In this article we review a couple of SMT prototyping boards from Schmartboard.
Sooner or later you’ll need to use a surface-mount technology component. Just like taxes and myki* not working, it’s inevitable. When the time comes you usually have a few options – make your own PCB, then bake it in an oven or skillet pan; get the part on a demo board from the manufacturer (expensive); try and hand-solder it yourself using dead-bug wiring or try to mash it into a piece of strip board; or find someone else to do it. Thanks to the people at Schmartboard you now have another option which might cost a few dollars more but guarantees a result. Although they have boards for almost everything imaginable, we’ll look at two of them – one for QFP packages and their Arduino shield that has SOIC and SOP23-6 areas.
QFP 32-80 pin board
In our first example we’ll see how easy it is to prototype with QFP package ICs. An example of this is the Atmel ATmega328 microcontroller found on various Arduino-compatible products, for example:
Although our example has 32 pins, the board can handle up to 80-pin devices. You simply place the IC on the Schmartboard, which holds the IC in nicely due to the grooved tracks for the pins:
The tracks are what makes the Schmartboard EZ series so great – they help hold the part in, and contain the required amount of solder. I believe this design is unique to Schmartboard and when you look in their catalogue, select the “EZ” series for this technology. Moving forward, you just need some water-soluble flux:
then tack down the part, apply flux to the side you’re going to solder – then slowly push the tip of your soldering iron (set to around 750 degrees F) down the groove to the pin. For example:
Then repeat for the three other sides. That’s it. If your part has an exposed pad on the bottom, there’s a hole in the centre of the Schmartboad that you can solder into as well:
After soldering I really couldn’t believe it worked, so probed out the pins to the breakout pads on the Schmartboard to test for shorts or breaks – however it tested perfectly. The only caveat is that your soldering iron tip needs to be the same or smaller pitch than the the part you’re using, otherwise you could cause a solder bridge. And use flux! You need the flux. After soldering you can easily connect the board to the rest of your project or build around it.
Schmartboard Arduino shield
This is the AD5204 four-channel digital potentiometer we used in the SPI tutorial. It sits nicely in the shield and can be easily soldered onto the board. Don’t forget the flux! Although the SMT areas have the EZ-technology, I still added a little solder of my own – with satisfactory results:
The SOT23-6 also fits well, with plenty of space for soldering it in. SOT23? Example – the ADS1110 16-bit ADC which will be the subject of a future tutorial:
Working with these tiny components is also feasible but requires a finer iron tip and a steady hand.
Once the SMT component(s) have been fitted, you can easily trace out the matching through-hole pads for further connections. The shield matches the Arduino R3 standards and includes stacking header sockets, two LEDs for general use, space and parts for an RC reset circuit, and pads to add pull-up resistors for the I2C bus:
Finally there’s also three 0805-sized parts and footprints for some practice or use. It’s a very well though-out shield and should prove useful. You can also order a bare PCB if you already have stacking headers to save money.
If you’re in a hurry to prototype with SMT parts, instead of mucking about – get a Schmartboard. They’re easy to use and work well. Full-sized images available on flickr.
In the meanwhile have fun and keep checking into tronixstuff.com. Why not follow things on twitter, Google+, subscribe for email updates or RSS using the links on the right-hand column? And join our friendly Google Group – dedicated to the projects and related items on this website. Sign up – it’s free, helpful to each other – and we can all learn something.
The boards used in this article were a promotional consideration supplied by Schmartboard.
Today we are going to introduce the basics of AC – alternating current. This is necessary in order to understand future articles, and also to explain in layperson’s terms what AC is all about. So let’s go!
AC – Alternating Current. We see those two letters all around us. But what is alternating current? How does current alternate? We know that DC (direct current) is the result of a chemical reaction of some sort – for example in a battery, or from a solar cell. We know that it can travel in either direction, and we have made use of it in our experimenting. DC voltage does not alter (unless we want it to).
Therein lies the basic difference – and why alternating current is what is is – it alternates! This is due to the way AC current is created, usually by a generator of some sort. In simple terms a generator can be thought of as containing a rotating coil of wire between two magnets. When a coil passes a magnet, a current is induced by the magnetic field. So when the coil rotates, a current is induced, and the resulting voltage is relative to the coil’s positioning with the magnets.
