Pimp your PCB businesscard full color


Here is a nice PCB businesscard @ smdprutser.nl

As a good electronic hobbiest tradition I started to design a businesscard from PCB material. Downside of all the businesscards (and PCBs in general) is the limited number of colors you can use: FR4, soldermask (with or without copper behind it), silkscreen or bare copper. Since the soldermask is fixed for both sides that was an extra limiting factor.
An out of the box solution I found was decal slide paper. This is a printable plastic film that is used to decorate ceramics or glass. There are clear and white versions and they can be found in most hobby stores. They are easily printed on by an inktjet or laser printer and have thus an infinite range of colors. For this experiment I bought clear film and designed the PCB with black soldermask (needed that color for the front side) and white silkscreen.

More details here.


If you follow my blog, you probably noticed that I use different online services to make my PCBs… it’s a way to test them in terms of quality and production time.

On the advice of my friend Mauro, I recently chose PCBWay to produce some PCBs for my future projects.

The procedure for sending a new order is very simple; first you have to enter some information about your PCB:


then, in the next page, you can configure som specific details of your printed circuit board (color, material, finishing, copper size…). It’s interesting the possibility – not often available – to choose the color of the silkscreen:


Once selected the production mode (nomal = 2-3 days or express = 24h) and the shipping method, you can add the PCB to your shopping cart and upload the Gerber files of your project. PCBWay doesn’t offer the CAM jobs for Eagle, but I verified that they accept files in the same format of Seeedstudio. If you use Eagle, you can therefore follow my tutorial to create the needed Gerbers.

Before being able to complete the payment and send the PCB to the factory, the files must pass a manual check. Yes, PCBWay manually verifies every file you upload… this process requires only some minutes and it’s definitely an added value: in one of my orders I made a small mistake and I was promptly contacted by a PCBWay engineer with an email reporting the mistake and asking me for the correct file.

When the order is in production, you can follow the progress in your personal area:


Even the website displays every step of the production process:


The quality of the PCBs I received is very good, certainly comparable to other services I used in the past. The price also is alined to the other manufacturers and PCBWay does offer an entry price of 5€ for 10 PCBs (10x10cm max).


HydroBot: Prototyping new modules


Matthew Reed writes:

ProtoModule is a HydroBot module designed to easily develop and test new monitoring or control functions that may someday go into a HydroBot module. It has 11 GPIO pins and the power rails broken out on a 0.1” pin header for easy breadboarding or interfacing with ribbon cables. The provided pins give access to a variety of digital and analog I/O, as well as digital communication peripherals, to allow for many flexible design options.

More info at protofusion.org.

BSide ACM03 plus clamp meter review and teardown


A review and teardown of a cheap Hall effect clamp meter (ACM03 Plus) from Kerry Wong:

I recently purchased a BSide ACM03 Plus clamp meter so that I could do some high current measurements for my tab welder project. This meter can be bought on eBay for around $25, which makes it one of the cheapest Hall effect clamp meters on the market that is capable of measuring both AC and DC current.
Since this is such a cheap meter, I wasn’t expecting much. But it actually feels really sturdy in hand and the construction looks reasonably solid, which is certainly a good start. It came with a nice little black pouch inside a non-descriptive cardboard box. It even includes a decent product manual.

More details on Kerry D. Wong’s blog.

Check out the video after the break.

Driving a 48-segment RGB LED bar graph with a Teensy 3.2


Glen Akins writes:

In my post Driving a SparkFun 48-Segment RGB LED Bar Graph, I stated that the hardware built there could be used to drive the LED bar graph with any combination of hardware and software that could drive one of the common 32×32 or 32×16 RGB LED matrices. Today I’m back to prove that point. In this post, I ditch the FPGA and drive the 48-segment RGB LED bar graph using a Teensy 3.2 board and the Pixelmatix SmartMatrix 3 library.

More details at Glen Akins’ blog.

