Phasors In LTSpice

[Ted] recently demonstrated the analysis of an RL circuit using a piece of paper, Octave, and LTSpice. If you prefer, the Octave code should work fine in MATLAB, as well. If you are looking to get serious about electronic theory this is a reasonably simple case and is a good chance to get a workout with some of the tools.

We like the approach because too often it is easy to just use the computer and not pick up the understanding that you get when working through a problem by hand. You do need to understand complex numbers, but, overall, the math isn’t too hairy.

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Custom Components In LTSpice

If you enjoy simulating circuits, you’ve probably used LTSpice. The program has a lot of powerful features we tend to not use, including the ability to make custom components that are quite complex. To illustrate how it works, [asa pro] builds a potentiometer component that is not only a good illustration but also a useful component.

The component is, of course, just two resistors. However, using parameters, the component gets two values, a total resistance and a percentage. Then the actual resistance values adjust themselves.

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Make Some Noise Or Simulate It, At Least

Noise is a fact of life, especially in electronic circuits. But on our paper schematics and just as often our simulations, there is no noise. If you are blinking an LED on a breadboard, you probably don’t care. But if you are working on something meatier, handling electrical noise gracefully is important and simulation can help you. [Ignacio de Mendizábal] has a great piece on simulating EMC filters using LTSpice that can get you started.

There are many ways of classifying noise and [Ignacio] starts with common-mode versus differential noise, where common-mode is noise with current flowing in the same direction without regard to the circuit’s normal operation, and differential noise having currents that flow in the opposite direction of normal current flow.

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Rockin’ Out In LTSpice: Simulating Classic Guitar Pedals

Musicians have a fantastic language to describe signals. A sound can be fat, dark, crunchy, punchy — the list goes on. These aren’t very technical terms, but they get the job done. After all, it’s much easier to ask to guitarist for a crisper sound than to ask them to sharpen the edges of the waveform, while amplifying the high-frequency components and attenuating the low-frequency components. Of course, it’s fun to look at signals this way as well, especially when you can correlate shifts in sound quality to changes in the waveform and, ideally, the circuit that produces it.

To undergo such an investigation, [Nash Reilly] has been simulating guitar effects pedals in LTSpice. Able to find most of the schematics he needs online, [Nash] breaks down the function of each part of the circuit and builds a simulation of the entire system. His write-up clearly explains, and often demonstrates, what’s going on inside the box. On the surface, it’s an interesting tour of the inner workings of your favorite effects pedals. Beyond that, it’s an excellent survey of analog design that is well-worth the read for anybody interested in audio, electronics, or audio electronics.

For those interested in taking the physical route rather than the simulated one, we’ve taken a look at pedal design before. Anybody who wants to try their hand at creating simulations can grab a copy of LTSpice, or check out a package called LiveSpice, which lets you simulate circuits in realtime and use them to process live audio — pretty useful for prototyping guitar effects.

TI And Cadence Make PSpice Free

We like simulation software. Texas Instruments long offered TINA, but recently they’ve joined with Cadence to make OrCAD PSpice available for free with some restrictions. You’ve probably heard of PSpice — it’s widely used in academia and industry, but is usually quite costly. You can see a promotional overview video below.

The program requires registration and an approval step to get a license key. The downloaded program has TI models along with other standard models. There seem to be few limits as long as you stick to the supplied library. According to the datasheet, there are no size or simulation complexity limitations in that case. If you want to use other models, you can, but that’s where the limitations hit you:

There is no limitation of how many 3rd party models can be imported into the design. However, if 3rd party models are imported, a user will be able to plot a maximum of 3 signals at a time of their choice when any 3rd party model is imported from web.

We aren’t completely sure what “from web” means there, but presumably they just mean from other sources. In any event, you still get AC, DC, and transient analysis with plenty of options like worst-case timing analysis. Mixed signal designs are supported and there is a wealth of data plotting options, as you would expect.

This is a great opportunity to drive some serious software that is widely used in the industry. The only thing that bummed us out? It runs under Windows. We couldn’t get it to work under Wine, but a Windows 10 VM handled it fine, although we really hate running a VM if we don’t have to.

Still, the price is right and it is a great piece of software. We also liked the recent Micro-Cap 12 release, but we don’t expect any updates for that. Of course, LTSpice is quite capable, too.

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Solid State Relay Simulation, Explained

[SaltyPuglord] needed a solid state relay for a project. We’d have just bought one, but he decided to design his own in LTSpice. Along the way he made the video below, which is pretty informative and a good example of a non-trivial design in LTSpice.

MOSFETs have made designs like this a lot easier, to the extent that it should be as easy as putting a pair of beefy fets in-line with the AC source and load. However, that has a few ramifications that [Salty] covers in the video.

The biggest concern comes in isolating the DC supply from ground. He used a transformer which is tricky to simulate in LTSpice. Beyond that the design of the power supply is quite simple, and as he mentions in the video, you don’t really need this complex of a regulator just to feed the gates of the MOSFETs.

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Commercial Circuit Simulator Goes Free

If you are looking for simulation software, you are probably thinking LTSpice or one of the open-source simulators like Ngspice (which drives Oregano and QUCs-S), or GNUCap. However, there is a new free option after the closing of Spectrum Software last year: Micro-Cap 12. You may be thinking: why use another closed-source simulator? Well, all the simulators have particular strengths, but Micro-Cap does have very nice features and used to retail for about $4,500.

The simulator boasts a multipage schematic editor, native robust digital simulation, Monte Carlo analysis, 33,000 parts in its library, worst-case and smoke analysis, Smith charts, and it can even incorporate spreadsheets. There’s a built-in designer for active and passive filters. Have a look at the brochure and you will see this is a pretty serious piece of software. And now it’s at least free as in beer.

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