An Open-Source, Free Circuit Simulator

The original circuit simulation software, called the Simulation Program with Integrated Circuit Emphasis, or SPICE as it is more commonly known, was originally developed at the University of Califorina Berkeley in the 1970s with an open-source license. That’s the reason for the vast versions of SPICE available now decades after the original was released, not all of which are as open or free as we might like. Qucs is a GPL circuit simulator. And if you want the GUI option, you might want to try out QucsStudio, which uses Qucs under the hood, and is free to use, but binary-only.

(Editor’s note: the author was confused between the GPL open-source Qucs and the closed-source, binary-only QucsStudio. We’ve cleaned that up.)

QucsStudio supports a wide range of circuit components and models much in the same fashion as other more popular SPICE programs, including semiconductor devices, passive components, and digital logic gates. Qucs also utilizes SPICE-based simulation, which can model various types of circuit behavior, such as DC, AC, transient, and small-signal analysis.

Unfortunately there are only Windows versions available, and although some might have some success running it under WINE. There are plenty of other options for those of us running non-Windows operating systems though. Here’s a review of 30 of them.

Thanks to [Electroagenda] for the tip!

SMA Connector Footprint Design For Open Source RF Projects

When you first start out in the PCB layout game and know just enough to be dangerous, you simply plop down a connector, run a trace or two, and call it a hack. As you learn more about the finer points of inconveniencing electrons, dipping toes into the waters of higher performance, little details like via size, count, ground plane cutouts, and all that jazz start to matter, and it’s very easy to get yourself in quite a pickle trying to decide what is needed to just exceed the specifications (or worse, how to make it ‘the best.’) Connector terminations are one of those things that get overlooked until the MHz become GHz. Luckily for us, [Rob Ruark] is on hand to give us a leg-up on how to get decent performance from edge-launch SMA connections for RF applications. These principles should also hold up for high-speed digital connections, so it’s not just an analog game.

Continue reading “SMA Connector Footprint Design For Open Source RF Projects”

Open-source Circuit Simulation

For simple circuits, it’s easy enough to grab a breadboard and start putting it together. Breadboards make it easy to check your circuit for mistakes before soldering together a finished product. But if you have a more complicated circuit, or if you need to do response modeling or other math on your design before you start building, you’ll need circuit simulation software.

While it’s easy to get a trial version of something like OrCAD PSpice, this software doesn’t have all of the features available unless you’re willing to pony up some cash. Luckily, there’s a fully featured free and open source circuit simulation software called Qucs (Quite Universal Circuit Simulator), released under the GPL, that offers a decent alternative to other paid circuit simulators. Qucs runs its own software separate from SPICE since SPICE isn’t licensed for reuse.

Qucs has most of the components that you’ll need for professional-level circuit simulation as well as many different transistor models. For more details, the Qucs Wikipedia page lists all of the features available, as does the project’s FAQ page. If you’re new to the world of circuit simulation, we went over the basics of using SPICE in a recent Hack Chat.

Thanks to [Clovis] for the tip!