ScopeShunt Visualising The Current Waveform With Your Oscilloscope | Voltlog #310

We usually use an oscilloscope for visualizing a voltage over time but sometimes it’s also useful to visualize the current waveform over time. The right way to do it is to get a current probe which can sense the current and convert that to a voltage that the oscilloscope can display however such devices are pretty expensive, they can be around $1000 even for an entry level one like the Rigol RP1001C which is only rated up to 300KHz bandwidth.

But we can improvise something for a much lower cost and it should allow us to visualize the current waveform on the oscilloscope. You’ve probably seen me use a shunt resistor when testing power supply to take a look at the current waveform. Because as you know passing a current through a resistor will generate a voltage drop.

That voltage drop is directly proportional with the passing current and with a round value resistor we can have an easy to use transformation ratio between voltage and current. All we have to do is o introduce this resistor inline between our power supply and the device under test

For example if I have a 1ohm resistor, we have a 1:1 ration, for each mA passed through that resistor we will have  1mV of voltage drop that our oscilloscope can display. Such a circuit will of course have it’s limitations, for example it won’t work very well when testing low voltage low power devices because our resistor will introduce a burden voltage, which will drop our supply voltage to the device under test. This is also not an isolated measurement so it might not be safe when connected with higher voltage circuits.

But there are still a lot of scenarios where you could use this successfully on the electronics workbench so it might be worth building something like this. I want to make this nicer by building it inside an enclosure with the required bnc connector for connecting to the oscilloscope and 4mm banana plugs for passing the current through. I picked this small aluminium enclosure which would be enough to house the resistor, actually the resistors, because there are several advantages to using multiple resistors in parallel.

Alternative to this simple shunt resistor measuring method include the Joulescope which is a fully featured dc energy measurement test instrument with incredibly wide dynamic range that allows you to capture the smallest currents next to a jump to a higher current. I reviewed the Joulescope in Voltlog #211.

Voltlog #287 – Switching From Eagle To Kicad

Welcome to a new Voltlog, today I’m gonna talk a bit about my process of switching from EagleCad to Kicad. So i’ve been an EagleCAD user for years, I’ve practically learned how to do pcb layout in eagle cad so there is that emotional attachment to a piece of software because it’s what I used while developing this skill. And to be honest there wasn’t any better alternative years ago, Eagle was the first decent piece of cad software to offer a freeware license and it quickly became popular for hobbyists. It didn’t have all the bells and whistles of the expensive software like Altium or Candece but it did the job while being user friendly.

Since it quickly became popular for makers and hobbyists it also meant there was an abundance of support on the forums as well as many user generated scripts and libraries freely available. It was similar to the popularity Arduino got but it was never open source and if you needed some extra features like 4 layer layout or pcb sizes larger than 8x10cm you needed to pay for a license.

Voltlog #235 – I Made A PCB Business Card

Welcome to a new Voltlog, today we’re going to be talking about the possibility of designing a pcb business card. So if you’re an electronics engineer who offers consulting services or even just an enthusiast and you would like to create a nice original and suggestive business card, stick around.

The idea of making a pcb business card is not new and there are many previous examples of pcb business cards, some people build them passive, others like to integrate a small battery some LEDs, maybe a microcontroller with NFC or a USB interface and generate some interaction with the user.

Maybe 7-8 years ago I first wanted to try this idea but back then, it was quite expensive to get PCBs professionally manufactured in China, first they were charging a setup fee which was usually $150 and then you would have the cost of the PCB which for 10 pcs 10 by 10cm was usually about 2-3$ per piece and then you would have the shipping cost which starting from something like $50 for the first kg via DHL. And all of this was for the standard 1.6mm FR4 with green solder mask and tin finish. If you wanted matte black soldermask and gold finish, there was an additional cost.