Hardware category

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.

µGame 10 – A Tiny Game Console Unit to Learn Python Programming

If you want to have fun by playing games and also learn about Python Programming language, the µGame console kit might be your best bet.

There are some game consoles out there in the market, like Pokitto, Okitto, and others. These game consoles give the ability to play several games and even build your own by programming it yourself. One of the significant challenges with these game consoles is the process it takes to develop and deploy a game, one has to go through the whole process of installing the compiler and IDE, compile the program with the hope of getting it to build successfully. This entire process could be a daunting task for a beginner, but the µGame 10 console kit from Deshipu seems to beg the difference.

µGame is a game console kit from Deshipu that allows you to play games and write them using the Python programming language. Unlike other gaming kits that require the code to be compiled first before uploading to the device, µGame doesn’t require compilation. The program can be uploaded directly to the console, and it will start playing it. It’s based on Adafruit’s CircuitPython –  a version of Python that runs a python code without an operating system. CircuitPython is Adafruit’s branch of MicroPython designed to simplify experimentation and education on low-cost microcontrollers.

At a footprint of 1.44 inches, µGame takes the form of a small handheld game console with a 128×128 OLED screen. This portable game system can be attached to a computer via its built-in micro USB port where it will show as a USB drive, and doesn’t require any driver for that. The built game source code can be copied directly to the drive where it can now be executed and even modified. The game console can be removed from the computer and the game copied inside will be available for execution.

The console kit is supplied only with board, the display, and a battery charging unit. The user is expected to attach the OLED display, and a battery to begin using it. Unlike other gaming consoles like the Pokitto that comes with an enclosure, µGame doesn’t come with an enclosure but you can 3D print your custom case for it. The system provides an easy way to edit code if desired from the µGame, and the console will automatically restart if changes in the code are detected, or you run your new program.

Some Specifications of the µGame DIY games console include:

  • Atmel SAMD21 ARM Cortex M0 at 48MHz
  • 32kB RAM
  • 2MB flash storage space for the files,
  • a 1.44″ 128×128 TFT 16-bit color display,
  • 4mm mono speaker
  • Six buttons
  • 400mA battery charging circuit

The game console kit is available and can be purchased on Tindie for $25. Although the game console kit comes with a battery charging circuit, it doesn’t include any battery. Aside from the lack of battery, the game console comes with few games and is more tailored for those that want to write their games.

Da Vinci Color, The First Full Color 3D Printer

3D Printing became an important process in prototyping, and sometimes in manufacturing. But till now, the filament types available in the market are limiting printing colors. Although there are many multi color printers, printing a design in full color is still a dream.

XYZprinting has announced its da Vinci Color printer, the world’s first full color 3D printer. In fact, the printer combines inkjet techniques with Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF). It uses ink cartridges to drop pigment onto each layer of plastic filament as it prints.

da Vinci Color Specification

  • Build volume: 200 x 200 x 150 mm
  • Layer resolution: 100-400 microns (0.1-0.4 mm)
  • Filament material: 3D Color-inkjet PLA / PLA / Tough PLA / PETG
  • Ink type: Separate ink cartridge (CMYK)
  • Nozzle diameter: 0.4 mm
  • Print bed: EZ-removable print bed (non-heated)
  • Print bed leveling: Auto-leveling
  • XYZ position precision: X/Y 12.5 micron, Z 4 micron
  • Build speed: Average: 30-60 mm/sec, Max: 120mm /sec
  • Print head travel speed: 30 – 300 mm/s
  • Host software: XYZmaker
  • File type: AMF, PLY, OBJ, STL, 3CP
  • Power requirements: 100-240 V, 50-60 HZ
  • Connectivity: WiFi, USB 2.0 port
  • Operating temperature: 15-30℃

Fortunately, the printing base area of ​​20 x 20 x 15 cm provides a large build volume in a relatively small housing. The machine prints at an average resolution of 100-400 microns, so the lines where two colors meet can get a little blurry when viewed up close, but the output is generally pretty impressive. It’s basically an ink jet printer that outputs in 3D, so the results aren’t quite as sharp as a professional production job.

In addition, the software is easy to use and supports most common 3D file formats, amf, ply, obj, stl, and 3cp. Users of any age can download designs and add colors, or create their own colored prototypes from scratch. Thus, with an embedded color touch screen, users can control the printer and do some setting easily, such as connecting to the home wireless network. Also, da Vinci Color has many sensors that indicate broken material during the printing process, allowing users to save time and filament.

Applications of da Vinci Color printer

This types of 3D printer may have a several areas of applications, some of them according to the manufacturer are:

  • Animation and film: Enables production of prototypes in color that can be used immediately after printing
  • Architects and designers: The production of solid models, miniatures and prototypes provides customers with a better appreciation of design concepts.
  • Small businesses: The 3D printer helps to create your own company models and products with 3D full-color printing. Color printing reduces costs and speeds up production. The use of PLA filaments ensures that time and money is not wasted on post-processing.
  • Schools: Enables color printing by students in 3D, let their creativity run wild.
  • Model makers and collectors: All types of model figures and accessories can be produced including comic book figures rendered in authentic colors. You can also print the original designs.

The printer price is $3,500. But it is available now for pre-ordering for only $3,000 on XYZ official store, with estimated shipping date at the end of November. Beyond that, you have to buy four ink cartridges (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) for $65 each, and you need a special filament that works with the ink, which costs $35 per roll.

