Altium Circuit Maker Tutorial

Circuit Maker

One of my professors asked me to make a video about Circuit Maker, a new PCB design software from Altium. It’s completely free, but it is cloud based. I’ve used Eagle, Diptrace, and Circuit Maker and they all have their strengths and weaknesses, but Circuit Maker is my favorite among the free software. Also, I think it would be the best for beginners, as it uses a ribbon-based user interface similar to the new Microsoft Office UI’s. The routing environment has a lot of the same features as Altium Designer, and it probably uses the same underlying code. It’s powerful, free, and easy to use. Dave Jones did a review of the software if you want to see his opinion on the software, business model ,etc.

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Testing a DC-DC Converter Module


I needed a 5V rail for a project that would be sourcing current for a USB battery charger from a 12V wall adapter. At these kinds of loads (<= 1A) a linear voltage regulator like the LM7805 is impractical, as it has to drop a lot of voltage, and dissipate a lot of power. That’s why I opted to use a buck converter instead.

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MSP430 VFD Clock – Manhattan Style



I wanted to do a follow-up to my last clock build, the MSP430 Analog Gauge Clock, reusing some of the code from that project, and I had an IV-18 vacuum florescent display (VFD) tube that I bought on Ebay. Also, I  wanted to finish the project before Christmas break was over. That didn’t happen. But I did manage to get the code written and most of the hardware built. I didn’t have the right parts on hand to build a boost converter to provide the 50V or so needed to drive the VFD, and school was about to start, so I decided to put that off until later, as adding an open-loop boost converter circuit using a PWM signal from my MSP430 would be pretty trivial. I’ve finally finished the project, and decided to do a write-up.

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Hakko 936 LED Modification



I love my Hakko 936 soldering iron. I bought it second hand a couple years ago because I couldn’t afford a better iron. Turns out I didn’t need a better iron. The Hakko 936 is a great soldering iron, and I’ve only ever had one problem with it. The LED…

The way the LED on the Hakko 936 soldering iron presents a lot of information to the user. When the iron is heating up, the LED on. When the iron has reached it’s set temperature it goes off, and begins to flash. The only problem is, the LED flashes very slowly. After every solder job, because I’m a little scatter brained, I have to ask myself, “Did I turn off my iron?” Then I have to stare at the LED until the next flash, or until it doesn’t flash. That five seconds of waiting is excruciating, and I finally decided to do something about it.

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MSP430 Analog Gauge Clock



After seeing an analog meter clock years ago on Hackaday (link), I decided it was time I built my own, using the MSP430G2553 microcontroller that I was using the embedded systems class I was taking. I wanted to the clock as the final project for the class, so I decided to implement the real time clock using the microcontroller itself, instead of pairing it with a serial real time clock module. Continue reading “MSP430 Analog Gauge Clock”