NXP’s ARM Micros With Motor Controllers


It’s still relitavely early in the year, and all those silicon manufacturers are coming out with new toys to satiate the engineer and hobbyist for years to come. NXP’s offering is the LPC1500, a series of ARM microcontrollers optimized for motor and motion-control applications.

The specs for the new chips include an ARM Cortex-M3 running at 72MHz, up to 256kB Flash, 36kB SRAM, USB, CAN, 28 PWM outputs, an a real-time clock. There are options for controlling brushless, permanent magnet, or AC induction motors on the LPC1500, with dev boards for each type of motor. Each chip has support for two Despite NXP’s amazing commitment to DIP-packaged ARM chips, the LPC1500 chips are only available in QFP packages with 48, 64, and 100 pins.

Don’t think the LPC1500 would be a perfect chip for a CNC controller – the chips only support control of two motors. However, this would be a fantastic platform for building a few robots, an electric car, or a lot of the other really cool projects we see around here.

Electric Imp makes a cat door Tweet its activities


This Tweeting cat door uses the Electric Imp to read a sensor and report back to the server. The hardware is pretty neat. The board hosts an ARM Cortex-M3 processor and gets on your home network via WiFi. The mini-USB cable simply provides the power. Programming is done over the network. Our own [Brian Benchoff] had a chance to try the Imp out earlier in the Fall.

Monitoring a cat door is as good a reason as any to undertake a project. The hardware added to the board includes a reed switch mounted on the jamb along with a magnet on the door itself. There is also a blue LED that gives a bit of user feedback. The software isn’t quite as easy but it still wasn’t that bad. As with most web-connected projects getting all the parts to talk to each other was a bit of a chore. The Imp reports back to a server on the local network which then activates a PHP script that uses Sen.se to push out a Tweet.

[Thanks Pat]

Finally, an ARM-powered Arduino

Far removed from the legions of 3D printers featured at this year’s Maker Faire in New York was a much smaller, but far more impressive announcement: The ARM-powered Arduino DUE is going to be released later this month.

Instead of the 8-bit AVR microcontrollers usually found in Arduinos, the DUE is powered by an ATSAM3X8E microcontroller, itself based on the ARM Cortex-M3 platform. There are a few very neat features in the DUE, namely a USB On The Go port to allow makers and tinkerers to connect keyboards, mice, smartphones (hey, someone should port IOIO firmware to this thing), and maybe even standard desktop inkjet or laser printers.

The board looks strikingly similar to the already common Arduino Mega. That’s no mistake; the DUE is compatible with existing shields, so connecting a RAMPS board for your 3D printer should be a snap.

Here’s a PDF the Arduino and Atmel guys were handing out at their booth. A few DUE boards have already made it into the hands of important people in the Arduino community, including 3D printer guru [Josef Prusa]. Sadly, the folks at Arduino didn’t think media personalities needed a DUE before its release, so you’ll have to wait until we get our hands on one later this month for a review.

Help create a universal ARM programmer

The new crop of ARM Cortex M0/M3/M4 microcontrollers have a lot of interesting features for developers. In addition to supporting drag and drop programming via USB, the same hardware can also be used as a debugger. Setting breakpoints and inspecting memory at any point in the code is a wonderful feature, but not all the new ARM dev boards we’ve seen support this feature.

The folks over on SimpleCortex have a solution to this problem, but they need your help. To get their CMSIS-DAP hardware working with Open Source tools, they’re looking for a few good programmers and hardware developers to build a toolchain.

Right now, the hardware only works with Keil development tools. A closed source development environment is no good to anyone, so if you have some experience writing drivers and such, send the guys at SimpleCortex an email. They’ll give you a free board in return for a contribution to building an open source ARM toolchain.

Common sense requires us to mention that you should probably only send these guys an email if you actually plan on working on this problem. Still, it’s a great opportunity to contribute to open hardware.

STM32 F3 Discovery dev board includes some extras

ST Microelectronics keeps kicking out development boards to show off their new ARM processor line. Yesterday they issued a press release announcing the STM32 F3 Discovery Board. As their naming scheme implies, this carries an ARM Cortex-M3 processor, but compared to the F0 Discovery board (which we loved) it’s got several extra goodies built into it.

We took a look at the F3 Discovery product page and it doesn’t look like you can order these quite yet. But click-through to the pricing and you’ll see they’ve set it at $10.90. Digikey lists the board at that price point, Mouser lists it at about $16, but neither supplier has any available. We also didn’t see a link for free boards like when the F0 model was released. If you do come across a giveaway link please tip us off about it.

Okay, now let’s discuss those extras. We think this dev kit could be used as an IMU for applications like a quadcopter or a self-balancing robot. That’s because it has a gyroscope and an accelerometer. It’s also got ten LEDs, eight of which are arranged on that white circle. We’d guess that layout is for displaying orientation data from the IMU sensors. There’s also a second USB port to use when developing USB applications for the chip.

Like the other boards in the Discovery family this has the STlinkV2 built-in to use as a programmer. We don’t know if OpenOCD has support for the F3 chipset yet, which is what we’ve been using to program STM chips in a Linux environment.

The coming age of ARM chips for the hobbyist

The days of the 8 bit Arduino may be quickly coming to a close. Sure, there will always be a place for AVRs in blinking LEDs and turning on relays, but for doing anything cool – playing MP3s, driving LCD displays, or running a CNC machine – you need the power of a 32 bit chip. [Brian Carrigan] put up a great tutorial on getting started with these bigger, more powerful micros and moving beyond what is possible with an 8 bit PIC or AVR.

These new 32 bit chips are much more powerful, but aren’t exactly hobbyist friendly. Most of the ARM chips we’ve found are stuffed into very fine pitch QFN or QFP packages that require a reflow oven to solder to a board. In fact, we can only find one through-hole Cortex M0 chip that is suited for breadboard development. This doesn’t make it easy to whip up a circuit in a few hours, so builders needing a very powerful microcontroller will be more dependent on dev boards.

Already there are a good number of ARM-based 32 bit dev boards available including the offerings from Leaf Labs, the extremely inexpensive STM Discovery boardKinetis KL25Z Freedom Board, the outrageously powerful BeagleBone, and the perpetually delayed Arduino (over) Due.

None of these boards are particularly new developments; they’ve all been around the block once or twice. However, there are many more options for 32 bit development than the current 8 bit PIC and AVR holy war. We’re going to turn the comments over to Hackaday readers with the following questions: what supersized dev board are you rolling with? What’s good for a beginner, and what should they watch out for?

A sample player you can slip in your pocket

This portable sample player packs quite a punch. [Lee] wanted a nice portable way to take his samples with him, but refused to water-down the features just because it is portable. He set of goal of playing between 3-8 simultaneous notes from a large assortment of stored samples.

Sample space was the first design consideration, and it’s hard to beat the price per megabyte of an SD card. After some calculations he concluded that it is possible to pull these samples off the card quickly enough to achieve his simultaneous note goal at CD quality frequencies, but only if there is little or no latency when reading from the card. This means [Lee] needed a fast processor so he chose the LPC1769 which is an ARM Cortex-M3 processor which can run at 120 MHz.

The project box includes room for a volume knob to control the output from the in-build headphone amplifier. There’s also a rotary encoder for selecting sample sets. But we’re a bit confused on this part as the device is MIDI controlled. [Lee] is the creator of the electronic Moolodeon, which itself has MIDI out and will be used as a controller for this project.