Successful electronic design begins with a fundamental understanding of electricity. At Creative Mechanisms, we can assist companies and individuals with design and engineering for electromechanical projects. The three baseline items to understand are voltage, current, and resistance, and the relationship between all three. Here is the equation below, known as Ohm’s Law:
V = I * R
where V = voltage (volts), I = current (amps), and R = resistance (ohms). Combine an understanding of this relationship with knowledge of some of the most important industry tools used for electrical circuitry testing, and you’re well on your way to designing an electromechanical machine.
Understanding basics for smart design and engineering
A good place to start on any project with electromechanical components is with the fundamental electrical relationship. One way to think of electricity is to consider a water tank, where water = charge, pressure = voltage, and flow = current. Let’s dissect the components of Ohm’s Law from this perspective.
- Voltage is a measure of differential energy potential between two points in an electrical field. It is also known as electromotive force. Voltage causes current by accelerating charges through a conductor. In the example above, the pressure at a hose at the bottom of the tank mimics voltage; the more water there is (ie, the more charge there is), the more pressure exists (ie, the more voltage exists).
- Current. Because current is a measure of electrical energy being transferred per unit of time (e.g. per second), it is a measure of electrical flow. With the water tank example, the flow of water out of the tank is comparable to electrical current; the higher the pressure (voltage), the higher the flow (current).
- Resistance simply refers to how easily / how much charge can flow through a circuit. Consider two identical water tanks with equal pressure; one has a narrower hose, and the other has a wider one. All other things being equal, the narrower hose will provide more resistance, and less water will flow (similarly, less charge will travel through a circuit).
Designing & testing electric circuitry for prototypes
Some of the most common tools used to produce electromechanical products include software for design, hardware for development (wires, connectors, and printed circuit boards and the numerous components on them being the most essential), and test and evaluation equipment (a digital multimeter and testing software like LabView and/or TestStand from National Instruments may be appropriate in some cases).
There are two very important tests to run on any novel electrical circuitry in an electromechanical device:
- Connectivity tests using a multimeter. Sometimes called continuity testing, connectivity tests determine whether two points are electrically connected (closed circuit, low resistance), or not (open circuit, high resistance). These tests are accomplished by measuring the resistance between two points with a multimeter, which generally emits a tone when a closed circuit exists.
- Over-voltage grounding tests (HIPOT testing). HIPOT stands for high-potential, and this is a simple test to determine whether an operator is at risk of shock or death when voltage is applied to a device. By deliberately applying excessive voltage and measuring the output as it relates to insulation, it can reasonably be assumed that normal operation will or will not result in damage to the user.
...use Creative Mechanisms to design and engineer your electromechanical components!
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