications, the board has 28 pin SMD Pic micro-controller, RS485 chip for communications, all I/O line has pull-up resistor which can be soldered as per application requirement on particular port pins. In-circuit programming of PIC micro-controller can be achieved via a 6-pin header that is compatible with the Microchip PICkit2 or PICkit3. On board 3.3 V and 5V DC regulators allows using 3V and 5V PICS. This board support both 3.3V low power and normal 5V operation, supply selection with jumper closure. All I/O pins supported with parallel GND and VCC header connector for easy interface of any device or sensor and also can be used as address setting jumper by pulling high or low. Important  for DMX512 Address.

PIC Development Board for RS485 & DMX512 Applications – [Link]

On-Chip Microwave Laser

Lasers are everywhere these days: at the checkout in the supermarket, in the CD player in the lounge – and quantum researchers need them to test qubits in the (future) quantum computers. For most applications, today’s large, inefficient lasers are a perfectly adequate solution, but quantum systems operate on a very small scale and at extremely low temperatures. Researchers, for the past 40 years, have been trying to develop accurate and efficient microwave lasers that will not disturb the ultra-cold and fragile quantum experiments. A team of researchers from the Dutch Technical University Delft have now developed an on-chip laser, which is based on the Josephson-effect. The resulting microwave laser opens the door to applications where microwave radiation with a low loss is essential. An important example is the control of qubits in a scalable quantum computer.

Lasers emit coherent light: the line width (the color spectrum) can be very narrow. A typical laser comprises a large number of emitters (atoms, molecules or charge carriers in semiconductors) in a oscillator cavity. These conventional lasers are generally inefficient and generate much heat. This makes them a challenge to use in low-temperature applications, such as quantum technologies.

The researchers constructed a single Josephson junction in an extremely small superconducting oscillator cavity. Here, the Josephson junction behaves like a single atom, while the micro cavity behaves like a pair of mirrors for microwave light: the result is a microwave laser on a chip. By cooling the chip down to ultra-low temperatures (less than 1 kelvin) a coherent beam of microwave light is generated at the output of the oscillator cavity. The on-chip laser is extremely efficient: it requires less than one picowatt to produce laser radiation.

The research paper can be read here.

Source: Elektor

Explore magnetoresistive sensing with Arduino

Graham Prophet@ discuss about precision-measurement motion sensing using Arduino compatible kit.

From distributor RS Components, this kit enables development of precision-measurement motion control systems using Sensitec’s magnetoresistive sensor technology, applied to linear and angular measurement.

Explore magnetoresistive sensing with Arduino – [Link]

ARM CoreSight SoC-600, The Future of Debug

Debugging is an important part of the design process that is necessary to identify and fix errors. Over the decades, debug tools had evolved providing easier and simpler solutions. Today, ARM introduces CoreSight SoC-600 as the next-generation debug and trace tool that speeds up finding the root of the problem, with less iterations and lower risks.

Addressing the requirements of the increasingly connected world characterized by faster product-development cycles, this new technology offers debug and trace over functional interfaces such as USB, PCIe or wireless, reducing the need for hardware debug probes while increasing data throughput.

Key benefits include:

  • Debug access available and accessible throughout the product lifecycle, from production and manufacture, to remote access in the field
  • Remote debug access (e.g. via Ethernet or wirelessly)
  • Increased data bandwidth for improved system visibility
  • Multiple debug agents can simultaneously access debug memory space (e.g. for concurrent external and self-hosted access)
  • Interface peripherals (such as USB and PCIe) share a common access to APs, together with any existing JTAG DP or resident software
  • Self-hosted, cross CPU debug access

CoreSight SoC-600 comes with a new Debug Access Port (DAP) architecture. It introduces standard APB connectivity between Debug Port (DP) and Access Port (AP), making it possible to have multiple DPs connected to multiple APs.

CoreSight SoC-600 also includes an enhanced Embedded Trace Router (ETR) functionality. In additional to removing the need for a separate Trace Memory Controller (TMC) license, enhancements to the Embedded Trace Router (ETR) configuration make it possible to supply a trace interface with four times the amount of bandwidth previously possible.

There are two approaches to host the link protocol when building a CoreSight SoC-600-based system:

  1. Protocol on dedicated CPU: this approach comes at a cost of additional dedicated resources, however, it is the least intrusive approach and provides bare metal debug capabilities.
  2. Protocol on main CPU: this approach does not require additional hardware, yet it is invasive and relies on CPU not being halted.

For further information and details about SoC-600 you can visit the official page, and the official article on ARM website.

Reference design – USB Type-C charger delivers 18W

Graham Prophet @ discuss about a 18W USB power supply reference design.

This joint reference design describes an 18W, USB PD compliant, AC-DC power converter. The design, titled DER-567, pairs the WT6630P USB Type-C PD controller from Weltrend with Power Integrations’ InnoSwitch-CP off-line CV/CC flyback switcher IC, to produce a compact and highly energy-efficient standards-compliant power adapter, that PI says will deliver faster charge times for the larger batteries required to power next-generation mobile devices.

Reference design – USB Type-C charger delivers 18W – [Link]