Pulurobot – An Open Source Heavy Load Bearing Application Robot Powered by the Raspberry Pi

If you have seen the starship delivery robots by Starship Technologies, you will know how cool delivery robot can be. Pulurobotics have released a set of low-cost opensource robots that are capable of carrying heavy loads and can be reconfigured to do several tasks.

Pulurobots
Pulurobots

Application robots are robots that can be configured to do several tasks. The Finish based company Pulurobotics have launched the Pulu set of robots called Pulurobots. Just like the way we have the Starship robot and other delivery robot, Pulurobots are low cost (low cost as compared to other robots), load bearing (can carry a payload of over 100kg), and are autonomous robots. Pulurobot can be used as – a delivery boy, a recycle bin, a nightguard, telepresence, shopping carrier, and many more.

The Affordable autonomous open source mobile robot is set to be published at Fosdem 2018, at the ULB Solbosch Campus in Belgium on Sunday 4th February 2018. At the heart of pulurobots is the Raspberry Pi, it needs one Raspberry Pi for navigation and communication with RobotBoard but can feed up to five Raspberries if you need more power or multiple Operating Systems to your application. The robot does Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM), charges automatically and fulfills the definition of an autonomous mobile robot.

Pulurobot was built from the ground up and doesn’t use ROS (Robots Operating System), even though it is compatible with it. Pulurobot comes in three models:

  • Pulurobot S
  • Pulurobot M
  • Pulurobot L

The Pulurobot S is the smallest version of the robot family with a footprint of about 400 x 300mm, Pulurobot S is capable of carrying over 50Kg of load, tested with 58Kg. Based on the same software and controller board that powers the other robots, Pulurobot S is ideal for applications that require small spaces or offices and a perfect fit for homes.

pulurobots parts
pulurobots parts

Pulurobot M is a medium size agile robot and comes in size of 650mm x 470mm with height 230mm and 304mm from the ground. It is powered by 2 pcs of 300W 24V BLDC wheel hub motor, uses LIDAR for navigating and mapping, 4 x 3D TOF (Timer of Flight) cameras and sonar sensors for obstacles. Pulurobot M is capable of carrying over 90 Kg of load, tested with about 118Kg and found no mechanical problems. It is meant to be an application platform. If you need more batteries for your application, you can stack it onto the robot. Inside the robot is a space for 240Wh 18650 battery array, but can easily accommodate around 1KWh on the chassis.

Pulurobots Sonar Sensors and Controller Board
Pulurobots Sonar Sensors and Controller Board

The following are some specification of the Pulurobot M:

  • Controller board
    • MCU – STM32 microcontroller for sensor management & low-level navigation
    • SBC – Slot for Raspberry Pi 2 or 3 for running mapping (SLAM)
    • Connectivity – WiFi and/or 3G/4G
    • Sensor –  MEMS gyroscope, accelerometer, compass
    • Motor controllers –   4pcs BLDC motor controllers, 700W peak, to support four-wheel drive computation
    • Power Supply – 5V/10A
    • Charger – 100W Lithium-ion charger
  • Vision
    • 2D 360 degree LIDAR
    •  Low-cost off-the-shelf 3D Time-of-Flight camera (SoftKinetic DepthSense) for mapping close obstacles
  • Chassis
    • Riveted, laser-cut aluminum chassis
    • Robust suspension: always four wheels on the ground
    • Two-wheel drive, BLDC hub motors (similar to hoverboards)
    • Supports at 90kg when moving, mechanical structure can withstand a lot more 
  • Battery – 18650-based lithium ion battery
  • Charging –  Can find and mount to its charger automatically

Pulurobot L is the largest of all the Pulurobot series and is expected to carry around 300Kg load. Pulurbot is currently not yet available, still on the drawing board. Pulurobot L will find applications in industries.

While most of the robots are still under development and labeled to be open source, they haven’t yet released their SW-HW design to the public domain yet. It is quite possible that their design could be available after the publication on 4th of February.  The Pulu S is available and will be available for pre-order for 999.00 EUR only during the Fosdem event, the Pulu M is available for purchase at about 3000 EUR, with delivery taking about 2 months.

