Maker Uno – The $6 Arduino Uno Clone Board for Students and Learners

Unless you are completely new to electronics, you probably must have heard of the household name called “Arduino”. Arduino is an open-source platform used for building electronics projects and one that pioneered the open-source hardware and the DIY maker’s movement. Arduino can sense the environment by receiving input from a variety of sensors and can affect its surrounding by controlling lights, motors, and other actuators. The microcontroller on the Arduino is programmed using the Arduino programming language which you can program to do so many things like switch on your lights when you walk in or send an alert when there is an intruder in your house.

The Arduino Uno is one of the first boards of the Arduino Family and that which fully sparked the Arduino Revolution. The success of this boards in teaching kids, students, enthusiast and even engineers has led to drastic replication of it, often called Arduino Clones or Arduino Compatible board. Arduino Clones are basically Arduino lookalike boards that perform almost the same functionality with the real Arduino but not made by the Arduino team. Some of these Arduino clones comes at a very lesser cost as compared to the $25 of the official Arduino Uno, some even as low as $3.

Maker Uno is another Arduino Compatible board released by Malaysia based Cytron Technologies, having launched their first Arduino Uno clone board “Ct Uno” about three years ago. The Maker Uno is purple in color and retails for just $6. It shares close similarities with the standard Arduino Uno with just some few differences. Its termed to be a board designed for students learning coding and microcontroller for the first time. The name Maker is to encourage everyone to be a maker and start building things.

As the Arduino Uno, the Maker Uno is based on the popular Atmega 328P microcontroller can be programmed via it’s USB port. It is also based on the includes standard female headers – means it will easily support most Arduino based Shields.

The traditional DC Jack on the Arduino Uno has been removed from the Maker Uno board and the obviously 5V linear regulator, so the Maker Uno board can only be powered by 5V from the micro USB port or the 5V header pin. It includes a piezo buzzer connected to pin 8 for audio outputs with a selectable switch to disable the buzzer, a micro USB port as compared to the Arduino Uno USB B connector, and a programmable push button. Aside from the standard LED on pin 13, Maker-UNO comes with a programmable LED on every digital pin, from pin D0 to D13.

Maker-UNO combines the simplicity of the UNO Optiboot bootloader the stability of the low-cost FTDI CH340 chip and the R3 shield compatibility of the latest Arduino UNO R3.

The following are some of the Maker Uno Features:

  • SMD ATmega328P microcontroller(the same microcontroller on Arduino UNO) with Optiboot (UNO) Bootloader
  • USB Programming facilitated by the CH340
  • Input voltage: USB 5V, from computer, power bank or standard USB adapter
  • 500mA (maximum) 3.3V voltage regulator
  • 0-5V outputs with 3.3V compatible inputs
  • 14 Digital I/O Pins (6 PWM outputs)
  • 6 Analog Inputs
  • ISP 6-pin Header
  • 32k Flash Memory
  • 16MHz Clock Speed
  • R3 Shield Compatible
  • LED array for 5V, 3.3V, TX, RX and all digital pins
  • Utilize USB Micro-B socket
  • Purple PCB!

The Maker Uno is a great board for getting started with coding and electronics. Unlike the Arduino Uno, to start development with the Maker Uno, you will first need to install the CH340 driver first. The Maker Uno is available for purchase at Tindie and Cytron. You can kickstart your Maker Uno board adventure from here.

UPDATE 26/03/2018 – 

The Maker Uno board is live on Kickstart for crowdfunding here and has 22 days to go.

Iota V2 – Gyroscope Sensor in tiny dimensions

De Martin Cote @ kickstarter.com designed v2 of his gyroscope sensor that is able to track movement on 3-axis. The new board is smaller, lighter, cheaper and has PPM output to connect on your RC remote control. He writes:

Here is the evolution of my successful Gyroscope Sensor. Now smaller, lighter, cheaper and with optional PPM output.

Even more perfect for FPV head tracking, robotics, movement control and why not video games. Based on ATmega328P microcontroller, the 3 axis motion sensor gyroscope allows you to track the movement of the head or arm and replicate it to servos. For Do It Yourself (DIY) home project lover who dreams of doing a head tracking system FPV themselves cheaply.

This system has been specially designed for DIY in electronics or robotics for students to explore electronics or who want their own system, but are less comfortable with advanced programming of accelerometers. You can use one or more axes (X, Y, Z) independently. According to your needs.

