Posts Tagged ‘electronics’

HTTM Backlit Capacitive Touch Switch / Button Sells for about one Dollar

July 27th, 2017 1 comment

You may have some project that requires buttons to turn on and off devices, or perform other tasks like navigating a user interface or playing games. One interesting and inexpensive solution for this could be HTTM (HelTec Touch Model) capacitive touch buttons that include three pins for power, ground, and the button status, as well as a backlight. You’ll find them on many websites, and one of the cheapest option is a pack of 10 buttons going for $9.91 on Aliexpress.

HTTM button specifications:

  • Voltage input range: + 2.7v to + 6v
  • Signal output – Voltage: + 3.3v; Current up to 500 mA
  • Header – 3-pin with GND, VCC, and OUT
  • Backlight color – red, blue (cyan), or yellow
  • Dimensions – 20.4 x 16.6 mm
  • Operating temperature range: -30 ℃ to + 70 ℃

You’ll find more details on the manufacturer’s product page including a user manual (Chinese only), and their DIYtrade page implies they may have versions with up to four keys:

HTTM is HelTec Touch Model shorthand;
□ → Number of keys: S- single key, D- double keys, T- triple keys, F- four keys;
◇ → Version attribute: C- conventional version, S- Special Edition (customized version);
△ → backlight colors: B- blue, R- red, G- green

But I could not find any of those. The company (Chengdu HelTec Automation Electronics Technology Co. Ltd) also makes some OLED displays, which may be worth checking out.

I learned about HTTM button via Pete Scargill’s blog, and he shot a video showing how to use the switch directly connected to a relay board (The demo starts at the 1:50 mark). Since it’s using capacitive touch, he explains you could place one or more buttons inside a box, and it would still work. Those buttons are also likely more durable than mechanical switches.

TinyLIDAR is a $15 LIDAR MCU Board based on STMicro VL53L0X Time-of-Flight Ranging Sensor (Crowdfunding)

July 23rd, 2017 2 comments

LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) technology is used in autonomous car, drones, and some smartphones, in order to get an object position just like RADAR systems, but instead of using radio frequencies, it relies on infrared signals. High speed, long range LIDAR systems can cost several hundred dollars, but if you’d like to experiment with the technology, or your project would work just fine with 60 Hz scanning and a 2 meter range, tinyLIDAR could be a fun board to play with using Arduino compatible boards.

TinyLIDAR specifications and features:

  • LIDAR Sensor
    • ST VL53L0X Time-of-Flight (ToF) ranging sensor
    • 940nm laser VCSEL
    • Up to 2 meters range
    • Up to 60 Hz sampling rate even with Arduino UNO board
    • Up to 3% accuracy with mm precision
  • MCU – Unnamed dedicated 32-bit MCU (likely STM32) used to abstract the ST PAL API into simple I2C commands
  • Host Interface – 4-pin I2C header; re-configurable I2C address and operation modes
  • Misc – Blue LED, low profile reset button
  • Power Supply – +3 to +5V
  • Power Consumption – 10uA typ. Quiescent Current in single step mode
  • Dimensions –  25 x 21 mm (2x M2 mounting holes)
  • Weight – <1.5 g

Some of they advantage of the board against competing solution include lower power consumption, higher sampling rate (up to 60Hz), as well as lower memory and code footprints with 2604 bytes of program storage space and 252 bytes RAM with distance reading sketch in Arduino UNO compared to  6480 bytes / 414 bytes using Pololu VL53L0X library with a generic VL53L0X sensor board ($14) thanks the MCU in the board. They also claim the board is simpler to use thanks to their I2C command set. The company only showed 3D rendering of the board, but they do have working samples, as showed in the demo below with instructions available in

The Arrow Electronics certified project launched on Indiegogo with a $3,000 funding target. A $15 pledge will get you one tiny LIDAR, but you may as well as commit to three boards for $39. Shipping adds $5, and delivery is scheduled for October 2017. If you’d like to get such solution earlier, without built-in MCU and the advantages it brings, beside the $14 Polulu module linked above, you’ll also find a VL53L0X board working within  2.6 V to 5.5 V range on Aliexpress for $8.92 shipped.

