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Updated: 34 weeks 2 days ago

How To Do PCB Art In Eagle

Wed, 2017-08-30 22:01

Last month I had the pleasure of creating a new piece of hardware for Tindie. [Jasmine], the queen bee of Tindie, and I designed, developed, and kitted three hundred Tindie badges in ten days leading up to DEF CON. The badges were a complete success, they introduced soldering to a lot of people, and were loved by all.

This badge was such a rousing success, it’s now official Tindie swag. We’ll be handing out a few of these blinky badges at upcoming events. But as of right now we’ve already handed out our entire stock, that means we need to build more. The second run meant ordering a thousand PCBs.

We could just do another run, and order a few more PCBs from the Gerbers I’ve already designed. I’m not really happy with the first version of this badge, though, and this is an opportunity to improve my design. This also gives me an opportunity to demonstrate my workflow for creating artistic boards in Eagle.

Effectively, what I’ll be demonstrating here is the creation of the Benchoff Nickel. A few months ago, [Andrew Sowa] took a portrait of yours truly, changed the colors to what is available on a normal OSHPark PCB, and turned that into different layers in KiCad. There are a few differences here. Firstly, I’ll be using a blue solder mask, although the same technique can be applied to green, red, yellow, white, or black soldermask. Secondly, this is Eagle, and I’m going to do the majority of the work with a BMP import. This is the fast and easy way to do things; if you want a KiCad tutorial, check out [Andrew]’s work, or my overly-involved multiple silkscreen process for KiCad. I don’t recommend this overly-involved process if you can help it. It took 20 hours to do the art for my previous project in KiCad, and I estimate it would have taken two in Eagle.

With that said, here’s the easy, cheap, and fast way of doing artistic boards in Eagle.

The Circuit

The original version of this pin featured an extremely simple circuit. The only electronic elements on this badge are a 1220-sized 3V battery, two 5mm LEDs, and nothing else. The LEDs are a bit strange — they’re low-profile, fast flicker red green and blue LEDs. They’re actually really cheap on AliExpress, they work well with the design, and experience tells me I don’t need a resistor for the LEDs.

The requisite resistor for the LEDs was a point of contention in the original design of the badge. Yes, best practice tells me I need a current limiting resistor on these LEDs. However, the battery has an internal resistance, and the LEDs themselves are more than just a semiconductor — there’s blinky circuitry in there. I doubt I actually need a current limiting resistor, but honestly, I don’t care enough to measure the LEDs and find out if I actually do. In any event, a resistor is another component in what is meant to be a kit for people soldering for the first time in their lives. There’s no need to complicate this any further.

The circuit will remain the same.

Putting the ‘A’ in STEAM

The high-level how-to for creating art in Eagle is a lot like creating artistic PCBs in any other piece of software:

  1. Do art. Create an image of what you want the PCB to look like. It’s helpful if the art uses the same colors as the PCB (bare fiberglass, copper, soldermask and silkscreen colors).
  2. Split that art up into layers, with each layer consisting of only one color. We’re basically doing a spot process here. Bonus points for creating a vector outline of the board.
  3. Import the outline of the board into Eagle. Alternatively, import a bitmap of the entire image and trace around the board with a milling line.
  4. For each layer of the board, import a BMP into Eagle.

Basically, this process relies heavily on Eagle’s ability to import bitmap files. There are better ways to do this including an SVG import, but this is the fast, easy, and foolproof way. With that said, let’s continue with the working example. Below are a few swatches showing what colors are available in a blue PCB from any random Chinese board house:

The colors available on a standard blue PCB from a random Chinese board house

From here, it’s just a matter of taking the vector art of the Tindie head and changing the colors around. From there, it’s simply a matter of bringing this vector art over to Photoshop or your raster editor of choice, adjusting the size of the art to the size of the final PCB, and bumping the resolution up to 300 pixels per inch.

With that, we’re ready to start creating bitmaps to import into Eagle. To do that, we need to understand layers in Eagle, and how those layers are turned into a PCB.

Layers in Eagle

This tutorial assumes a working knowledge of Eagle. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already made a board with Eagle, and you’ve ordered those boards from OSHPark or Seeed or Elecrow. If not, read this. You already know how copper, soldermask, and silkscreen works. Eagle has more layers than that; we’ll also need to work with negative layers. That is, telling Eagle where we don’t want copper or soldermask.

Here’s OSHPark’s explanation of how layers in Eagle work. Basically, we need to look at two layers. The tStop and bStop are where the soldermask shouldn’t go. This means the resulting color will be silver (if we’re using an HASL process) or gold (if we’re using ENIG process). The tRestrict and bRestrict are where copper shouldn’t go. This means the soldermask will be darker. If we were to combine tStop and tRestrict, we would get a yellow or white color — the color of bare fiberglass.

Of special note is the relationship between silkscreen (the white) and soldermask (blue, or purple, or green). Silkscreen must go on top of soldermask. Silkscreen doesn’t stick to bare copper, and the board house will probably remove it if it’s on bare fiberglass. All silkscreen must have soldermask underneath it.

Importing Multiple Images to Eagle

It’s time to split our art up into a handful of bitmaps and import them into Eagle. Each image you plan to import needs to be saved as a 1-bit BMP at 300 DPI.

The first will be a silhouette of the entire board. This will be the top copper layer and what we’ll use it to trace the outline of the board. Yes, we could take the vector art and use a DXF import for the milling layer, but I distrust DXF imports from Illustrator, and this is a small board, anyway; doing it manually won’t take much time. Import the silhouette like so:

Now, we can continue creating the silkscreen, tRestrict, and tStop layers. If you’re using Photoshop or Gimp, this is as simple as selecting the relevant areas with the magic wand, and creating a new bitmap file. Take a few moments to study and understand how the images below will transfer to what we want on the PCB layers. Understanding this intuitively opens you up to a new level of artistry when designing board. Why would you ever again make boring boards when a bit of effort will produce something quite beautiful.

Since all the images are the same size, and have been saved as a 1-bit BMP at 300 DPI, importing them into Eagle automatically aligns them on top of each other. The result is a Tindie badge that should look like what we’ve designed in Photoshop:

OSHPark is actually a really, really good online Gerber viewer. There are reports this is by design.

From here, it’s just a simple matter of placing components and drawing traces. Like the last revision of this badge, I used copper fills instead of traces, but otherwise, this badge is identical.

