Posts with «hardware» label

New Part Day: Arduino Goes Pro with the Portenta H7

The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is traditionally where the big names in tech show off their upcoming products, and the 2020 show was no different. There were new smartphones, TVs, and home automation devices from all the usual suspects. Even a few electric vehicles snuck in there. But mixed in among flashy presentations from the electronics giants was a considerably more restrained announcement from a company near and dear to the readers of Hackaday: Arduino is going pro.

While Arduino has been focused on the DIY and educational market since their inception, the newly unveiled Portenta H7 is designed for professional users who want to rapidly develop robust hardware suitable for industrial applications. With built-in wireless hardware and the ability to run Python and JavaScript out of the box, the powerful dual-core board comes with a similarly professional price tag; currently for preorder at $99 USD a pop, the Portenta is priced well outside of the company’s traditional DIY and educational markets. With increased competition from other low-cost microcontrollers, it seems that Arduino is looking to expand out of its comfort zone and find new revenue streams.

That’s a Lot of Pins

The Portenta H7 is obviously a far cry from the relatively dinky 8-bit Arduinos that we’ve all got filling up our parts drawers. Developed for high performance edge computing applications, the new board is powered by a 32-bit STM32H747XI that utilizes both an ARM Cortex M7 and an M4 running at 480 MHz and 240 MHz respectively. The two cores can work independently, allowing for example one core to run interpreted Python while the other runs code compiled in the Arduino IDE. When they need to work together, the cores can communicate with each other via a Remote Procedure Call (RPC) mechanism.

The new 80-pin connectors on the Portenta

Outwardly, the new board doesn’t look far removed from the modern Arduino form factor we’re used to. The USB connector has been upgraded to a Type-C, but the Portenta still retains the dual rows of pads ready for hand-soldered headers — that’s their more recent pinout that they call the Arduino MKR form factor.

If you look on the back of the board however, you’ll see that they’ve added two 80-pin high density connectors. According to the product page, these are intended to allow the Portenta to simply be plugged into a device as a removable module. The idea being that devices in the field can easily have their Portenta swapped out for an upgraded model. Some digging into the product page documentation section turns up a schematic that lists the connectors as Hirose DF40C-80DP-0.4V(51).

The base model Portenta features 8 MB SDRAM and 16 MB NOR flash, but it can be custom ordered with up to 64 MB of memory and 128 MB of flash should you need it. It’s also possible to delete various interfaces from the board when ordering, so if you don’t want network connectivity or the NXP SE050C2 crypto chip, they can simply be left off. However as of this writing it is unclear as to what minimum order quantity is necessary to unlock this level of customization, or or how much these modifications will change the unit cost.

Year of the Arduino Desktop?

The Portenta Carrier Board

The Portenta H7 is an impressive enough piece of hardware on its own, but when it’s plugged into the optional Carrier Board, things really start to get interesting. The Carrier Board provides full size connectors for all of the onboard peripherals, and according to documentation, turns the Portenta into an eNUC-class embedded computer. There’s even support for DisplayPort to connect a monitor, and miniPCI for expansion cards.

With a fully loaded Portenta H7 slotted into the Carrier Board, it would seem you have the makings of a low-power ARM “desktop” computer. Albeit one that wouldn’t outperform the Raspberry Pi Zero, and which costs several times more.

The Arduino press release and product page doesn’t make any mention of what kind of software or operating system said computer would run, so presumably that’s left as an exercise for the customer. While not particularly well suited to it, the ARM Cortex-M family of processors is capable of running the Linux kernel, so spinning up a “real” OS image for it should be possible. Of course with a maximum of just 64 MB of RAM, you’ll want to keep your performance expectations fairly low.

Where Does Portenta Fit?

We can’t even speculate what a maxed out Portenta would cost, and there’s no pricing or release date for the Carrier Board. But even at $99, the base model Portenta H7 would be a tough sell for hackers and makers who are used to buying dual-core ESP32 boards at 1/10 of the price, or the Teensy 4.0 which has a 600 MHz Cortex-M7 at 1/4 of the price. Which is fine, since this board isn’t intended for the traditional core Arduino audience.

