Sunday, June 26, 2011

Designing the Future

Well I spent this week just designing how systems will work, and creating a few prototypes. I intend to do the same next week as well, since I have yet to receive my boards, or my ordered parts.

I have been leaning more and more towards recreating the Black Widow (Probably going to rename it as the Bronco and add some features) since that has all the hardware I need to make a wireless prototype. The shields Im designing for the Arduino Uno, should be able to work with that Arduino clone. So, I'll have my own customized hardware using open source code. Depending on the need for this, I might have it available for sale as well...with Eagle Files posted.

So I've already begun acquiring hardware to setup an SMD/SMT soldering station. That will allow me to solder up all these boards with SMD parts. I wont bother to invest in a Pick-and-place machine or a Reflow oven until I've gotten my prototypes working and a marketable product that I can mass produce myself.
One thing I am interested in investigating is the possibility to change colors of silkscreens and boards. I've seen black, white, purple, green and red boards so far, with white and black silkscreens. So if I can find an orange or blue board, with purple silkscreen, that would be really cool.

Until next time, Stay safe, and Stay Green!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Netduino & Friends

Happy Fathers Day!

I've been looking into alternative methods to my setup. One of the boards I've looked at is the Netduino or the Netduino Plus. The benefit of the Netduino, is that I have the microcontroller and the network controller on the same board, and I dont need a separate shield for the Arduino to get things done. It depends on your system requirements what you need, but I consider it a downside having to use .NET to program this board. I'd prefer if the developer had kept with the universal C code that is used on the Arduino as well as a multitude of other microcontrollers. But if you're interested in learned the .NET Micro Framework, then this is the product for you (though I am still openly considering this).

Tutorials for this can be found all over the place, but I've found that Channel 9 has a good tutorial for .NET programming.

Another one of these boards I considered is the BlackWidow WiFi Arduino Clone. Sadly, the maker of those boards, Async-Labs, has gone out of business. So if I decide on using these boards, I would have to manufacture them myself for use in my system. WiFi is a greatly advantageous system over Ethernet, but expensive. Maybe once I'm comfortable with all of my current hardware setup, I'll investigate this possibility.

I've also been researching to use the ATTINY series in my boards, rather than the larger ATMEGA series. Of course it depends on my memory requirements, my code size, etc, but I believe certain boards of my system can use them very nicely, thereby shrinking the size of the boards. If you're looking how to program the ATTINY chip, I found a great application at Adafruit, where Lady Ada has used an ATTINY4 in her i-Cufflinks. You'd need the ATMEGA32U4 breakout board to program it, as well as the JTAG cable, and depending on your needs, Pogo-pins (or this link).

I'm left doing some research in these few weeks, and developing some ideas for future boards, while I await my 3 boards I ordered last week. I've managed to buy the majority of the parts I need to make those boards, but all the rest are to be ordered through Mouser, so I'm compiling my order to be sent out next week.

Until next week, Stay Safe and Live Green.


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Prototyping Update

Lots of progress this week. 

I managed to finish two boards and send those to the Fab shop. After a few mix-ups, and footprint errors, the third board was sent to the shop as well. Also, went and purchased some of the parts for the boards from my local electronics store. Ran a bill of around $90 US, but thats because I bought in triplicates, quadruplicates and more to have a ton of spare parts in case I want to make several boards. I'll find out just how many sets I actually bought for once I start assembling the boards, which should be in a couple of weeks, when the new boards come in. Unfortunately I couldnt find the 30A relays I need at the local shop, only 20A, and they are the wrong footprint, so I wont be able to use them (but to keep handy just in case).

The LAMP server is now operational, with remote access enabled so I can work on it without needing to keep switching back and forth to it on the monitor (remote access would be disabled once the system is operational with a touch-screen interface). This makes my life easier. Only thing I havent tested is the MySQL Database, so thats still on my to-do list. Also I'll have to get a domain name and a DNS account to be able to go live with this server...but thats in the future when I want to connect remotely to the system. Now that I know that it works for the most part, I can start writing code to interface with the microcontrollers.

The wonderful thing about the Efika is that you can leave it running overnight, and you dont even know that its still on except for the little LED button that tells you the power is on. Its just that silent. There are no fans, and no mechanical hard drive, so zero noise. Even cooler is that fact that it produces so little heat (haha the pun was intended), so I can put it in my bedroom and just leave it, or connect it anywhere it my house and it runs safely and silently. And with the WiFi card built in, all you need is the power plug, and it just sits there with nothing else plugged in. I admit, you'd have a really clean desktop if you used this as your computer. I have been having quite a bit of fun with this little thing. Only thing I'm not enjoying is the UBoot Bios that doesnt show on the screen while its loading. So you're not privy to some of the features and hardware settings you would normally have access to in a regular computer. But I dont need the fancy options just yet (WiFi WoL), until sometime in the future.

So next up is completing the Arduino shield for the gas sensors with built in power management to keep the heaters at the right settings all the time. I'll try to wrap up the remaining board today to get it in with Laen by Monday's panel. Also I'll try to visualize what the prototype modules will look like to get an idea of things. Gas sensor modules (Fire Detection System) will probably look similar to current smoke/CO detectors, and will have a built in piezo siren.

Monday, June 6, 2011


Well I decided to take this week off and relax for some R&R time.

Starting tomorrow, I'll review my two circuits and make parts lists for both. Once they are completed, I'll put the order through for the Powerduino shield and its mate the Relayduino shield. The good news is that for the most part are easy to solder by hand. The bad news is the parts are a little expensive, but not by much. Maybe around 50 bucks for all the parts for both shields. So if I ended up selling these boards, I'd have to sell them for a little more to break even. I'd probably end up selling the boards individually, and include a parts list.

The Relayduino has the following specs:

-Two 30A/250VAC Relays with Quick Connect Pins
-LED Relay Power Indicators
-Quick Switching up to 66.66 Hz
-Use with the Arduino Uno

The Powerduino has the following specs:

-Power Outputs: 9/12/24 VDC (intended for Relayduino)
-Jumper header to Select which Output is Required
-Uses a MAX1771 DC-DC converter
-Shield is for use with the Arduino Uno

06/06 Edit: Teensy Relay Shields came in today, lots of technical flaws on my part. Its on my list of things to do this week. Fyi, the Teensy Eagle Library on isnt correct, the pin holes are too small. I'll be sure to let Paul know.

So not much else to tell. I'll see you next week.