HT-01 “Helping Hand” Soldering Stand Comes with 6 Arms, a USB powered Fan

July 7th, 2017 2 comments

I have a “helping hand” in my office with two flexible arms and alligator clamps, and a magnifier that I use sometimes to solder or unsolder components more easily. The metallic arm are not always easy to put in the right position, and the base is not always heavy enough, but it does the job most of the time. But I’ve just come across with a helping hand station with 6 flexible gooseneck arms that may allow for more positions and easier setup, as well as hold a USB powered fan to such out fumes or blow them away, and/or a lamp.

HT-01 soldering station features:

  • Aluminum alloy base – 140 x 100 x 12mm (purple or black)
  • 6x universal joint pipe of 300mm length with alligator clip
  • 1  5V USB output regulator plate with two USB ports up to 5V/3A to connect fans
  • 1x 5V USB Fan
  • 1x Soldering Iron Holder
  • Power Input  for battery?
  • Product weight – 580g

I first found it on GeekBuying for $41.99 shipped, but there are similar designs minus the USB ports, on Amazon US and Banggood. The video shows an unboxing and short test of the model sold on Banggood.

Categories: Hardware Tags: electronics, tool

ABC: Basic Connections is a Book Listing Common Circuit Diagrams for Arduino Boards (Crowdfunding)

May 19th, 2017 No comments

PighiXXX is known for their very useful and pretty pinout diagrams, but they’ve now created a book called “ABC: Basic Connections” comprised of a collection of easy to read circuit diagrams that shows you how to connect various circuits to your Arduino compatible board.

The book is in file folder format, so you can easily remove the sheets you need during your project. While you can normally find pretty much whatever circuits you need on the Internet, ABC book’s diagrams looks very neat, and since it comes with 100 A5 pages of circuit diagrams such as LEDs, decoders, shift registers, 7-segment displays, mux/demux, light bulbs, DC motors, solenoids, relays and so on,  you may discover circuits you did not know you needed. Every page of the book also comes with a short URL redirecting to an online tutorial for the circuit with information about the theory, component list, tips, sample code, etc…

The book has been launched via Kickstarter with a $50,000 funding target. You’ll need to pledge 23 Euros to get the book sometimes in August 2017. Shippings adds 7 Euros to the US, 10 Euros to Europe, and 25 Euros to the rest of the world. While it’s a crowdfunding campaign, I’d assume the risk failure is close to zero for that project.

Visualizing Electronics Manufacturing Price Variation with Volume and Lead Time

May 12th, 2017 No comments

Google Android Things developers announced a production hardware sample based on Intel Edison module:

Android Things is focused on helping developers build production ready devices that they can bring to market. This means building custom hardware in addition to the app software running on the Android Things system-on-module (SoM).

As a part of this effort we have released Edison Candle, the first in a series of production samples designed to showcase hardware and software designed to work together. The code is hosted on GitHub and the hardware design files are on CircuitHub.

That’s what the Edison Candle looks like.
It’s just demo hardware to show how to build a product with a system-on-module (Intel Edison) for Android Things with everything released in Github. You can also purchase the board on CircuitHub, but then I saw the price was around $356 for such a simple board (without Edison).

That’s quite a lot for a single board, clicking on “quote breakdown” showed the following:

As expected, manufacturing just one PCB can be expensive, but we can play with the sliders on CircuitHub page to adjust quantity and lead time to see how to it affects the price. Those are the default settings with one PCB, and 17 week days lead time.

Let’s say we only need one board, but we don’t have 17 days, it needs to be ready within 4 days. The price then jumps to $1,353.15. Now let’s say, we want to order 10,000 boards, and we are in no rush, with a 31 days lead time, the price per board drops to $4.7355.

