Why Buy When You Can Spend More Time and Money Making Your Own?

We've all been there: you've got a problem to solve and are faced with the make versus buy decision. In my case, I wanted to switch a USB peripheral between two PCs; that's the only hard requirement. The easiest solution would have been to simply add a USB hub to my KVM switch and call it a day, but that wouldn't carry USB-3 multi-gigabit data rates (not that I needed to, but I wanted to). Even still, nearly identical products do already exist and can be bought for as cheap as $15 USD1, but where's the fun in that?

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The Quickest Antenna Design of the Year

During a recent weekend, I found myself with some parts laying around which I hadn't used in quite a while. First in the bin was an old Orange Pi One1 (an underpowered SBC similar to the Raspberry Pi) which I was going to use to run a video conferencing screen but which proved to be unable to run the graphical Linux installation well enough to be usable. My RTL-SDR2 stick also happened to be out (I can't actually remember why I grabbed it a few weeks ago for the first time in years). As I cleaned everything up and got ready to put it away, I realized that I was probably never going to use this stuff again, so instead of trashing it I decided to put it to good use!

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Webinar Recording: 6 Common SI/PI Issues Lurking in Your Design And How to Prevent Them

I recently presented a webinar with EMA Design Automation to explain some common signal and power integrity problems that I've encountered. All of these issues are ones which I've dealt with in the past, and each one shows how ECAD tools can be used to find and fix them before sending a design out for manufacturing. Specifically, each example uses the new Sigrity Aurora analysis features embedded directly within the Cadence PCB Editor, which reduces a lot of the back-and-forth design/analyze/fix cycle that often occurs. The slides and recording are available at the EMA website, or watch the video below.

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The Mystery Misfire

The dreaded P0171 code… If you've experienced it, just the mention likely gives you nightmares. If not - here's the rundown. P0171 is the automotive On-Board Diagnostics (OBD) code1 for a lean condition on the engine. If the engine is running lean, it simply means that the air to fuel ratio is not optimized, and there's either too much air or not enough fuel. Before I get too far ahead here, let's set the scene. Routine Tune Up We've all been there - time for a little routine maintenance on the car. Oil change, check the fluids and filters, basic tune up… oh and the last mechanic said the spark plugs need to be changed.

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Parallel Plate Capacitor Equation - Simulated

The Question A recent homework problem had us derive the parallel plate capacitor1 equation for electrostatics. This gives the capacitance of a parallel plate structure in terms of the plate area, distance between the plates and relative permittivity. The equation for this situation is: $ C = \epsilon_{R}\epsilon_{0}\frac{A}{d} $ After solving this problem for the analytical solution, I was curious to see how closely the result matched a 3D field solver. Using the Capacitance Extraction mode in Cadence 3D Workbench, I designed a parametric model of the parallel plate capacitor with variable edge length, distance and dielectric constant (See image above for the model).

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Antenna Analysis from Ham Radio to PCBs

Has anyone else ever thought about why so many engineers are also active amateur radio operators? My theory is that there's just so much passion for the science and practical use of these complex electronic systems! We enjoy the problems, challenges and solutions so much that we want to find other ways outside of work to find those same experiences. In this case, I've got a story that starts with some amateur radio equipment but comes full-circle to address an extremely common design issue. The Attempted QSO This all begins with a new radio. I recently installed the FTM-3200DR1, a 2m-band, 65W transceiver with Yaesu's digital C4FM modulation.

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NDAA Implications for Design Engineers

I recently found out about the latest National Defense Authorization Act (from I-Connect007) and a new provision for printed circuit boards with some government contract procurement rules. If you made it through that first sentence, then there's a good chance the rest of this article won't be too boring for you! This seems like it's a bit of a dry subject, but it's got me excited for what it means for the future of both PCB manufacturing as well as broader economic impacts in our country. In this article, I'm going to try to explain these provisions (at least to the best of my limited ability to understand them) but more importantly I've got some predictions about what this means for the design engineer (since I'm sure most discussion of the NDAA will probably talk about it only from the perspective of the fabricators and assemblers).

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