First Thoughts on the New ROCK64 Board

Alasdair Allan @ hackster.io writes:

The original Pine A64, hailed by many as a “Raspberry Pi killer” during its crowdfunding campaign, shipped to backers to somewhat poor reviews back in 2015. However after a lot of work by the manufacturer, software support for the board is now much improved. The recent release of the Pinebook by the same team, despite some initial teething problems, proved to be a solid product for the price. So the upcoming release of their new ROCK64 board could well prove rather interesting.

First Thoughts on the New ROCK64 Board – [Link]

Prosthetics Feeling Is Now Possible With This Implantable Chip By Imec

Imec, the world-leading research and innovation hub in nano-electronics and digital technology, announced last month its prototype implantable chip that aims to give patients more intuitive control over their arm prosthetics. The thin-silicon chip is said to be world’s first for electrode density. Creating a closed-loop system for future-generation haptic prosthetics technology is the aim of researchers.

What is special about this chip?

The already available prosthestics are efficient and have their own key features; like giving amputees the ability to move their artificial arm and hand to grasp and manipulate objects. This is done by reading out signals from the person’s muscles or peripheral nerves to control electromotors in the prosthesis. Good news is that revolutionary features are coming! The future prosthetics will provide amputees with rich sensory content. This can be done by delivering precise electrical patterns to the person’s peripheral nerves using implanted electrode interfaces.

The goal behind working on this new technique is to create a new peripheral nerve interfaces with greater channel count, electrode density, and information stability according to Rizwan Bashirullah, director of the University of Florida’s IMPRESS program (Implantable Multimodal Peripheral Recording and Stimulation System)

Fabricated amazingly in a small scale!

A prototype of ultrathin (35µm) chip with a biocompatible, hermetic and flexible packaging is now available. On its surface are 64 electrodes, with a possible extension to 128. This large amount of electrodes is used for fine-grained stimulation and recording. As the short video shows, the researchers will insert the package and attach it to a nerve bundle using an attached needle which will give better results compared to other solutions usually wrapped around nerve bundles.

“Our expertise in silicon neuro-interfaces made imec a natural fit for this project, where we have reached an important milestone for future-generation haptic prosthetics,” commented Dries Braeken, R&D manager and project manager of IMPRESS at imec. “These interfaces allow a much higher density of electrodes and greater flexibility in recording and stimulating than any other technology. With the completion of this prototype and the first phase of the project, we look forward to the next phase where we will make the prototype ready for long-term implanted testing.”

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Biological Technologies Office sponserd this work of University of Florida researchers under the auspices of Dr. Doug Weber through the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center. For more details about this topic check this article.

Meet Bean: The Ultimate Consumer SLA 3D Printer

Kudo3D Inc. is a startup company dedicated to bringing 3D printing technologies to consumers. It released the first generation 3D printer, the Titan 1, via a very successful Kickstarter campaign in 2014. Since then, they launched their second generation printers, the Titan 2 and Titan 2 HR. Now, they are releasing Bean 3D printer, the ultimate SLA printer for consumers.

Bean 3D printer  is a high resolution, affordable, and reliable resin SLA printer created with the consumer in mind. The quality  of resin printers with the affordability of FDM printers are the key features of Bean! The stylish 3D printer is green from inside and outside; its green cover makes it look so elegant and the embedded LEDs allow a greener energy consumption and longer lifetime. It is also affordable since the team had combined their PSP (passive self-peeling) technology with an ultra-high resolution LCD panel bringing the cost down.

This 3D printer has dimensions of 8 inch x 8 inch x 16 inch (20 cm x 20 cm x 40 cm) and  it weighs only 15 pounds (6.67 Kg), thus the Bean fits well in any office, studio and workshop environment. Bean can print at 50 micron XY resolution (capable of 10 microns Z layer thickness) with a maximum printing area of 2.7 inch x 4.7 inch (12.1 cm x 6.8 cm) and a build height of 5.9 inch (15 cm).
Jewelry printed by Bean

What is special about this 3D printer?

“Instead of using laser or DLP to generate patterns, the Bean has a high resolution 2K LCD panel coupled with a purple 405nm LED lamp to project slices of a 3D model onto the floor of resin container. The average power consumption of the Bean is only 50W which is one of the lowest.”
They developed a special 3DSR high resolution resins and have thoroughly formulated them for different applications.
You can get your own Bean now from the outstanding Kickstarter campaign for $399 including a 250mL bottle of resin, a resin container and a starter kit.
The campaign still has 29 days to go and it has already achieved 883% of its funds! Check out the campaign video here.

Ultra-low-noise, high PSRR, 0.5A negative rail LDO

By Graham Prophet @ eedesignnewseurope.com:

Analog Devices has added to its range of linear voltage regulator chips intended for stabilising supply rails to the most noise-sensitive active devices such as ADCs, DACs and precision/instrumentation amplifiers, that operate from negative voltage rails.

Ultra-low-noise, high PSRR, 0.5A negative rail LDO – [Link]

DIYODE—New Magazine for Electronics Enthusiasts

Interest in magazines has declined in the age of social media and blogging. However, some people are somewhat skeptical about the future of this industry, especially the printed magazines.