Pulurobots could be a game changer in the robotics industries and could help foster more innovation, with the hope of bringing down the cost of building small but yet powerful robots in the future.

USB Armory: Open Source USB Stick Computer

An open source USB stick computer for security applications.

The USB Armory is full-blown computer (800MHz ARM® processor, 512MB RAM) in a tiny form factor (65mm x 19mm x 6mm USB stick) designed from the ground up with information security applications in mind. Not only does the USB Armory have native support for many Linux distributions, it also has a completely open hardware design and a breakout prototyping header, making it a great platform on which to build other hardware.

Features

USB Armory: Open Source USB Stick Computer – [Link]

PIXO Pixel – An ESP32 Based IoT RGB Display

PIXO Pixel uses an ESP32 to control a matrix of 256(16×16) RGB LEDs. It is an IoT device that can display information via Wifi and BLE.

The PIXO Pixel is an open source RGB display that uses the very cool, APA102-2020 Addressable LED in a 16 x 16 array. These LEDs are very fast, bright, and tiny; only 2mm x 2mm! Controlling the LED matrix is an ESP32 which is a WiFi and BLE connected microcontroller than can be programmed using the Arduino IDE(Or MicroPython!). Together these make up a very cool desktop display that you can program to do pretty much anything you want. There is also an added proto board for if you want to add more components like an accelerometer, thermometer, light sensor, potentiometer, anything!

PIXO Pixel – An ESP32 Based IoT RGB Display – [Link]

PMOD HAT Adapter Expansion for the Raspberry Pi

In the ever-increasing uses cases for the Raspberry Pi, one major way to add an extra functionality to the Raspberry Pi is making use of Pmod Modules. Pmod devices or modules are trademarks of Digilent Inc. They are set of small input and output interface boards that can be used to extend the capabilities of a development board.

PMod HAT Adapter

The teams from DesignSpark and RS Components has released a $15 expansion board called the Pmod HAT, that allows the functionality of Pmod modules be added to the Raspberry Pi in an easy plug and play manner. The DesignSpark Pmod (Peripheral Modules) HAT allows one to interface the Raspberry Pi with any one of the multitudes of diverse Digilent Pmods that are available from RS Components like the PmodAD1 (a two channel 12-bit ADC module), PmodISNS20 (a high accuracy Hall Effect current sensor), PmodOLEDrgb (an organic RGB LED module with 96×64 pixel display), and many others.

PMod modules

The Pmod HAT Adapter is a 65 x 56.5mm HAT compliant board that offers three 2 x 6 pin Pmod connections with support for I2C, SPI, UART and GPIO interfaces. The board can get its power either through the Raspberry Pi Power IO lines or via a 5V barrel power jack. The Pi HAT Adapter is compatible with the following Raspberry Pi: Raspberry Pi Model A+, Raspberry Pi Model B+, Raspberry Pi 2 B, Raspberry Pi 3 B, Raspberry Pi Zero W, and Raspberry Pi Zero.

The Pmod HAT Adapter is currently able to support up to six Pmod modules, three Pmod modules can be connected through the 3 extend Pmod interface and the rest through the additional I/O available via the Raspberry Pi 40-pin GPIO connector. It includes an EEPROM that stores a device tree fragment which is used to identify the module and configure the OS and drivers.

The board has been released with support for Python-based developers through a ton of demo tutorials and example Python Libraries hosted on DesignSpark.

Pmod HAT in use with Pmod devices

The following are the specifications of the Pi Pmod Adapter HAT

  • 5mm Follows Raspberry Pi HAT Specification
  • Provides access to full-line of Digilent Pmod Peripheral modules
  • Three Pmod ports: two SPI (JA/JB), one I2C (JB), one UART (JC), all three GPIO capable
  • SPU, UART, I2C, GPIO Connections are supported
  • 5V barrel jack for external power
  • 40-pin Raspberry Pi GPIO header
  • One power supply connector, or powered by the Pi via GPIO 5v pins
  • 16mA current limit for all PMOD GPIOs

The DesignSpark Raspberry Pi Pmod HAT Adapter is available for purchase at Digilent for $14.99 and 14 Pounds at RS-Components.

