Remoticon Video: From Zero To ASIC; How To Design In Silicon

Designing your own integrated circuits as a one-person operation from your home workshop sounds like science fiction. But 20 years ago, so did rolling your own circuit boards to host a 600 MHz microcontroller with firmware you wrote yourself. Turns out silicon design isn’t nearly as out of reach as it used to be and Matt Venn shows us the ropes in his Zero to ASIC workshop.

Held during the 2020 Hackaday Remoticon, this is a guided tour of the tools used in the Skywater PDK — the Process Design Kit that is an open-source ASIC toolkit produced in a partnership between Google and SkyWater Technology. We covered the news when first announced back in June, but this the most comprehensive look we’ve seen into the actual design process.

Drawing N-channel MOSFET in silicon

Matt builds up the demo starting from the very simple design of an N-channel MOSFET with click-and-drag tools similar to graphics editing software. The good news it that although you can draw your own structures like this, for digital designs you won’t have to. A wide variety of IP has been contributed to the open source project allowing basic building blocks to be pulled in using HDL. However, the power of drawing structures will certainly be the playground for those needing analog design as part of their projects.

As with EDA software used for circuit boards, the PDK includes design rule checks to ensure you aren’t violating the limits of the 130 nm chip fab. There’s some other black magic in there too, as Matt specifically mentions an antenna rules check to safeguard your design from being fried by induced current on “large” (microscopically so) metalized runs during the fabrication process.

Part of a massive logic flow chart for an IC counter design

The current workflow involves grinding through a large number of configuration files, something Matt admits took him a long time to wrap his head around. However, what’s available for proofing your design is very impressing. He demonstrates SPICE simulation to calculate timings, and shows numerous examples of verification drawings generated by the compilation process, either in the form of seeing the structures as they will be laid out, or as logical flow charts. This is crucial as a single run will take 2-3 months to come back from fab — you want to get things right before buttoning up the project. Incidentally, that’s know as “tapeout”, a term you’ve likely heard before and he says it comes from reels of magnetic tape containing the design being removed from the computer and sent to production. Who knew? (This tidbit in strikethrough appears to be incorrect).

But wait, there’s more to this than just designing the things. Part of the intrigue of the Skywater-PDK project is that Google bought into covering a group run about once per quarter so that open-source designs can be ganged onto a multi-project wafer free of charge to the people submitting them. That’s pretty awesome and we’re giddy to hear news of people getting their wafer-level chip scale devices — also known as flip chips — back for testing. Matt is planning a more in-depth paid course on the topic. For now, get a taste of what’s involved from this excellent workshop found after the break.

Continue reading “Remoticon Video: From Zero To ASIC; How To Design In Silicon”

Hackaday Podcast 099: Our Hundredth Episode! Denture Synth, OLED Keycaps, And SNES Raytracing

Hackaday editors Mike Szczys and Elliot Williams celebrate the 100th episode! It’s been a pleasure to marvel each week at the achievements of awesome people and this is no different. This week there’s a spinning POV display that solves pixel density and clock speed in very interesting ways. A macro keyboard made of OLED screens gives us a “do want” moment. And you can run a Raspberry Pi photo frame by sipping power from ambient light if you use the right power-tending setup. We wrap up the last episode of 2020 with a dive into ballpoint pens and solar racers.

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always, tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Direct download (~65 MB)

Places to follow Hackaday podcasts:

Continue reading “Hackaday Podcast 099: Our Hundredth Episode! Denture Synth, OLED Keycaps, And SNES Raytracing”

Remoticon Video: How To Use Max In Your Interactive Projects

When you want to quickly pull together a combination of media and user interaction, looking to some building blocks for the heavy lifting can be a lifesaver. That’s the idea behind Max, a graphical programming language that’s gained a loyal following among anyone building art installations, technology demos (think children’s museum), and user Kiosks.

Guy Dupont gets us up to speed with a how to get started with Max workshop that was held during the 2020 Hackaday Remoticon. His crash course goes through the basics of the program, and provides a set of sixteen demos that you can play with to get your feet under you. As he puts it, if you need sound, video, images, buttons, knobs, sensors, and Internet data for both input and output, then Max is worth a look. Video of the workshop can be found below.

Continue reading “Remoticon Video: How To Use Max In Your Interactive Projects”

Remoticon Video: Breaking Encrypted Firmware Workshop

If only you could get your hands on the code to fix the broken features on your beloved electronic widget. But wait, hardware hackers have the skills to write their own firmware… as long as we can get the compiled binary into a format the hardware needs.

Luckily, we have Uri Shaked to walk us through that process. This workshop from the 2020 Hackaday Remoticon demonstrates how to decipher the encryption scheme used on the firmware binary of a 3D printer. Along the way, we learn about the tools and techniques that are useful for many encrypted binary deciphering adventures.

Continue reading “Remoticon Video: Breaking Encrypted Firmware Workshop”

Hackaday Podcast 097: We ♥ MicroMice, The Case Of The Missing Drones, And 3D Prints Tested For Rocketry And Food Prep

Hackaday editors Mike Szczys and Elliot Williams round up the latest hardware hacks. This week we check out the latest dead-simple automation — a wire cutting stripping robot that uses standard bypass strippers. Put on your rocket scientist hat and watch what happens in a 3D-printed rocket combustion chamber. Really small robots are so easy to love, this micromouse is the size of a coin. And whatever happened to those drone sightings at airports? We talk about all that, and round up the episode with Hyperloop, and Xiaomi thermometers.

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always, tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Direct download (~60 MB)

Places to follow Hackaday podcasts:

Continue reading “Hackaday Podcast 097: We ♥ MicroMice, The Case Of The Missing Drones, And 3D Prints Tested For Rocketry And Food Prep”

Remoticon Video: Making Microphones And Finding Sound

A yogurt lid and embroidery hoop are key components in building this microphone. It’s a super low tech, entry-level project to get into “found sound” and exactly what is needed to start hacking around in the audio world. This workshop presented by Helen Leigh and Robyn Hails shows you how to build a simple microphone and use it as the electronic gateway to all kinds of audio shenanigans.

Key to this build are the piezo element and an amp to process the signals it generates. All other materials are common around most households, but put them together as shown in this live hands-on seminar from the 2020 Hackaday Remoticon, and I think you’ll surprise yourself with how good the thing sounds!

Continue reading “Remoticon Video: Making Microphones And Finding Sound”

Remoticon Video: How To Use Machine Learning With Microcontrollers

Going from a microcontroller blinking an LED, to one that blinks the LED using voice commands based on a data set that you trained on a neural net work is a “now draw the rest of the owl” problem. Lucky for us, Shawn Hymel walks us through the entire process during his Tiny ML workshop from the 2020 Hackaday Remoticon. The video has just now been published and can be viewed below.

This is truly an end-to-end Hello World for getting machine learning up and running on a microcontroller. Shawn covers the process of collecting and preparing the audio samples, training the data set, and getting it all onto the microcontroller. At the end of two hours, he’s able to show the STM32 recognizing and responding to two different spoken words. Along the way he pauses to discuss the context of what’s happening in every step, which will help you go back and expand in those areas later to suit your own project needs.

Continue reading “Remoticon Video: How To Use Machine Learning With Microcontrollers”