ESC Silicon Valley

DIY

Suzanne Deffree
Editor
Home for DIY (do it yourself) hobbyist, hackers, and honed engineers where you can exchange ideas and design knowledge on electronics. Find answers to DIY challenges and new opportunities amongst a community of skilled electronics makers.

DIY thermo-electric modules make backwoods power from your wood stove

If you've ever wanted to mess with thermo-electric generators (TEGs), there's a great web site which offers all the parts to make your own wood-fired electron pump. TEGs are basically over-sized thermocouples which convert the heat of your stove or other heat source into electricity – and a great way to generate a bit of power when its dark out or lugging around a bunch of solar panels isn't practical. Read More...

Altium's free CircuitMaker in open beta

The latest stage in the development of Altium's CircuitMaker is to make it available as part of an open beta testing program. Read More...

The Hat at Maker Faire - Day 1

The Hat's had a busy time at the first day of the Maker Faire. Between watching high-powered kiddie car races, performing for visitors, and helping build mini-Smart Hats, there was barely enough time to get out of the booth to see a few sights. And wondrous sights they were indeed! Read More...

Greetings from Maker Faire 2015

One half embedded development platform, one half photonic fashion statement, and 100% attitude, Editor Lee Goldberg's "Smart Hat" is on its first solo assignment: report on some of the DIY activities at the Bay Area Maker Faire. Read More...

10 Arduino-based projects on Kickstarter

The Arduino development board has grown in popularity over the last few years and has spawned a myriad of interesting projects. Here are 10 of the most interesting ones on Kickstarter. Read More...

Celebrate DIY Victorian high-tech at the Steampunk World's Fair

It's time to dust off your goggles, charge up your ray gun and set your airship's course for the Steampunk World's Fair. Held May 15-17 in Piscataway, New Jersey, the fair is a Mecca for DIY-ists who take a somewhat unique approach to technology, fashion, and alternate history. Read More...

Laser-like audio with the PAL

A look at the state of audio beaming via ultrasonics. Read More...

PCB future is lightweight, low-cost, and flexible: Product how-to

Low-cost flexible additively printed circuit “boards” are enabling new technologies and markets. Read More...

>> SEE ALL

Read multiple switches using ADC

How the author learned to interface 8 switches using zero GPIOs. Read More...

Rotational (or linear) measurement using an optical mouse sensor

A novel way to measure X-Y or rotational speed or position is presented in this Design Idea. Read More...

Instrumentation amp makes an accurate transimpedance amp too

The interesting topology in this Design Idea turns a monolithic in-amp into a good transimpedance amp for photodiode or similar applications. Read More...

Voltage indicator transitions between colours

Using a two-colour LED, this Design Idea indicates power-on and voltage level. Read More...

MOSFET-based Joule Thief steps up voltage

This Design Idea illustrates a novel approach to the Joule Thief circuit. Read More...

Sleep easy with this desk fan speed reducer

This innovative AC motor control skips cycles. Read More...

Bad-bulb finder fixes Christmas lights

15 years later, here’s a new take on one of our most popular Design Ideas ever! Read More...

Monitor 15 contacts with one PIC input

Take advantage of a microcontroller’s feature set to simplify switch & contact interface. Read More...

Simple pulse oximetry for wearable monitor

Use this circuit as the “heart” of a pulse oximeter and oxygen saturation monitor. Read More...

Short circuit tracer/finder uses low power

Build this bench tool and become a master at pinpointing shorts. Read More...

Add phases to simple RC oscillator

Here’s a simple way to add one or more output phases to an RC oscillator. Read More...

3 pins, 3 LEDs, 3 buttons

This LED multiplexing scheme allows for switches in the matrix too. Read More...

Hybrid vacuum tube/solid-state audio power amplifier

An audio power amp design that combines vacuum tube input circuitry with solid-state output and feedback components. Read More...

