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Bench Talk for Design Engineers

Bench Talk


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

Turn Your Home Into a Tech Learning Center Tommy Cummings

(Source: TierneyMJ/Shutterstock.com)

Becoming a technical engineer student or hobbyist means you’re likely a problem solver who gets a kick out of pursuing logical and critical thinking. You’re way beyond those stereotypes that draw TV laughs on The Big Bang Theory.

So, as the entire household is navigating its way through virtual meetings and other work-from-home options, you’re among those who are finding the confines of home to be the makings of your own tech learning centers.

You’re getting good at virtual learning.

Mouser Electronics is a source for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) content that can be found for free at one online stop. Tools and resources are plentiful, and they’re a few clicks away. Here are a few resources available on Mouser.com:

Conversion Calculators Add Up

Let’s start with the most basic of resources: conversion calculators. Another stereotype of tech engineers is they’re math geniuses. Well, honestly, you really don’t have to be a walking calculator. There’s help: Mouser’s Conversion Calculators feature several popular calculators for precise and accurate projects in various measurement systems, including US customary units, metric, and Imperial.

Mouser showcases its Resistor Color Code and the Ohm’s Law calculators. The resistor calculator is designed to find the resistance and tolerance values of through-hole resistors. Enter the number of resistor bands and select the colors to find the resistor value. Click Display Matching Products to find relevant resistors available from Mouser. The Ohm’s Law calculator can measure power, current, voltage, or resistance.

Conversion calculators are also available for British Thermal Units to Joules Energy, capacitance, length, power, pressure, temperature, volume and mass, and weight. Other calculators determine decimal to fraction, battery life, LED Series Resistor, and Time Constant.

Project and Cart Sharing Means Teamwork

Mouser’s Project and Sharing tools are collaborative resources that can enrich budding engineers’ social skills, meaning they don’t have to go it alone on their projects. They can crowdsource with friends. With Project Sharing, let’s say Sheldon has created a project and wants help from Amy or Leonard. Sheldon can either send them a read-only copy that they will be able to order on Mouser.com. If Sheldon is in a sharing mood, he can give them edit capability, and collaboration can start on a My Mouser account. The person who created the project can approve or deny any changes after the project has been shared.

With Cart Sharing, if Sheldon is shopping online and wants to delegate ordering to Amy or Raj, he can forward his cart for them to place the order. He can also save multiple carts.

How About a Million or So Free Design Resources?

You can go ahead and donate that drafting compass, protractor, and T-square to the nearest tech engineer museum. Mouser partnered with SamacSys to provide free electronic computer-aided (ECAD) design resources for PCB footprints, schematic symbols, and 3D models for more than 1.1 million components (Figure 1). Computer-aided design applications are used in numerous industries to provide visual concepts.

Figure 1: The ECAD design resource makes PCB footprints, schematic symbols, and 3D models easier to produce. (Source: Mouser Electronics)

Schematic symbols are icons that illustrate various electrical and electronic devices or functions (batteries, resistors, transistors, wires, etc.) in a schematic diagram of an electrical or electronic circuit. A PCB footprint is a pattern that shows the arrangement of pads or through-holes on a printed circuit board.

Here’s how the ECAD design resource works:

  1. Go to mouser.com/ecad and install the Library Loader software.
  2. Run the Library Loader from its desktop shortcut.
  3. Open the ECAD tool (and the libraries will load automatically).
  4. When browsing for Mouser parts, click the ECAD Model symbol on the parts description page, and drop it into your design.

Once selected, the schematic symbols, PCB footprints, and 3D models are immediately available for use and placement (Figure 2).

If a part doesn’t have a symbol or footprint when clicking on the icon to download, you can create one or request a part. To build, use the SamacSys wizard to create the schematic symbol and PCB footprint. To request a part, fill in the required information, including your email, and SamacSys will contact you once its engineer team has completed the build.

Figure 2: The ECAD symbols on Mouser Electronics parts descriptions can generate schematic symbols, PCB footprints or 3D mechanical models. (Source: Mouser Electronics)

ADI Designs LTspice® for Circuit Designs, Behavior

More advanced users who have an interest in circuit designs and circuit behavior or even students who just want to create simple circuits and see how they work can turn to the LTspice® section on Mouser.com. LTspice features Simulation Program with Integrated Circuit Emphasis (SPICE) software, schematic capture, and waveform viewer for free download. It also includes a library of devices for general circuit simulation. LTspice’s superpower: It can significantly speed the process of power-supply design.

Created by Linear Technology, LTspice allows users to draft, probe, and analyze circuit design performance. LTspice adds enhancements and models for easy simulation of analog circuits, allowing users to view waveforms for most switching regulators in just a few minutes.

LTspice includes enhancements and models for easy simulation of analog circuits. Macro models for a majority of Analog Devices switching regulators and amplifiers are included in the download of LTspice. A library of devices for general circuit simulation is also included.

Visual Aids for Aspiring Tech Engineers


If video is more your thing, Mouser’s YouTube channel has numerous short videos on product technology. This one, for example, shows the fundamental way a potentiometer works: 

Say Hello to the Hello FPGA Board

It’s fun to say. But how do you use the Hello FPGA Board? The Microchip Technology kit is for anyone with low to medium knowledge about field-programmable gate arrays. The kit can develop applications from simple control logic to data acquisition, image processing, signal processing, and artificial intelligence applications. This video demonstrates how to get the Hello FPGA board up and running.

Mouser Videos

If you already have a kit that you’re in love with, chances are Mouser has a video on how to use it. This Beaglebone Black video, for example, starts with the basics and sets up the board for programming.


Technical engineering students or hobbyists—or anyone who wants to learn virtually—can take advantage of learning from home or remotely thanks to an abundance of online resources such as conversion calculators, project and cart sharing, ECAD design, and LTspice simulation program. Mouser Electronics is a one-stop hub for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics content in addition to tools and resources. 

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Tommy Cummings is a freelance writer/editor based in Texas. He's had a journalism career that has spanned more than 40 years. He contributes to Texas Monthly and Oklahoma Today magazines. He's also worked at The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, San Francisco Chronicle, and others. Tommy covered the dot-com boom in Silicon Valley and has been a digital content and audience engagement editor at news outlets. Tommy worked at Mouser Electronics from 2018 to 2021 as a technical content and product content specialist.

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