3.5A Unipolar Stepper Motor Driver

Unipolar stepper motor driver can drive unipolar stepper motor up to 3.5A and supply range is 10 To 50V DC. The board has been designed using STK672-442AEN IC.  The STK672-442AN is a hybrid IC for use as a unipolar, 2-phase stepper motor driver with PWM current control and Micro-stepping.

Features

  • Supply Up to 50V DC Input
  • Logic Supply 5V DC Input
  • Load Current 3.5Amps
  • Stepper Motor: 5 Wires, 6 Wires, 8 Wires (Unipolar)
  • Built-in over current detection function, over heat detection function (Output Off)
  • Fault 1 signal ( Active Low) is output when overcurrent or over heat is detected
  • Fault 2 signal is used to output the result of activation of protection circuit detection at 2 levels.
  • Built-in power on reset function

3.5A Unipolar Stepper Motor Driver – [Link]

Visible Things Industrial IoT Starter Kit

Simplify and secure your IoT solution with Avnet Silica’s complete evaluation and reference platform, Visible Things. It connects smart devices right to the cloud and enterprise software, and supports an ever increasing range of sensor, connectivity, gateway and security technologies. Together with Avnet Silica’s cloud, analytics, mobile and enterprise integration services, it’s a complete solution from edge to enterprise – so relax.

Avnet Silica’s Visible Things Industrial Starter Kit provides a turnkey solution based on the Renesas Synergy™ Platform, that allows you to start designing at the API level and is equipped to handle an outstanding range of connectivity tasks.

Visible Things – Key Features

  • Sensor to server security layer on top of network security
  • Quick evaluation of end application
  • Highest degree of flexibility
  • Reduces development time significantly – time saving
  • Optimised power consumption
  • Cloud ready

Renesas Synergy™ Platform – Key Elements

  • Qualified commercial-grade software with a common API
  • Scalable and compatible ARM Cortex-M based microcontrollers
  • Intuitive professional development tools and kits
  • Time-saving end-to-end solutions
  • Click-through licensing plus a collection of specialized add-on software

[Read more] – [View Datasheet]

Researches Solve Problems of Organic Thin Film Transistors By Developing Nanostructured Gate Dielectric

Amorphous silicon-based Thin-film transistors (TFTs) are the foundation of many modern-day technologies, such as smartphones and flat-panel TVs. Still, it comes with a few drawbacks like performance limitations due to limited carrier mobility. Provoking the researchers in search of something better.

As a result, Organic thin-film transistors (OTFTs) were developed. OTFTs have solved the problem with carrier mobility to an extent. Although it introduced new problems such as the critical performance parameter of large threshold voltage instabilities. Threshold voltages—also known as gate voltages—are the minimum voltage differential needed between a gate and the source to create a conducting path between the source and drain terminals.

Nanostructured Gate dielectric opens new possibilities in OTFTs

Latest works of the researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology seems to overcome the voltage instability problem with OTFTs. They have developed a nanostructured gate dielectric that can regulate voltage threshold fluctuations in OTFTs.

gate dielectric is an important component of every thin-film transistor. It acts as the electrically insulating layer between the gate terminal and the semiconductor. It should have a high dielectric constant, be very thin, and have a high dielectric strength for the transistor to function at low voltage.

On applying a voltage across the gate electrode, the resulting electric field across this insulating layer changes the density of carriers in the semiconductor layer. It regulates the current that is flowing between the source and the drain electrodes. Many different materials are used to make this insulating layer. Such as dielectric polymers, inorganic oxides or combinations of different organic and inorganic materials.

The Georgia Tech researchers used Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD) technique to build a thin metal oxide layer on top of a perfluorinated dielectric polymer. They chose ALD for its ability to produce layers that are free from any defects. Bernard Kippelen, a professor at Georgia Tech, and leader of the research said:

The low defect density reduces the diffusion of moisture into the underlying organic semiconductor layer, preventing its degradation.

The performance of the new organic thin-film transistors seems to surpass that of hydrogenated amorphous silicon technology. According to Kippelen, it revolutionizes OTFTs in terms of charge mobility and stability. He stated:

It is premature and difficult at this stage to provide a direct comparison with what is currently on the market; nevertheless, we believe that the level of stability that is achieved is an important step for printed electronics.

