Should you build or buy your next single-board computer?

by Markku Riihonen @ EDN Europe:

Does it make sense to design and build your own single-board computers? It used to be the sensible option for anyone concerned about matching features to production cost.
Traditionally, with your own board design, you have the freedom to add only the components that are absolutely vital to achieving the right level of functionality for the target application. But the relentless rise of the system-on-chip (SoC) device has changed that equation in a number of ways.

Should you build or buy your next single-board computer?- [Link]

Edgefx Kits, Get Your DIY Project Kit Now!

Aiming to bridge the gap between the academics and industry in electronics, communication and electrical sectors, Edgefx Technologies was born at 2012 as an online store for project solutions.

Edgefx provides practical skill building solutions to the engineering students in the form of Do It Yourself (DIY) project kits. These kits support wide areas of electronics and communication, and also the latest trends like IoT, Android, Arduino, Raspberry Pi and many more.

Edgefx kits are easy to use and self-explanatory. They come with hardware and training material in the form of extensive audio-visuals and can be purchased online.

The company has grown to have a very strong focus on customer service, quality and morale of the staff and most of all, a passion for what we do. And although we’re a team of almost 30 right now, nothing about us is corporate. We don’t have multiple tiers of hierarchy. The vast majority of our employees work on the front lines, taking care of our customers or shipping items out of the Edgefx Fulfillment Centers.

The website contains more than 200 projects in about 15 different categories. Kits prices range from Rs. 1500 to Rs. 50000 (~ $23 to $750). In addition to the project kits, Edgefx also conducts practical workshops in colleges and schools.

School students, starting from 8 years old, can opt for school electronic projects that empowering them to innovate. It includes three basic level STEM kits and one intermediate level kit. All of these kits are edutainment and fun, with real time applications using latest technologies, and also can create multiple experiments.

Each basic kit has a three project inside, these projects are:

  • Security protection for museum items
  • Touch controlled fan
  • Touch me not LED warning
  • Bike theft alarm
  • Upside down  indicator for fragile item
  • Toll gate auto light LED
  • Security area protecting alarm
  • Auto door opening motor
  • Human detection under debries

The intermediate kit is an Arduino project kit. This project is designed for digital sensors solder-less Arduino projects on breadboard. It will light flasher of different color light on single LED each time on sensing finger swipe with the help of IR obstacle sensor. Also, the project makes different unique sounds on sensing each time.

Beginners Arduino Project Kit

So, if you are searching for some project kits you have to visit the Edgefx store, explore the kits to find the project you want to make and then order it. In the end, don’t forget to share with us your experience once you buy and use the kit!

New parts library for Mentor PADS & DX Designer accelerates PCB design

Designers can build circuit boards faster with millions of symbols & footprints on SnapEDA.

July 18, 2017 –  SAN FRANCISCO –  Mentor, a Siemens business, and SnapEDA, the Internet’s first parts library for circuit board design, are announcing new support for Mentor PADS® and DX Designer on SnapEDA.

Whether building satellites or medical devices, hardware designers spend days creating digital models for each component on their circuit boards, a painful and time-consuming process that hinders product development.

With today’s launch, Mentor PADS & DX Designer customers will gain access to SnapEDA’s extensive component library containing millions of symbols, footprints, and 3D models, further enhancing the vast resources available for Mentor PCB design software.

All parts are auto-verified with SnapEDA’s proprietary verification technology, helping to reduce risk and unneeded, costly prototype iterations. This technology answers common questions designers have about libraries, such as “what standards does this footprint conform to?”

As the world becomes more connected, electronic devices are proliferating and diversifying, and time-to-market is more crucial than ever for companies to stay competitive.

Slimline SMD Bamboo IN-14 Nixie Clock

@ instructables.com writes:

There are a lot of nixie clocks out there and a lot of them are based on the IN-14 tubes. I wanted to design my own for the sake of designing my own, but also had some specific requirements: Make it as small and thin as possible. A lot of the clocks out there have very bulky bases. CNC a nice case out of bamboo. Because I like bamboo and wanted to get some use out of my little desktop CNC machine. No RGB leds under the tubes. I hate those. Single spin of the PCB, no prototypes. I wanted this to be a relatively quick project. This meant using a microcontroller and RTC I have used before, heavily borrowing from proven designs and using a pre-made power supply to limit the risk of having to iterate the board.