But surprisingly, a story published on EEVBlog forum about a new 100-page-long Australian magazine called DIYODE targets electronics enthusiasts with a printed and a digital edition seems to grab attention.

 

The first issue will be published on July 1st, 2017, and preorders are open for the first issue.
$7 for digital edition, and $10 for the printed one. Another option can save you some money is the annual subscription.
The new magazine is open for electronics hobbyist to submit their project ideas. If they like it, they will publish it. You can submit it using DIYODE website.

Sample of DIYODE content. Image adapted from an EEVBlog youtube video
Sample of DIYODE content. Image adapted from an EEVBlog YouTube video

The content will be around: community-submitted projects, DIY new projects, fundamental knowledge tips and thought-provoking ideas. Anyway, David from EEVBlog reviewed an exclusive early copy of it. You can watch the video to see some actual content before subscribing to the new magazine.

 

WD PiDrive Node Zero – A low-energy hard drive coupled with a Pi Zero

The WD PiDrive Node Zero is a compact, all-in-one unit that includes a WD PiDrive connected to a Raspberry Pi Zero through a custom adapter board with 2 USB ports. This unit offers an affordable, low-power storage node with an onboard computer. Suitable for data logging, offline analytics, and applications where stand-alone operation are required due to network or privacy-related limitations restrictions.

The PiDrive is Western Digital Corporation‘s low-energy hard drive, designed particularly for the Raspberry Pi. It replaces the regular SATA III port with a micro-USB connection. It’s a compact combination of USB hub, Pi Zero and 2.5″ hard drive that could easily be VESA (Video Electronics Standards Association) mounted behind a screen or tucked away in a neat case.

WD PiDrive Node Zero Exploded View
WD PiDrive Node Zero Exploded View

The WD PiDrive Node Zero comes with a 4GB microSD preloaded with a customized version of the popular NOOBS (New Out of Box Software). On first boot, Raspbian gets installed in the primary hard disk and not on the 4GB microSD. The SD card boots the device, but you run it from the hard drive. So you do not have to switch between the two drives.

Western Digital suggests this device as:

Ideal for video recording, data logging, offline analytics, and applications where stand-alone operations are needed because of network limitations or privacy/security restrictions.

As the Pi Zero has neither onboard WiFi module nor ethernet connector, you have only two options for taking a PiDrive Node Zero online. Either add a USB-to-Ethernet adapter and hook up to a wired network or use a USB WiFi dongle to access WiFi connection. The newer Pi Zero W has onboard WiFi chip. So, you can replace the Pi zero of WD PiDrive with a Pi Zero W to gain easier WiFi access.

The WD PiDrive Node Zero kit comes with the following:

  • WD PiDrive 314GB
  • Raspberry Pi Zero
  • USB Adapter board (PCBA) with full sized ports
  • 4GB microSD card (with preloaded software)
  • Mini HDMI adapter cable
WD Pi Drive Node Zero Kit
WD Pi Drive Node Zero Kit

Once you are connected to a network, you can make amazing DIY projects like data logging weather station, JukeBox with something like Volumio or PiMiusicBox for streaming your whole music collection, mini-DLNA and Samba file server, mobile backup device and much more.

Conclusion: Out of the box, this product runs fantastically. The inclusion of the customized NOOBS installer was a smart move and makes installation a lot easier. Disassembling the unit is not at all user-friendly and the lack of networking option is a limiting factor. But it remains a charming and handy piece of kit.

New Batteries with 3 & 15 Times Energy Density

With the rapid growth of battery-based devices and tools, efficient energy storage systems are becoming more and more important. Of course there are many researches running around the world working on novel battery technologies. Two new cell technologies are working to deliver energy density of 3 and 15 times of conventional lithium cells.

The first is a group of scientists from Rice University, they solved the dendrite problem of commercial lithium-ion batteries providing a three times capacity rechargeable lithium metal battery. Dendrites are whiskers of lithium that grow inside batteries, and they can cause fires like those in the Samsung Galaxy Note 7. They are considered a major issue for next-generation lithium batteries.

Lithium metal coats the hybrid graphene and carbon nanotube anode in a battery created at Rice University. The lithium metal coats the three-dimensional structure of the anode and avoids forming dendrites. Courtesy of the Tour Group.
Lithium metal coats the hybrid graphene and carbon nanotube anode in a battery created at Rice University. The lithium metal coats the three-dimensional structure of the anode and avoids forming dendrites. Courtesy of the Tour Group.

The main idea of the research is to coat high conductive hybrid graphene and carbon nanotubes with metallic lithium. These low density and high surface area nanotubes have space for lithium particles to slip in and out as the battery charges and discharges.

“Lithium-ion batteries have changed the world, no doubt, but they’re about as good as they’re going to get. Your cellphone’s battery won’t last any longer until new technology comes along.”  – James Tour, leader of the research team

A prototype of a battery with 3.351 Ah/g capacity, retains 80% of the original capacity after 500 charge cycles.

