Save Some Steps With This Arduino Rapid Design Board

We’re all familiar with the wide variety of Arduino development boards available these days, and we see project after project wired up on a Nano or an Uno. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course, but there comes a point where some hobbyists want to move beyond plugging wires into header sockets and build the microcontroller right into their project. That’s when one generally learns that development boards do a lot more than break the microcontroller lines out to headers, and that rolling your own design means including all that supporting circuitry.

To make that transition easier, [Sean Hodgins] has come up with a simple Arduino-compatible module that can be soldered right to a PCB. Dubbed the “HCC Mod” for the plated half-circle castellations that allows for easy soldering, the module is based on the Atmel SAMD21 microcontroller. With 16 GPIO lines, six ADCs, an onboard 3.3 V regulator, and a reset button, the module has everything needed to get started — just design a PCB with the right pad layout, solder it on, and surround it with your circuitry. Programming is done in the familiar Arduino IDE so you can get up and running quickly. [Sean] has a Kickstarter going for the modules, but he’s also releasing it as open source so you’re free to solder up your own like he does in the video below.

It’s certainly not the first dev module that can be directly soldered to a PCB, but we like the design and can see how it would simplify designs. [Sean] as shown us a lot of builds before, like this army of neural net robots, so he’ll no doubt put these modules to good use.

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What’s Tiny, Has Eight Legs, And Acts Like An Arduino?

Back in the late 1970s, comedian Steve Martin had a bit about “Let’s get small!” Over on Hackaday.io, [Daniel Grießhaber], has taken that call to heart. He’s been working on DIL-Duino, a minuscule form factor Arduino in an 8-pin DIP format.

Built with an ATtiny85, the board has an area of just under 75 square millimeters (less than 8 mm x 10 mm). If you add the USB port, it still comes in at just over 144 square millimeters. [Daniel] found other small Arduino boards like the Olimexino-85s and the Nanite are not as small as his design.

The module has a QFN CPU and castellated holes around the perimeter for mounting. With pin headers, this would easily fit into a breadboard (as [Daniel] shows) or you could mount it directly to another board like a surface mount device. In fact, that’s the reason for using castellated holes: you can inspect that the solder joint at the mating SMD pad is good. You sometimes hear the technique called half-vias or leadless chip carrier.

If you note, [Daniel] used an oversized board with full holes around the perimeter and then had the board maker score the board, so the holes are cut in half. This is a better technique than trying to drill half holes on the board edge, which is difficult to do.

Naturally, this isn’t the first tiny Arduino we’ve seen. If you are an ARM fan, there’s some little bitty cards for it, too, although not quite as small as DIL-Duino.

Castellated Breakout Is Pitchin’ Brilliant!

Radio, WiFi and similar modules are getting smaller by the day. Trouble is, they end up having non-DIY-friendly, odd pitch, mounting pads. Sometimes, though, simple hacks come around to help save the day.

[Hemal] over at Black Electronics came up with a hack to convert odd-pitch modules to standard 2.54mm / 0.1″. The process looks simple once you see the detailed pictures on his blog. He’s using the technique to add 2mm pitch modules like the ESP8266 and XBee by soldering them to standard perf board. Once they are hooked to the board, just add a row of male header pins, trim the perf board and you’re done. Couldn’t get simpler.

Another technique that we’ve seen is to solder straight across the legs and cut the wire afterward. That technique is also for protoyping board, but custom-sized breakout boards are one good reason to still keep those etchants hanging around. If you have other techniques or hacks for doing this, let us know in the comments.