HB-LED flashing beacon repurposes switching regulator

A classic, low-cost “switcher” IC is repurposed to flash a high-brightness LED in this minimal-parts-count Design Idea. Read More...

555-based class-D headphone driver makes great practice amp

This class-D audio amp “plays” to the 555’s strengths. Read More...

Facilitate oscilloscope debug of small microcontroller systems

A probe-to-the-metal approach is often the best way to debug a small µC system, and here’s some code to help out. Read More...

Zener level-shifter drives high-side switch

Simplify a high-side driver by replacing a transistor with a Zener diode. Read More...

Milliohm Squawker great at finding shorts and reverse engineering PCBs

This well thought out tool for “listening to” low resistances really speeds troubleshooting & tracing. Read More...

Music keyboard inductively senses position & velocity

Technologies to measure key position, pressure, and velocity go back almost a century. Now, an inductive sensing IC offers another solution. Read More...

Water & vandal-proof keypad uses piezoelectric disc as sensor and buzzer

An ingenious and low-cost method to create a rugged “UI”. Read More...

Replace a rotary switch with a potentiometer

Why use an expensive rotary switch with your microcontroller when you can use a cheap pot instead? Read More...

Simple capacitance meter bins parts

This simple, elegant circuit lets you quickly sort through capacitors. Read More...

Bed levelling for 3D printer

3rd prize winner in the TI LDC1000 design contest. Read More...

One wire brings power & data to LCD module

If you need to connect a small remote LCD display, or your µC has run out of I/O pins, here’s a good, cheap solution. Read More...

Use a heated diode as a flow sensor

A hot diode senses air or fluid flow. Read More...

Simple circuits enable oscilloscope art

Let your inner artist out: Paint electrons in quadrature. Read More...

Soldering iron driver bridge controls temperature

With a power supply and a replacement soldering handle you can implement this temperature-controlled soldering iron driver. Read More...

Adaptive rotary encoder distinguishes fine from coarse

Need a rotary panel control that automatically switches between fine and coarse adjustment? It's here. Read More...

Simple night-light uses a photoresistor to detect dusk

You can adjust this battery-powered circuit for different levels. Read More...

Hack into a stopwatch to make a phototimer

Two transistors create a pulse train to operate a stopwatch. Read More...

Control your holiday lights with a magic wand

A magnet waved past a Hall-effect sensor does the trick. Read More...

Build an op amp with three discrete transistors

This simple ac-coupled design inverts, runs off a single supply, and is self-biasing. Read More...

Simple circuit helps to protect a vehicle-reverse camera

Add a delay to prevent short power pulses as you shift through reverse. Read More...

Circuit keeps wandering children and pets nearby

RF signal monitor alerts you if it gets out of range. Read More...

>> SEE ALL

DIY thermo-electric modules make backwoods power from your wood stove

If you've ever wanted to mess with thermo-electric generators (TEGs), there's a great web site which offers all the parts to make your own wood-fired electron pump. TEGs are basically over-sized thermocouples which convert the heat of your stove or other heat source into electricity – and a great way to generate a bit of power when its dark out or lugging around a bunch of solar panels isn't practical. Read More...

Altium's free CircuitMaker in open beta

The latest stage in the development of Altium's CircuitMaker is to make it available as part of an open beta testing program. Read More...

EDN field-tests the ultimate LED party lights

BlissLights makes some seriously cool toys. When I gave a brief shout-out to them in a recent Semi-coherent Emissions blog I knew I had to get my hands on a couple of these grown-up party bulbs. Happily, BlissLights cheerfully loaned me a few of their photonic toys so I could subject them to a little real-world testing at my St. Patrick's Day party. Read More...

Quantum computer kit announced – Save over $10,000,000!

The most exciting announcement this editor has ever covered: Quantum computing for the masses. Read More...

