Electrical Engineering involves the application of electricity, electronics, and electromagnetism. Energy is available in various forms such as electrical, hydro, wind, and solar energy. An Electrical Engineer develops technologies to assist with the practical application of such energies. Electrical Engineers design components for electronic equipment, communications systems, power grids, batteries, motors, and more.
This page is oriented to providing pointers to software that can help with the engineering of electronic devices and electronic sensors. The software referenced here is all either free, inexpensive, or demo software so it can be tried without initially investing significant money. Where possible we've included a link to the site where you can get the latest version rather than a direct download of a possibly stale version.
The most fundamental electronic components are resistors, capacitors, inductors, diodes, and transistors. Software tools that simulate the electronic circuitry you've created would allow you to test and debug the circuitry before building it. A common example of this type of application is SPICE (Simulation Program with Integrated Circuit Emphasis) which is an analog electronic circuit simulator.
Beyond fundamental analog electronic components there are electronic sensors (which often behave like a resistor or transistor), electro-mechanical devices that move mechanical things, digital electronics, IC (integrated circuits), or circuit boards. While it's unlikely that you'll be designing and manufacturing your own IC, once you have your electronic circuit designed you might want to build your own circuit board. Other helpful tools include applications that allow you to layout the placement of components on a circuit board and figure out how to route connections. If you design your own circuit board, you can fabricate it yourself or companies will fabricate a circuit board for you from your design.
When assembling circuits whether on solderless breadboard, or wirewrap breadboard, or soldering to printed circuit boards, you will need to know how to tell the characteristics of electronic components. For example, not all resistors have the same resistance. Most components have a code on them indicating what characteristics they have. In the case of resistors, they have a color code consisting of 3 or 4 colored stripes. The first two stripes indicate the first two significant figures of the resistance. The third stripe is the decimal multiplier. The value is given in ohms. If the fourth stripe exists, it indicates the tolerance. For example, a resistor with colored bands of brown, black, and red has the resistance of 1 0 * 10^2 or 1000 ohms, and a resistor with colored bands of red, red, and black has the resistance of 2 2 * 10^1 or 220 ohms.
|color||significant figure||decimal multiplier||tolerance %|
|black||0||10^0 = 1||20|
|brown||1||10^1 = 10||1|
|red||2||10^2 = 100||2|
|orange||3||10^3 = 1000||3|
|gold||10^-1 = 0.1||5|
|silver||10^-2 = 0.01||10|
In the case of capacitors, some will have their capacitance value written on them. However, ceramic disk capacitors have a three digit code. The first two digits indicate the first two significant figures of the capacitance. The third digit is the decimal multiplier. The value is given in picoFarads.
Some retailers for electronics are:
Electronic circuit design and simulation tools
MicroSim use to provide a demo version of their software; however, they were bought out and I'm not sure if the new company provides this. The link to the old company site is no longer valid. If you have more information please email us at teraKUHN.
Circuit board layout, routing, and viewing tools
The Gerber file format is the de facto standard used by printed circuit board (PCB) industry software to describe PCBs. Extended Gerber or RS-274X and Standard Gerber or RS-274-D are specific variants of the G-Code or RS-274 file format which is often used for numerical control (NC) of automated machine tools. Most PCB manufacturers will accept Extended Gerber or RS-274X files.
Link to Gerber file format which is used by most PCB manufacturers
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