App note: Clearing Xilinx FPGA configuration to allow boundary scan testing

Another application note from XJTAG on preparing Xilinx FPGA for proper boundary scan testing. Link here

When Xilinx FPGAs are configured it can restrict the boundary scan access to some signals on the device. One work-around for this problem is to configure the FPGA with a ‘blank’ image that closely matches its unconfigured state, allowing boundary scan testing to occur without any problems.

A second issue that can affect boundary scan testing with FPGAs is that they contain pull resistors. Depending on the design, these may be enabled when the FPGA is unconfigured as well as when it is configured. If these internal resistors are enabled on nets that contain pull resistors mounted on the board, two potential problems can occur:

1. If the internal resistor and external resistor pull in opposite directions, the boundary scan tests may not be able to test the external pull resistor if it is weaker than the internal pull resistor.
2. If the internal and external resistors pull in the same direction, a fault with the external resistor may not be detected because the internal resistor may mask the fault.

By setting the correct configuration options it is possible to disable these internal pull resistors when generating a ‘blank’ FPGA image.

App note: Using a test reset section to initialise JTAG devices


An app note from XJTAG about applying test reset to put some devices to JTAG compliant mode. Link here

Some JTAG devices require a specific sequence of states to be applied to some signals in order to put the device into a JTAG-compliant mode. This application note describes how a Test Reset section can be used to describe the required sequence and control its application.

ESP32, Wemos or not to Wemos

Wemos is a chinese manufacturer of IoT products, well known for its D1 Mini family, that includes boards based on the ESP-8266EX chip and expansion shields.

Some weeks ago, Wemos announced a board based on the new ESP32 chip, named LOLIN32. This board hosts an ESP-WROOM-32 module and can be powered by a single cell (1S) LiPo battery. The board can also recharge the battery thanks to a circuit based on the TP4054 chip.

I brought a LOLIN32 board from Wemos’s official store on Aliexpress. The board is shipped inside an anti-static bag, with a label with your name:


The bag also include some pin headers:

lolin-02 lolin-03

Curiously I noticed that other Aliexpress stores sell boards named “lolin”. I brought one of them:

lolin-04 lolin-05

Although this board has the “wemos” logo printed on it, it actually looks like a clone of the D-duino-32 project by Travis Lin: unlike the LOLIN32 indeed this board does not include the LiPo battery connector and the charging circuit while it adds a 0.96″ OLED display.

Here’s a visual comparison between the two boards:

lolin-06 lolin-07

The advantage of purchasing an original Wemos card is the availability of the electrical schematic, some tutorials and a support forum… all that is missing for the clone board (how is the OLED display connected?). My suggestion is therefore that if you want to buy a Wemos board, you should get it from the original store.

If instead you are interested in a board with a OLED display, why not buy it directly from the designer’s tindie page, to support its development?

Battery adapter teardown and Sony A6000 power-off current draw



Kerry Wong did a teardown  of a battery adapter for the Sony A6000 mirrorless digital camera and measured the poweroff current draw of the the camera:

With the battery adapter on hand, I decided to take a look at what’s inside and then use the adapter to measure the power-off/stand-by current of the Sony A6000.
I was not expecting to see much inside this battery adapter. After all, all it needs is the connection between the battery terminals and the input power jack and a resistor between the center pin and the ground in place of the thermistor that is used to sense the temperature of the battery pack. At the most, it might also include a reverse polarity protection diode.
But a quick measurement suggested that there must be some active components inside as the adapter itself draws around 17 µA current when connected to the power source. So clearly, there is some active circuitry inside.
Upon opening up the battery adapter, I was surprised to see the circuit board inside.

More details on Kerry D. Wong’s blog.

Check out the video after the break.

Weekly Roundup #39 – New Maker Products

Back from vacation and this Week’s Roundup is chock full of stuff! Lot’s of SBCs, plus #LibreComputer #SandmanDoppler #Parral #BuzzBox #tinyLiDAR #NanoPi @h3droid #tinyFPGA. Kickstarter On Kickstarter there is … Air-Scribe …, of course, the usual bucket load of spinners… Continue reading Weekly Roundup #39 – New Maker Products

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