This is the easy and fast way of doing art in Eagle. There are better ways of doing art in Eagle, namely importing areas as DXFs and manually tracing them as area polygons. In fact, this is basically what I did when I created the MrRobotBadge. If you’d like a good guide on how to do that in KiCad, check out this tutorial. It relies entirely on DXF imports, but it did take about 20 hours to transfer that relatively simple work of art into KiCad. DXF importing is a massive amount of work, but in some cases the results are worth it — I’ve been told by people who know their stuff that the mask and silkscreen work on the MrRobotBadge is the cleanest they’ve ever seen, and that used Seeed for a board house.

This is, effectively, the current state of the art in PCB art. anything with a more interesting design is entirely up to the implementation, and there are certainly artists out there more capable than myself. If you’d like some inspiration for what can be done in the medium of PCBs, there’s a Facebook group. A few people are messing around with halftone processes to get even more shades, and soon I’ll be experimenting with more colors than are available in the usual layer stack up. Until those experiments begin to bear fruit, this is the easiest and best way to make artistic boards in Eagle.

Filed under: Hackaday Columns, how-to, Skills
Categories: Hack-a-Day

Living In A Storage Locker Undetected For 2 Months

Wed, 2017-08-30 19:00

A Vancouver man [007craft], also known as [Michael], posted a video on YouTube about his living in a storage locker to save money for an apartment. The small space meant he had to incorporate quite a few little hacks to make living there comfortable.

While probably illegal and almost certainly against the storage locker’s terms of service, it seems you can live quite well in a storage locker if times get tough. [Michael] lived in a U-haul storage locker which cost him around $160 per month complete with bed, bar, living area and kitchen including running water. He goes on to explain how his first problem was electricity, which he had to obtain from an outlet quite a distance from his unit, To do this he just plugged in a large extension cord and cable tied it to the wall so it didn’t look too out-of-place, while for his water supply he used two water tanks, one each for waste and fresh water. Surprisingly he says he only needed to change them over around once a week from a water fountain. He did manage to live there undiscovered for 2 months by keeping out of sight as much as possible.

The video includes quite a few small hacks which try to make the most of the tiny space available and is well worth a watch even if you aren’t planning on living in a storage unit, so check it out below the break.

Filed under: home hacks
Categories: Hack-a-Day

Mouse Mis-Clicking? We Got You.

Wed, 2017-08-30 16:00

A mouse with malfunctioning buttons can be a frustrating to deal with — and usually a short leap to percussive maintenance. Standard fixes may not always last due to inferior build quality of the components, or when the microswitch won’t close at all. But, for mice that double/triple-click, will release when dragging, or mis-click on release, this Arduino-based hack may be the good medicine you’re after.

Instructables user [themoreyouknow]’s method cancels click malfunctions by latching the mouse’s controller switch trace to ‘on’ when pressed, keeping it there until the button normally closed contact closes again completely. Due to the confined spaces, you’ll want to use the smallest Arduino you can find, some insulating tape to prevent any shorts, and care to prevent damaging the wires this process adds to the mouse when you cram it all back together.

Before you take [themoreyouknow]’s guide as dogma, the are a few caveats to this hack; they are quick to point out that this won’t work on mice that share two pins between three buttons — without doing it the extra hard way, and that this might be trickier on gaming or other high-end mice, so attempt at your own peril.

Speaking of gaming mice, we recently featured a way to add some extra functionality to your mouse — cheating optional — as well as how to stash a PC inside an old Logitech model.

Filed under: hardware, how-to
Categories: Hack-a-Day

ESP8266 Adds Slick Touchscreen Controls to a Stretch Limo

Wed, 2017-08-30 13:01

The popularity of the ESP8266 WiFi module has a lot to do with its ability to inexpensively connect to the Internet. However, [hwhardsoft]’s stretch limousine environmental control system explores another use for these modules: a simple way to tie together disparate systems with a common user interface.

On a basic level, the problem is one we’ve all faced: multiple devices with multiple control interfaces create an awkward user experience. Have you ever worked in an office with 6 brands of air conditioner requiring 6 different remotes? Because of its low-cost, support for Wi-Fi, serial, and GPIO, ESP8266 boards are a reasonable candidate to create a unified control system for multiple devices. This is even more true for the ESP32, as it adds Bluetooth support.

[hwhardsoft]’s use case is fairly straightforward. The limousine (a Lincoln stretch) has multiple LED lighting controllers, climate control, and a laser projector. This was not exactly a smooth user experience, so [hwhardsoft] tied all the controls to two slick touchscreen interfaces (presumably one for the driver and one for the passengers).

Each touchscreen sends commands over Wi-Fi using UDP to a control board that switches relays to control the different devices, as we’ve seen previously.

While relays are arguably not the ideal solution here, these control boards already existed and were functional, so it would have been wasteful to throw them out. An easy improvement suitable for future projects would be to use NPN transistors to simulate button presses on the remote controls. This works quite well and lowers cost, power, and parts count, while being faster, more reliable, and quiet.

If you wanted to build something similar in your home or office, but want to use an Android smartphone instead of a touchscreen, the Kivy Python module allows you to do just that. It’s quite easy to set up a simple interface with buttons, dropdown lists, and text inputs that send data to an ESP8266 over UDP.

Filed under: led hacks, transportation hacks
Categories: Hack-a-Day

AI Watches You Sleep; Knows When You Dream

Wed, 2017-08-30 10:01

If you’ve never been a patient at a sleep laboratory, monitoring a person as they sleep is an involved process of wires, sensors, and discomfort. Seeking a better method, MIT researchers — led by [Dina Katabi] and in collaboration with Massachusetts General Hospital — have developed a device that can non-invasively identify the stages of sleep in a patient.

Approximately the size of a laptop and mounted on a wall near the patient, the device measures the minuscule changes in reflected low-power RF signals. The wireless signals are analyzed by a deep neural-network AI and predicts the various sleep stages — light, deep, and REM sleep — of the patient, negating the task of manually combing through the data. Despite the sensitivity of the device, it is able to filter out irrelevant motions and interference, focusing on the breathing and pulse of the patient.

What’s novel here isn’t so much the hardware as it is the processing methodology. The researchers use both convolutional and recurrent neural networks along with what they call an adversarial training regime:

Our training regime involves 3 players: the feature encoder (CNN-RNN), the sleep stage predictor, and the source discriminator. The encoder plays a cooperative game with the predictor to predict sleep stages, and a minimax game against the source discriminator. Our source discriminator deviates from the standard domain-adversarial discriminator in that it takes as input also the predicted distribution of sleep stages in addition to the encoded features. This dependence facilitates accounting for inherent correlations between stages and individuals, which cannot be removed without degrading the performance of the predictive task.