Pint-sized printer delivers pro-quality 3D performance at entry-level price point

Priced at $1,350, Aleph Objects' LulzBot Mini offers a combination of versatility, precision and ease which puts it on the (very) short list of entry-level printers I'd recommend to both tech-savvy DIY-ers and the growing number of consumers who are considering buying their first 3D printer. Read More...

Dual-protocol wireless control modules enable smart, networked LED drivers, luminaires, bulbs, and wall plugs

The first two implementations of the dual-protocol platform are a multi-mode (0-10V or DALI) Bluetooth lighting controller and a Class 2 embedded Bluetooth 4.0 module. They can be integrated into lighting fixtures, LED drivers, and LED smart bulbs. Both the Bluetooth controller and lighting module are programmed to automatically form a self-healing and self-organizing wireless mesh network with any other Casambi-enabled devices within "earshot" of it. Each device can also be paired to a Bluetooth Smart Ready smartphone or tablet, enabling any fixture within the mesh to be controlled from any other point without the need for an external gateway module. Read More...

¼-size Arduino board packs full-size punch + on-board LiPo charge/mgmt

Despite its compact 1in x 1.5in form factor, the Qduino Mini board packs all the punch of its full-sized counterparts and throws in a turnkey battery fuel gauge and charger just for grins. Read More...

Wi-Fi equipped 32-bit Arduino board streamlines cloud-powered embedded app development

Digilent's chipKIT WiFire board is an awesome little beastie. Powered by Microchip's powerful 32-bit 200 MHz MCU, the Wi-Fi equipped Arduino-compatible platform has been paired with Imagination Technologies' Flow Cloud service development tools in an effort to make creating cloud-powered embedded applications practical for the average developer. Read More...

Desktop milling machine creates PCBs and packaging

Version 2 of the Othermill will create your PCB, enclosure, and other parts – on your benchtop. Read More...

ZigBee 3.0 radio chips and modules can add Smart Home/IoT capabilities to lighting applications

GreenPeak Technologies' GP691 communication controller chip and GPM6000 integrated Modules provide a much-needed solution for implementing ZigBee 3.0, Thread, and other advanced wireless protocols. Read More...

>> SEE ALL

Chumby offers opportunity for home engineering

Because anyone can submit an app and Chumby Industries has been very open to hacking the Linux kernel, there are several ways to change the firmware with OpenEmbedded to tailor the Chumby One to your own needs. Read More...

Rummage through a Roomba: Sensor-packed vacuum robot attracts hacks

This autonomous robot packs a series of sensors and motors to not only vacuum homes the world over, but also double as a robotic platform for would-be developers. Read More...

Prying apart a portable audio player

Prying Eyes: A look inside Sandisk's Sansa M250 reveals platform minded design decisions, surprising flash-memory choices, and potential hacks. Read More...

Evaluate your application's energy-harvesting vibrational profile with a Slam Stick

To know whether your application is suitable for vibrational energy harvesting, you must determine its vibrational profile. Mide Technology's Slam Stick data logger and open-source software can ease your profiling task. Read More...

>> SEE ALL

Constant-voltage topology and intelligent dimming drives LEDs efficiently

LEDs as light sources in luminaires seem an ideal match due to their high efficiency, small size, and greatly improved color quality, but incompatibilities between long-established TRIAC dimmers and the LED drivers has been a problem. New ICs with innovative topologies overcome these issues. Read More...

Parallel Operation Minimizes Temperature Rise in Synchronous 4-Switch Buck-Boost Converters

A single synchronous buck-boost DC/DC converter can deliver high power due to its synchronous switching topology, but eventually the switching and/or conduction losses at higher power can overwhelm a single converter with excessive board heating. Although heat can be mitigated with bulked up heat sinks, additional external gate drivers, and/or forced airflow, it may be better to simply tie together two or more converters in parallel to spread the load. This is easy to do with the LT3790 4-switch synchronous buck-boost DC/DC converter. Read More...

