Top Funding Platforms For Hardware Based Projects

In the last few years, we have seen that the Makers’ Movement is growing quite strong, more makers, innovators, and hardware startups are beginning to come up. We saw back in 2015, the most famous hardware prototyping board “The Arduino” is now assembled in the USA as compared to it being manufactured only in Italy, this not only increases the number of Arduinos but also broadens up the whole hardware ecosystems. Remember Pebble Time? The guys that broke the Kickstarter record, they received $1 million in 49 minutes, breaking a current record, and became the most funded Kickstarter to date, reaching $20.4M dollars all the way to its deadline, from over 78,741 backers.

It’s one thing to have an idea, and it’s another thing to get it to people that need it. One of the challenges of getting a crafted idea to users is “Funds,” you need quite some level of funds to mass produce your product and sell it out to users. While the big corporations have the necessary funding and resources, most hardware projects are developed by individuals or small startups and don’t necessarily have such funds available. Projects that are just starting out sometimes need a financial boost to get things going, and most won’t get backing from a VC or angel investor the first time, but perhaps crowdfunding platforms could help here. Crowdfunding is where you get a lot of people to invest in your idea, rather than finding one person to come up with everything you need.

In this post, I will highlight some of the go-to platforms to get funding for your hardware projects and boards easily. Note – I am not affiliated with any of these platforms (at least for now).

Kickstarter

Kickstarter is the most well-known name in crowdfunding and arguably the most active platform, raising over $2 billion since its launch in 2009. Kickstarter is geared more toward creative projects like a new album or writing a book, as well as products and inventions like a personal single-wheel vehicle or a pocket-sized solar charger.

Kickstarter has been one of the significant go-to platforms for hardware-focused products, and we have seen a lot of projects that came to life as a result of there fully funded campaigns on Kickstarter. Kickstarter favors creative project from wearables, smart glasses, drones to robots have been funded on Kickstarter.

Kickstarter isn’t geared towards individuals that have a product they want to release but startups/companies that can manage the whole product cycle and value chain. So, if you have a working product (an MVP preferable and not just a prototype) Kickstarter might be the platform to get the money rolling.

Here’s another vital caveat with Kickstarter: If you don’t raise 100% of your goal, you get none of that cash. Your project needs to be 100% funded for you to collect that money. If you meet your goal? Kickstarter has a 5% fee, and the payment processor will charge an additional 3-5 percent.

IndieGoGo

IndieGoGo is another familiar crowdfunding platform which shares similar traits with Kickstarter. Even though Indiegogo can be used for all sort of projects from profits to non-profits, you can still fund your focused hardware projects on them, and quite many hardware projects have been funded here.

One major difference between Kickstarter and Indiegogo is the funding flexibility. Kickstarter requires you to reach your target to get the funds but IndieGoGo offers flexible funding, which means you get to keep the funds you raised, even if you didn’t reach your goal, of course, this comes at a price of an increased fee. The fee for either is 5% (fixed and flexible), but if you don’t hit your goal with a flexible funding campaign, you’ll pay a higher fee (which is reportedly 9%). There’s no fee for a fixed funding campaign if you don’t hit your goal. And, of course, there will be additional fees (usually around 3%) from payment processors.

IndieGoGo might be your go-to platform if you aren’t sure of getting the exact money you need and feels any funding will do.

CrowdSupply

CrowdSupply is a crowdfunding platform that has a high preference for hardware projects and boasts “over twice the success rate of Kickstarter and Indiegogo.” On crowd supply, you can create a campaign for any hardware projects, from raw IoT board to a full consumer product. CrowdSupply favors creative projects as well as individuals built projects.

CrowdSupply is my recommended go-to platform for makers, tinkers, and innovators out there with the likelihood of getting your creative project funded very high. Get started with CrowdSupply here.

Tindie

Tindie is a marketplace for makers to fund and sell their hardware creations. It is a DIY Hardware MarketPlace and not a crowdfunding platform, unlike others. Tindie pride itself as a hub where hardware makers can quickly sell their products or prototypes without the overhead required in creating a crowdfunding campaign.

