Dirt-Cheap USB Arduino Hack From the Past

Mass production is a wonderful thing. Prices fall, and hobby hackers get cheap gear. The mind then wanders towards what can be done with it. So it’s little wonder that someone like [Aaron Christophel] would try to repurpose those sub-$3 AVR programmers that are all over eBay (translated poorly out of German here, but demonstrated in the video embedded below).

[Aaron] didn’t have to do much, really. The only trick is that you’ll first need to re-flash the existing ISP firmware with one that lets you upload code to the device itself over USB. If you don’t have an Arduino on hand to re-flash, buy at least two of the cheap programmers — one to program the other ones. Once you’ve done that, you have essentially an Arduino with limited pinout and two onboard LEDs, but in a nice small form-factor and with built-in USB. [Aaron] even provides an Arduino boards.txt file to make it all work smoothly within the IDE.

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What’s Tiny, Has Eight Legs, and Acts Like an Arduino?

Back in the late 1970s, comedian Steve Martin had a bit about “Let’s get small!” Over on Hackaday.io, [Daniel Grießhaber], has taken that call to heart. He’s been working on DIL-Duino, a minuscule form factor Arduino in an 8-pin DIP format.

Built with an ATtiny85, the board has an area of just under 75 square millimeters (less than 8 mm x 10 mm). If you add the USB port, it still comes in at just over 144 square millimeters. [Daniel] found other small Arduino boards like the Olimexino-85s and the Nanite are not as small as his design.

The module has a QFN CPU and castellated holes around the perimeter for mounting. With pin headers, this would easily fit into a breadboard (as [Daniel] shows) or you could mount it directly to another board like a surface mount device. In fact, that’s the reason for using castellated holes: you can inspect that the solder joint at the mating SMD pad is good. You sometimes hear the technique called half-vias or leadless chip carrier.

If you note, [Daniel] used an oversized board with full holes around the perimeter and then had the board maker score the board, so the holes are cut in half. This is a better technique than trying to drill half holes on the board edge, which is difficult to do.

Naturally, this isn’t the first tiny Arduino we’ve seen. If you are an ARM fan, there’s some little bitty cards for it, too, although not quite as small as DIL-Duino.

Arduino Nano Runs Battery Spot Welder

Soldering might look like a tempting and cheap alternative when building or repairing a battery pack, but the heat of the iron could damage the cell, and the resulting connection won’t be as good as a weld. Fortunately, though, a decent spot welder isn’t that tough to build, as [KaeptnBalu] shows us with his Arduino-controlled battery spot welder.

spot_welder_zoomWhen it comes to delivering the high currents necessary for spot welding, the Arduino Nano is not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind. But the need for a precisely controlled welding pulse makes the microcontroller a natural for this build, as long as the current handling is outsourced. In [KaeptnBalu]’s build, he lets an array of beefy MOSFETs on a separate PCB handle the welding current. The high-current wiring is particularly interesting – heavy gauge stranded wire is split in half, formed into a U, tinned, and each leg gets soldered to the MOSFET board. Welding tips are simply solid copper wire, and the whole thing is powered by a car battery, or maybe two if the job needs extra amps. The video below shows the high-quality welds the rig can produce.

Spot welders are a favorite on Hackaday, and we’ve seen both simple and complicated builds. This build hits the sweet spot of complexity and functionality, and having one on hand would open up a lot of battery-hacking possibilities.

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Does the World Need an FPGA Arduino?

What would you get it you mashed up an FPGA and an Arduino? An FPGA development board with far too few output pins? Or a board in the form-factor of Arduino that’s impossible to program?

Fortunately, the ICEZUM Alhambra looks like it’s avoided these pitfalls, at least for the most part. It’s based on the Lattice iCE40 FPGA, which we’ve covered previously a number of times because of its cheap development boards and open-source development flow. Indeed, we were wondering what the BQ folks were up to when they were working on an easy-to-use GUI for the FPGA family. Now we know — it’s the support software for an FPGA “Arduino”.

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The Alhambra board itself looks to be Arduino-compatible, with the horrible gap between the rows on the left-hand-side and all, so it will work with your existing shields. But they’ve also doubled them with pinheaders in a more hacker-friendly layout: SVG — signal, voltage, ground. This is great for attaching small, powered sensors using a three-wire cable like the one that you use for servos. (Hackaday.io has two Arduino clones using SVG pinouts: in SMT and DIP formats.)