Anyone out there want to give this one a try at home? We’d love to see a HackRF and GNU Radio used to record RF data. The researchers compare the RF to WiFi so repurposing a 2.4 GHz radio to send out repeating uniformed transmissions is a good place to start. Dump it into TensorFlow and report back.

The team is hoping to make diagnosing sleep disorders — and other ailments that disrupt sleep like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s — a bit easier. Boasting 80% accuracy, the team maintains this is comparable to traditional methods of monitoring sleep cycles using an EEG and technicians — with far less hassle for all involved.

All this said, sometimes extreme measures are needed to dissuade outside forces from interrupting your sleep, or enlist the aid of a cuddly terminator.

[Thanks for the tip, Itay via Gizmodo]

Filed under: misc hacks, radio hacks
Categories: Hack-a-Day

Spell Out the Time with Frickin’ Laser Beams

Wed, 2017-08-30 07:01

Clocks are a never-ending source of fascination to hackers. We get all kinds around here, from Steampunk Nixie clocks to retro cool flip clocks to clocks that don’t even look like clocks. But this is something new — a glow-in-the-dark laser tracing clock.

What [tuckershannon]’s clock lacks in practicality it makes up for in the gee-whiz department. The idea is simple: trace the characters out on a phosphorescent screen using a laser. To accomplish this, [tuckershannon] adapted the design of this whiteboard marker robot clock, replacing the drawing surface with glow-in-the-dark stickers. A 405 nm laser diode module is traced over the surface by the two-servo pantograph plotter, charging up the phosphors. He offers no clue as to how long the ghostly image lingers, but from the look of it, we’d bet that it lasts for a good fraction of a minute, especially in a dark room. Then again, you’d want the image totally faded before the next write cycle comes up, to prevent overwriting the previous time.

All in all, it’s a nice design and a clever new clock display modality. And who knows — maybe this whole glowing phosphor display thing could really catch on.

[via r/DIY]

Filed under: clock hacks, laser hacks
Categories: Hack-a-Day

Save Your Thumbs with This Netflix Password Sender

Wed, 2017-08-30 04:00

Chances are anyone who has an entry-level to mid-range smart TV knows that setting them up with your streaming account credentials is a royal pain. Akin to the days of texting on a flip phone, using the number pad or arrow keys to compose your user name and password seems to take forever.  So why not avoid the issue with this automated Netflix logger-inner?

As if the initial setup wasn’t bad enough, when [krucho5]’s LG smart TV started asking for his Netflix credentials every few days, he knew something needed to be done. An Arduino to send “keystrokes” was the obvious solution, but when initial attempts to spoof the HID on the set proved fruitless, [krucho5] turned to the IR remote interface. He used an IR receiver module to capture the codes sent while entering user name and password, and an IR LED plays it back anytime the TV ask for it. The video below shows how much easier it is now, and the method should work just fine for any other online service accounts.

We like [krucho5]’s build, but the fit and finish are a little rough. Perhaps slipping them into a pair of Netflix-enabled socks would be a nice touch?

Filed under: misc hacks
Categories: Hack-a-Day

Hackaday Prize Entry: A Manual, CNC Pick And Place Machine

Wed, 2017-08-30 02:30

Everyone who wants a 3D printer probably already has one, and even laser cutters and CNC machines are making their way into garages and basements ’round the world. Pick and place machines are the next great frontier of personal manufacturing, and even though that’s a long way off, [Tegwyn]’s project for this year’s Hackaday Prize is bringing us that much closer to popping down 0201 LEDs reliably.

This project is a manual pick and place machine — otherwise known as ‘tweezers’. It’s a bit more complicated than that, because the entire idea behind [Tegwyn]’s build is to decouple a human’s fine motor skills from the ability to place components on a board. To do that, this project is using an off-the-shelf, blue light special CNC machine. There’s not much to it, just a bit of aluminum extrusion and some threaded rods. However, with the addition of a vacuum pump, a hollow needle, and a few manual controls to move the axes around, the operator has very fine control over where a resistor, cap, or LED goes.

There are a few neat additions to the, ‘put a vacuum pump on a CNC machine’ idea. This is a 4 axis machine, giving the user the ability to rotate the part around a pad. There’s also a microscope hooked up to a small monitor mounted to the machine. If you’re assembling hundreds of boards, this is not the machine you want. If, however, you only need a handful, don’t mind spending a few hours placing parts, and don’t want to go insane with tiny QFN packages, this is a great build and a great entry for the Hackaday Prize.

The HackadayPrize2017 is Sponsored by:
Filed under: The Hackaday Prize, tool hacks
Categories: Hack-a-Day

Ourselves As Others See Us Through The Lens Of Traditional Media

Wed, 2017-08-30 01:01

When I presented myself at the SHACamp 2017 info desk bright and early on the first full day of the camp, I was surprised to find that I was to be assigned a volunteer along with my press badge. Because of the way our community is sometimes covered by the traditional media, it was necessary that any journalists touring the site have a helping hand to ensure that they respect the privacy of the attendees, gain permission from people likely to be in any photographs, and generally not be idiots about the whole Hacker thing. I pointed out that I was working for Hackaday and not The Sun, and that as an active hackspace member and former hackspace director I was very much a part of the community attending SHA 2017 who would simply be wasting the valuable time of any volunteer assigned to me. Fortunately for the next volunteer in line they agreed with my point of view, so one of the angels was spared a day of my breakneck walking pace and impenetrable British colloquialisms.

It’s interesting therefore a few weeks after the event, to investigate how it was portrayed through the eyes of people who aren’t coming as Hackaday is, from within the bubble. To take a look at that disconnect between what we know about our community and its events, and how the traditional media sometimes like to portray us. Are they imagining the set of a Hollywood “hacker” movie in which assorted geniuses penetrate the computer systems of various international institutions by the simple expedient of banging wildly at a keyboard for a few seconds, or will the reality of a bunch of like-minded technology enthusiasts gathering in a field for several days of tinkering and other fun activities be what makes their reports?

The coverage of the event has been handily summarised on the SHA2017 wiki, and comes from a mix of security and IT publications, traditional news outlets, and Dutch TV. Not being a Dutch speaker it’s difficult to review a TV report, and the IT publications are strictly factual in their reporting and not the group we’re interested in, so for the purposes of this article we’ll take a look at the traditional outlets. We are certain not to cover every word written about the event, but there should be enough present to at least catch a flavour.