Slimline SMD Bamboo IN-14 Nixie Clock – [Link]

RELATED POSTS

LTC7003 – Fast 60V Protected High Side NMOS Static Switch Driver

The LTC7003 is a fast high side N-channel MOSFET gate driver that operates from input voltages up to 60V. It contains an internal charge pump that fully enhances an external N-channel MOSFET switch, allowing it to remain on indefinitely. Its powerful driver can easily drive large gate capacitances with very short transition times, making it well suited for both high frequency switching applications or static switch applications that require a fast turn-on and/or turn-off time. When an internal comparator senses that the switch current has exceeded a preset level, a fault flag is asserted and the switch is turned off after a period of time set by an external timing capacitor. After a cooldown period, the LTC7003 automatically retries.

LTC7003 – Fast 60V Protected High Side NMOS Static Switch Driver – [Link]

Integrated 36V buck battery charger provides seamless backup power

By Graham Prophet @ eedesignnewseurope.com:

LTC4091 is a complete lithium-ion battery backup management system for 3.45V to 4.45V supply rails that must be kept active during a long duration main power failure. The LTC4091 employs a 36V monolithic buck converter with adaptive output control to provide power to a system load and enable high efficiency battery charging from the buck output.

Integrated 36V buck battery charger provides seamless backup power – [Link]

Carrageenan, a seaweed derivative, can stabilize lithium-sulfur batteries surprisingly

Lithium-sulfur batteries are suitable for both vehicle and grid applications as they are ultra-cheap, high-energy devices. Sulfur is a very low-cost material and the energy capacity is much higher than that of lithium-ion. So, lithium-sulfur is one chemistry that can possibly meet the demand for energy storage at a cheap price. However, the serious problem is, lithium-sulfur batteries suffer from significant capacity fading that makes them almost practically unusable. But, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researchers’ recent surprising discovery could fix this problem.

Carrageenan is extracted from this red seaweeds
Carrageenan is extracted from this red seaweeds

The research team at Berkley Laboratory surprisingly found that carrageenan, a substance extracted from red seaweeds, acts as a good stabilizer in lithium-sulfur batteries. Better stability in a battery means more charge-discharge cycle and an extended lifetime. Gao Liu, the leader of the research team, said,

It (Carrageenan) actually worked just as well as the synthetic polymer—it worked as a glue and it immobilized the polysulfide, making a really stable electrode.

Lithium-sulfur batteries are already been used commercially in limited applications but the “critical killer” in the chemistry is that the sulfur starts to dissolve and creates polysulfide shuttling effect. Polysulfide shuttling is the primary cause of failure in lithium-sulfur (Li-S) battery cycling. To solve the problem, the research team was experimenting with a synthetic binder that holds all the active materials in a battery cell together.

A binder is like a glue and battery makers want this glue to be inert. The synthetic polymer Liu experimented with, worked remarkably well. The reason is, by chemically reacting with the sulfur, the binder formed a covalent bonding structure and was able to stop it from dissolving. This finding motivated the researchers to find a natural material that would do the same thing. Finally, they discovered that carrageenan has similar chemical properties as the synthetic polymer they used in their initial experiments.

Bekley Lab's researcher is working with advanced light source
Berkley Lab’s researcher is working with advanced light source

With this discovery to stabilize lithium-sulfur batteries­ Liu now wants to improve the lifetime of lithium-sulfur batteries even further. The target of the researchers is to get thousands of cycles from lithium-sulfur chemistry. They are striving to find answers to questions like after this polymer binds with sulfur, what happens next? How does it react with sulfur, and is it reversible? Liu said,

Understanding that will allow us to be able to develop better ways to further improve the life of lithium-sulfur batteries.

As lithium-sulfur batteries are much more lightweight, cheaper, and have higher energy density compared to lithium-ion batteries, they are ideal for airplanes and drones. Hence, Berkeley Lab researchers’ surprising discovery may be a game changer in the world of batteries.

BME680 measures pressure, humidity, temperature and indoor air quality

The BME680 measures pressure, humidity, temperature and indoor air quality. by Bosch Sensortec:

BME680 is an integrated environmental sensor developed specifically for mobile applications and wearables where size and low power consumption are key requirements. Expanding Bosch Sensortec’s existing family of environmental sensors, the BME680 integrates for the first time individual high linearity and high accuracy sensors for gas, pressure, humidity and temperature. It consists of an 8-pin metal-lid 3.0 x 3.0 x 0.95 mm³ LGA package which is designed for optimized consumption depending on the specific operating mode, long term stability and high EMC robustness.