Tindie is excellent if you have a customized hardware creation you want to sell out to the hardware community, it could be a new shield you just built or an addon for the raspberry pi that adds some extra functionality.

Final Words

Going by numbers alone, hardware projects should be a win-win proposition for both entrepreneurs and crowdfunding platforms. Seven of the top ten most-funded projects on Indiegogo are hardware projects. Getting your hardware product to markets is now easier than ever before and now could be the best time to get funded. If you have something nice, chances people will fund you are high if you use one of these platforms.

Renesas Develops RJ45 Ethernet Socket With Entire Ethernet Controller Embedded Into It

Renesas Electronics Corporation, a significant supplier of advanced semiconductor solutions, announced its latest industrial Ethernet module solution, the I-RJ45. It combines a single- or dual-port RJ45 connector and simplifies integration for industrial Ethernet by supporting various industrial network applications including sensors and transmitters, gateways, operator terminals and remote I/O.

Renesas RJ45 Ethernet Module
Renesas RJ45 Ethernet Module

This new device is an intelligent RJ45 module that comes with specialized embedded software that supports multiple industrial Ethernet protocol stacks. The software package and sample codes provide system manufacturers with a complete set of tools and frameworks to build their application. This helps to prototype systems, reducing the time needed for industrial network protocol integration. The modules are 50 x 17.5 x 12mm (single) and 50 x 35 x 12mm (dual).

With a general Application Programmable Interface (API), the application can easily be connected to the protocol software. It offers a seamless integration path to other Renesas ASSP solutions. The single-port version of the RJ45 module is based on the RX64M microcontroller (MCU) Group and the dual-port module solution includes the R-IN32M3 industrial Ethernet communication chip.

Renesas also offers a solution kit version of the module that consists of a single or dual-port industrial Ethernet module attached to an adapter board for development. This adapter board enhances the module to connect with Arduino and Pmod interfaces, which enables it to connect to other Renesas MCU development boards including Renesas Synergy™ and RX. The Ethernet module solution kit also includes a quick start-up guide, a USB cable and a CD with software and documentation.

Samples of the I-RJ45 industrial Ethernet module solution are now available worldwide. The mass production is scheduled to begin in Q3, 2018. The industrial Ethernet module solution kit may be available in April 2018 and projected price of €299.00 per kit.

More information is available at the product page of Renesas.

IR Remote Control Detective based on ATtiny85

David Johnson-Davies published another great and detailed tutorial on how to build an IR remote control detective. He writes:

The IR Remote Control Detective decodes the signal from several common types of infrared remote control, such as audio, TV, and hobbyist remote controls. To use it you point a remote control at the receiver and press a key; it will then identify the protocol, and display the address and command corresponding to the key.

IR Remote Control Detective based on ATtiny85 – [Link]

Microchip’s New Open Source SAMA5D27 SOM Module Runs Mainline Linux

American microcontroller manufacturer company Microchip has unveiled an open source, mainline Linux ready “SAMA5D27 SOM” module. This module is based on a SiP implementation of its Cortex-A5-based SAMA5D27 SoC with 128MB RAM. The 40 x 38mm module is also compatible with a SOM1-EK1 dev board.

SAMA5D27 SOM1

SAMA5D27 SOM1
SAMA5D27 SOM1

The SAMA5D27 SOM is Microchip’s first computer-on-module based on a Linux-ready application processor, and the first SiP-based module built around a SAMA5 SoC. It is mainly designed for rugged IoT applications and the module can be soldered onto a baseboard for versatile ease of use. It offers long-term availability and supports industrial grade -40 to 85°C temperature range.

The SAMA5D27 SOM1 combines the RAM-ready SAMA5D27C-D1G SiP with 64Mb of non-volatile QSPI boot flash and a 10/100 Ethernet PHY.  The module also integrates a 2Kb EEPROM with pre-programmed MAC address. The SOM is further equipped with a PMIC and a 3.3V power supply. Typical power consumption ranges from 120mA to 160mA. There’s also a 60mA idle mode and an ultra-low 30mA mode.