There seem to have been three broad streams to the coverage, first pieces that give a balanced review of the event, then those that concentrate on a single aspect such as a particular talk, and finally those that disappear down the hacker movie rabbit hole. Those three are ranked in order of acceptability from the perspective of our community, for even a responsibly written piece about a particular item can be slanted to appear as though that was the theme of the entire event. Looking at some examples below, we’re linking where appropriate to a Google Translate rendition of those not in English.

What Was Written

It’s pleasing to see that  there were a decent number of positive and well-written pieces. Probably the most such came from [Marco Calamari], for Punto Informatico (Italy) written very much from a perspective of One Of Us. Meanwhile [Isabel Baneke] for Trouw (Netherlands) gave a balanced coverage, and [Detlef Borchers] for Heise (Germany) talked about the history of the event and its keynote. Then [Hal Faber], again for Heise (Germany), wrote another positive piece, this time post-event.

On the single-issue coverage, [Ms. Smith], for CSO Online (USA) concentrated only on the [Bill Binney] talk about NSA surveilance, while [Chris Baraniuk] for BBC News (UK) wrote a slightly alarmist piece on [Willem Westerhof]’s description of attacks on solar inverter infrastructure. [Arjen ten Cate], for de Stentor (Netherlands) was one of several that reported work on cracking a Dutch fire truck’s wireless network, and responsibly made it clear that the fire truck was there at the behest of the fire service following an incident in Rotterdam in which a similar truck had been compromised in the wild. Then [Detlef Borchers] again for Heise (Germany), wrote a responsibly written piece on several of the “Hacker” themed talks, without going into the others that were anything but.

The wooden spoon for worst reporting would have to go to Omroep Flevoland, the Dutch regional TV channel for that province. Their event preview specifically portrayed the attendees as computer criminals unless we’re reading the translation wrongly, and their follow-up piece went on to portray the camp’s purpose as nefarious. Talking to SHA staff members shortly after their visit, it seemed they had been looking for stereotypical “Hacker” scenes to film, and had come away having photographed the site’s telecoms infrastructure hub with its backup manual telephone exchange. Edgy, so edgy.

The Verdict

So on balance, the coverage was better than one might expect. We’re (mostly) not portrayed as computer criminals, even if we aren’t the happy-go-lucky geeks partying in the sun that we might see ourselves as. For readers of most of this coverage we likely appear closer to the hacker bashing wildly away at a keyboard to magically enter the AIVD‘s most sensitive digital echelons than the hacker magically creating awesome things with a 3D printer and a soldering iron.

It is most concerning that the worst coverage comes from the local broadcaster. Personally I found rural Flevoland to be a friendly place, the local people I met were very tolerant of a random Brit on her travels. I hope we didn’t cause them any disruption and that we all cleared up our villages to the extent that the SHA team could hand the site back in good order, so it would be nice to think that we would be welcome there again. It’s difficult to estimate how many Euros the European hacker community spent locally in their time on the polders, but it can’t have been insignificant.

To see the local media doing their best to fix us in the minds of the locals as nothing more than a bunch of ne’er-do-wells is particularly disappointing. They should know better, their viewers deserve it. It is a sign that there is much work to be done fixing in people’s mind the benefit of the benevolent hacking ideal for individuals and communities.

Filed under: cons, Hackaday Columns, Interest
Categories: Hack-a-Day

A Diode by Any Other Name

Tue, 2017-08-29 23:30

As active devices go, it doesn’t get much simpler than a diode. Two terminals. Current flows in one direction and not in the other. Simple, right? Well, then there are examples with useful side effects like light emitting diodes. [GreatScott] points out that there are other useful diodes and, in particular, he posted a video covering Schottky and Zener diodes.

These special diodes have particular purposes. A Schottky diode has a very low voltage drop and fast switching speed. Zener diodes have application in simple voltage regulation.

If you ever wondered, these exotic diode names because of their inventors. [Walter Schottky] was a German and although some people call it a hot carrier diode, most people use the inventor’s name. We don’t know of another name for [Clarence Melvin Zener]’s invention.

If you wonder why you care about high speed in a diode, [GreatScott] has a good demo of rectifying a signal with a regular diode and a Schottky. At a certain frequency, the normal diode starts conducting when it should be off at a certain frequency. The Schottky diode is able to turn off faster, so it can handle a much higher frequency.

There are other exotic diodes including PIN diodes, Gunn diodes and more. After the apocalypse, you might want to try making your own with sodium bicarb. Oddly enough, we covered a different video last year that covered similar topics, if you want a second point of view.

Filed under: hardware, parts
Categories: Hack-a-Day

Control Thy LED

Tue, 2017-08-29 22:01

In a previous article, I discussed LEDs in general and their properties. In this write-up, I want to give some examples of driving LEDs and comparing a few of the most commonly used methods. There is no “one size fits all” but I will try and generalize as much as possible. The idea is to be able to effectively control the brightness of the LED and prolong their life while doing it. An efficient driver can make all the difference if you plan to deploy them for the long-haul. Let’s take a look at the problem and then discuss the solutions.

The Problem of LED brightness control

Most newbies will be interested in making an LED glow without blowing it up. A little further down the line, it comes down to brightness control and then mixing of colors to produce any shade from the color picker. In any case, it is essential to have a clear understanding of the end application. A lighting application such as a work bench light will seldom require a romantic mood light control. On the contrary, a disco light will require fluctuating intensities of various colored LEDs.

So how is brightness perceived? Logically speaking, when you have two LEDs lamps of 100 lumens each, the result should be double the brightness. In reality, human eyes are logarithmically sensitive to intensity change which means that doubling the intensity will be perceived as a small change.

Perception of light intensity follows Stevens’ Power Law with an exponent that depends upon the amount of your field of view occupied by the light. For a 5 degree spot the exponent is about 0.33 but for a point source, it is about 0.5. This means that for a 5-degree spot the source needs to increase by a factor of 8 to seem twice as bright and a point source, needs to increase by a factor of 4 to seem twice as bright.

Let us start with a simple 1 W SMD LED like the one available from Adafruit. This one is rated at 90 Lumens and comes with an aluminum PCB as a heat sink. Here is a quick look at some of the parameters of for the LED.

