Eagle to KiCad made easy

One barrier for those wanting to switch over from Eagle to KiCad has been the lack of a way to convert existing projects from one to the other. An Eagle to KiCad ULP exists, but it only converts the schematic, albeit with errors and hence not too helpful. And for quite some time, KiCad has been able to open Eagle .brd layout files. But without a netlist to read and check for errors, that’s not too useful either. [Lachlan] has written a comprehensive set of Eagle to KiCad ULP scripts to convert schematics, symbols and footprints. Board conversion is still done using KiCad’s built in converter, since it works quite well.

Overall, the process works pretty well, and we were able to successfully convert two projects from Eagle. The entire process took only about 10 to 15 minutes of clean up after running the scripts.

The five scripts and one include file run sequentially once the first one is run. [Lachlan]’s scripts will convert Eagle multi sheet .sch to KiCad multi sheets, place global and local net labels for multi sheets, convert multi part symbols, build KiCad footprint modules and symbol libraries from Eagle libraries, create a project directory to store all the converted files, and perform basic error checking. The Eagle 6.xx PCB files can be directly imported to KiCad. The scripts also convert Via’s to Pads, which helps with KiCad’s flood fill, when Via’s have no connections – this part requires some manual intervention and post processing. There are detailed instructions on [Lachlan]’s GitHub repository and he also walks through the process in the video.

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Afroman Demonstrates Boost Converters

If you need to regulate your power input down to a reasonable voltage for a project, you reach for a switching regulator, or failing that, an inefficient linear regulator. What if you need to boost the voltage inside a project? It’s boost converter time, and Afrotechmods is here to show you how they work.

In its simplest form, a boost converter can be built from only an inductor, a diode, a capacitor, and a transistor. By switching the transistor on and off with varying duty cycles, energy is stored in the inductor, and then sent straight to the capacitor. Calculating the values for the duty cycle, frequency, inductor, and the other various parts of a boost converter means a whole bunch of math, but following the recommended layout in the datasheets for boost and switching converters is generally good enough.


[Afroman]’s example circuit for this tutorial is a simple boost converter built around an LT1370 switching regulator. In addition to that there’s also a small regulator, diode, a few big caps and resistors, and a pot for the feedback pin. This is all you need to build a simple boost converter, and the pot tied to the feedback pin varies the duty cycle of the regulator, changing the output voltage.

It’s an extremely efficient way to boost voltage, measured by [Afroman] at over 80%. It’s also exceptionally easy to build, with just a handful of parts soldered directly onto a piece of perfboard.

Video below.

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Bolstering Raspberry Pi HDMI with a current regulator


We’ve never tried using an HDMI to VGA converter with Raspberry Pi. We heard they were expensive and have always just used HDMI out (although DVI would be just as easy). Apparently if you have a VGA converter that isn’t powered the RPi board may output unstable video due to lack of current from the connector. [Orlando Cosimo] shows how to fix the problem with a few inexpensive components.

Just this morning we saw a portable PSU using an LM317. This project uses the same part, but in a different way. [Orlando] uses three resistors in parallel to make the LM317 behave like a current regulator (as opposed to a voltage regulator) which will output about 550 milliamps. Input voltage is pulled directly from the 5V line of the microUSB port. The output is injected into the HDMI connector. This will boost the amount of juice available to the unpowered VGA converter, stabilizing the system.

There are a lot of other power hacks out there for the RPi. One of our favorites is pulling the stock linear regulator in favor of a switch mode regulator.

[via Dangerous Prototypes]

Converting an IBM PCjr joystick to USB


Seeing this IBM joystick again really brings back memories. But it can be used on a modern system thanks to this USB conversion project.

This particular model had a connector which is foreign to us. It looks like a boxy USB-A plug, but has an eight-pin sockets which looks like it’s 0.1″ pitch. You could try to make your own male connector using a dual-row pin header, but [Gruso] just went ahead and lopped off the end of the cable. He managed to dig up the pin-out for the device and found that it could be wired up to a gameport — the connector being the only real difference. He gutted a USB gameport adapter, removing the DB15 connector and soldering directly to the board. The boxy old peripheral has just enough room to house that PCB.

If you’re looking for a few more details than this build album provides check out [Gruso’s] comments in the Reddit thread.

USB to RS-232 adapter hacked to use RS485 instead

[André Sarmento] needed to connect a computer to an RS-485 bus. A simple converter can be sourced online, but the only thing he could find locally that was even close was a USB to RS-232 converter. He used that component to craft his own USB to RS-485 bridge.

RS-485 is often used for remote sensors as it provides a method of connecting electronics over long distances. The converter which he started with seems to be encased in a hot-glue-like substance. A bit of time with a torch and he was able to get to the components on the board. There are two stages, one which converts RS-232 to TTL, and the other converts TTL to USB. [André] removed the RS-232 chip and patched his own board (shown on the left) into its TTL lines. He was also able to add a few more configuration options, like using an external power source, and having a few jumper-selected resistor options.

Digital TV converter reverse engineering

Back when broadcast television was first switching over from analog to digital most people needed to get a converter box to watch DTV broadcasts. Remember that abomination that was “HD-Ready”? Those TVs could display an HD signal, but didn’t actually have a digital tuner in them. Nowadays all TVs come with one, so [Craig] found his old converter box was just gathering dust. So he cracked it open and reverse engineered how the DTV hardware works.

The hardware includes a Thompson TV tuner, IR receiver for the remote control, and the supporting components for an LGDT1111 SoC. This is an LG chip and after a little searching [Craig] got his hands on a block diagram that gave him a starting place for his exploration. The maker of the converter box was also nice enough to include a pin header for the UART. It’s populated and even has the pins labeled on the silk screen. We wish all hardware producers could be so kind. He proceeds to pull all the information he can through the terminal. This includes a dump of the bootloader, readout of the IR codes, and much more.

Experimenting with bridge rectifers for AC to DC power conversion

The folks over at Toymaker Television have put together another episode. This time they’re looking at bridge rectifiers and how they’re used in AC to DC converters.

This is a simple concept which is worth taking the time to study for those unfamiliar with it. Since Alternating Current is made up of cycles of positive and negative signals it must be converted before use in Direct Current circuits; a process called rectification. This is done using a series of 1-way gates (diodes) in a layout called a bridge rectifier. That’s the diamond shape seen in the diagram above.

This episode, which is embedded after the break, takes a good long look at the concept. One of the things we like best about the presentation is that the hosts of the show talk about actual electron flow. This is always a quagmire with those new to electronics, as schematics portray flow from positive to negative, but electron theory suggests that actual electron flow is the exact opposite. Continue reading “Experimenting with bridge rectifers for AC to DC power conversion”