Category Archives: CAD/CAM

Notes about OSH Stencils

A few notes from listening to Brent of OSH Stencils: on The Amp Hour:

  • Planning to offer 1.6mm jigs to eliminate the error vis a visa common PCB thickness (hurray)
  • For those that didn’t know:
    • Offering high quality Kester solder paste (in checkout cart, as with the jigs)
    • Offering stainless steel as well as kapton (stainless steel are common 4mil thickness).
  • 5x5mil smallest feature size possible with kapton stencils. Minimum feature size for steel stencils is ONE MIL!
  • They see 70/30% split between 3mil and 5mil thickness of kapton. The 3mil is best for ordinary work, while the 5mil is appropriate for high power devices with large thermal pads, etc. where a lot of solder is needed. I can vouch for the fact that 5mil is a total disaster for fine pitch parts like a QFN package. Kapton in 4mil is unobtanium, which is why they don’t offer that thickness.
  • Name is OSH Stencils because Brent was originally going to collaborate with Laen of OSH Park, but a change in Laen’s circumstances caused them to remain separate entities and Laen was totally OK with the similarity of names.
  • Can reduce kapton stencil curl by “counter-rolling” the material and this will give temporary relief.
  • Started with hobby laser: That “exploded” the first week after starting business. Switched to Epilog 24 (roughly $30k)
  • Stainless steel stencils made with approx $300k LPKF fiber-based “flagship model” laser cutter
  • Have maintained 24 hour turn time from the beginning. They went with high end laser to be able to make *the best* stainless steel stencils. They are competitive by avoiding framed stencils and using a proprietary material loading system into the LPKF. Basic cost of framed stencil material is 5X the cost of raw. Could use “pneumatic frame” to simulate real frame, but that didn’t allow sheet sizes that were large enough to be cost effective.
  • Brent said their charter as they began making steel stencils was to offer the top quality at reasonable prices. He invited people to compare their metal stencils to Chinese stencils under a microscope as they consider potential “cost savings” by going off shore. (OSH Stencils is in the Salt Lake City area of Utah). The metal makeup is different. Most offshore vendors use “inexpensive stainless steel”. Looking at the apertures (the cutouts) you often see grooves to do with the kerf (diameter of laser beam). With low quality metals the edges of apertures have grooves making them look like washboards.  Also see minor warping and ripples in the Chinese metal.
  • Look for “exciting announcements” to do with the stencil process to be offered by OSH Stencils in coming months.
  • OSH Stencils makes stencils for customers that have nothing to do with electronics. Art projects, special “plates” for mechanical components, etc. They’re open to queries about whether your creative application can be handled by their equipment.

Battery Testing Resources

LoanerDummyLoad

This is a constant current dummy load made from one of  Shane Trent’s  PCBs like those given away at a recent TriEmbed meeting. As mentioned on the  email list,  this PCB is a “fixed” version of a design from a “Sleepy Robot” blog of a guy named Wittenberg, which is itself a derivation of an original design by Dave Jones of EEVblog.  Wittenberg had made available  gerbers for his design (in early 2012)  that were unfortunately defective, and he didn’t allow for two way communication, forcing Shane to go to great lengths to correct the gerbers and get a run of PCBs fabricated. Shane’s blog article covers all this in depth and has a link to the corrected gerber files in zip format.

Fast forwarding to the present, here’s a recent tutorial by Dave going into depth about battery measurements.  Viewers will just have to put up with the axe-grinding, horse-beating treatment of a “battery life extender” Kickstarter that pushed Dave’s buttons. Apart from this, it’s an excellent treatment and a fantastic “essential subset” spreadsheet tutorial for folks that just want a hint about how to do cool things like the graph-making done in this video.