The datasheet has some pretty important information starting with forward current(continuous) and peak forward current. The values are 350 mA and 500 mA respectively and should not be exceeded.

Two more important pieces of information are used which are represented as graphs. The first is the forward current and voltage graph which shows that a voltage of around 1.8 V is enough to forward bias the LED. The current rises ohmically after that and at around 3 V, it is reported to draw around 200 mA. The second curve is the relative LI vs forward current which shows that the current controls the amount of light output (the straight line stretching up to the “4” mark).

Given that the LED follows Ohm’s Law, the current should be directly proportional to the voltage and hence we can vary the voltage to control the brightness. Well, there is just one small hiccup that the curve of the forward current is so steep that a small increment in voltage will have a larger change in voltage. The brightness will be different if you connect a coin cell as opposed to two alkaline batteries. Both have a 3 V potential difference but the amount of current supplied by either is different and consequently, the brightness is different. Rather than control the voltage, it’s better to control the current passing through the LED directly.

The Simple Approach

The easiest thing to do is add a potentiometer in series with the LED. Simple! Essentially when you vary the resistance, Ohm’s Law kicks in and voila! Variable resistance equals variable current equals variable brightness.

Here is a simulation of an LED with a variable resistor varying from 100 ohms to 1 kilohm. The only problem is that if the resistance of the LED changes or the voltage fluctuates, the result may be devastating. This is essentially an open-loop control and there is no feedback from the circuit to the user other than varying brightness.

Of course, there is also the issue of efficiency since the there will be power dissipated by the potentiometer as well.

Current Control

Next easiest is to create a constant current circuit. There are a number of ways to create a simple constant current source and I highly recommend going through the book, “Art of Electronics” for a detailed explanation of the same. Unsurprisingly there is a Wikipedia article on the subject as well.

You could use a classic LM317 variable voltage regulator to provide a small constant current. It is not very efficient since there is there is a lot of heat dissipated at the adjustment resistor at higher currents.

The better method is to use a closed-loop circuit that provides analog feedback to inhibit excessive currents and compensate for variations in the load. The circuit shown is a simple current limiter and is recommended since it offers a higher efficiency than other transistor circuits.

It works to limit the current through R_sense such that the drop across it is no more than 0.6 V. If that happens, Q2 switches ON and Q1 will be switched OFF which limits the current through R_load which in our case will be an LED. Adjusting R_sense using Ohm’s Law we can adjust the maximum current thought our LED.

I personally prefer the above circuit with Q1 replaced with a MOSFET however in cases where we want to control the brightness digitally the next method would be a much better fit.

The Digital Method

The next circuit involves the use of a set of pulses to switch ON and OFF the current through the LED. It’s like flicking the power switch quickly enough that it seems like the light is dimmed. Commonly known as PWM or Pulse Width Modulation, a series of pulses with variable duty cycles or ON and OFF times can be employed for the task.

Under this topic, there are two parts to be discussed. The first is the switching source which can be a simple oscillator or a microcontroller. The second is the switch itself which will be the driving stage of this design. Let us take a look at both in brief.

The PWM source

For generating the pulses, the humble 555 is a good choice. The circuit shows a simple PWM circuit with T1 being the switching element.

For generating the pulses, the humble 555 is a good choice the circuit below shows a simple PWM circuit with T1 being the switching element.

At this point, we have a number of options and questions to be answered.

1. What is the correct frequency for the PWM?

2. How do I know the amount of current being supplied and

3. How does all this affect the brightness?

The frequency of the PWM effects the flicker perceived. A simple example is when recording digital video if you use NTSC in a 60 Hz lighting environment, your camera will pick up a lot of flicker and switching to PAL will help a lot. For PAL it is 50 Hz so try it out right now with your web cam and see the effect.

The idea is that higher switching frequencies are better but you cannot go arbitrarily high. Remember, all LEDs have a turn-on time which is required for it to switch on and start glowing. If you switch too fast, the LED just won’t turn ON. Another consequence is that the frequency has an effect on the efficiency of the switching element and we will touch on that in a moment. Right now we need to figure out the best frequency for our LED. Scroll back up and check out the last entry in the data sheet snippet.

It says 1 KHz which is what the manufacturer recommends and in most cases this information will be provided in the data sheet itself. If not then anything above 500 Hz should be usable. Check out this link for an application on dimming LEDs.

Since this technique allows for a digital control over the current, ergo the brightness, the next step would be to figure out a way to control the brightness. Remember, the LI is directly proportional to the current but perceived brightness is logarithmic. We need to translate the linear stepping input into a logarithmic current variation.

When using microcontrollers or even FPGAs, the answer is very simple – loookup tables! Have a list of PWM duty cycles that correspond to a sequence of perceived brightness values. A great example I have to mention is here, where the designer uses an FPGA to create a log LUT to generate a linear PLI from user inputs. The same lookup table can be used with an Arduino and I strongly encourage you to try.

Personal Note: When LEDs appeared initially, one of the problems that we faced was that the LED drivers that came with the lamps would malfunction. I initially designed a small circuit to limit the current along with a thermistor to shut down the LED if the switching element overheated. Eventually, dedicated solutions started coming up which we will take a look at in a proceeding sections.

Let’s Switch: MOSFET vs BJT

The second item on the menu is the actual switching element. You can use a BJT or a FET or a MOSFET depending upon your budget and state of mind. BJTs are simpler creatures and require very few additional components. A 2N2222 can safely deal with 800 mA of current which is good for many applications.

MOSFETS, on the other hand, are more demanding in terms of components and require a little bit of care to deploy. In exchange, they offer a far less ON resistance of the order of milliohms and a higher efficiency. Let’s take a look at both.

The BJT LED Driver

Here’s the simplest BJT LED Driver circuit. It consists of a transistor connected in common emitter configuration. The transistor gets switched on when the input switch is closed which allows for current to flow from the LED to the ground terminal. The resistance is calculated as

r0 = (Va+Vce) / Ic where Va is early voltage.

This is not constant and varies with the operating point of the transistor and under saturation condition is of the order of a few ohms. The power dissipation is insignificant for a few milliamps but quickly becomes a problem for larger current draws.

I refer you to a video post by [Dave Jones] of the EEVBlog where he uses a BD136 and a 555 to vary the brightness of LEDs on a piece of equipment. This works for loads with lower wattages however if you are looking to drive larger LEDs then expect to add some pretty hefty heatsinks.

MOSFETs are an LED’s Best Friend

A MOSFET has a very low ON resistance of the order of a few milliohms which means that in such a state, it will dissipate very small amounts of heat as per P = I2R.