Iota V2 – Gyroscope Sensor in tiny dimensions – [Link]

Xilinx Zynq UltraScale+ SoC module smaller than a credit card

by Julien Happich @ eenewseurope.com:

Enclustra’s Mercury+ XU1 is the company’s fastest SoC module based on the Xilinx Zynq UltraScale+ MPSoC. The 74×54mm board accommodates 6 ARM cores, a Mali 400MP2 GPU, up to 4 GB of extremely fast DDR4 ECC SDRAM, numerous standard interfaces, 294 user I/Os and up to 747,000 LUT4 equivalents – all on an area smaller than a credit card.

Built-in interfaces include two Gigabit Ethernet, USB 3.0 and USB 2.0, sixteen MGTs (with speeds of up to 12.5 Gbps), as well as PCIe Gen2 x4. With up to 4 GB of DDR4 SDRAM with bandwidths of 19.2 GByte/s and ECC, as well as 16 GB eMMC flash memory, the Mercury+ XU1 will handle even the heaviest of resource-hogging applications. The module is available in both commercial and industrial temperature ranges, and needs just a single 5-15 V supply for operation.

Xilinx Zynq UltraScale+ SoC module smaller than a credit card – [Link]

Researcher Create More Lifelike Soft Robots That Can Mimic Biological Muscle

A group of researchers from the University of Colorado in Boulder (US) is working on the next generation of robots. Instead of the metallic droids concept, these robots are made from soft materials that are more similar to biological systems. Such soft robots hold a huge potential for future applications. They can adjust to dynamic environments and also suitable for close human interaction. Christoph Keplinger from the University of Colorado said,

We draw our inspiration from the astonishing capabilities of biological muscle,

The soft devices, including the muscle actuator, can perform a variety of tasks
The soft robots, including the muscle actuator, can perform a variety of tasks

The newly developed class of soft, electrically activated devices are capable of simulating the expansion and contraction of actual muscles. These devices can be constructed from a wide range of low-cost materials. They are able to self-sense their movements and self-heal from electrical damage.

They developed hydraulically amplified self-healing electrostatic (HASEL) actuators which eliminate the bulky, rigid pistons, valves, pumps and motors of conventional robots. The soft structures of HASEL react to applied voltage with a wide range of movement. According to the study published in the journal Science Robotics on January 5, these flexible robots can perform a variety of tasks. They can handle delicate objects like raspberry or raw egg, as well as lift heavy objects. Keplinger said,

HASEL actuators synergize the strengths of soft fluidic and soft electrostatic actuators, and thus combine versatility and performance like no other artificial muscle before,

He also added,

Just like a biological muscle, HASEL actuators can reproduce the adaptability of an octopus arm, the speed of a hummingbird and the strength of an elephant.

HASEL actuators can simulate the strength, speed, flexibility, and efficiency of biological muscle which may enable artificial muscles for human-like robots. HASEL can make next generation of prosthetic limbs more cost-effective and reliable. This is an important step forwards for soft robotics.

The team is already working on new HASEL actuators that would work with five times lower voltage levels than those described in the studies. The voltage published in the papers is similar to the low-current shock one might get from static electricity, and it’s not hazardous to humans.

The work of this researchers promises a huge improvement in the world of robotics and prosthetic limbs. Their dream is to create robotics that is lifelike. More information can be found in an article appeared in Science recently.

Asus Tinker Board S is a Raspberry Pi Competitor at $79.99

Asus, the Taiwanese computer and electronics household name, in February last year entered into the maker’s world with their introduction of the original Tinker Board. The Original Tinker Boards was believed to out-sit the household Raspberry Pi, even though the original tinker board was way better than the Raspberry Pi in all aspect of hardware functionality, it was lacking in the software and community department. Raspberry Pi is great not for it’s easy to use hardware but mostly for its community. In the maker’s world, the community is the most important thing and this is where Raspberry Pi and the like of Arduino has excelled excellently.

The Asus Tinker Board S

Fast forward to 2018, Asus is back with a new and expected more powerful board called the “Tinker Board S”.  The new and improved Tinker Board S is a single board computer (SBC) that offers greater durability, better stability and an overall improved user experience for DIY enthusiasts and makers everywhere.