I assembled and tested a second of the PCBs recently.  It will sink up to one amp at up to around the 60 volt limit of the FET used (MTP3055VL) HOWEVER, unless you like to see magic smoke the 18 watt thermal limit of the FET/heatsink assembly has to be honored. So at a full ampere the voltage limit is around 18, and at that load be sure to avoid touching the transistor! At one ampere the shunt resistor will  be operating at it’s rated dissipation limit and will also be very hot. To summarize, this load has to be kept at an amp or less and at 18 watts of power dissipation or less. (Note: the shunt resistor is temporarily 5% tolerance due to an ordering blunder. That will be fixed.)

I’ve decided to make it available for borrowing by TriEmbed meeting attendees who can guarantee it’s return by them or their designee at the following month’s meeting. The transistor is not expensive and it won’t be any big disaster (just embarrassing)  if it’s accidentally destroyed, but blowing the traces off the PCB will be frowned upon (joke). So this (and perhaps some of the TriEmbed contact cards Paul made, hallway signs, etc) could be part of a shared resource that could expand over time.

The “UI” is currently two voltmeter test points, with the unit showing the load current as a one to one mapping from amperes to volts. A digital display with simple USB serial (current and “external voltage” aka battery voltage)  logging output and some temperature compensation/auto-calibration is planned, but it would be straight forward to tie the test points  to something like an Arduino analog pin or two.

Remotely controlling and/or making  the current limit programmable would be a bit harder, but a properly coordinated hack to provide an alternative control mechanism would be OK with me and make for a fun project for somebody.

Here are all the design-related links in one place:

Here are some BOM changes:

  • The load connection is just four bare plated through holes intended to get some wire loops. These Newark  12H8386  screw terminals solder in and work well.
  • As mentioned, a momentarily loose screw resulted in this Mouser part 660-MF1/4DCT52R10R0F  five watt resistor being substituted for the default 10 1/4 watt resistors. The bad news is this resistor has a 350ppm/C coefficient as well as being only 5% tolerance.  A better choice than either might be a pair of three watt, two ohm 1% Vishay resistors such as Mouser 71-RS02B2R000FE12. These have 50ppm/C coefficient so there would be about another 1/2% error at the point you could boil water on them.

EveryCircuit: Chrome killer app for electronics enthusiasts

everycircuit.com-circuit-6343833974472704-full-wave-rectifier-

I recently added an app to my smart phone and, as a side effect, added another app, and  that led me to stumble upon the web site http://everycircuit.com, which provides electronic circuit editing/simulation/presentation tools together with commercial and crowd sourced example circuits.

For those whose religious convictions or practical circumstances make Chrome available on a laptop/desktop, the rest of this page might be interesting. Likewise, if you have a spare $10 the Android or IPhone apps might be interesting. So far, the Android version “just works” on my phone and I personally rate it “Uh, I’ve got to put my socks back on.”  Finally reading the site’s terms of use use might be a good idea for some people. I carefully read every word, something I rarely do. But I was relieved to see that the EveryCircuit people (currently) appear to stop short of claiming copyright on crowd sourced circuits.

To check this site out, try this link to the user-submitted rectifier circuit example above inside an instance of the Google Chrome browser on a desktop or laptop computer:

Visit rectifier example

Now  click the moving squiggle in the upper left. It expands to a pretend oscilloscope showing voltage and current vs time for one part of the circuit.

Now click the “edit this circuit” link. There are tools for modifying this circuit.

Cool, heh? The main site page is here.

Yes, again, this tool isn’t supported in many, many settings that readers of this blog find themselves in. It’s completely dependent on Chrome.  On behalf of the company owning this site (that I just found: I have no connection to it), I’m sorry it isn’t more portable.

By the way: Anybody reading this is welcome to submit their impressions of this or anything else here as comments below. TriEmbed meeting attendees or their online friends (such as in Vermont) are invited to request a blog account if they have interest in adding content to this site via blog postings, additional project pages, etc. Your access  will be proportional to how well you’re known to the admins and editors (but we’re always looking for new editors and at least one additional admin!) It takes about 10 minutes with somebody who is WordPress fluent to learn how to add content.

