Category Archives: General

Update on my activities

Hi All,

Sorry there’s been such a lapse since the last time I posted. Having accepted the position of senior technical editor for Interference Technology (IT) last December has kept me drinking from a firehose, as they say. Since the first of the year, IT has published my Real Time Spectrum Analyzer Guide, a free download on the web site: http://www.interferencetechnology.com. We also released the first of two print reference issues this year, the 2016 Directory and Design Guide.

IT has a long history in publishing the very best technical articles and reference material in the field of electromagnetic compatibility. It was first published starting in 1971 and I actually started subscribing to it in the mid-1970s – well before I knew I would end up in a career as an EMC engineer and consultant. Now I find myself as editor of that same publication – a humbling responsibility. Please register at the web site to start receiving our newsletters and notification of future guides on various fields of EMC. We’ll be releasing guides to Military EMC, EMC Shielding, EMC Filters, and Automotive EMC throughout the rest of this year.

In other news, I’ve had to halt my blogging for EDN.com, as the columnist for “The EMC Blog”, since taking the reins of IT. Fortunately, my good friend and colleague, Arturo Mediano, a professor and consultant from Spain, has agreed to start up the blog again in my place. He’s a brilliant EMC engineer and instructor and will bring a whole new take on practical EMC design and troubleshooting. Check it out at http://www.edn.com, then click on Communities > Blogs, then scroll down until you find “The EMC Blog”.

I’m scheduled to help teach a one week course during the next “EMC Week in Boulder City”. My topic will be EMI Troubleshooting and Pre-Compliance Testing. Check out the details and register here: http://www.dsmith.org.

I’ll also be scheduling my regular two-day intensive EMC design, theory, troubleshooting, and pre-compliance testing seminar in Longmont, Colorado this fall. Stay tuned for dates and pricing.

Finally, for all of you who live outside the U.S., or who are unable to travel to one of my EMC seminars, this is for you! I just completed the development of an intensive ON-LINE six-lesson course, EMI Troubleshooting and Pre-Compliance Testing”, which will be hosted by my friend Andy Eadie. The lessons are streamed as a video and may be viewed unlimited times. The cost is just $995 and full details and registration can be found at http://www.emcfastpass.com.

That’s all for now, stay tuned for more!

Really Small Drill Bit Set

For those of you who could use a set of really small drill bits, you might consider this set that ranges from 0.3 to 1.2mm in diameter. The cost is just $3.99 at Amazon. The company selling these is based in Asia, so the shipping time is about three weeks.

FullSizeRender

Pros:

They come in a very nice plastic case and the bits themselves are cushioned.

They fit the 1/8-inch jaws of a standard Dremel tool.

Cons:

The size markings are etched into the shank, so are difficult to read until just the right angle of light hits it – a magnifying loupe is a plus. They thinner bits break very easily, so it’s best to use a sturdy drill press for these, rather than a Dremel tool.

2014 Blog Highlights (Part 1)

Sorry about getting a little behind in postings. Here are some of the highlights of postings on the EDN.com site:

Review: inexpensive RF generator – During one of my presentations on low-cost EMC troubleshooting tools at the IEEE EMC Symposium last August, one of the attendees, Doug Miller, mentioned a small PC-controllable RF generator for just $190. Of course, I had to buy one and try it out!

Fig1-TPI Synthesizer-600

Review: Windfreak Technologies SynthNV RF generator – Every once in a while, I discover a product that is so incredible I wonder why it hasn’t been publicized more widely. This is the case with Windfreak Technologies $599 miniature RF generator, the model “SynthNV” (Figure 1). In case you’re wondering, their company is named after the owner’s sailboat!

WF Fig1

Detecting ESD Events – In my experience, electrostatic discharge (ESD) issues have now become the second-most prevalent issue other than radiated emissions. If you find your product has exhibits random upsets, such as loss of data or unusual circuit resets, it could very well be caused by ESD. This article describes several methods to detect these events.

ESD Detector

Harmonic Analyzer Tool – Because of their typically fast edge rates, crystal oscillators can generate a large number of high-order harmonics. This harmonic analyzer was created by my coauthor, Patrick André, with additional formatting tweaks by myself. I find this really handy to calculate harmonics from clock oscillators.