Seeing the carrier board, we can’t help but notice some parallels here with the Raspberry Pi Compute Module. With connections broken out to a SODIMM header, the idea of the Computer Module was to help bridge the gap between the DIY community and the commercial one by offering up a Raspberry Pi in a more rugged form factor that would be easier to integrate into end-user products. But since it wasn’t any cheaper than the stock Pi, there wasn’t a whole lot of incentive to switch over. We haven’t seen consumer products advertising “Raspberry Pi Inside!” so it’s hard to tell if there has been any meaningful adoption from industry.

One has to wonder why any company that has the resources to integrate such an expensive board into their products wouldn’t just come up with their own custom design around the Portenta’s STM32H747XI chip, which even in single quantities, can currently be had for less than $15. The difference may end up coming down to the world-renowned community that surrounds the Arduino brand, and the company’s efforts to modernize their toolchain.

December 2019 Certified Open Source Hardware

The Open Source Hardware Association (OSHWA) runs a free program that allows creators to certify that their hardware complies with the community definition of open source hardware.  Whenever you see the certification logo, you know that the certified hardware meets this standard. The certification site includes a full list of […]

Read more on MAKE

The post December 2019 Certified Open Source Hardware appeared first on Make: DIY Projects and Ideas for Makers.

DIY MIDI Looper Controller Looks Fantastic!

Due to pedalboard size, complicated guitar pedals sometimes reduce the number of buttons to the bare minimum. Many of these pedals are capable of being controlled with an external MIDI controller, however, and necessity being the mother of invention and all, this is a great opportunity to build something and learn some new skills at the same time. In need of a MIDI controller, Reddit user [Earthwin] built an Arduino powered one to control his Boss DD500 Looper pedal and the result is great looking.

Five 16×2 LCD screens, one for each button, show the functionality that that button currently has. They are attached (through some neat wiring) to a custom-built PCB which holds the Arduino that controls everything. The screens are mounted to an acrylic backplate which holds the screens in place while the laser-cut acrylic covers are mounted to the same plate through the chassis. The chassis is a standard Hammond aluminum box that was sanded down, primed and then filler was used to make the corners nice and smooth. Flat-top LEDs and custom 3D printed washers finish off the project.

[Earthwin] admits that this build might be overkill for the looper that he’s using, but he had fun building the controller and learning to use an Arduino. He’s already well on his way to building another, using the lessons learned in this build. If you want to build your own MIDI controller, this article should help you out. And then you’re ready to build your controller into a guitar if you want to.

[Via Reddit]

Use A Digital Key To Deter Lockpicking

Spending an hour or two around any consumer-level padlock or house deadbolt lock with a simple lockpicking kit will typically instil a good amount of panic and concern about security. While it’s true that any lock can be defeated, it’s almost comically easy to pick basic locks like this. So, if you’re looking for a level of security that can’t be defeated in two minutes with a tiny piece of metal, you might want to try something a little more advanced.

This project stemmed from an idea to use a YubiKey, a USB hardware token typically used for two-factor authentication, for physical locks instead. The prototype was built around an Arduino UNO, and all of the code and build instructions are available on the project’s site. The creator, [rprinz08], does not have one built inside of a secure enclosure so that would remain an exercise for the reader, but the proof-of-concept is interesting and certainly useful.

While digital keys like this can have their own set of problems (as all locks do), this would be a great solution for anyone needing to lock up anything where physical keys are a liability or a nuisance, where logging is important, or where many people need access to the same lock. The open source code and well-known platform make it easy for anyone to build, too.

 

Hack a Day 20 Jul 06:00

Safely Measuring Single And Three-Phase Power

There are many reasons why one would want to measure voltage and current in a project, some applications requiring one to measure mains and even three-phase voltage to analyze the characteristics of a device under test, or in a production environment. This led [Michael Klopfer] at the University of California, Irvine along with a group of students to develop a fully isolated board to analyze both single and three-phase mains systems.

Each of these boards consists out of two sections: one is the high-voltage side, with the single phase board using the Analog Devices ADE7953 and the three-phase board the ADE9708. The other side is the low-voltage, isolated side to which the microcontroller or equivalent connects to using either SPI or I2C. Each board type comes in either SPI or I2C flavor.

Each board can be used to measure line voltage and current, and the Analog Devices IC calculates active, reactive, and apparent energy, as well as instantaneous RMS voltage and current. All of this data can then be read out using the provided software for the Arduino platform.

