Official Vetco Electronics Blog

Where your electronic dreams become reality.

Project Spotlight: When Technologies Mingle

In my short 25 years I've noticed some patterns…

But few are more powerful than the simple concept of joining two technologies or ideas.

3D printers and cakesComputers and Telephone lines, or in this case, a Needle and Wires.

After submitting some brilliant photos of her creation to the Seattle Makers group on Facebook, I had to interview Erin Weathers about her project and how Vetco Electronics helped remove some of the roadblocks between her and the execution of her ideas!

Original photo from the Seattle Makers page on Facebook.
Original photo from the Seattle Makers page on Facebook.
Q: We love projects because you always learn something new! What is something you learned from this project?

A: Soldering is hard....really hard. This was probably the biggest challenge for me. I got wiring down, programming the Teensy, drafting the pattern, making the dress, make up, gluing  sugar crystals to my face, but soldering was the most difficult and frustrating part of the entire project. Now I think I can win some soldering competitions!

Q: Any interesting facts about the project?

A: The ball gown was a 30 day, start to finish, project from sketch to completion. I was not allowed to work on or plan anything including the component layout or coding until day 1. The entire dress is made from neoprene and vinyl, which smells terrible - Think wet suit rubber, which was a material that I had no experience with prior.

Q: So, How did Vetco help you out?

A: I bought pretty much everything that wasn't the main neopixel rings, and fabric from Vetco! Resistors, capacitors, jumper headers, wire, and solder plus some tools I needed including a soldering iron and wire strippers.

Q: Most projects will hit you with a surprise or two, what are some difficulties you encountered?

A: Figuring out what I needed component wise was difficult since I was completely new at this I didn't know proper names for anything. I kept researching and learning and discovered Vetco in the process! It is great to have a local resource!

Q: We like to think Vetco also offers up a surprise or two, Did we?

A: I was so nervous going into the store because I've been treated like crap for being a girl in other stores, but Vetco was awesome! Helped me spend lots of money while making me smarter and getting everything I need without making me feel like I didn't belong.

Q: Anything else you would like readers to know?

A: My website is: www.fairweathersclothing.com, I got the fabric from Seattle Fabrics, Hair by P.M.K.M.I. and Photos by Nowhereman Photos.

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While this dress may not advance space exploration or allow us to transmit images through the air, it serves as a reminder and an example of what can happen when someone combines knowledge and skills in several areas to create something awesome!

What unique range of skills do you posses and how can you combine them to create something the world has never seen before?

As technology continues to blossom, consumer's access and ability to mold it is changing the game forever...

Never Stop Creating!

-Nick Franklin
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Put your ideas into ACTION

WelcomeToVetco

Arduino Due and Arduino Nano now available!

Vetco has recently added the powerful Arduino Due, with it's 32-Bit ARM processor and the breadboard-friendly Arduino Nano to our ever evolving inventory of Arduino related products.

The Arduino Due (VUPN7299) is based on the Atmel SAM3X8E ARM Cortex-M3 CPU - It's the first 32-Bit ARM based Arduino Microcontroller. This board is stuffed with great features - 54 digital IO pins (12 are PWM), 12 Analog inputs, 4, that’s right, 4 UARTS, 2 DACs, USB OTG (USB On-The-Go), a blazing fast 84MHz clock and loads of other features in a footprint about the size of the Arduino MEGA2560. One of our favorite features of the Arduino Due is the replacement of the bulky USB-B programming jack with a micro-USB B jack – This jack no longer interferes with stacking shields, etc. One thing to keep in mind when using the Arduino Due is that the I/O pins are 3.3V, NOT 5V like most other Arduino boards. Consider picking up some NTE4050B hex buffer IC’s to aid in interfacing with 5V devices. The Arduino Nano (VUPN7189) is a breadboard-friendly version of the Arduino UNO - it has the same functionality as the UNO R3, but in a smaller package. It also lacks the bulky DC power jack and has replaced the USB-B jack wih a Mini-B jack. The Arduino Nano makes breadboarding easier by doing away with the rats nest of jumper wires that would traditionally be used to connect the UNO to a breadboard. All you need to do is plug the Arduino Nano into the breadboard and away you go.  Our version includes single row header pins, but you must solder them on yourself.    