Since these are voltage driven devices and have very high input impedances, we can safely parallel together a bunch of them. Unfortunately, these are also susceptible to false turn-on events hence for switching applications, circuits must be carefully designed. A more detailed explanation is available here for the interested however for this writing, we will continue with a general case.

Designing a Lamp

I recently bought two no-brand LED panels from a local hardware shop. The seller told me that I should connect them to a 12 V source and they will work. When I chained them together and connected them to a bench power supply, I found that at 12 volts, they can draw up to 2.7 amps! The brightness is frightening at close range and I need to control their brightness.

The next step is figuring out the MOSFET that will be the best fit. Considering overshoots while switching, I would like to go for a 20 V or even a 30 V Drain-Source voltage device to be on the safe side. As for the current, if I intend to pass around 5 amps of peak currents, a Res(ON) of 0.1 ohms would mean 2.5 watts! In such a case my heatsink cost would greatly affect my final product. Instead, I would like something with a fraction of the ON resistance- like 0.01 ohms or less, especially for SMD devices.

Next, I intend to switch the MOSFET with either a 555 or an Arduino. This translates to 5 V Vgs and so Logic Level MOSFETs are preferred; though I will be driving the LEDs with a 12 volt supply hence I could use a transistor or dedicated MOSFET driver. Without it, the effective resistance would be higher but it is worth a try none the less.

I am also tempted to look at the PH2520U and the now obsolete MTP3055VL which is a Logic Level MOSFET. The MTP3055VL has a relatively high ON resistance and can be turned on with 5.0 Volts at the expense of 0.18 Ohms and a lot of power dissipated.

The IRF530, IRF540, IRFZ44N, and AO3400A are all good choices since I have a couple of them in stock. Using an IRFZ44N, I made a simple LED driver and used an Arduino Uno directly. Remember the Arduino pins go up to 5V and I used the fade example that generates PWM out of the box. The frequency of the PWM signal is 490 Hz which is pretty decent.

The result is an effective dimming of the panel. However taking a closer look at the waveform, we see that the output has a significant rise time with a single LED Panel.

This is due to the capacitive parasitics as well as a weak current drive and can be remedied by adding a transistor driver stage. This TI application report (PDF) documents gate driver circuits pretty well with reference to a non-inverting bipolar totem-pole driver which has been studied in detail by [Joost Yervante Damad]. Since our switching frequency is in the lower range, these switching losses are insignificant. If we were to switch in the kHz range or MHz range, these parasitics would quickly be the death of our prototype.

In my case, I proceeded with no driving stage but then modified the code for 75% duty cycle and measured the current draw with a varying value of PWM. Turns out it sucks up a little short of 1 A of peak current. The MOSFET did not heat to the extent where it would require a heatsink, so the circuit is usable as is for this LED panel as well. I can proceed to make a PCB for my little lamp, however, there is one more option I would like to take a look at.

LED Drivers

Dedicated LED driver chips enable you to control LEDs effectively without having to think about all the parameters. A good example is the TPS92512 which allows for control of high brightness LEDs using PWM which is internally controlled. Current control is implemented internally and external signals including PWM as well as analog signals can be used to control the brightness linearly. No need for lookup tables.

I wired up a test board with the same LED panel such that the brightness is controlled using the IADJ pin. A simple preset was used to vary the voltage between 0.8 and 1.8 volts at the desired pin. The output is a clean and efficient varying voltage which is filtered by an output stage cap.

The PWM frequency is around 580 kHz when probed between the inductor. I could not see any oscillations at the output LED pins though which means the filter stage does the job effectively. I created a DIY version of the PCB in Autodesk Eagle  (GitHub) which you can download to make your own.

There is a little OSHPark purple in there and I hope to solder it up myself. Looking at the size of the pins it should be a fun exercise. Let me know if you make one yourself.


So how do you drive an LED? The answer lies in your application area. For small LED current draws, BJTs are simpler and the least expensive. For medium current draws, MOSFETs are a better fit and if you want solutions that offer great out-of-the-box experiences, dedicated driver chips are the way to go. As for me, I have a lamp to finish which will use the middle road since it worked out in my tests. If I ever come to the point where I see flicker in my videos, then the TPS92512 solution will come in pretty handy. I am sure you have a solution of your own and the best way to share it would be a project on Go ahead, make a little lamp with light as white as snow and share with us your story.

Filed under: Featured, Original Art
Categories: Hack-a-Day

Color Sensor from an RGB LED and a Photocell

Tue, 2017-08-29 19:00

When you need to quantify the color of an object, you’ve got quite a few options. You can throw a Raspberry Pi camera and OpenCV at the problem and approach it through software, or you can buy an off-the-shelf RGB sensor and wire it up to an Arduino. Or you can go back to basics and build this reflective RGB sensor from an LED and a photocell.

The principle behind [TechMartian]’s approach is simplicity itself: shine different colored lights on an object and measure how much light it reflects. If you know the red, green, and blue components of the light that correspond to maximum reflectance, then you know the color of the object. Their sensor uses a four-lead RGB LED, but we suppose a Neopixel could be used as well. The photosensor is a simple cadmium sulfide cell, which measures the intensity of light bouncing back from an object as an Arduino drives the LED through all possible colors with PWM signals. The sensor needs to be white balanced before use but seems to give sensible results in the video below. One imagines that a microcontroller-free design would be possible too, with 555s sweeping the PWN signals and op-amps taking care of detection.

And what’s the natural endpoint for a good RGB sensor? A candy sorter, or course, of which we have many examples, from the sleek and polished to the slightly more hackish.

Filed under: led hacks, misc hacks
Categories: Hack-a-Day

Boredom + Lasers = Projector!

Tue, 2017-08-29 16:00

[Krazer], a post-doctoral researcher at MIT, loves him some lasers. When out of boredom one afternoon he hatched an idea for a laser projector, it grew until a few years later he wound up with this RGB laser for a projector — Mark IV no less.

In addition to 3D-printing the parts, the major innovation with this version is the ability to re-align the lasers as needed; tweaking the vertical alignment is controlled by a screw on the laser mounts while the horizontal alignment is done the same way on the mirror mounts. This simplifies the design and reduces the possibility of part failure or warping over time. An additional aluminium base epoxied to the projector aims to keep the whole from deforming and adds stability. With the help of a mirror for the final alignment — sometimes you must use what you have— the projector is ready to put on a show.