You can play with the sliders to adjust quantity and lead time, and see how it affects unit pricing. The most surprising part was the effect of leadtime, as even just one day difference can make a massive different in price.

Toaster Breadboard Power Supply Supports 3.3V, 5V, and Variable 5V to 16 V Outputs

March 23rd, 2017 3 comments

YwRobot MB102 is a popular power supply for breadboards delivering 5V or 3.3V to both power rails. Bradsprojects’ Toaster power supply offers similar functionalities but beside outputting just 5V or 3.3V, it also adds a 5V to 16V variable output, and takes 5V from its micro or mini USB port.Toaster board specifications:

  • Input Voltage – 5V via USB Mini and USB Micro port
  • Input Current (max) – 1Amp
  • Output Voltage 1 – 3.3 Volts
  • Output Voltage 2 – 5 Volts
  • Output Voltage 3 – Variable 5 Volts to 16 Volts with potentiometer
  • Protection – 1.1Amp Resettable Fuse
  • Output Connection – Standard Dual Rail Breadboard 2.54mm spacing.
  • Dimensions – 50mm x 25mm

You just need a screwdriver and a multimeter to adjust the variable output to your requirement.The Toaster board can be purchased on Tindie for $10 + shipping.

Categories: Hardware Tags: electronics, power

Atomo is a Raspberry Pi Compatible Modular Electronics Prototyping System (Crowdfunding)

March 22nd, 2017 7 comments

Atomo is a modular electronics protyping system comprised of four elements: Control, I/O, Power, and Connector, with the PCBs for each category color-coded with respectively red, blue, green, and black. The connector board connects power, I/O and control(ler) boards together in a way that’s supposed to be neater than most hand made prototypes.

The whole ecosystem includes 15 different boards:

    • Controllers with 26-pin Raspberry Pi compatible header
      • 2 IO Module Controller (CM-M2K22-A) based on NXP Kinetis K22F MCU
      • 4 IO Module Controller (CM-M4K64-A) based on NXP Kinetis K64F MCU
      • 8 IO Module Controller (CM-M8K64-A) based on NXP Kinetis K64F MCU

        2 IO and 8 IO Controller Boards – Click to Enlarge

    • Connectors
      • 8 IO Module Connector (GM_M8P2_A) – Dim: 145mm x 100mm; power up to 40V @ 64A
      • 4 IO Module Connector (GM_M4P1_A) – Dim: 71mm x 100mm; power up to 40V @ 32A
      • 2 IO Module Connector (GM_M2P1_A) – Dim: 71mm x 65mm; power up to 40V @ 16A
      • 2 IO Module Low-Power Connector (GM_M2P0_A) – Dim: 71mm x 65mm; Good for low power 5V/3.3V designs

        8 IO Modules Connector Board

    • IO Boards
      • Single Stepper Driver with Sensing IO Module (IO-001ST1-A)
      • Triple Stepper Driver with Limits IO Module (IO-002ST3-A)
      • Single Stepper and Heater Driver with Limits and Dual Temp (Thermistor + Thermocouple) IO Module (IO-003ST1TC1-A)
      • Single Stepper and Heater Driver with Limits and Dual Temp (2x Thermistor) IO Module (IO-003ST1TH1-A) with ADC, I2C, SPI, PWM

        Atomo IO-003ST1TH1-A – Click to Enlarge

    • Power Boards
      • 1X ATX Power Module (PM-ATX1X-A) for 1 ATX power supply with support for 3.3V, 5V, 12V plus a higher voltage up to 40V @ 32A
      • 2X ATX Power Module (PM-ATX2X-A) for 2 ATX power supply with support for 3.3V, 5V, 12V plus a higher voltage up to 40V @ 64A
      • 10A 5.5mm Barrel Plug Power Module (PM-VIN10A-A) – Input from 15V, 2A up to 24V 10A. Output: 12V, 5V, and 3.3V
      • 13W POE Power Module (PM-POE13W-A) – Output 12V, 5V, and 3.3V; network data passthrough; auxiliary 5.5mm barrel plug 12V output.