Low Voltage MOSFET Transistors

Shane Trent recently shared some recommendations for MOSFET transistors in SOI8 packages that will switch to saturation with ordinary logic level signals.  The two transistors he mentions are inexpensive, offer low on resistance, and would seem to be perfect for prototyping, except for one detail. Off the shelf SOIC8 breakout boards such as this one from Adafruit are designed for small signals and modest power supply currents. The N channel part Shane recommends can handle enough current in pulse mode to demonstrate the Adafruit board traces as fusible links. On the other hand, anything beyond a small number of amperes is asking trouble with a breadboard. (For higher power situations Shane’s article also describes interesting transistors in TO220/251 packages.)

After kicking some ideas around a simple breakout board was designed to cover both low-medium and high current use cases. A handful will be coming from OSH Park within the next couple weeks. Here are top and bottom views of the board:

PowerFetSOIC8-1-topPowerFetSOIC8-1-bottom

Assuming it has no CAD or fabrication bugs, this board will handle any SOIC8 FET with the pins 1-3 for Source, 4, for gate, and 5-8 for drain. The resistor R1 connects the gate to the source to avoid accidental triggering from high Z or open circuit situations.  A value of one megohm should be sufficient. The pads are for an 0805 size resistor. The bottom three pads are for standard or right angle male header pins to go into a standard breadboard. The upper pads are sized for 16 gauge wire to allow high current connections to the source and drain.

Some assembled and bare boards will be brought to the July 13 TriEmbed meeting at NCSU. If the first version is defective we’ll use them to play tiddlywinks. As soon as the board is shown to have no defects the design will be published to the OSH Park “Shared Project” area on their web site.

 

Ready for Kicad!!

At the TriEmbed meeting this coming Monday I’ll be asking if others are interested in joining a systematic self-study of Kicad.

I knew I’d be driven to this sooner or later, but the future is now, as they say. I’m working on a combination clock calibrator and frequency counter and find the design process dominated by the challenge of fitting the silly thing into a single Eagle schematic sheet.

The current rough cut of the circuit building blocks is the super-compressed schematic toward the bottom of the project page. This hodge podge of schematic symbols jammed together make it clear that the free version of Eagle is not up to expressing a system this large and complex. (Correction: I have a license for non-educational use, but just the cheap one that has the same size constraints as the free version.)

Update: A “Kicad Study Group” page has been added and at least a half dozen folks expressed interest in taking part.

Update: Nobody’s missed anything, time’s just run short this month.

Murphy’s Law of PCB CAD

I’m putting together some logic chips to make a couple of precision timing tools as part of a clock calibration project. The FIRST old TI chip I go to add to a new schematic in Eagle has no library support. If I had a nickle for every time this has happened… So I search for it and here’s the one hit at Element14:

“Hey, I’m a new user here, and pretty new to using Eagle Cad. I am looking for a dual 16 bit counter, and the chip that I’ve been using in my lab, and am using Eagle Cad to make a schematic.

Is there any library that includes the chip? Or is there any good alternative inside the existing Eagle Cad libraries?

74LV8154 is the chip I’m using, datasheet: http://www.ti.com/product/sn74lv8154-ep

Thanks! <name omitted>

This is followed by one reply:

Hi,

if you are new to EAGLE, it’s a good point to start your training by

creating your own library. You will have to learn it anyway in the long run.

 Best Regards, <omitted>

Folks, here is my reply to this: There will soon be an Eagle library item for this chip. I’ll gladly mail it to you after you deposit $100 in my Paypal account. Consider this extra special motivation for you to fully enjoy the learning experience of making your own component file as a cheaper option that will enrich your life and improve your character.

Sheesh. But seriously, it might eventually be worthwhile to create TriEmbed libraries. I have a handful of custom component descriptions that I trust and would be comfortable sharing. The additional value of this is that we might get feedback about how to improve them.