Tech Marinade
Uncovering Hidden Innovation in DIY Electronics
NI and Mouser Throw Curveball into PCB Design Ring
by Ryan Sailor ▪ 8.6.2014 News

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This is big news. Really big, and not just because there’s a new PCB Design program or because it’s sponsored by Mouser and… free.

It’s big news that it’s an increasingly good time to be an electronics maker, and the big names in the industry are noticing. Mouser recently announced a free version of National Instrument’s MultiSIM Circuit design and testing software.

The new version is called MultiSIM BLUE. Details pertaining to this specific release are slim, but presumably BLUE will feature all of the circuit design and testing capabilities of MultiSIM, including SPICE simulation.I don’t expect any surprises in terms of capability, rather there may be limitations to look out for. A Reddit thread comment hints at a 50 component limit. This is probably enough for small to mid-sized projects, but it strictly depends on whether passives are included and if the limit is counting unique components.

I haven’t personally reviewed MultiSIM, but National Instruments makes serious software. If BLUE is up to snuff with its commercial counterpart, then be prepared for a very impressive and comprehensive design experience. Even if the PCB design component isn’t a radical departure from other free alternatives (see our DesignSpark review), the addition of circuit design and SPICE simulation wrapped into the package makes this a powerful offering.

Interested in the release date? Well, it’s probably soon, but you can find out for certain if you sign up on Mouser’s website here.

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AgIC Print Modifies Your Home Printer Into A Circuit Board Manufacturer
by Kyle Patrick Cayabyab ▪ 4.1.2014 News

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We’ve been seeing creative methods of printing circuit boards crop up lately, including the AgIC Print. This Ag Inkjet Circuit is essentially conductive ink that is quick to dry and safe to use in many home printers. By making PCBs readily available, more creativity can be employed into your projects, allowing the expansion of art and the accessibility for children to learn about electronics in various fun ways. The freedom with which one can use the ink will allow for designs to be “drawn up” and tested for basic feasibility. With the inclusion of the ink’s use in a marker, PCBs can become a more hands on experience not limited by resources such as printers or the compliance of whatever is available to order. The possible downsides are how the ink is compatible with printers and printing surfaces, and the functionality of the conductive ink.

The accessibility of this conductive ink rides first and foremost on the total costs of implementing it. Printer ink costs are already phenomenal, and unless those sales have ludicrous profit margins, the AgIC ink can hike up to a higher cost. The AgIC full printing system will cost $599 with refills for the conductive ink costing about $100 and can print 50-100 pages. As for compatibility, the AgIC ink can print on standard paper and paper created to be used with the conductive ink is also available for purchase.

AgIC states that the ink will be flexible and that it will last for at least one year. Suitable for temporary projects, but not much that require permanence. The conductive ink also sports a resistance of 0.2-0.3 Ohm/square, meaning a 1mm width line will have a 0.2-0.3 Ohm resistance per 1mm of length. ICs can also be implemented by using conductive glue or tape, included in the printing kit.

From the Kickstarter, backers can receive a conductive supporter card or business card, a brush or marker with the conductive ink, various kits including components, and the full AgIC printing system. Be sure to check them out on their page or on their website.

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DesignSpark: Better Than Eagle? – A New Look At PCB Design Software
by Ryan Sailor ▪ 12.11.2013 Editorial

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The PCB design software market is admittedly a little stagnant. Newcomers often traverse old forum posts where PCB veterans suggest the same few design applications for the same few superficial reasons. The bottom line is that until recently, there were only a few good offerings and most engineers choose by experience or comfort with a particular brand of PCB software.

EAGLE is one very popular PCB design software created by Germany-based Cadsoft Computer GmbH. The name “EAGLE” is almost ubiquitous with amateur PCB design, probably due partly to its freeware option but certainly mostly due to the fact that everyone keeps mentioning it whether for better or worse. Yeah, I’m guilty too.

In a number of forums you’ll see mentions of KiCAD, EAGLE, gEDA, Fritzing, ExpressPCB, and AutoTRAX DEX. They range from free to commercial products, but regardless of their cost they all seem to be good for different reasons and it’s best to try out a bunch of them before deciding which to use for a project. Take a look at this comparison on Wikipedia for starters.

EAGLE is an old-timer: it’s been around for a while and as such has become somewhat of a standard. In fact, Sparkfun usually uploads EAGLE format files for their open-source hardware. The problem is that if you spend some time with EAGLE and then some more time with other, newer EDA (that’s Electronic Design Automation) software and you will realize that EAGLE’s UI is definitively out of date. In an industry of software where the features are similar across the board, it’s the user interface and user experience that makes all of the difference.

With the number of more modern EDA products on the market that are free, many of which have fewer (to no) board size restrictions than EAGLE Free, I think it’s worth taking a detailed look at several EDA options for PCB design newcomers.

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Tutorial Roundup 5
by Ryan Sailor ▪ 11.22.2013 Features

It’s time to heat up that soldering iron. This week we look at three tutorials to help you build your favorite project. Solder like a pro! Place surface mount parts at home! Build your own PCBs without the hassle of using a manufacturer! Hey, we know you can do it even if you didn’t know you could. That’s why we’re here.

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