10 Arduino-based projects on Kickstarter

The Arduino development board has grown in popularity over the last few years and has spawned a myriad of interesting projects. Here are 10 of the most interesting ones on Kickstarter. Read More...

PCB future is lightweight, low-cost, and flexible: Product how-to

Low-cost flexible additively printed circuit “boards” are enabling new technologies and markets. Read More...

Reducing cost & complexity of LCD LED backlights with single-IC, single-inductor multi-string LED driver architectures

In his fourth installment we'll look a single-IC, single-inductor multi-string LED driver architectures which provide great savings in both solution cost and PCB real estate. For this tutorial, we'll use the LT3598 which can drive up to six strings of ten LEDs at up to 30mA per string and a built-in power switch. Read More...

Powering LED Lighting & Other Illumination Devices: Part 3

This third installment of a multi-part series on design issues in LED lighting explores the capabilities of the LT3799, a high-power factor, self-isolated, TRIAC-compatible LED driver. It includes several practical examples of how these properties can be used to solve common design issues for LED applications in a simple, cost-effective manner. Read More...

Powering LED Lighting & Other Illumination Devices: Part 2 (Updated)

This second installment of a multi-part series includes several practical examples based on the LT3791 is a 4-switch synchronous buck-boost DC/DC converter that regulates both constant-current and constant voltage at up to 98.5% efficiency with a single inductor. Read More...

Powering LED Lighting & Other Illumination Devices - Part 1

This first installment of a multi-part series on design issues in LED lighting presents several solutions to the challenges of driving the series strings of HBLEDs frequently used in DLP projectors, stage lighting, automotive lighting and other applications traditionally served by high intensity bulbs. It includes several practical examples based on the LT3763, a 60V synchronous, step-down DC/DC controller designed to accurately regulate LED current at up to 20A with fast PWM dimming. Read More...

USB 3.0—Everything you need to know

Everything about USB 3.0 that you might not know, and are afraid to ask. Read More...

Build a low-cost logic design trainer

Want to set up a lab at home for your personal experiments? Read on. Read More...

>> SEE ALL

Summer reading list for embedded developers - 2015

To address the need to keep their skills current, here's a summer reading list that embedded developers might want to at least peruse or, better still, add to their library. Read More...

Cutting the cord on voice control

Voice control of embedded systems has gotten easier without needing a cloud connection. Read More...

10 Tips for designing a HAL

A hardware abstraction layer can simplify embedded design and reduce the chance of error, but only if done right. Read More...

10 must-have development tools that (mostly) won't strain the budget

To speed development and reduce the chance of error, here are ten tools every embedded developer needs. Read More...

New house brings electric woes

A move to a new old house means mastering new systems, and, FIXING THE ELECTRICS BEFORE WE ALL DIE! Read More...

The Hat at Maker Faire - Day 1

The Hat's had a busy time at the first day of the Maker Faire. Between watching high-powered kiddie car races, performing for visitors, and helping build mini-Smart Hats, there was barely enough time to get out of the booth to see a few sights. And wondrous sights they were indeed! Read More...

Greetings from Maker Faire 2015

One half embedded development platform, one half photonic fashion statement, and 100% attitude, Editor Lee Goldberg's "Smart Hat" is on its first solo assignment: report on some of the DIY activities at the Bay Area Maker Faire. Read More...

Celebrate DIY Victorian high-tech at the Steampunk World's Fair

It's time to dust off your goggles, charge up your ray gun and set your airship's course for the Steampunk World's Fair. Held May 15-17 in Piscataway, New Jersey, the fair is a Mecca for DIY-ists who take a somewhat unique approach to technology, fashion, and alternate history. Read More...

7 lessons for embedded developers from ESC Boston 2015

Back from ESC Boston, Jacob reflects on seven key lessons gleaned from the conference. Read More...

Laser-like audio with the PAL

A look at the state of audio beaming via ultrasonics. Read More...

>> SEE ALL

FEATURED RESOURCES