We don’t need no stinkin’ packages!

DIP, SOIC, BGA, MLF or QFP?  None, so it seems.

This morning I received an email from Texas Instruments. Normally, these things go right into the spambox but this one was a bit unique. You can now buy some of TI’s IC’s without any packaging. Yup, just trays full of silicon squares. From TI’s point of view miniaturization has reached a point where that extra 0.1″ of PCB space is now too valuable to give to a piece of worthless plastic, and bonding micro-small wires to a silicon die is a feat that any manufacturer can preform with great accuracy, reliability and speed.

Whether this is a new paradigm in manufacturing or a premature April fool’s joke, if this process catches on smartphones just went from being almost unrepairable to 100% unrepairable, and ipod nanos might just start playing back 1080p video. It’s awesome and scary at the same time.

Now, are they crazy, or just ahead of their time? Tell us what you think.

Custom microcontroller using only a Dremel

Check out this 6-pin MSP430 microcontroller. What’s that you say? TI doesn’t make a 6-pin MSP430? True, Texas Instruments doesn’t make one, so [Greg] grabbed his Demel and a cutoff wheel, and chopped up a larger uC to arrive at this package.

It may sound a bit crazy at first, but when you think about it there’s nothing really all that special about this. The plastic package on DIP components these days is mostly empty. The silicon die which does the computing is quite small in comparison, and usually mounted in the very center of the part. [Greg] simply cut off eight of the unneeded pins (four from each end).

Well, it might be a stretch to call them unneeded since he cut the ground and voltage pins. He gets around this issue by taking advantage of the same properties of the I/O pins used in this barebones RFID tag. You can inject power through the I/O and we’d bet you could easily use this chopped-up MSP430G2211 as an RFID tag if you wanted to.

[Thanks Ian]

Doom for your calculator gets a color upgrade

You’re not still playing nDoom in black and white, are you? What decade do live in? Thankfully, the Doom port for TI-nspire calculators has been upgraded to support color. That is if you’ve got the hardware to run it.

The video after the break (and the image above) shows a TI-nspire CX running the popular first-person-shooter. It’s seen several upgrades since the beta version which we saw piggy-backed with a different TI-83 hack a year ago. The control scheme has been tweaked, and a menu system was added. It’s not the same on-screen menu that you would see with the DOS version of the game, but it accomplishes that same thing. This port is packaged with the Ndless program that unlocks the hardware so that you can perform your own hacks.

Unfortunately there is still no sound available for the game but that is a project for a different time. We know it must be possible because we’ve seen a TI-84+ used to play music stored on a thumb drive. [Read more...]

Using a touch screen with an STM32 microcontroller

[Andy Brown] has been working on a series of tutorials revolving around the STM32 processor family. He’s using the STM32plus development board, with an STM32F1 ARM Cortex M3 processor to drive a couple of different full color graphic LCD screens. His latest installment shows how to read from the touch screen included with both displays.

After the break we’ve embedded the video from which this screenshot was taken. As an example, [Andy] has programmed a painting program to show off what the touchscreen overlay is capable of. It starts off with the calibration routine we’re all familiar with, then drops to this screen with a virtual control panel and blank canvas.

This hardware uses the Texas Instruments ADS7843 controller, which [Andy] says is extremely common and that several other manufacturers use the same communications protocols. He discusses how to communicate with the controller, and how to incorporate the data into your program. Included is an open source library which you can use in your own projects.

[Read more...]

TI Launchpad adds computer control to a robot arm

[Eric Gregori] had an OWI535 toy robotic arm. Although cheap (coming it at around $30) the arm is only set up to be used via a wired control box. [Eric] knew he could do better by adding computer control via a TI Launchpad and motor driver peripheral.

The arm has shoulder, elbow, and wrist joints, a rotating base, and a gripper. All of these are actuated by 3V DC motors and have just two control wires. [Eric's] motor driver add-on for the Launchpad works great in this case. It’s got three FAN8200 dual motor driver chips on board so it can control up to six motors. Once he made the hardware connections it’s just a matter of sending the commands to the Launchpad via its USB interface, but you will also need to use a larger microcontroller than comes with the Launchpad. Here he’s chosen an MSP430G2553.

In order to make things a little bit more fun he also wrote a GUI for controlling the arm from the computer. He used RobotSee, a programming language that lets you use an image of the hardware, and overlay the controls on top of it. Now he just needs to make this into a web interface and he can have a smartphone controlled crane game.

Don’t forget to check out the video after the break. [Read more...]

Say hello to our little friend, the BeagleBone

Small and more powerful… what more can you want? This is the newest BeagleBoard offering, called the BeagleBone. It’s packed with some pretty intriguing features, but let’s take a tour of the hardware first.

Like its predecessors, the BeagleBone sports an ARM processor. This time around it’s a TI AM3358 ARM Cortex-A8. It will ship with a 2 GB microSD card and has an Ethernet port and USB connection. The dual pin headers on either side of the board are designed to receive ‘Capes’ for expansion. Currently a DVI cape is in the works, with HDMI and others to follow.

Linux is running on board and one of the best features we see in the video after the break is the browser-based programming interface. When connected to a network, the BeagleBone serves HTML5 web pages. One of these is an IDE that lets you write and execute code directly from your browser.

Now, can we finally have our open-hardware set top box (hopefully running XBMC)?? At an MSRP of $89 this should be able to give AppleTV 2 a run for its money as an easy way to get your television some network connectivity. [Read more...]

Devboard deal: TI Experimenter Board for $15 (50% off)

Cheap things come to those who wait. If you’ve had your eye on a TI Experimenters Board (MSP-EXP430FR5739) now’s the time to pull the trigger. You can use the coupon code MSP430_FRAM to get 50% off. This pulls the total price down to $14.50 plus shipping with several readers reporting free shipping.

The board features an upgraded MSP430. Instead of using flash memory, it’s got  ferroelectric random access memory (FRAM) which boots the power savings of these aready lean-mean chips.

We’ve posted a few deals from Texas Instruments before, like the announcement of the Launchpad which was just $4.30, as well as a coupon-deal gone awry with the evalBot. There were huge threads in those posts reporting back how long shipping took, as well as how well the codes worked. So feel free to share your thoughts on this deal by leaving a polite comment.

Of course if you get one, we want to see what you do with it. Don’t forget to write up your projects and send in a tip.

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