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Table 3.1
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SPECIFICATIONS FOR TYPICAL OSCILLOSCOPE PROBE
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PROBE TYPE
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FREQUENCY RANGE
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RESISTIVE LOAD
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Passive 1X Passive 10X Active
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DC - 5 MHz DC - 50 MHz DC - 500 MHz
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1 megohm 10 megohms 10 megohms
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30 pF 5 pF 2 pF
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36 TOOLS AND SUPPLIES
USING A PC-BASED OSCILLOSCOPE
As an alternative to a stand-alone oscilloscope you may wish to consider a PC-based oscilloscope solution. Such oscilloscopes not only cost less but may provide additional features, such as long-term data storage. A PC-based oscilloscope uses your computer and the software running on it as the active testing component. Most PC-based oscilloscopes are comprised of an interface card or adapter. The cardadapter connects to your PC via an expansion board or a serial, parallel, or USB port (different models connect to the PC in different ways). A test probe then connects to the interface. Software running on your PC interprets the data coming through the interface and displays the results on the monitor. Prices for low-end PC-based oscilloscopes start at about $100. The price goes up the more features and bandwidth you seek. For most robotics work, you don t need the most fancy-dancy model. PC-based oscilloscopes that connect to the parallel, serial, or USB port rather than internally through an expansion card can be readily used with a portable computer. This allows you to take your oscilloscope anywhere you happen to be working on your robot.
Frequency Counter
A frequency counter (or frequency meter) tests the operating frequency of a circuit. Most models can be used on digital, analog, and RF circuits for a variety of testing chores from making sure the crystal in the robot s computer is working properly to determining the radio frequency of a transmitter. You need only a basic frequency counter, which represents a $100 to $200 investment. You can save some money by building a frequency counter kit. Frequency counters have an upward operating limit, but it s generally well within the region applicable to robotics experiments. A frequency counter with a maximum range of up to 50 MHz is enough.
Breadboard
You should test each of the circuits you want to use in your robot (including the ones in this book) on a solderless breadboard before you commit it to a permanent circuit. Solderless breadboards consist of a series of holes with internal contacts spaced one-tenth of an inch apart, which is just the right spacing for ICs. To create your circuit, you plug in ICs, resistors, capacitors, transistors, and 20- or 22-gauge wire in the proper contact holes. Solderless breadboards come in many sizes. For the most flexibility, get a doublewidth board that can accommodate at least 10 ICs. A typical double-width model is shown in Fig. 3.4. You can use smaller boards for simple projects. Circuits with a high number of components require bigger boards. While you re buying a breadboard, purchase a set of prestripped wires. These wires come in a variety of lengths and are already stripped and bent for use in breadboards. The set costs $5 to $7, but you can bet they are well worth the price.
WIRE-WRAPPING TOOLS 37
FIGURE 3.4 Solderless breadboards are used to try out a circuit before soldering. Some robot makers even use them in their final prototypes.
Wire-Wrapping Tools
Making a printed circuit board for a one-shot application is time consuming, though it can be done with the proper kits and supplies. Conventional point-to-point solder wiring is not an acceptable approach when you are constructing digital circuits, which represent the lion s share of electronics you ll be building for your robots. The preferred construction method is to use wire-wrapping. Wire-wrapping is a pointto-point wiring system that uses a special tool and extra-fine 28- or 30-gauge wrapping wire. When done properly, wire-wrapped circuits are as sturdy as soldered circuits, and you have the added benefit of being able to go back and make modifications and corrections without the hassle of desoldering and resoldering. A manual wire-wrapping tool is shown in Fig. 3.5. You insert one end of the stripped wire into a slot in the tool, and place the tool over a square-shaped wrapping post. Give the tool five to ten twirls, and the connection is complete. The edges of the post keep the wire anchored in place. To remove the wire, you use the other end of the tool and undo the wrapping. Several different wire-wrapping tools are available. Some are motorized, and some automatically strip the wire for you, which frees you of this task and of the need to purchase the more expensive prestripped wire. I recommend that you use the basic manual tool initially. You can graduate to other tools as you become proficient in wire-wrapping. Wrapping wire comes in many forms, lengths, and colors, and you need to use special wire-wrapping sockets and posts. See the next section on electronics supplies and components for more details.
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