Make a knitting machine print pixel art

[Becky Stern] shows how to take an old electronic knitting machine and interface it with a computer. After seeing the Brother KH-930E knitting machine in the video after the break it looks like the controls function quite like a CNC milling machine. Patterns can be programmed in and stored on a floppy disk. Since we don’t want to use those anymore (unless they’re hacked as an SD card carriage) it is nice to see that this is how the machine is connected to a computer. Using an altered FTDI cable and a floppy-drive emulator written in Python a blank design file can be saved on the knitting machine, manipulated in the computer to add your own pixel art, then loaded back onto the machine for production. At the very least, it’s interesting to watch the knitting happen, but fans of knitted apparel and geek paraphernalia must be salivating by now.

We’ve never given up our dream to transition from Hack-A-Day to Craft-A-Day, this just fuels the fire for that cause.

Continue reading “Make a knitting machine print pixel art”

Propeller Platform prototyping board gets an upgrade

[Nick] over at Gadget Gangster has a new version of his prototyping hardware for Propeller microcontrollers, called the Propeller Platform USB. A little more than a year ago we looked at the last version which was larger, used a DIP processor, and came unassembled. The new version does come assembled because of the migration to surface mount components (which may take some of the fun out of it if you just love soldering kits). This not only reduces the board footprint, but makes room for more goodies. As the name implies, there’s now a mini-USB socket with a USB to UART bridge, a microSD card slot as been added, and the onboard EEPROM has been doubled. This is a nice hardware upgrade but the price has been upgraded by $25 as well. No worries, it’s open source so you can roll your own if you have the parts on hand.

Using an Arduino or Seeeduino for its FTDI chip

We think of the Arduino as a rapid prototyping tool but we never thought of it as an FTDI breakout board before. [Ihsan Kehribar] wrote a quick post to show how it’s done. You’ll find an FTDI chip on Arduino boards that have a USB connector. It’s used to handle the USB communications on one side, and TTL serial communications on the other. The serial pins from the chip are mapped to the UART on the AVR chip, and in turn they appear on the pin headers for easy connections. Just load up a really simple sketch(available from Ihsan’s post) to make sure the processor doesn’t get in the way and you’ve got yourself an FTDI breakout board. If you happen to have a Seeeduino there’s even more functionality as the board has a selector switch that allows you to choose between 5V and 3.3V levels.

This doesn’t hold true to the newest generation of Arduino, as those board have replaced the FTDI chip with an ATmega8U2. That’s basically and ATmega8 with native USB handling… fancy.

[Thanks Marcus]

USB adapter options

[Ladyada] takes some time out of her day to explain the common options available for connecting projects through USB. You may be thinking that you already do this with an Arduino. Well, yes and no. The Arduino uses one of these options, an FTDI chip that handles the USB on one side and spits out microcontroller-friendly voltage signals on the other. This chip can be used with your projects, a topic that [Phil Burgess] covered in great detail.

In the video after the break you’ll also hear about USB to serial converters which connect to the Universal Serial Bus and output the traditional 12-20V serial signals (with the exception of cheap knockoff cables like the one from last week). These need to be stepped down to 5 volts or less using a MAX232 chip to work with your project.

Finally there’s the option of using a microcontroller running the V-USB firmware package. This is how the USBtinyISP works and I’ve used it in my own projects to build a LIRC compatible IR receiver.

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DB9 form factor USB-RS232 replacement

If you’re attached to that favorite DB-9 interfaced device you should look into this part. FTDI is selling a USB-RS232 adapter as a replacement for DB-9 connectors. They come with USB male or female connections depending on the application and have the same serial footprint and pinout to which you’re accustomed. Using converter cables is just fine but this simplicity requires a few minutes of desoldering, rather than redesigning, etching, and populating a board in order to give that older design built-in USB connectivity.

[Thanks Juan]

Composing music with the Force Trainer

In the ongoing quest to make the Force Trainer useful [Hunter Scott] developed a music composition platform for your mind (channel Jack Black’s voice for the last half of that sentence). Using the Force Trainer’s serial port [Hunter] feeds the data stream into a computer via an FTDI cable and uses Processing to make the music. It’s good, and the demos on his site are worth the click, but we still can’t get enough of the shocking video from back in March. But we digress, let [Hunter] walk you through his setup in the video after the break. Continue reading “Composing music with the Force Trainer”

Adding reset to an FTDI cable

Hackaday alum [Adam Harris] hacked an FTDI cable to use for programming his Arduino. After cracking open the plastic case he found the FTDI chip used is the same as the one in the SparkFun programmer. The only real difference was that his cable wasn’t resetting the Arduino, he had to do that manually. The solution was to reroute the RTS wire so that it connected up to the DTR pin. This proved difficult because of the tiny footprint of the chip, but after many tries he managed to get a piece of wire wrap soldered in place.