Announced at the CES 2018, the Tinker Board S is a single board computer that looks like the Raspberry Pi form factor, but with an overall improved board. As with the original Tinker Board, the Tinker Board S comes in a flashy looking dark board. The S board is equipped with the same Rockchip RK3288 quad-core cortex processor on the original Tinkerboard running at 1.8Ghz, compared to the quad-core 1.2GHz Broadcom processor in the Raspberry Pi 3.

The Tinker Board S comes with a lot of built-in storage and comes with a whopping 16GB of eMMC storage, enough to install an Android or Linux operating system and still have free space left. The S board also includes a microSD card slot, so you can always increase the storage as you like. The S board has 2GB of RAM memory based on the faster DDR3 technology, a double of the 1GB of the Raspberry Pi 3, and the slower DDR2.

Tinker Board S Specs

Like ASUS’ previous board, the new Tinker Board S has a 40-pin GPIO color-coded header block compatible with the Raspberry Pi. and comes with 4 USB 2.0 ports. For better user experience, Tinker Board S is HDMI-CEC-ready for complete video entertainment, with which you can control the hacker board and TV with a single remote. It can handle a 4K display at 30fps using the onboard HDMI jack.

The Tinker Board S also features a Gigabit Ethernet for internet and network connectivity. Just like the Raspberry Pi 3, the S board comes integrated with an onboard Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. The S boards include an integrated IPEX antenna header to which allows for easy antenna replacement or upgrades.

The Tinker Board S is the latest in a long line of more powerful alternatives to the Raspberry Pi, and if you are just getting started with single board computers (SBC), the Raspberry Pi 3 is going to be the best choice. The S board is expected to be available in early 2018 with a price tag of $79.99. For more information about the Asus Tinker Board S, visit the official product page here.

1kW bidirectional DC-DC converter with credit card footprint

Diamond Electric in Japan has designed a 1kW isolated bidirectional DC-DC converter (IBDC) inverter using gallium nitride (GaN) devices that is the size of a credit card. by Nick Flaherty @ eenewseurope.com:

The technology can substantially reduce the weight and size of DC-DC converters for rechargeable batteries in electric vehicles (EVs) and smart grids as well as uninterruptible power supplies (UPS).

The IBDC combines both charger and discharger circuits with a patented control architecture with switching up to 2MHz and a current range of -3.7 to +3.7A for the 270V to 330V input and output. This has enabled smaller magnetics for a footprint of 93.5 mm x 60 mm x 10.5 mm, excluding the control circuit and heatsink, a quarter the size of the existing designs.

As well as enabling the higher frequency, the use of GaN power devices allows a conversion efficiency of 95%.

1kW bidirectional DC-DC converter with credit card footprint – [Link]

JuiceBox Zero: Easiest way to power a Pi Zero with a battery

You have a Raspberry Pi project, but it’s no good stuck to a wall! JuiceBox Zero is the simplest way to properly power your Pi Zero. by Samuel Anderson @ kickstarter.com:

I had an amazing project for Raspberry Pi that needed to be battery powered. I searched and found a few boards that served the purpose.  Unfortunately, they were a bit cumbersome, and sadly, they weren’t “plug-n-play” with Raspberry Pi!

When the Pi Zero was released, I instantly saw the potential its tiny form factor provided for truly mobile inventions. But to be truly mobile, it can’t be tethered to a power source. Just imagine how useless a smartphone would be if it had to be plugged into the wall!

The project is live on kickstarter and available for funding.

Researchers Of RMIT University Develops Swalloable Gas Sensors That Can Improve Your Diet

Researchers led by Kourosh Kalantar-Zadeh, at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia have developed the first intestinal gas-diagnosing pill to be tested in human. During the study, which was published on January 8 in Nature Electronics, the swallowable gas sensors were tested in seven healthy participants who ate low and high-fiber diets.

Swallowable gas sensors can improve your diet
Swallowable gas sensors can improve your diet

This ‘smart’ capsule is capable of measuring levels of Oxygen, Hydrogen, and Carbon dioxide as it travels through the intestines of human beings. It sends the data in real-time to a device like a smartphone. This electronic pill can shape custom diets for optimal stomach health. Also, it can help doctors to distinguish between the early signs of different Gastrointestinal disorders, such as malabsorption syndrome, Crohn’s disease, colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, and even colon cancer.