This module has 128 GPIO pins including 2x USB 2.0 host, one USB device, and 2x SD/MMC interfaces with eMMC 4.51 support. There is also support for 10x UART, 7x SPI, 2x CAN, camera and audio interfaces, and much more.

Like the Xplained boards, the module is open source, from the mainline Linux support to the posting of open schematics, design, Gerber, and BoM files for both the SOM and the optional SOM1-EK1 development board.

SAMA5D2 SiP

SAMA5D2 SiP
SAMA5D2 SiP

The newly launched SAMA5D2 SiP is built around the Microchip SAMA5D2. The FreeRTOS-focused 128MB version uses a lower-end SAM5D22 model limited to 16-bit DDR2 RAM while the Linux-ready 512MB and 1GB versions use the higher end SAMA5D27 and SAMA5D28, respectively, with 16/32-bit DDR. All the models are renowned for offering CAN support, and because the SAMA5D28 also adds security features, it’s the only one that is pre-certified for PCI Security.

The SAMA5D has fewer I/O pins and slower performance (166-500MHz) compared to the earlier, 600MHz SAMA5D4, but the power consumption is significantly lower. The SAMA5D2 SoC can run at less than 150mW in active mode at 500MHz with all peripherals activated, and at less than 0.5mW in low power mode with SRAM and registers retention.

SOM1-EK1 development board

SOM1-EK1 Development Board
SOM1-EK1 Development Board

The SAMA5D27-SOM1-EK1 development kit is built around a baseboard with a soldered SAMA5D27-SOM1 module with the 128MB (1Gb) configuration. This board is enhanced with SD and microSD slots, as well as a 10/100 Ethernet port, a micro-USB host port, and a micro-USB device port with power input.

Additional I/O option for this dev board includes USB HSIC, CAN, JLINK, and JTAG interfaces. There’s a tamper connector, 4x push buttons, an LED, supercapacitor backup, and an ATECC508 CryptoAuthentication device. A Linux4SAM BSP is available with Linux kernel and drivers.

The ATSAMA5D27-SOM1 is available for $39, and the ATSAMA5D27-SOM1-EK1 development board is available for $245 each. The ATSAMA5D2 SiP starts at for $8.62 each. More information may be found in Microchip’s SAMA5D2 SiP and SOM announcement and launch page, which points to SOM and SiP pages, as well as the SAMA5D27-SOM1-EK1 dev board page.

Nui – IR Volume Controller

Alvaro Prieto made an IR volume controller and wrote a post on his blog detailing its assembly:

Nui is an IR controlled volume controller for analog audio. It sits between your audio source and speakers and can amplify or reduce the volume using IR commands (and eventually BLE).
Why do I need this?
It all started because I have my trusty Logitech Z-2300 speakers and subwoofer I purchased back around 2004/5. They still work great, but instead of being on my computer, they are used for my TV. Unfortunately, the TV’s line out doesn’t honor the TV’s volume and is always outputting at max volume. Sure, I can get up and change the volume on the speakers themselves, but wouldn’t it be more convenient to do it with the TV remote?!
That’s how the Nui project started. It sits between my TV and my speakers and now I don’t have to get up to change the volume 😀

Nui – IR Volume Controller – [Link]

Analog Devices’ tiny µModule boost regulator for low voltage optical systems

Analog Devices, Inc. has announced the Power by Linear LTM4661, a low power step-up µModule regulator in a 6.25mm x 6.25mm x 2.42mm BGA package. Only a few capacitors and one resistor are required to complete the design, and the solution occupies less than 1cm²single-sided or 0.5cm²on double-sided PCBs. The LTM4661 incorporates a switching DC/DC controller, MOSFETs, inductors and supporting components. The LTM4661 operates from a 1.8V to 5.5V input supply, and continues to operate down to 0.7V after start-up. The output voltage can be set by a single resistor ranging from 2.5V to 15V. The combination of the small, thin package and wide input and output voltage range is ideal for a wide range of applications including optical modules, battery-powered equipment, battery-based backup systems, bias voltage for power amps or laser diodes and small DC motors.

