This is a fascinating concept. We’re not sure of its usefulness, but it definitely stands on its own just for the concept. [Dean Camera] just added a new HID class to the LUFA project that lets you flash AVR chips by printing to them. This means once you have a file like the one seen open in Notepad above, you can just click on File, then on Print, and the firmware will be uploaded to the chip.
[Dean] is the creator of the LUFA project and still likes to get his hands dirty hacking around with it. This idea came to him while he was exploring the concept of using the MIDI protocol to program a chip. That didn’t pan out because of the way Microsoft has handled MIDI in newer versions of Windows. But he did get the idea of making LUFA identify itself as a simple USB printer. He dug into the specification and figured out how to do that. Once Windows connects to the device it doesn’t really care what data gets sent to it. So [Dean] wrote a parser for the bootloader which could accept the incoming hex code and write it to the chip’s program memory.
Here’s a new option for building your own AVR programmer. It’s called the MkII Slim and the diminutive size makes it live up to its name. The design is rather spartan, using just three chips; a voltage regulator, a MAX3002 level converter, and an Atmel AT90USB162 as the main microcontroller. This chip has a built-in USB module, foregoing the need for a separate FTDI chip.
The firmware is built on the Lightweight USB Framework for AVRs (LUFA). This is a USB stack implementation originally called MyUSB that was developed by [Dean Camera]. Regular lurkers over at the AVRfreaks forums will recognize [Dean’s] name, or his handle [abcminiuser] as a source for many of the high quality AVR tutorials found there. But we digress.
The programmer offers all the features you’d want in an In-System Programmer. It can easily be reflashed with future updates thanks to the bootloader running on the chip. There’s jumper-selectable power options, and it can program targets running at 3.3V or 5v. The full development package including code and artwork is available for download at the site linked above. For your convenience we’ve embedded the schematic after the break.
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