What are Linear Actuators?

Any device creating motion in a straight line is a linear actuator. A vehicle is an excellent example of linear motion—the engine makes the car move forward or back in a straight line, unless the driver changes the direction. Other examples of this application are available in the process industries, material handling, food, and beverages processing industry, robotics, and many more. The industry uses different types of linear actuators powered by pneumatics, hydraulic, and/or electric. As it Read more [...]

The Importance of Decibels in Electronics

Engineers use decibels everywhere for calculating power levels, voltage levels, reflection coefficients, noise figures, field strengths, and more. Most instruments use it, whether they are signal generators, spectrum analyzers, test receivers, power meters, network analyzers, or audio analyzers. Despite this, decibels remain a mystery to most people, sometimes including experienced engineers. Engineers deal with numbers in all their professional activities, with some numbers being very large or Read more [...]

ATtiny Remote Power Switch for the Raspberry Pi

One of the shortcomings of most highly popular single board computers such as the Raspberry Pi (RBPi) is the lack of an on/off power switch. The board springs to life as soon as you insert the micro USB power cable into its socket. If you simply switch off power or pull out the micro USB cable off the RBPi, you stand the risk of not only losing data but also of corrupting the file system. Therefore, to shutdown the RBPi safely, you need to call a shutdown command, which closes down the file system Read more [...]

Low-Side & Hi-Side Current Sensing

Electronic systems tend to manage their power consumption to reduce the production of heat as waste. This calls for optimizing the system efficiency by effectively distributing power. As the voltage applied to the circuit is usually a constant, engineers monitor power consumption by keeping track of the current drawn by the circuit—power being the mathematical product of the current and voltage fed to the circuit. Current sensing has additional advantages, mainly that of maintaining the health Read more [...]

What are Ball Grid Arrays?

Initially, surface mount devices, especially ICs, came as perimeter-only packages, with pins for soldering placed along the edge of the device. As ICs became more complex, they needed more pins for external interfacing, which made the packages larger. Manufacturers soon realized there was a large unused real estate that lay just under the package. Therefore, they made the ball grid array (BGA) packaging, which, in place of pins, had solder balls aligned in a grid under the device. Soldering BGAs Read more [...]

How Do Power Supplies Share Current?

Those who use power supplies to run different devices often face a peculiar problem. The load may demand more power from a single power supply that it can safely provide continuously. Since the voltage to the load has to remain constant, the situation calls for using additional power supplies to supply the excess current, and inevitably, users must connect them in parallel. However, simply connecting power supplies in parallel does not guarantee they will share the load current between them in an Read more [...]

ElectroSmash Pedal for the Raspberry Pi

Guitarists favor expensive gear. For instance, they hold online discussions about the best types of wire for guitar pickups. They even go to great lengths while selecting the type of transistors that will give them the best fuzz tone. They hold extensive discussions about the merits of the pentode rectifier over the tetrode type. While the geeks in the electronics world share several common characteristics with the guitar geeks, the ElectroSmash Pedal Pi would interest both. Both teams are already Read more [...]

Connecting Wireless Temperature Controllers

Modern industrial temperature controllers are not just simple thermostats, as their earlier counterparts were. With the ability to control upwards of a hundred parameters, the latest industrial temperature controllers allow users to set not only temperature points, but also program alarm settings based on adjustable ramp parameters. Users can select the RTD or thermocouple they want to use for collecting data, while setting limits on the set points. With the advent of digital temperature controllers, Read more [...]

Do You Need EMC Testing?

Any electronic product faces a necessary hurdle before it goes to the market. It must clear the Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) test. This being a critical test in the design journey of an electronic product and passing this crucial test proves the design is right. However, most designers relegate this important emissions testing to a late part of the design lifecycle of the product. This unnecessarily increases the risk of cost overruns and project delays shortly before the planned launch. Read more [...]

Tracking Micro-Fluidic Flows

Scientists have taken analytical chemistry to such advancements that it can detect the effects of extremely tiny amounts of liquids—triggering the requirement of a need to measure such microflow of liquids. NIST, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, has produced such a microflow measurement device, the size of a nickel, and has filed a provisional patent application for it. The device is capable of measuring movements of nanoliters (nL) of liquid per minute. A nanoliter is a billionth Read more [...]