The LTM4661 can deliver 4A continuously under 3.3VINto 5VOUT, and 0.7A continuously under 3.3VINto 12VOUT. The LTM4661 employs synchronous rectification, which delivers as high as 92 per cent conversion efficiency (3.3VIN to 5VOUT). The switching frequency is 1MHz, and can also be synchronised to an external clock ranging from 500kHz to 1.5MHz. The LTM4661 1MHz switching frequency and dual phase single output architecture enable fast transient response to line and load changes and a significant reduction of output ripple voltage. The LTM4661 has three operation modes: Burst Mode operation, forced continuous mode and external sync mode. The quiescent current in Burst Mode operation is only 25µA, which provides extended battery run time. For applications demanding the lowest possible noise operation, the forced continuous mode or external sync mode minimise possible interference of switching noise.

The LTM4661 features an output disconnect during shutdown and inrush current limit at start-up. Fault protection features include short-circuit, overvoltage and over temperature protection. The LTM4661 operates from –40℃to 125℃operating temperature.

Using the 1.44″ Color TFT display (ILI9163C) with Arduino

ILI9163C 1.44″ TFT Display

Hi guys, over the past few tutorials, we have been discussing TFT displays, how to connect and use them in Arduino projects, especially the 1.8″ Colored TFT display. In a similar way, we will look at how to use the 1.44″ TFT Display (ILI9163C) with the Arduino.

The ILI9163C based 1.44″ colored TFT Display, is a SPI protocol based display with a resolution of 128 x 128 pixels. It’s capable of displaying up to 262,000 different colors. The module can be said to be a sibling to the 1.8″ TFT display, except for the fact that it is much faster and has a better, overall cost to performance ratio when compared with the 1.8″ TFT display. Some of the features of the display are listed below;

  • Size: 1.44 inch
  • Interface: SPI
  • Resolution: 128*128 pixel
  • Visual area: 1:1 square
  • TFT color screen, the effect is far better than other small CSTN screen
  • Drive IC: ILI9163
  • Fully compatible and alternative 5110 interface
  • Onboard LDO, support 5V/3.3V input voltage, the LED backlight, 3.3V input

For this tutorial, we will focus on demonstrating how to use this display with Arduino to display texts, shapes and Images.

Using the 1.44″ Color TFT display (ILI9163C) with Arduino – [Link]

OSD3358-SM-RED – A Reference, Evaluation, And Development Board From Octavo Systems

The OSD3358-SM-RED from Octavo Systems is a reference, evaluation, and development board for the OSD335x-SM series of System-in-Package (SiP) devices. It is powered by a 1 GHz processor, ADC, and 1 GB of DDR2 RAM into an enclosure of the size of a coin.

OSD3358-SM-RED single-board computer

The SiP needs a PCB, along with components like an Ethernet jack, power supply, IO pins, and USB sockets to communicate with the other complimentary electronic parts. These boards include several power options, including a micro-USB connector, barrel jack, and solder points for battery usage. Ethernet and USB connectors are included, along with expansion connectors setup so that BeagleBone Black Capes can be connected directly. Finally, a 9-axis IMU, barometer, and temperature sensor are included. Data from sensors can be collected directly without the help of extra hardware or software.

This board is longer and slightly wider than a Raspberry Pi, at an exact dimension of 108 x 54 mm. It’s also thicker at 32 mm due to the decision to mount the Ethernet jack on top of the two USB ports. A micro-SD card slot is included, though WiFi capability is not provided. For internet connectivity, the user needs to rely on wired or dongle connection.