Test a transistor with a multimeter

Ask any field or bench technician what their most-used piece of test equipment is and they will probably say a DMM (Digital MultiMeter). These versitiale devices can be used to test and diagnose a wide range of circuits and components. In a pinch, a DMM can even substitute for expensive, specialized test equipment. One particularly usefull skill is knowing how to test a transistor using a digital multimeter. Specialized component analyzers exist to do this task, but the expense can be difficult to justify for the average hobbiest.

Transistor Pinouts

Fortunately, using a DMM to get a basic pass/fail reading from a suspected faulty NPN or PNP bipoloar transistor is a simple and quick task. Some multimeters have a built-in transistor testing function, if yours does, you can skip this blog post - simply insert your transistor into the socket on the multimeter and set the meter to the correct mode. You will probably get information such as the gain(hFE) that could be checked against the datasheet as well as a pass/fail reading. If your meter does not have a transistor testing function, fear not - transistors can easily be checked with the "Diode" testing setting. (Some meters have the diode test function coupled with the continuity test - this is OK).  

Testing the transistor:

Remove the transistor from the circuit for accurate test results.

Step 1: (Base to Emitter) Hook the positive lead from the multimeter to the to the BASE (B) of the transistor. Hook the negative meter lead to the EMITTER (E) of the transistor. For an good NPN transistor, the meter should show a voltage drop between 0.45V and 0.9V. If you are testing PNP transistor, you should see "OL" (Over Limit).

Step 2: (Base to Collector) Keep  the postitive lead on the BASE (B) and place the negative lead to the COLLECTOR (C). For an good NPN transistor, the meter should show a voltage drop between 0.45V and 0.9V. If you are testing PNP transistor, you should see "OL" (Over Limit).

Step 3: (Emitter to Base) Hook the positive lead from the multimeter to the to the EMITTER (E) of the transistor. Hook the negative meter lead to the BASE (B) of the transistor. For an good NPN transistor, you should see "OL" (Over Limit).If you are testing PNP transistor, the meter should show a voltage drop between 0.45V and 0.9V.

Step 4: (Collector to Base) Hook the positive lead from the multimeter to the to the COLLECTOR (C) of the transistor. Hook the negative meter lead to the BASE (B) of the transistor. For an good NPN transistor, you should see "OL" (Over Limit).If you are testing PNP transistor, the meter should show a voltage drop between 0.45V and 0.9V.

Step 5: (Collector to Emitter) Hook the postitive meter lead to the COLLECTOR (C) and the negative meter lead to the EMITTER (E) - A good NPN or PNP transistor will read"OL"/Over Limit on the meter. Swap the leads (Positive to Emitter and Negative to Collector) - Once again, a good NPN or PNP transistor should read "OL". If your bipolar transistor measures contrary to these steps, consider it to be bad.   You may also be able to use the voltage drop to determine which lead is the emitter on an unmarked transistor, as the emitter-base junction typically has a slightly higher voltage drop than the collector-base junction. Remember: This test only verifies that the transistor is not shorted or open, it does not guarantee that the transistor is operating within its designed parameters. It should only be used to help decide if you need "replace" or "move on to the next component". This test works on bipolar transistors only - you need to use a different method for testing FETs.

Matched Complementary Pair Transistors

Building a Class B amplifier? Vetco has many options when it comes to complementary PNP - NPN transistors. Our NTE "MCP" series complementary transistor pairs are selected at the factory to have their gain (hfe) matched to within 10% of each other. A pair of corresponding NPN and PNP transistors that have closely matched characteristics are ideal for Class B Amplifiers (used in the output stage) - Each NPN/PNP transistor evenly conducts half of the signal. Closely matched pairs of transistors are desireable here for waveform symmetry. Complementary transistors can also be used to create a reversible H-Bridge motor controller, and allow the current to flow to the motor evenly in both directions.  For motor control applications, be sure select transistors with a collector current that is high enough to comfortably support your motor.

Our inventory of matched complementary pair transistors covers a wide range of applications and package styles, from inexpensive small signal transistors such as the NTE159MCP - a matched pair of 2N3904 (NPN) and 2N3906 (PNP) transistors, to large power transistors like NTE285MCP - a matched pair of NPN and PNP transistors with a current rating of 16A each ! Consider using Matched Complementary Pair Transistors from Vetco and NTE on your next project.