Review: TTi PSA2702T handheld spectrum analyzer – One thing that I find handy is a small hand held spectrum analyzer for use in troubleshooting EMI issues. As I travel a lot in my job, I like to take the minimum amount of test equipment possible. Unfortunately, most good quality analyzers are large, heavy and expensive. About ten years ago, I ran into the Thurlby Thandar Instruments (TTi) PSA2701T and have used it extensively since then. During that time, I reviewed it several times. In May 2013, TTi completely redesigned and repackaged this analyzer and released it as the PSA2702T. This is a review of the new PSA2702T, which I have used for several months now.

PSA2702T

2013 in review

The WordPress.com prepared a 2013 annual report for my EMC blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Keep Connectors Organized

How many of you store all your connectors and coaxial adapters in one large box? After years of dealing with the jumble of connectors and adapters and the wasted time in pulling out what I needed, I finally decided to make this part of my “spring cleaning.” After rooting around multiple locations for small stashes of these connectors, I cleared off the workbench and sorted them all by size and type. I also decided to collect and sort all the small coaxial connector-related modules, such as combiners, power splitters, amplifiers, etc., as well as other small everyday electronic sub-assemblies I routinely use for experiments.

Once all the various components were sorted out, I paid a visit to our local Walmart and found these five-drawer units (8-1/2″ x 7-1/4″ x 11-1/8″, model 2075) made by Sterilite, which were just the right size to hold the multitude of connectors, adapters, and modules. The drawer modules are stackable, so I can double the storage pretty easily, if required. Because the drawers are clear, I can see at a glance what I need.

For more on this and other storage ideas, click here…

Review: Grundig Mini400 AM/FM/SW Radio as ESD/EMI Detector

I recently upgraded my old Radio Shack AM radio, which I used for ESD detection, for the Grundig (Eton) Mini400 AM/FM/SW pocket radio. This $30 (street price) pocket-sized radio (4.25 x 2.75 x .5 inch) seems to have plenty of sensitivity to nearby ESD events. By tuning off-station, you can clearly hear the “clicking” from the ESD from several feet away. Using one of these radios is handy for correlating random product glitches with possible ESD events.

Grundig Mini400

I’m also finding it’s quite useful in locating low frequency switch mode power supply (SMPS) EMI. The shortwave bands are especially sensitive to this noise. For example, the CFL and newer LED lamps each have a SMPS built in to their bases. The multitude of these lamps in homes today can create a cacophony of EMI well above the shortwave spectrum. This is a real issue for amateur radio operators and those who enjoy radio astronomy.

The radio has an analog tuner with digital display. It runs on a pair of AAA cells and seems to have plenty of audio. It also comes with a padded case with belt loop. The only caution I might point out is that the power switch is a momentary button, which could get pressed inadvertently if pressed during shipping or if packed tightly in your troubleshooting kit. The radio does have a “Lock” switch on the side that disables the power button, so that ought to alleviate that issue. You just have to remember to unlock the radio prior to use.

Frequency ranges:

AM: 517 to 1782 kHz (1 kHz steps)

SW1: 5.700 to 10.380 (5 kHz steps)

SW2: 11.600 to 18.450 (5 kHz steps)

FM: 85.8 to 108.7 MHz (0.1 MHz steps)

I bought mine from Radio Shack for $40, but you can find one on Amazon.com for $30. Recommended.

Your EMC Questions Answered

Thanks for all the great questions presented following my recent EMC webinar, sponsored by Rohde & Schwarz and hosted by UBM TechOnline. If you missed the webinar, you may go here to download a copy of the slides and listen to the webinar “on-demand”. As I mentioned in the previous three postings, I’ve grouped them by topic and will be answering them all the best I can. Be advised that for many questions pertaining to EMC, the best answer is, “it depends”, so there may not be one answer for all cases. I’ll try to include my assumptions in the answers. The questions have been edited for clarity.

This posting will address general questions on EMC from my recent webinar that were not answered in previous installments. See more…