Before the future applications, Kippelen and his team will further investigate the mechanical properties of these printed transistors since they show great potential with flexible form factor products. Further information can be found on the Research paper published in the journal Science Advances.

R-78S switching regulator boosts a AA battery to 3.3V

Recom’s first evaluation board allows engineers to effortlessly test the functionality of the R-78S switching regulator, which boosts a AA battery or external supply voltage to 3.3V for low power IoT applications. By Julien Happich @ eenewseurope.com:

The R-78S Evaluation Board demonstrates the performance of the R-78S which boosts single-cell AA battery voltage of 1.5V up to a stable 3.3V. This guarantees much higher energy capacities and reduces maintenance costs compared to button or coin cell batteries. This will effectively extend the operation lifetime of an application since the boost converter continues to operate at input voltages as low as 0.65V.

R-78S switching regulator boosts a AA battery to 3.3V – [Link]

Espressif Systems is bringing voice enabled kit to makers and developers

Voice Assistants are becoming more widely accepted, devices like Amazon Echo, Sonos On, and Google Home devices are seeing the larger market share. The mounting interest in voice assistants and voice-activated platforms is leading to new ways of communicating, and in theory, creating additional channels to drive revenue.

It’s estimated that 30% of searches will be done without a screen in the next years, that there will be 21.4 million smart speakers in the US by 2020, and 2019 could put the voice recognition market to a $601 million industry. Amazon is paving the way for the possibility of these predictions with their goal of “Alexa on all Every Devices”, and the launch of the Amazon Alexa Voice development kit that will allow manufacturers easily integrate Alexa into their products. The voice-based platform could be the next stealth thing, after all, it’s easier to voice out your thoughts than type them out.

Espressif-Audio-Mic-HDK

The Shanghai-based Chinese manufacturer Espressif Systems known for their famous ESP8266, is releasing its own voice development kit, the ESP32 LyraTD MSI HDK (Hardware Development Kit” also known as “Audio Mic HDK”, was recently announced on Twitter with this question – “does anyone need something like that?”

The Audio Mic HDK is powered by the ESP32, comes embedded with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.1 LE and as a four-microphone array with dual speaker output ports. It provides support for micro SD Card which can be used for storing audio files, and provides support for – UART, SPI, I2C, I2S, and JTAG through its breakout expansion pins.

Targeting applications in the areas of wireless audio, voice assistant, and home appliances. The kit supports all major cloud voice vendors such as – Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Baidu DuerOS. It supports soft decoder and keyword recognition on the ESP32 processor.

The following are the Espressif Audio Mic HDK specifications:

  • Wireless Module – ESP32-WROVER module
  • Connectivity –
    • 802.11 b/g/n WiFi
    • Bluetooth 4.1 LE
  • DSP – 4-mic array chip
  • Storage – micro SD card
  • Audio –
    • Audio driver chip
    • Earphone jack
    • Dual speaker output ports
    • 4x microphone array with up to 3-meter sensitivity while playing music
  • Expansion –
    • I2C/SPI header
    • 6-pin UART header
    • I2S header
  • Debugging – USB-UART micro USB interface (based on CP2102N), and JTAG header
  • Misc –
    • Power switch
    • 8x keys on top
  • Power Supply – 5V via micro USB port

It’s unclear when the board is intended to be fully available for the public and the prices are currently unavailable.

Driving an 8×8 (64) LED Matrix with MAX7219 (or MAX7221) and Arduino Uno

8×8 matrix Demo

Hi guys, today we will be focusing on displaying mini graphics and texts on an 8×8 LED matrix using the MAX7219 (or MAX7221) LED driver and the Arduino Uno.

The 8×8 LED matrix displays are usually used for the display of symbols, simple graphics and texts. Made of super bright LEDs, they produce low resolution display and can be daisy chained to produce larger displays.

To enable us to control the display easily, we will be using the MAX7219/MAX7221 LED display driver module. Although this driver comes attached to the LED Matrix display that we will be using for this tutorial, its important to treat them separately, so you can understand how the LED driver works and be able to use it in case you are unable to get an 8×8 LED Matrix display that comes with the LED Driver.

Driving an 8×8 (64) LED Matrix with MAX7219 (or MAX7221) and Arduino Uno – [Link]