The goal of this project is to make it easy for anyone to reproduce their efforts, with board schematics (in Eagle format) and the aforementioned software libraries provided. Here it is somewhat unfortunate that the documentation can be somewhat incomplete, with basic information such as input and measurement ranges missing. Hopefully this will improve over the coming months as it does seem like a genuinely useful project for the community.

We’ve covered the work coming out of [Michael]’s lab before, including this great rundown on Lattice FPGAs. They’re doing machine vision, work on RISC-Vchips, and more. A stroll through the lab’s GitHub is worth your time.

 

 

 

 

RVR is a Sphero robot for budding tinkerers

Sphero's been amusing us with its collection of robotic balls, like its adorable BB-8, for eight years. But lately the company has been getting away from the toy aspect of its products and embracing its educational potential. It's had an app that can be used to program many of its current bots for a while now, but that's only for budding coders — what do kids interested in hardware have to tinker with? Indeed, Sphero is about to release its first robot specifically made to be physically modded, called the RVR.

RVR is a Sphero robot for budding tinkerers

Sphero's been amusing us with its collection of robotic balls, like its adorable BB-8, for eight years. But lately the company has been getting away from the toy aspect of its products and embracing its educational potential. It's had an app that can be used to program many of its current bots for a while now, but that's only for budding coders — what do kids interested in hardware have to tinker with? Indeed, Sphero is about to release its first robot specifically made to be physically modded, called the RVR.

A Better Battery Arduino

We’ve seen [Johan]’s AA-battery-sized Arduino/battery crossover before, but soon (we hope!) there will be a new version with more MIPS in the same unique form factor! The original Aarduino adhered to classic Arduino part choices and was designed to run as the third “cell” in a 3 cell battery holder to relay temperature readings via a HopeRF RFM69CW. But as [Johan] noticed, it turns out that ARM development tools are cheap now. In some cases very cheap and very open source. So why not update an outstanding design to something with a little more horsepower?

The Aarduino Zero uses the same big PTH battery terminals and follows the same pattern as the original design; the user sticks it in a battery holder for power and it uses an RFM69CW for wireless communication. But now the core is an STM32L052, a neat low power Cortex-M0+ with a little EEPROM onboard. [Johan] has also added a medium size serial flash to facilitate offline data logging or OTA firmware update. Plus there’s a slick new test fixture to go along with it all.

So how do you get one? Well… that’s the rub. It looks like when this was originally posted at the end of 2017 [Johan] was planning to launch a Crowd Supply campaign that hasn’t quite materialized yet. Until that launches the software sources for the Zero are available, and there are always the sources from the original Aarduino to check out.

Multi-switch Useless Box Is Useless In Multiple Ways

We’ve probably all seen (and built) a useless box, in which you flip a switch that activates a servo that pops out a finger and flips the switch off. [Coffeman500] decided to take this a step further by building a useless box with multiple switches. Flip one, the finger pops out to flip it back. Flip several switches, and the finger pops out and flips each back in turn.

It’s a smart build that [coffeeman500] says is his first electronics build. The compulsively switching brain of this is an ATmega328 driving an A4988 stepper motor driver, with one stepper moving the finger mechanism and the other moving the finger along a rail to reach each switch in turn. [Coffeeman500] has released the complete plans for this wonderful waste of time, including 3D models for the box and mechanism, plus the code. Redditors are already planning bigger and more useless designs with more switches, a pursuit that we fully support.

Via [Reddit]

Hack a Day 18 Aug 06:00

H2gO Keeps Us from Drying Out

The scientific community cannot always agree on how much water a person needs in a day, and since we are not Fremen, we should give it more thought than we do. For many people, remembering to take a sip now and then is all we need and the H2gO is built to remind [Angeliki Beyko] when to reach for the water bottle. A kitchen timer would probably get the job done, but we can assure you, that is not how we do things around here.

A cast silicone droplet lights up to show how much water you have drunk and pressing the center of the device means you have taken a drink. Under the hood, you find a twelve-node NeoPixel ring, a twelve millimeter momentary switch, and an Arduino Pro Mini holding it all together. A GitHub repo is linked in the article where you can find Arduino code, the droplet model, and links to all the parts. I do not think we will need a device to remind us when to use the bathroom after all this water.

Another intrepid hacker seeks to measure a person’s intake while another measures output.