True to the spirit of the art [Krazer] used all open source software for this iteration, and sharing his designs means you can build your own for around $200. As always with lasers take extra precautions to protect your eyes! This 200mW setup is no joke, but that doesn’t mean fun and games are out of the question.

Filed under: 3d Printer hacks, laser hacks
Categories: Hack-a-Day

Retrocomputing With Open Source FPGAs

Tue, 2017-08-29 13:00

A few years ago, we saw the reverse engineering of the Lattice iCE40 bitstream, opening the door to a completely Open Source development tool chain for FPGAs. This was an astonishing amount of work from [Clifford Wolf], [Mathias Lasser], and [Cotton Seed], but since then we haven’t seen a whole lot from Project IceStorm. Now, that’s about to change, and in the coolest way possible. [hoglet] is retrocomputing on an ICE40 development board.

This is an implementation of the Acorn Atom on a myStorm BlackIce board. This board is basically just a Lattice iCE40 FPGA, a few support components, and a bunch of pin headers, some of which are in the not-so-handy Arduino pinout footprint. By porting some Acorn Atom implementations and a 6502 core to verilog, [hoglet] was able to stuff a cool old retrocomputer onto an Open Source FPGA development board. Video output is through a resistor DAC driving a VGA cable, and keyboard input is through PS/2.

Just about everything about this Open Source implementation of the Acorn works, and there’s still a lot left in the iCE40 FPGA. [hoglet] is able to run the 6502 core at 25MHz, which means just about every 6502-based system should be able to run on the BlackIce board.


Filed under: FPGA
Categories: Hack-a-Day

Custom Cut Resistor Bandoliers

Tue, 2017-08-29 10:00

Through-hole resistors come on tape that we’re now calling bandoliers. Since [Spencer] is selling a boatload of his RC2014 backplane computer kits on Tindie, he’s been chopping up a lot of resistor bandoliers. It’s a boring and monotonous job.

Fortunately, a lot of people have had a bandolier cutting problem over the years, and there are some hobbyist-grade robots that will do this work for you. One of the more popular robots tasked for bandolier cutting is a laser cut robot. However, if you already have a laser cutter, why not just use the laser to cut the bandoliers? It’s brilliant in its simplicity.

[Spencer] spent a little bit of time designing a template to turn his laser cutter into a cutter for through hole resistors. No, he’s not trimming the leads — this is just a device to cut resistors into groups mini bandoliers of a handful of resistors. The tool is made out of plywood, with a smaller top piece held down with magnets to keep the resistors aligned.

The entire template is up on Thingiverse, and it’s great if you need to cut hundreds of resistors to kit dozens of projects. If you’re only doing one or two, scissors will be the way to go, but if you’re cursed with the monotony of trimming hundreds there’s no better way to get things done than to put a robot to work.

Filed under: cnc hacks
Categories: Hack-a-Day

A Flame Diode Pilot Light Sensor For A Burning Man Installation

Tue, 2017-08-29 07:00

A naked flame is a complex soup of ionised gases, that possesses an unexpected property. As you might expect with that much ionisation there is some level of electrical conductivity, but the unusual property comes in that a flame can be made to conduct in only one direction. In other words, it can become a diode of sorts, in a manner reminiscent of a vacuum tube diode.

[Paul Stoffregen] has made use of this phenomenon in a flame detector that he’s built to be installed on a Burning Man flame-based art installation. It forms part of a response to a problem with traditional pilot lights: when the wind blows a pilot light out, a cloud of unignited gas can accumulate. The sensor allows the pilot light to be automatically re-ignited if the flame is no longer present.

The circuit is a surprisingly simple one, with a PNP transistor being turned on by the flame diode being placed in its base circuit. This allows the intensity of the flame to be measured as well as whether or not it is present, and all at the expense of a microscopic current consumption. A capacitor is charged by the transistor, and the charge time is measured by a Teensy that uses it to estimate flame intensity and trigger the pilot light if necessary. Interestingly it comes from a patent that expired in 2013, it’s always worth including that particular line of research in your investigations.

All the construction details are in the page linked above, and you can see the system under test in the video below the break.

We’ve looked at this property of a flame before, a project in which someone made a functioning flame triode.

Filed under: misc hacks
Categories: Hack-a-Day

Spoiler Alert! Repairing A Race Car Can Get Complicated, Fast.

Tue, 2017-08-29 04:00

[Big Fish Motorsports] has a vehicle with an adjustable rear spoiler system that broke in the lead up to a big race. The original builder had since gone AWOL so the considerable talents of [Quinn Dunki] were brought to bear in getting it working again.

Cracking open the black control box of mystery revealed an Arduino, a ProtoShield and the first major road block: the Arduino remained stubbornly incommunicado despite several different methods of trying to read the source code. Turns out the Arduino’s ATMega324 was configured to be unreadable or simply fried, but an ATMega128 [Quinn] had proved to be a capable replacement. However, without knowing how the ten relays for this spoiler system were configured — and the race day deadline looming ever larger — [Quinn] opted to scrap the original and hack together something of her own design with what she had on hand.

After a mock-up of some fresh code and testing it without problems, getting stable power to the Arduino was the next major hurdle. Since the car  doesn’t provide a nice stable supply — with numerous unpredictable disruptions besides —  a 7809 voltage regulator did the trick in protecting the Arduino. But what about the electric motors for the spoiler? Well, a 2N3904 NPN transistor worked in theory — until it blew and was replaced with one of the beefy 160V, 15A transistors that were salvaged from the original circuit. A trio of commonly available — anticipating any race-day breakdowns — SPDT automotive relays drive the spoiler motors and a ‘flywheel’ LED, carefully placed, handles surges once the motors shut off.

So, the spoiler rests in the down configuration and can be raised at the push of a button when the driver feels it’s needed, but what about when braking? Well, [Quinn] was able to piggyback a signal off the brake lights to automatically raise the spoiler whenever the bake is engaged. Awesome!

So after stripping the original ProtoShield to recycle it for her new circuit and putting it all together, it worked! Cleaning and closing up the original project box so it would actually protect the electronics this time around, along with proper documentation and automotive diagrams, and this system was ready to be shipped back just in time for the car to be taken off the road due to extenuating circumstances.

Hacking race cars can improve performance — such as we have here — or bring fans closer to the action, but one of our favourite was when we featured a race car that was actually an amphibious race helicopter.

