S5 Use software for circuit simulation

Posted: October 10, 2010 in Systems and Control

Once again I had never used any of the software available for circuit simulation and fortunately I was introduced to it at a fairly simple level (easy to say now, I didn’t think so at the time).  The first program we looked at was Flowol.  It is a fairly user-friendly flow chart program.  It allowed me to look at circuits with a systems approach and was almost an introduction to the more complex PICAXE programming.  With the use of the programs ‘mimics’  it was possible to set up circuit simulation by having an input such as a switch, and including things such as delays to produce timed traffic lights and motors amongst other available mimics featured.  It was a good way to view how the system of a circuit would work without having to actually build it.

Flowol commands

Flowol is a basic simulation program but I felt it did give me an introduction to the way of laying out the PIC AXE programming editor in order to program the chip for the purpose of my ambiance light.  By using the ‘simulate’ application, it was a useful way to view in theory how my circuit would work in a physical sense.  The simulate function allowed me to see how the electrical current was moving through the circuit and where and when the delays incorporated would occur.  It allowed me to alter the circuit before building it as I found out that I would need to use push to make switches in a different context to how I had initially perceived them to function.  Whereas I had thought I would have two switches,  one to switch the light on and one to turn the light into a timed mode, in reality this was not fundamentally correct.  The PIC AXE simulation allowed me to see that when the circuit had finished, the electricity would go on a continuous loop thus wasting power.  Instead I changed the circuit and had one switch to turn the light into a timed mode, and with the alteration, the second switch simply turned the light off and stopped the flow of electricity.  This problem had been noticed and rectified purely by the use of circuit simulation indicating its importance when attempting to program integrated circuits.

I have also used Circuit Wizard to simulate circuits.  I found this the most comprehensive software I have used so far as not only does it allow me to create and build circuits, its simulation feature will also tell you if for instance there is not enough resistance applied to an led.  The led will literally blow on the screen allowing you to adjust the value of the resistor until the led will glow without becoming damaged.  Likewise if there is too much resistance applied the led will glow but at a dimmer level suggesting that the value of the resistor can be reduced to produce optimum brightness.  It was a useful tool that can be used to literally map out the circuit and test it without having to replicate it on breadboards and risk damaging components.

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