The iCE40 FPGA has 144 pins, so you’re probably asking yourself where they all end up, and frankly, so are we. There are eight user LEDs on the board, plus the 28 I/O pins that end in pinheaders. That leaves around a hundred potential I/Os unaccounted-for. One of the main attractions of FPGAs in our book is the tremendous availability of fast I/Os. Still, it’s more I/O than you get on a plain-vanilla Arduino, so we’re not complaining too loudly. Sometimes simplicity is a virtue. Everything’s up on GitHub, but not yet ported to KiCad, so you can tweak the hardware if you’ve got a copy of Altium.

We’ve been seeing FPGA projects popping up all over, and with the open-source toolchains making them more accessible, we wonder if they will get mainstreamed; the lure of reconfigurable hardware is just so strong. Putting an FPGA into an Arduino-compatible form-factor and backing it with an open GUI is an interesting idea. This project is clearly in its very early stages, but we can’t wait to see how it shakes out. If anyone gets their hands on these boards, let us know, OK?

Thanks [RS] for the tip!

Wood Stove Runs on Arduino Power

Ahh, sweet scope creep! Usually it’s the death of a nice, simple little hack. But once in a hundred times, a small hack doesn’t get buried under the extra features, but instead absorbs them in stride and blossoms into a beautiful system. [rockfishon]’s Arduino-powered wood stove controller is one of these beautiful exceptions. (OK, we’d admit that it could use a fancier faceplate.)

He started off simply enough, wanting to connect a thermocouple to an Arduino, read out the value, and issue an alarm when the temperature got too high. But who could stop there? Just one air-baffle servo away from a closed-loop heating control system? So [rockfishon] added a display and a few more buttons and has a system that will keep his wood-burning stove running at exactly the right temperature, even overnight when nobody’s around to tend it. As a bonus, everything is logged for later analysis.

The code is relatively straightforward, and can be found in this Gist. If you’d like to build your own, you’ll need an Arduino Mega and can then get the control board made for you at OSHPark. Judging from the comments on the Hackaday.io project page, a couple people have already tried this out. We’ve seen other wood-stove monitoring hacks before, but this is the first we’ve seen that closes the control loop. Very cool.

Arduino RF Network Analyzer

What do you get when you combine a direct digital synthesis (DDS) chip, a power detector, and an Arduino? [Brett Killion] did make that combination and wound up with a practical network analyzer.

The project uses an Analog Devices AD9851 DDS chip clocked at 180 MHz which will output a sine wave at any frequency from 0 Hz and 72 MHz. A Butterworth low pass filter processes the DDS signal and then feeds a two-transistor amplifier. The circuit will output about 0dBm into 50 ohms. The power detector is an Analog Devices AD8307 along with a 50-ohm input load. There is no filtering on the power detector so it can measure from very low frequencies to 500MHz.

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Start Your Day the Arduino Way with this IoT Shower Controller

No longer content with adding value to the thermostat in the hallway or making your fridge smarter than it should be, IoT vendors are pushing into the inner sanctum of homes, the holy of holies – the bathroom. Sure, you can spend big bucks on an electronically controlled valve to turn your shower into a remote-controlled spa that shares your bathing habits with the cloud, but if you’re on a more modest budget and have the hacker spirit, you might want to check out this DIY automated shower valve with IoT features.

When we last ran into [TVMiller], he was opening gates using Jedi mind tricks, and before that he was shrinking a floating golf green to a manageable size. Such hacks work up a sweat, and while a clean hacker is a happy hacker, all that pesky valve-twisting and temperature-fiddling is so annoying. So with a few parts acquired from the waste stream, like an acrylic box, some salvaged servos, popsicle sticks, and a hell of a lot of caulk, [TVMiller] hacked together a feature-packed controller for his existing shower valves. An Arduino MKR1000 reads the water temperature and controls the servos that allow him to start the shower from his phone. Time and temperature data are sent to the cloud using ThingSpeak. You can see the whole thing in action in the mildly-NSFW video after the break.

Admittedly, this is a pretty janky setup, but it falls under the universal hacker disclaimer of “it’s just a prototype.” Still, we like the idea of retrofitting standard shower valves, and the popsicle-stick parallelograms for increasing leverage is a neat trick. We’ll be watching to see where this goes next.

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