On its surface, the gas capsule looks like a swallowable capsule with the outer most layer made of polyethylene. But within its inch-long shell, there are two gas sensors, a temperature sensor, a microcontroller, a radio-frequency transmitter, and button-sized silver-oxide batteries. The gas sensors are sealed within a specialized membrane that allows gas in but completely keeps stomach acid and digestive juices out.

It determines gas profiles in the stomach by controlling the heating elements of the sensors. Since oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon dioxide all have heat conductivity, the sensors can accurately determine the levels of these gases by taking measurements at multiple temperature points.

The levels of oxygen-containing molecules picked up by the sensors told the researchers where the pill was located within the stomach. That’s because Oxygen concentrations drop over the journey of the 30-foot long digestive tract. The stomach is very oxygen-rich while the colon is nearly anaerobic. Kalantar-Zadeh and his team confirmed the accuracy of this results by imaging the pills directly with ultrasound.

Using an algorithm, the information coming from the sensors is processed and then the signal is relayed in real-time to a small receiver that has a range of up to 100 feet. The receiver can store or transmit the data via Bluetooth to a smartphone, which can post the data online for easy monitoring by users and doctors.

This trial not only revealed the safety and effectiveness of a swallowable sensor — it revealed something remarkable about the stomach itself as well.

milliDelta Robot- High speed and Precision in a Compact Design

Delta robots are machines with three arms designed to move at high speeds and perform precise tasks. The three arms are connected to a universal join at the base, and the device uses parallelograms that restrict the movement avoiding rotation. As a result, they can move in x, y, and z plane and have high acceleration because it’s made of a light material. They gained popularity in factories for assembly and packaging, so modern devices have been designed to move in more degrees of freedom at accelerations as high as 100 g picking up to 300 items per minute.

The milliDelta robot designed by Harvard’s Wyss Institute measures 15 mm x 15 mm x 20 mm which makes it lighter. As it weights less, the force needed to move it is smaller causing a huge increase in speed. The device uses piezoelectric actuators that allow the milliDelta to move at up to 75 Hz, and the precision is down to 5 micrometers. The developing team proved that milliDelta can operate in a workspace of about 7 cubic millimeters and has a payload capacity of 3 times its mass which helps optimize spaces in factories where thousands of these devices are used to perform tasks in sequence.

The robot was designed for micro- assembly and microsurgery. Many times, in medical situations speed is a key factor for saving someone´s life, and the milliDelta can achieve speeds that humans cannot. The device is clearly not a replacement for medical professionals, it is a tool to perform faster and more precise procedures. Additionally, the precision could allow for less invasive operations. For electronics manufacturing, the milliDelta is a game changer in time spent a production, and in mistakes made in assembly. This delta robots could be used for 3d printing which for some applications requires micrometer precision, and could reduce printing times significantly.

The device has proven to be 15 to 20 times faster than commercial delta robots, and even though it cannot do any heavy lifting it could revolutionize the industries mentioned before. Delta robots are expanding to new industries which means that we may soon see them performing completely different tasks at different situations while maintaining their characteristics properties such as smooth, precise, and fast movement. Harvard’s delta robot is not currently for sale.

[source]

Sensirion Presents Pressure-Resistant Mass Flow Meter

The SFM4200 mass flow meter is a new star in the Sensirion range. Thanks to its high pressure resistance, it can be operated at pressures of up to 8 bar and measures flow rates up to 160 slm with a rapid signal processing time of 0.5 ms. It is particularly suitable for gas mixing in medical applications.

Sensirion is one of the leading manufacturers of innovative sensors and sensor solutions that millions of people rely on every day. With the launch of the SFM4200 digital mass flow meter, Sensirion has once again underscored its commitment to innovation. The SF4200, which measures air, oxygen and other non-corrosive gases with an outstanding level of accuracy, is pressure-resistant than its predecessors and can be operated up to 8 bar pressure, while delivering reliable and precise measurements. With a signal processing time of 0.5 ms, the sensor is incredibly fast, as well as highly accurate. Its pressure resistance makes it ideally suited to high-volume medical applications such as oxygen gas mixing in respiratory applications, where the sensor is integrated into the high-pressure side. Customers can therefore install the SFM4200 flexibly, allowing them to use it to significantly develop their own products or to transform the design. (more…)