Tuesday, November 10, 2009

LTSpice

For those in the electronics world, SPICE simulation can be a great way to answer the "will my circuit work as advertised" question without breadboarding. It's a great sanity check- if it don't work in SPICE, it won't* work on a breadboard.

LTSpice is Linear Technologies' own incarnation of SPICE. It's a nice little product, and comes with models for many of Linear's products (power supplies, op-amps, etc) along with many supporting components from other manufacturers (diodes, transistors, capacitors, inductors, etc) and generic parts (555s, LEDs, etc). Obviously, they provide it expecting people to download it, sim up a solution involving Linear parts and then sell eleventy-billion a year, thus providing a nice income stream for Linear (and it works- LTSpice makes it much more likely that I'll reach for a Linear part for power supply design than another manufacturer's parts).

But for the tinkerer, it means that there's a free, very powerful SPICE tool out there, which is well supported. Give it a look!

*for some values of "won't". For instance, there are times you might want to put a transistor in "backwards", or use just the collector-base junction as a noise source. In that case, the model probably won't hold up- but if you're doing things like that, chances are you don't mind not having a model for it anyway.

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