It comes pre-loaded with a Debian Linux distribution, complete with drivers for the onboard sensors already available. It can also boot off of the SD card to load other Operating Systems. This board can be used in one of three ways: as a standalone device, a USB client, or using a UART port as a Linux terminal. In the standalone case, the user simply connects the micro-USB connector to an appropriate power source, then to a monitor via a micro-HDMI to HDMI adapter. Once booted up, the screen goes to a minimal Linux install, allowing the user to access a web browser, terminal, and other necessary tools that a developer can build upon.

At a cost of $199, this board wouldn’t be an appropriate substitute for a Raspberry Pi or BeagleBone in standalone situations, but it will certainly be useful for a professional upgrade to OSD335x-SM SiPs.

Heart-rate monitor on a small OLED display with MicroPython

By Martin Fitzpatrick @ martinfitzpatrick.name show us how to build the micro display heart-rate monitor.

Pulse sensors have become popular due to their use in health-monitors like the Fitbit. The sensors used are cheap, simple and pretty reliable at getting a reasonable indication of heart rate in daily use. They work by sensing the change in light absorption or reflection by blood as it pulses through your arteries — a technique jauntily named photoplethysmography (PPG). The rising and falling light signal can be used to identify the pulse, and subsequently calculate heart rate.

Heart-rate monitor on a small OLED display with MicroPython – [Link]

Broadcom AFBR-S50 ToF laser light sensor measures up to 10 meters

The AFBR – S50 is a multipixel distance and motion measurement sensor. It has an integrated 850nm vertical cavity surface emitting laser (VCSEL) which uses a single voltage supply of 5V. It’s measurement rates are quick and as fast as 3 kHz, which is a distinguishing feature. However, this is not the reason why the AFBR – S50 stands out. It is different because unlike other Time of Flight (ToF) ranging sensors, the AFBR – S50 can measure up to 10 meters whereas similar sensors don’t get close to that.

The AFBR-S50

Furthermore, the sensor works on the principle of Optical Time of FlightTime-of-Flight principle (ToF) is a method for measuring the distance between a sensor and an object, based on the time difference between the emission of a signal and its return to the sensor, after being reflected by an object. If you have used the popular HC-SR05 Ultrasonic sensor, then you have seen this principle in action. The AFBR – S50 can be used both inside and outside to cover wide ranges of ambient light. It supports almost 3000 frames every second with an accuracy of less than one percent on diverse types of surfaces.

ToF Principle

The multi-pixel sensor works with up to 16 illuminated pixels out of 32 and with its best-in-class ambient light suppression of up to 200kLx, to ensure smooth usage outside. It uses SPI Interface to communicate with a host device. AFBR – S50 not only works outside but it is also equally effective on colored, white, black and metallic reflection objects.

Broadcom has released two different versions of the sensor:

  • AFBR-S50MV680B
    • 680nm laser light source.
    • One illuminated pixel
    • FOV (Field Of View) 1.55° x 1.55°
    • Single voltage – 5V supply
  • AFBR-S50MV85G
    • 850nm laser light source
    • 9-16 illuminated pixels
    • FOV 6.2° x 6.2°
    • Single voltage – 5V supply

Below are the General Specifications for the Multipixel sensor:

  • Integrated 850nm laser light source.
  • Between 9-16 illuminated pixels.
  • FOV 6.2°x 6.2° (1.55 x 1.55°/pixel).
  • High-speed measurement rates of up to 3 kHz.
  • Variable distance range up to 10m.
  • Operation up to 200k Lux ambient light.
  • Works well on all surface conditions.
  • SPI digital interface (up to 20 MHz).
  • Single voltage supply 5V.
  • Integrated clock source.
  • Laser Class 1.
  • Accuracy < 1 percent.
  • Drop-in compatible with the AFBR-S50 sensor platform

Applications for the ToF sensor can be found in areas of industrial sensing, gesture sensing, distance measurement, robotics, drones, automation, and control. The AFBR-S50 is available, but the price is currently undisclosed. You can contact Broadcom sales for more information. More details can be found on the product page, and the AFBR-S50 datasheet can be found here.