Plovdiv, Bulgaria has a long history of design and innovation going back at least 6000 years to cultures like the Thracians, Celts, and Romans. In the last decade it is also an important center for open hardware innovation — reviving the lost glory of the computer hardware industry from the former “Soviet bloc countries”. One of the companies in the region that has thrived is a 5000 square-meter microelectronics factory which you may have heard of before: Olimex.
Olimex has over 25 years of experience in designing, prototyping, and manufacturing printed circuit boards, components, and complete electronic products. Over the last decade it has evolved into a shining example of an open hardware company. We recently had the chance to visited Olimex and to meet its CEO, Tsvetan Usunov.
Continue reading “25 Years of Hardware Manufacturing in Plovdiv”
RGB LEDs are awesome – especially the new, fancy ones with the WS2812 RGB LED driver. These LEDs can be individually controlled to display red, green, and blue, but interfacing them with a microcontroller or computer presents a problem: microcontrollers generally don’t have a whole lot of RAM to store an image, and devices with enough memory to do something really cool with these LEDs don’t have a real-time operating system or the ability to do the very precise timing these LEDs require. [Sprite_tm] thought about this problem and came up with a great solution for controlling a whole lot of these WS2812 LEDs.
[Sprite] figured there was one device on the current lot of ARM/Linux boards that provides the extremely precise timing required to drive a large array of WS2812 LEDs: the video interface. Even though the video interface on these boards is digital, it’s possible to turn the 16-bit LCD interface on an oLinuXino Nano into something that simply spits out digital values very fast with a consistent timing. Just what a huge array of RGB pixels needs.
Using a Linux board to drive RGB pixels using the video output meant [Sprite_tm] needed video output. He’s running the latest Linux kernel, so he didn’t have the drivers to enable the video hardware. Not a problem for [Sprite], as he can just add a few files to define the 16-bit LCD interface and add the proper display mode.
[Sprite_tm] already taken an oscilloscope to his board while simulating 16 strips of 600 LEDs, and was able to get a frame rate of 30 fps. That’s nearly 10,000 LEDs controlled by a single €22/$30USD board.
Now the only obstacle for building a huge LED display is actually buying the RGB LED strips. A little back-of-the-envelope math tells us a 640×480 display would be about $50,000 in LEDs alone. Anyone know where we can get these LED strips cheap?
Continue reading “Controlling Ten Thousand RGB LEDs”
We can’t say the name rolls off the tongue, but it is beginning to look like the OlinuXino is going to happen. Here you can see the prototype hardware booting Android. If this is the first time you’re seeing the hardware you can think of it in the same category as the Raspberry Pi. It’s a butt-kicking ARM platform that comes as a bare-board with which you can do what you please.
Olimex Ltd. put together the offering, which seems to be part of the name mash-up (Olimex + Linux + Arduino?). The board hosts an ARM Cortex-A8 processor which runs at 1 GHz. There’s a half a gigabyte of ram, four USB and one USB-OTG ports, and a big array of breakout pins. One eyebrow-raising choice was not to include an HDMI connector. Instead the board offers VGA and Audio outputs. There is a pin header meant for an LCD screen, as seen in the image above, so it could be that the intention here is for smaller or more portable applications. But like we said, the form factor really lets you do what you want.
Possibly the best part is the price. The target for the top-of-the-line board is 55 Euros (about $68) and that comes with WiFi and 4 GB of NAND storage on the board. There’s a bunch of posts on the project, including a look at the PCB routing work. This link to the A13 tag will give you the widest overview of the work so far.