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Bench Talk for Design Engineers

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Bench Talk for Design Engineers | The Official Blog of Mouser Electronics


Don’t Leave Your Pins Floating Mike Parks
When you are just starting off in electronics, there are many design pitfalls that can lead to hours of frustrating troubleshooting. I highlighted the importance of troubleshooting in this earlier blog post regarding my work on the automated energy harvester. Many times these faults are fixed with a very simple tweak to the circuit design or component selection. One of the most basic of the faults is the infamous “floating pin” or “floating input” that can affect the I/O pins of digital integrated circuits.

Great Scott! Get a Hoverboard on Kickstarter for $10,000 Erik Smith
Working hoverboards have been the subject of many hoaxes for the last few decades; Back to the Future series' director Robert Zemeckis claimed that hoverboards had existed for years, only to be banned by parents groups, to Funny of Die's elaborate and almost convincing prank earlier this year. But now, thanks to Hendo Hover's Kickstarter campaign, this long sought after technology can be in your hands... for $10,000.

Burning Yourself on a Resistor Lynnette Reese
Yes, it is possible to burn the $#*&! out of yourself on a resistor….a tiny little resistor. I did this under the supervision of an electronics technician at a bench job I had in college. The tech had hair down to his waist, wore glasses, and confirmed the imagery in Joe Jackson’s lyrics for Soul Kiss: “And all the hippies work for IBM.” As a freshman, I worked in the basement of the Physics department at LSU in the electronics repair shop. I knew nothing. He knew that I knew nothing.

Accepting the Wonderers and Wondering About the Accepters Caroline Storm Westenhover
“Do you know what happens when you put a red LED to a 9 volt battery?” This is the first thing the other intern said to me as he walked in this morning. Of course I wanted to see what happened. Knowing that the normal drop for a red LED is about 2.5V, and given the tone of his voice, I knew it would be interesting. Sure enough the LED sheared at the junction. His original plan had been to see if the problem with his tester was the green LED or the switch. He used a 9V battery to test it because it was available. The interesting result was the green LED gave off an orange light. This naturally made him wonder what would happen if he applied 9V to other colored LEDs. Hence the sheared and slightly melted red LED.

One Size Fits None Barry Manz
If you work in or follow the defense industry, you may have sensed a trend toward multifunctionality in U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) thinking – that everything it deploys in the future should perform multiple functions. It’s a logical concept when money is scarce, but it rarely works, especially if the functions to be combined are very different from each other. Smartphones, which today do everything but keep you healthy (that’s coming in iOS8), are a rare exception.

Analog Inputs In a Digital Only World Mike Parks
I am going to share a trade secret with you today. Did you know you could read an analog signal even if you only have digital inputs on your microcontroller or single board computer? It used to be a common practice, but maybe not so much anymore, judging by the questions I have been asked recently. But you can, and all you need is a simple resistor and capacitor.

Math: the Language of Engineers, Scientists, and Artists Alike Lynnette Reese
Neil Armstrong’s favorite quote was "Science is about what is, engineering is about what can be.” STEM, and now STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) promote these areas for growth. Some might consider the “Art” in STEAM to be out of place, but I disagree. Engineers need cross-pollination, and have you seen some of the incredible art using open source technology?

Self-Driving Cars Offer Interesting Transportation Possibilities Caroline Storm Westenhover
According to some published studies, the area has the 10th worst traffic in the U.S. and the longest average commute in the US. I have given extensive thought to the social ramifications of self-driving cars. I have thought about this many times before, but now it is personal. The technology used in self-driving cars is fascinating, but I want to talk about the implications.

Circuit Protection – Why Bother?? Kelly Casey
Let’s face it - circuit protection can be a tough sell. Here’s why: 1) Circuit protection isn’t sexy. It doesn’t add any “wow factor to the product." 2) In fact, it doesn’t add any functionality to the product at all. 3) Any effect circuit protection has on the function of a device is likely negative. Adding capacitance, resistance or potential non-linearity to an I/O port is rarely useful in promoting high data rates. 4) It adds cost and can increase complexity. What circuit protection does do is provide some measure of reliability. It gives the end product the ability to sustain and likely survive potentially damaging electrical surges or contact with unexpectedly high voltages without exposing the user to electrical shock or becoming a fire hazard.

RF Power Transistors and the Mystery of Video Bandwidth Barry Manz
If you use RF power transistors, you may have come across a new term of late on the datasheets: video bandwidth (VBW). Now, anyone who uses spectrum analyzers knows about this key metric, but I’ve been poring over power transistor datasheets for years, and this one seemed to appear out of nowhere.

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