        2x ATX Board

They also have one expansion module with USB input & UART headers, a USB port, an Ethernet port, and a 26-pin header, which you can use if you don’t connect the controller board to a Raspberry Pi.

So now, you have to decide about your project’s power and IO requirements, select the boards, and put it all up together.  That’s what it looks like when the Raspberry Pi comes into play together with four IO modules and one ATX power board.

Now you’ll need to program the NXP Kinetis based controller board using  KDS and MCUXpresso, with low-level drivers using DMA provided by the developer, as well as board profiles with standard pin and clock configurations. ARM mbed compatibility, and RTOS integration are also planned for the future.

The video below introduces Atomo ecosystem, and shows a project with four LED strips.

Atomo has recently launched on Indiegogo, and the developer aims to raise at least $5,000 to fund mass production. Rewards start at $19 for the 2 IO controller board, and up to $48 for the 8 IO controller with the expansion board. The IO, power, and connector boards are not offered through Indiegogo – no wonder the campaign has not raised that much so far -,  but a 10% coupon is included with all perks to purchase them on Atomo Systems online shop.

While Atomo Systems is a one person company, but the project has “Arrow Certification” meaning this campaign has a working prototype that has been certified by Arrow Electronics, so hopefully project failure due to technical or manufacturing troubles is less likely. Shipping is free worldwide, and delivery is scheduled for June 2017.

$79 Digilent OpenScope Open Source Multi-function Programmable Instrument Works over USB and WiFi (Crowdfunding)

February 1st, 2017 8 comments

Digilent OpenScope is an open source, portable, multi-function programmable instrument used for capturing, visualizing, and controlling analog and digital signals, that works with your smartphone or computer over USB or WiFi, and it can also be used in standalone mode as a development board, like you would use an Arduino or Raspberry Pi board.

OpenScope MZ key features and specifications:

  • MCU – Microchip PIC32 MZ (MZ2048EFG124) MIPS Warrior M-class micro-controller @ up to 200 MHz with 2048KB flash, 512 KB RAM
  • External Storage – micro SD slot
  • Wireless Connectivity – WiFi module
  • USB – 1x micro USB for power and programming over FTDI
  • Programming / Debugging – micro USB port, programming header
  • Expansion – 30-pin Fly Wire connector with:
    • 2x scope channels with 12 bits @ 2 MHz bandwidth and up to 6.25MS/s sampling rate
    • 1x function generator output with 1 MHz bandwidth and up to 10MS/s update rate
    • 10x user programmable DIO pins up to 25 MHz update rate
  • Misc – 4x user LEDs, programming and reset buttons
  • Power Supply – via micro USB or ext pin; programmable power supplies up to 50 mA and +/- 4V

The platform can be used with (soon-to-be) open source, web based Waveforms Live multi-instrument software written in JavaScript and allowing you to  use OpenScope as an oscilloscope, a function generator, a logic analyzer, a power supply, or a data logger.

Since the software runs in a web browser it will work with most operating systems including Linux, Windows, Mac OS X, Android or iOS. As mentioned in the introduction, OpenScope is also a development board, and can be programmed using the Arduino IDE or Microchip MPLAB-X IDE. The company will provide  a programmer’s guide, and make PIC32MZ firmware, the agent source code, the browser app for Android & IOS, the communication protocol, and the JavaScript API available on Github

Digilent launched OpenScope on Kickstarter, where the board can be backed together with a 3D printed enclosure for $79. An “OpenScope Learning Edition” is also offered for $150 with a “parts kit with workbook example”, but no details have been provided for the latter. Delivery is planned for June or August 2017 depending on selected reward, and shipping is free to the US, but adds $20 to the rest of the world.