Filed under: Android Hacks, car hacks
Categories: Hack-a-Day

Hackaday Prize Entry: Sonic Glasses

Tue, 2017-08-29 02:30

This year, the Hackaday Prize is going to find the most innovative and interesting assistive technologies. Whether that’s refreshable Braille displays or reliable utensils for the disabled, the finalists for the Assistive Technologies portion of the Prize will be creating some of the most interesting tech out there.

For his entry into the Assistive Technology part of the Prize, [Pawit] is building binaural glasses for the blind. It’s difficult to navigate unknown environments without a sense of sight, and these SonicScape glasses turn cheap distance sensors into head-mounted sonar.

The glasses are built around a pair of ultrasonic distance sensors (the HC-SR-04, if you’re curious), mounted in a convenient 3D-printed enclosure that looks sufficiently like a pair of glasses to not draw too many glares. (Although maybe we’d print them in black to lower the contrast.) Of note in this project is the Bluetooth connectivity to eliminate wires and independent left and right audio channels. That last bit — being able to hear in left and right — is something we haven’t seen before in devices like this and aims to greatly increase the usability of such a device.

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Filed under: The Hackaday Prize
Categories: Hack-a-Day

The Tourbillon: Anti-Gravity for Watch Movements

Tue, 2017-08-29 01:01

Do you know what time it is? Chances are good that you used a computer or a cell phone to answer that question. The time on your phone is about as accurate as chronometry gets these days. That’s because cell networks are timed from satellites, which are in turn timed from atomic clocks. And these days, it may be that atomic clocks are the only clocks that matter.

Before this modern era of quartz and atomic accuracy, though, timepieces were mechanical. Clocks were driven by heavy weights that made them impractical for travel. It wasn’t until the mainspring-driven movement came along that timekeeping could even begin to become portable.

But while the invention of the mainspring made portable timepieces possible, it hurt their accuracy. That’s because the driving force of a tightly wound spring isn’t constant like that of an inert, solid weight.  So pocket watches weren’t exactly an overnight success. Early pieces were largely ornamental, and only told the hour. Worst of all, they would slow down throughout the day as the mainspring unwound, becoming useless unless wound several times a day. The mainspring wasn’t the only problem plaguing pocket watches, but it was the among the most obvious.

Time is a Balancing Act Cutaway illustration of a pocket watch. Image via Wikipedia

Pocket watch accuracy was greatly improved when the balance spring came along. The balance spring acts like a pendulum does in a weight-driven clock to keep the gears moving at a metered pace.  Working in concert with the escapement, the balance spring governs the release of energy stored in the mainspring to the time wheels. Before the balance spring, energy from the mainspring was controlled only by the escapement. Even with the addition of balance springs, there was still a lot of room for improvement.

By nature, pocket watches spent much of their time in one of two positions: either stored upright in a waistcoat pocket, or lying flat in the hand or on a table. A famous Swiss-French watchmaker named Abraham-Louis Breguet believed that gravity and positional stagnancy affected his watch movements by causing them to run at varying speeds. In the late 1700s, he devised a solution: a kind of anti-gravity chamber that he called a tourbillon, a French word meaning ‘whirlwind’.

Caged Gymnastics A single-axis tourbillon in motion. This gif shows two seconds of real-time motion and two seconds sped up. GIF via davisryan8

A tourbillon is known in horology (that’s the art and science of measuring time) as a type of complication. This term refers to anything a watch can do in addition to keeping the hours, minutes, and seconds. The simplest type of complication is a date keeper. The tourbillon is among the most complicated complications ever invented.

Breguet’s idea was to constantly rotate the elements of the watch movement at a controlled rate. This way, the positional errors would average out over time, essentially decreasing gravity’s effect on accuracy of the movement. To do this, Breguet mounted all the parts of the movement – that’s the escapement, balance wheel, and balance spring – in a cage, and rotated the cage at a rate of one revolution per minute.

Breguet’s tourbillon rotated the watch movement along a single axis. Though the tourbillon is debated now as to whether it was ever really useful, a single axis was all he needed keep the movement in motion against gravity. In the 1970s, someone made the first dual-axis tourbillon. Nowadays, there are three and even four-axis tourbillons being made here and there as the horological fascination continues.

Conspicuous Consumption

The watch in the banner is the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon 3 Jubilee watch, and you can watch it in motion below. You can see the balance spring quickly inhaling and exhaling inside the cage. This watch has a flying spherical tourbillon that moves in three axes, much like a gyroscope.

The flying tourbillon is called so because it is only supported from one side, rather than two. Flying tourbillons are a testament to the notion that modern tourbillons are complications for the sake of complication. The main purpose of using a single support is to make it easier to ogle the tourbillon’s action.

The tourbillon is revered in horology as an engineering marvel, and many modern watchmaking houses create them as a demonstration of their skills. They appear today in the most expensive wristwatches on Earth, although they serve no real purpose since wristwatches naturally change position all day long. Well-made but entry-level watches with genuine, hand-crafted tourbillons fetch at least $50,000. The really good ones start at about $250,000.

Although quartz movements and atomic timekeeping have made the tourbillon complication an expensive and nearly useless novelty, it remains an amazing piece of engineering to witness. Can’t afford a tourbillon watch? You could 3-D print a model of one like [Nicholas Manosous] did or make a tourbillon clock like [Christoph Lamier]. Here are some Thingiverse tourbillons to get you started.

Via r/EngineeringPorn


Filed under: clock hacks, Featured, Interest
Categories: Hack-a-Day

Upverter Joins Altium

Mon, 2017-08-28 23:38

In a post on the Upverter blog today, [Zak Homuth], founder of the online EDA suite Upverter has announced they have been acquired by Altium.

The largest change in the announcement is the removal of Upverter’s paid professional tier of service. Now, the entirety of Upverter is free. Previously, this paid professional tier included CAM export, 3D preview, BOM management, and unlimited private projects for $1200 per seat per year.

Hackaday has taken a look at Upverter before in an book-length series of posts describing how to build a PCB in every software tool. While Upverter is a web-based PCB design tool that doesn’t respond to a right mouse click, the experience was pleasant overall. There are some interesting features in Upverter that make PCB design work fun — snap-to alignment of pads, a phenomenal number of ways to export your data — and it’s more than capable enough for the electronics hobbyist.

With the Altium announcement, [Zak] says Upverter will continue on its mission to create a system to design a complete product, from schematic to enclosure to firmware to BOM management.

Filed under: news
Categories: Hack-a-Day