Prototyping the Bulbdial clock

Evil Mad Scientist posted a story about what went into developing the Bulbdial clock. We think the Bulbdial is one of the best pieces of kit out there for many reasons; using colored shadows for each hand is a brilliant idea, the design is clever and uses a low parts count, and the concentric rings that make it work also add to the aesthetic. But after seeing the original wood prototype it had crossed our minds that developing those circular PCBs isn’t the easiest thing to pull off. To save on board cost, the first run didn’t have the center routed out, but rather used almost-touching holes drilled during manufacture and finished by hand during assembly. They also go on to discuss the use of Charlieplexing to reduce part count and the search for a suitable diffuser for the clock face.

Surface mount breakout boards

We got a hold of some DS3232 RTC chips in a 20-pin SOIC package. We’d like to have one that is breadboard compatible for easy prototyping but when we searched for SOIC20W breakout board artwork we found none. We used Eagle to design our own and you can see the finished product above which we made using the toner transfer method and cupric chloride.

You’ll find the artwork after the break in case you need to make your own breakout board some day. If you know of surface mount breakout board artwork that is freely available please leave the link in the comments for future use, or send it to us on our tips line and we’ll add it to the post.

Incidentally, the DS3232 is the same as the DS3231 used in the ChronoDot but with the addition of some SRAM. We’ll let you know if we come up with an interesting project for it.

Update: We added 28 SSOP to DIP artwork submitted by [Paul Dekker]

Continue reading “Surface mount breakout boards”

Light up your limbs

Here’s a Christmas tree project we can get behind. The “tree” itself is made of twisted pairs of insulated copper wire.  At the end of each pair a surface mount LED has been soldered between the two conductors.  All of the wire limbs converge into a 4×4 matrix. One tree uses a prototyping shield and an Arduino, the other tree is just using an ATtiny2313 microprocessor. Take a look at the twinkling tree in the video after the break.

This artful creation uses one color of LEDs.  We’d love to see future improvements that incorporate multiple colors, enhance the fading effects, and perhaps add some interactivity such as pulsing to an inspiring rendition of Chestnuts Roasting on and Open Fire (which, consequently, is called “The Christmas Song“).

Continue reading “Light up your limbs”

Tube prototyping station

[Gio] enjoys using vacuum tubes in his projects. He designs the circuits using a CAD program but was finding that there is no substitute for actually building a prototype before heading to a final design. To make this process easier, he built his own tube prototyping station.

At the top of the board he’s got three different sizes of tube sockets with the pins from each wired as common. The nine pins from the sockets break out to a terminal strip where they can be interfaced with a solderless breadboard. For added versatility he’s included terminals to tap into some RCA jacks, as well as a 100 kOhm variable resistor. We’d bet this is not something that you can find ready-made, but it sure does look a whole lot better than a workbench full of components alligator-clipped together.

Centipede shield design contest

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Our friend [Garrett Mace] from macetech has finished a prototype of a new shield which allows the Arduino (or any other microcontroller with I2C) to add 64 digital I/O pins using only 2 of the analog pins. Currently he only has a few pre-production boards, and rather than selling them he is throwing a contest to win them. The contest is looking for people who have a specific project in mind that could use the centipede, and on Friday November 13th he will pick his favorite two. To submit an idea, just head over the Arduino forums and post an idea complete with details and relevant schematics, etc.

We will be sure to follow up with the winners of the contest, as well as let you all know when the Centipede Shield makes it into production.

Sony’s wireless electricity offering

In August we covered a wireless electricity presentation from the TED conference. Now Sony has put out a press release on their wireless flat panel television prototype. The device is capable of operating without audio, video, or power cables connected to it. This is possible at distances up to 50cm at efficiencies as high as 80%.

As was talked about in the comments of the other article, the efficiency compared to that of a cable doesn’t blow our socks off. But this does show mainstream development of this technology. We hope to see advances in both efficiency and distance. We also look forward to that small black box (which we presume facilitates the energy transfer) being integrated into the TV’s body.

[via Gizmodo]

Low-cost ARM7 prototyping

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Do you find that the capabilities of your current microcontrollers are holding you back when you try to take over the world? Moving up to ARM7 architecture will put your projects in the same arena with the iPod and the Nintendo DS.

The BlueBoard-lpc214x is a prototyping board with a lot to offer. It incorporates two RS232 connections, USB, VGA, SD card slot, piezo buzzer, JTAG, audio out, PS2 keyboard connector, and a 2-line character LCD. The processor is an NXP Semiconductor LPC2148 with 512KB of programming space and 32+8KB of ram. The board also includes a 256KB i2c eeprom. This is a lot of prototyping power, but the low purchase price knocks our socks off: $40.90! Sadly, shipping would cost us another $20.43 but that’s still a lot of functionality for around $60.

Sample code and schematic are available for download. All of the pins for the microcontroller have jumpers and there are rows for pin headers around the processors if you want to patch in your own hardware. We’ve seen other ARM boards that make use of pre-existing shields. We would love to see someone remove the processor and implement Arduino-like shields for different processors outside of the LPC214x series. Promo video after the break. Continue reading “Low-cost ARM7 prototyping”