For example, consider the diagram below (exploded view, it is normally more compact):
This is a very basic generator. A rotating coil of wire is between two magnets. The spacing of the magnets in real life is much closer. So as the coil rotates, the magnetic fields induce a current through the coil, which is our alternating current. But as the coil rotates around and around, the level of voltage is relative to the distance between the coil and the magnet. The voltage increases from zero, then decreases, then increases… as the coil constantly rotates. If you were to graph the voltage level (y-axis) against time (x-axis), it would look something like below:
That graph is a sine wave… and is a representation of perfect AC current. If you were to graph DC voltage against time, it would be a straight horizontal line. For example, compare the two images below, 2 volts DC and AC, shown on an oscilloscope:
The following clip is 2 volts AC, as shown on the oscilloscope:
So as you can see, AC is not a negative and positive current like DC, it swings between negative and positive very quickly. So how do you take the voltage measurement? Consider the following:
The zero-axis is the point of reference with regards to voltage. That is, it is the point of zero volts. In the oscilloscope video above, the maximum and minimum was 2 volts. Therefore we would say it was 2 volts peak, or 2Vp. It could also be referred to as 4 volts peak to peak, or 4Vpp – as there is a four volt spread between the maximum and minimum values of the sine wave. There is another measurement in the diagram above – Vrms, or volts root mean squared. The Vrms value is the amount of AC that can do the same amount of work as the equivalent DC voltage. Vrms = 0.707 x Vp; and Vp = 1.41 * Vrms. Voltages of power outlets are rated at Vrms instead of peak as this is relative to calculations. For example, in Australia we have 240 volts:
Well, close enough. In fact, our electricity distributor says we can have a tolerance of +/- 10%… some rural households can have around 260 volts. Moving on…
The final parameter of AC is the frequency, or how many times per second the voltage changes from zero to each peak then back to zero. That is the time for one complete cycle. The number of times this happens per second is the frequency, and is measured in Hertz (Hz). The most common frequency you will hear about is your domestic supply frequency. Australia is 50 Hz:
… the US is 60 Hz, etc. In areas that have a frequency of 60 Hz, accurate mains-powered time pieces can be used, as the seconds hand or counter can be driven from the frequency of the AC current.
The higher the frequency, the shorter the period of time taken by one cycle. The frequency and time are inversely proportional, so frequency = 1/time; and time – 1/frequency. For example, if your domestic supply is 50 Hz, the time for each cycle is 1/50 = 0.02 seconds. This change can be demonstrated quite well on an oscilloscope, for example:
In the video above there is 2 volts AC, and the frequency starts from 100 Hz, then moves around the range of 10 to 200 Hz. As you can see, the amplitude of the sine wave does not change (the height, which indicates the voltage) but the time period does alter, indicating the frequency is changing. And here is the opposite:
This video is a demonstration of changing the voltage, whilst maintaining a fixed frequency.
Thus ends the introduction to alternating current. In the next instalment about AC we will look at how AC works in electronic circuits, and how it is handled by various components.
I hope you understood and can apply what we have discussed today. As always, thank you for reading and I look forward to your comments and so on. Furthermore, don’t be shy in pointing out errors or places that could use improvement.
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Otherwise, have fun, be good to each other – and make something!
Instead of a normal day involving fun and learning with electronics, I got the scare of my life and a very sore back. You’re probably thinking it was something to do with the bedroom, but (un)fortunately no. It was revenge of the cheap plug pack. (In Australia we call wall warts plug packs).
In the recent past I wrote about a couple of cheap plug packs from eBay – here. Foolishly I kept using the other working plug pack. Not any more!
Consider this photo:
Notice how there is the adaptor with the Australia pins – this slides on and off relatively easily. Today I went to unplug the whole thing, by gripping the small adaptor which would pull the lot out at once. However my grip was not strong enough and my fingers slipped, pushed down and pulled at the plugpack itself – just enough to leave a gap and the pins exposed. (see below) At which point my fingers slipped and grabbed the live pins.
Although I consider myself to be a large physical specimen (185cm tall, 120kg) the shock was amazing (in a bad way). I fell arse over and ended up flat on the floor, and some strange feelings in my chest. After a few moments I sat up and had a walk around. Luckily my doctor is only ten minutes walk away so she gave me a once-over and told me to relax for the rest of the day.
So – the morals of today’s story:
One – don’t cut corners on safety by using substandard equipment
Two – no matter how familiar you are with electronics or electrical work – ELECTRICITY CAN KILL YOU!
Three – always see a doctor, even for the slightest shock.
If you have a tale of woe to share, please leave a comment below or in our Google Group.
As always, thank you for reading and I look forward to your comments and so on. Please subscribe using one of the methods at the top-right of this web page to receive updates on new posts.
Otherwise, have fun, be good to each other, stay safe – and make something!