BME680 measures pressure, humidity, temperature and indoor air quality – [Link]

Visual Studio Code Extension for Arduino is now open sourced!

Visual Studio Code is the cross-platform, open sourced advanced code editor by Microsoft.

Recently, after being interested in IoT and hardware, Microsoft is now searching for tools to make building IoT devices easier. It added an Arduino extension to its Visual Studio Code to enable a better eco-system for IoT developers using Arduino. By making some research about some challenges usually developers face, Microsoft found out that giving more access to new features and capabilities will be a pain killer for IoT enthusiasts. Later on, Microsoft had opened the source of the Arduino extension and placed it on GitHub.

 

Our Arduino extension fully embraces the Arduino developer community and is almost fully compatible and consistent with the official Arduino IDE. On top of it, we added the most sought-after features, such as IntelliSense, Auto code completion, and on-device debugging for supported boards.

Core functionalities of Arduino extension

  • IntelliSense and syntax highlighting for Arduino sketches
  • Built-in board and library manager
  • Verify and upload your sketches in Visual Studio Code
  • Built-in example list
  • Snippets for sketches
  • Built-in serial monitor
  • Automatic Arduino project scaffolding
  • Command Palette (F1) integration of frequently used commands (e.g. Verify, Upload…)
  • Integrated Arduino Debugging (New)

Of course, you can download this extension from Visual Studio Code Marketplace at: https://aka.ms/arduino.

Fortunately, Microsoft had open sourced this project on GitHub under MIT License. Thus, if you are developer, you are more than welcome to participate in developing this extension and here how you can help:

  • File a bug, submit a feature request, you can find the current bug/issue list and feature requests at GitHub’s issue tracker.
  • Join developers and users’ discussions at chat on gitter.
  • Fork the repository, fix bugs and send pull requests
  • Fork the repository, add your new cool features and send pull requests.

Finally, more detailed instructions are available at the Visual Studio Code Repo at GitHub.

Control Your IR Devices With Your Smartphone Bluetooth

Managing some of house devices with its IR remotes may be annoying if you are out of its line of sight. You will have to interrupt the work you are doing, move to another room, turn down the volume of your Hi-Fi for example, then go back and resume your work. Assume you can use bluetooth instead of this process, it will be a time saver and it will maintain your focus.

Using an Arduino UNO with IR and Bluetooth shields, you can create your own bluetooth-controlled general purpose remote control. Bluetooth is a good choice because it doesn’t need any active network to connect with a mobile device. Connection between them is direct (point-to-point) and is suitable for small areas. However, by using a wireless shield you will be able to control the devices through the internet.

A project by Open Electronics demonstrates how to build and program such a device. Its hardware side consists of an Arduino with two shields, and the software side is an Android application. The tutorial shows in details how each shield will work, and also how to setup and prepare the mobile application.

Parts needed for the project:

  • An Arduino Uno board or equivalent (e.g. Fishino Uno);
  • An ArdIR shield:An Arduino shield that allows creating a programmable infrared universal remote manageable from the Internet. It simulates the remote control of TVs, home appliances and air conditioners, by transmitting the same data to the desired.
  • A Bluetooth shield:
    A shield for Arduino based on the RN-42 module. It also has a dip switch that allows you to set up the modes of operation of the module RN-42.
  • A smartphone or tablet with Android OS (version 4.1 or higher), of course complete with a Bluetooth interface.

The mobile application is compatible with Android OS devices of version 4.1 (jellybean) and higher. It needs two phases to be handled:

  1. Research and connection to the target Bluetooth device.
  2. Selection and activating one of the channels, for transmitting the code to the shield.

Once the connection with the Bluetooth shield is established and the channel is selected, the program will be ready to handle a subsequent command by the user and will be listening to possible result messages returned by the remote Bluetooth device.

There is no need for additional hardware parts and work, you only have  to assemble both shields on the Arduino board. But before that, you have to upload a sketch to Arduino for handling the ArdIR shield and managing the communication with the Bluetooth shield.

For more information about how the project works, the structure of the application and source files, you can read the original guide.