In Japan, and especially at the NIMS (National Institute for Materials Science), another research is working to create a Lithium-air battery that has the highest theoretical energy density because it uses oxygen in air. Its capacity reaches 15 times of the conventional Lithium batteries.

The electrode material has an enormous surface area thanks to ​​carbon nanotubes. Researchers achieved 30 mAh/cm² capacity in the lab, which will be amazing if realized in a commercial product. Work is ongoing to produce real practical samples with high energy density and a system to filter impurities from the air.

Source: Elektor

MP3 Module & RTC DS1307 Shield For 28/40 Pin PIC Development Board

MP3 Shield has been designed for various applications related to voice record and play using MP3 module with memory card storage, this shield can be used as standalone mode or Digital mode by serial interface. In standalone mode it can play 16 messages with couple of other functions, Standalone operation possible by connecting resistors and push switches on ADC pins of the module check data sheet for switch connections. Digital mode provides full control of messages with serial interface. Shield also has DS1307 RTC on board to develop a taking clock or other time related applications. Board has dual audio outputs, single channel 3W direct speaker output from MP3 Module and On board 5W Stereo Amplifier based on BA5406 provided to Amplify low audio signal coming from MP3 module. 4 Tact switch with open header connector can be interface to any port of micro-controller using female to female wire harness. RC6, RC7 and RC5 pin connected to micro-controller for serial interface. DS1307 RTC pins are connected to RA0 and RA1 Port pins. Refer to datasheet for Module Serial Interface, switch connections circuit for stand-alone mode.

MP3 Module & RTC DS1307 Shield For 28/40 Pin PIC Development Board – [Link]

ERASynth, An Arduino-Compatible RF Signal Generator

A young startup based in Istanbul has launched a crowdfunding campaign to bring its RF Signal Generator “ERASynth” into mass production. ERA Instruments is specializing in creating solutions in the areas of analysis, modelling, design and development of Communcation, RADAR and SIGINT systems.

ERASynth is a portable analog signal generator that generates RF frequencies from 250 kHz to 15 GHz. The output signal is produced using an advanced multiloop PLL architecture to minimize the phase noise and spurious. This clean signal can be used as a stimulus source for RF testing, an LO source for down-conversion or up-conversion, a clock source for data converters, and as a test signal source for software defined radio (SDR).

ERASynth Features & Specifications

  • Architecture: Multiloop Integer-N PLL driven by a tunable reference. No fractional-N or integer boundary spurs
  • Frequency Range:
    • ERASynth: 10 MHz to 6 GHz
    • ERASynth+: 250 kHz to 15 GHz
  • Amplitude Range: -60 to +15 dBm
  • Phase Noise: typical phase noise @ 1 GHz output and 10 kHz offset. -120 dBc/Hz for the standard version and -125 dBc/Hz the plus version.
  • Frequency Switching Time: 100 µs
  • Reference: Ultra-low noise 100 MHz VCXO locked to a ±0.5 ppm TCXO for standard version and ±25 ppb OCXO for the plus one.
  • MCU: Arduino Due board with BGA package Atmel Microcontroller (ATSAM3X8EA-CU)
  • Interfaces:
    • Wi-Fi interface for web-based GUI access
    • Serial-USB (mini USB) for serial access
    • Micro USB for power input
    • Trigger Input (SMA) for triggered sweep
    • REF In (SMA) for external reference input
    • REF Out (SMA) for 10 MHz reference output
    • RF Out
  • Dimensions: 10 cm x 14.5 cm x 2 cm
  • Weight: < 350 g (12.5 oz)
  • Power Input: 5 to 12 V
  • Power Consumption:
    • < 6 W for ERASynth
    • < 7 W for ERASynth+
  • Enclosure: Precision-milled, nickel-plated aluminum case
  • Open Source: Schematics, embedded Arduino code, Web GUI source code, and RS-232 command set

ERASynth is only 10 x 14.5 x 2 cm sized and it is consuming less than 7 Watts. It can be powered by a cell phone power-bank. Inclusion of an on-board Wi-Fi module and an open source web GUI makes ERASynth ideal for portable applications. Also its price make it affordable by everyone including makers, students, universities, research labs, and startups.

Compared with other low cost USB signal generators, ERASynth provides better features in many factors. It also delivers similar functionality of the professional RF signal generator with lower price. The tables below demonstrate the comparison.

The crowdfunding campaign on Crowd Supply will be closed by tomorrow, they raised about $35,000 of $25,000 goal. You can order your ERASynth for $500 and ERASynth+ for $750. More technical details are available on the campaign page.

Low-profile antennas can be mounted on metal surfaces

Julien Happich @ eedesignnewseurope.com discuss about a new low-profile 2.4GHz antenna that can be mounted on metal surfaces:

Antenova is shipping its first 2.4GHz antenna from its new Reflector series. The Zenon has been engineered to operate without de-tuning on metal surfaces or where the product housing is mainly metal.

The Reflector antennas are formed of two layers, one electrically isolated from the other, so as to provide RF shielding to the second layer. This means that the antenna can be placed on any kind of material and it will radiate effectively in the direction pointing away from the base material.

Low-profile antennas can be mounted on metal surfaces – [Link]