The Catweazle Mini: A Super Small ARM Based Embedded Platform

Catweazle

There has been a recent trend in miniaturizing embedded platforms. [Jan] wrote in to tell us about his very tiny ARM based embedded platform, the Catweazle Mini. Who knew that an ARM based system could be so simple and so small?!?

With the success of the Trinket and Femtoduino (miniature Arduino compatible boards) and many other KickStarter campaigns, it is only natural for there to be a mini platform based on the ARM architecture. Built around the NXP LPC810 ARM Cortex M0+ MCU at 30MHz (which only costs slightly more than $1, by the way), this small embedded platform packs some pretty impressive processing power. The board contains a simple linear regulator, and can be programmed via UART. [Jan's] development environment of choice is the mbed compiler, which is free and requires no installation. If you need some help getting started Adafruit has a nice guide for the LPC810.

Do you need some more processing power for your next wearable project? Be sure to use the Catweazle Mini.

NXP’s ARM Micros With Motor Controllers

motor

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.

Programming a through-hole ARM microcontroller

NXP

The age of ARM microcontrollers for the electronics hobbyist is upon us, and luckily there are a few breadboard-friendly microcontrollers available in a DIP package. One of these chips is NXP’s LPC810M021FN8 – a tiny little 8-pin DIP with 4 kB of Flash, 1 kB of SRAM, and has a clock fast enough for some really cool stuff. [Joao] needed a way to program one of these microcontrollers and came up with an easy method using only a USB/UART adapter.

The key to this build is the fact the LPC810 doesn’t need any additional components to operate; the internal oscillator means the chip will run at 30 MHz with only a power and ground attached. To program the chip, [Joao] attached the Tx and Rx lines of the chip to a USB/UART adapter (at 3.3 V, of course), and uploaded some code with Flashmagic.

We’ve seen these DIP-sized ARM chips before, but [Joao]‘s method of using off-the-shelf tools to write a blinking LED program means it’s a piece of cake to start working with these very cool and very powerful microcontrollers.

DIY ARM prototyping board

We’re impressed by the ARM prototyping board which [Danjovic] is showing off. He proves that in this day of ever shrinking packages it’s still possible to make your own development tools with protoboard and a soldering iron.

To tell you the truth, if he had designed and etched his own board we probably wouldn’t have featured it. But he didn’t need to spend time on the layout, etching, and reflow. Instead it’s just some enamel wire and a lot of patience. The patience is because the NXP ARM Cortex-M0 chip comes in a HVQFN package. We’re not entirely sure about the HV part (the package alphabet was not entirely clear on this) but QFN means Quad Flat No-Lead. That means no legs on the chip. So [Danjovic] glued it upside down and soldered point-to-point to break out all of the pins.

The top side of the board has a bootloader button, reset button, power regulation, and a crystal oscillator. He doesn’t mention what bootloader he’s using, but a Nokia USB cable gives him the connectivity to push his programs onto the chip.

LUFA open source USB stack now for NXP ARM processors

Looks like the Lightweight USB Framework for AVRs (LUFA) has just been ported for ARM microcontrollers. NXP recently released a package for their LPC Cortex M3 family of ARM controllers. You won’t find a reference to LUFA on their nxpUSBlib description page (which we think is kind of sad), but if you grab a copy of the beta code the Version.h header file shows that it is indeed a port of the project. This is further backed up by the LUFA creator, [Dean Camera], who consulted with the NXP team doing the work.

The package provides an open-source USB stack that you can use in your projects as a USB host or USB device. We’re advocates of open source packages like this one as it makes it much easier for hobbyists to get help using the tools, and it allows the community to give back through bug fixes and feature additions.

We’ve highlighted a few LUFA projects, like this keyboard remapper and this AVR programmer. We’re looking to seeing the first set of NXP LUFA projects roll through!

[Thanks Johnny]

What Development Board to Use? (Part Two)

We asked for responses to our last Development Board post, and you all followed through. We got comments, forum posts, and emails filled with your opinions. Like last time, there is no way we could cover every board, so here are a few more that seemed to be popular crowd choices. Feel free to keep sending us your favorite boards, we may end up featuring them at a later date!

[Read more...]

Report from ESC Silicon Valley 2010

Ah, the heady aroma of damp engineers! It’s raining in Silicon Valley, where the 2010 Embedded Systems Conference is getting off the ground at San Jose’s McEnery Convention Center.

ESC is primarily an industry event. In the past there’s been some lighter fare such as Parallax, Inc. representing the hobbyist market and giant robot giraffes walking the expo. With the economy now turned sour, the show floor lately is just a bit smaller and the focus more businesslike. Still, nestled between components intended to sell by the millions and oscilloscopes costing more than some cars, one can still find a few nifty technology products well within the budget of most Hack a Day readers, along with a few good classic hacks and tech demos…

[Read more...]