IkaScope: a wireless oscilloscope probe

Author: Maurizio Di Paolo Emilio

IkaScope is a wireless oscilloscope probe that allows to observe the change of electrical signals over time. The probe is a handheld device, portable and fits perfectly in the hand and pocket. By using high-speed Wi-Fi connection, IkaScope wireless oscilloscope probe communicates with laptop, tablet or smartphone to share the acquired data on the screen. The IkaScope wireless oscilloscope probe is compatible with the most popular mobile and desktop operating systems. The probe has a 200 MSPs ADC, Spartan 3 FPGA and adequate battery capacity (450 mAh). Energy saving settings and downtime moments manage the energy efficiency. The probe comes with a ground clip and a USB charging cable. Especially relevant is the patented ProbeClick technology of IkaScope: all electronic circuits are powered only when the the probe is pressed (figure 1). The probe tip is also used to start the data acquisition. ProbeClick technology allows to save power and measure without remembering to press the run / stop button of a classic oscilloscope.

wireless oscilloscope probe
Figure 1: IkaScope wireless oscilloscope probe

The probe technology and user interface

ProbeClick represents a simple innovative mechanism to manage the data acquisition by probe tip. Simply by pressing the probe, the device starts data capturing and streaming process on the screen using the wi-fi connection. In addition, by releasing the probe, the acquisition stops and automatically the data is available in the storage/cloud (figure 2). IkaScope application is the user interface to capture, measure and analyze analog signals. From the download page you can download the latest version of IkaScope for your prefered Desktop OS.

wireless oscilloscope probe
Figure 2: IkaScope during a testing process

 

IkaScope can be configured as a wireless hotspot. It will remember access points and will connect instantly without having to enter your login password. Moreover, IkaScope application has a share button at the top left of the screen. Just click on it to share a screenshot of the measurement.

General specifications

  • Model name: WS200.
  • Communication: WiFi 802.11 b/g/n/e/i 2.4GHz.
  • Connection: Access Point or Station.
  • Battery charging connector: Micro USB.
  • Input contact: ProbeClick.
  • Operating Temperature: 10°C to 35°C.
  • Altitude < 2000m.
  • Protection Input level: Sample test voltage: 253 VAC 1 min.
  • Input to charging port isolation: Saple test voltage: 1100 VAC 1 min.
  • Battery: Built in Lithium / 420mAh
  • Application compatibility: Windows / Mac / Linux / Android / iOS.

Measurement specifications

  • Max sample rate: 200MSps.
  • Analog Bandwidth(-3dB compression): 30MHz at -3dB.
  • Input Voltage: +/-40V range CAT1.
  • Galvanic isolation: Between Input and Charging port.
  • Coupling: AC (true) / DC.
  • Input Impedance: 1MOhm || 14pF.
  • Voltage resolution: 100mV/div up to 10V/div.
  • Max Trace refresh rate: 250 FPS.
  • Sample resolution: 8 bits.
  • Analog Offset range: +/-20V to +/-40V.
  • Memory depth: 4K Points (4 x 1000 points burst buffers).
  • Channel: 1
LiPo breadboard power supply

Versatile And Open Source LiPo bBattery Breadboard Power Supply

Orlando Hoilett from Calvary Engineering LLC designed a  versatile Li-Po battery breadboard power supply and wrote an Instructables on it. This power supply outputs 3.3V to the breadboard and takes input from a single-cell LiPo battery. The breadboard power supply also has the ability to charge the battery without needing to separate it from the circuit board. More importantly, this project is licensed under Open Source Hardware which means anyone can modify, distribute, make, and sell this design.

LiPo bread board power supply
LiPo breadboard power supply

Key Components

The complete BOM is available at the GitHub repository.

  • JST connector
    This connector connects directly to the LiPo battery.
  • 3.3V regulator, AP2210K
    3.3V logic is getting increasingly popular among electronics hobbyists and engineers. Also, boosting 3.7V of a LiPo battery to 5V can induce quite a bit of switching noise on the power supply. Linearly converting 3.7V to 3.3V is the best way to avoid this problem.
  • Battery Charger, MCP73831T
    This power supply has a charger built into the board so you can charge the battery without removing it from the power supply.
  • Voltage Selection Jumper
    The voltage selection headers are 3 pin male headers and they are labeled as 3.3V (or VReg) and VRAW (or LiPo). Connect the center pin to 3.3V to get power from the regulator. Connect the center pin to VRAW to get power directly from the LiPo battery.
  • DPDT Switch
    This switch lets you power down the board without removing the battery.
  • LED indicators
    LEDs are used to indicate the current status of the board.

Details

This board breaks out the LiPo battery to the breadboard power rails on both sides. It has a DPDT switch to power down the board. The AP2210K IC has an ENABLE pin which is pulled down to the ground using the DPDT switch in order to enter the low power mode. In low power mode, the regulator and all the LEDs get disabled and draws almost no current from the LiPo. More about the AP2210K regulator IC is on this datasheet.

LiPo breadboard power supply schematic
LiPo breadboard power supply schematic

Another great feature of this breadboard power supply as mentioned earlier is, it incorporates an MCP73831T LiPo battery charger IC. It is a widely used PMIC (power management integrated circuit) for charging LiPo batteries. The LiPo battery should be connected to pin 3 (VBAT) and 5V should be applied to pin 4 (VDD).

The chip starts charging as soon as it detects 5V input and stops charging when the battery is full. Charging current is limited to USB standard i.e. 100mA by connecting a 10.2K resistor between pin 5 (PROG) and ground. So, it’s completely safe to charge the battery from your laptops USB port. Other host microcontrollers can check the battery status using pin 1 (status pin) of MCP73831T.

Diamond-Based MOSFETs Are Now Real

A research group at Japan’s National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) has developed logic circuits equipped with diamond-based metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect-transistors (MOSFETs) at two different operation modes – a first step toward the development of diamond integrated circuits operational under extreme environments.

Is Diamond Suitable for this?

In fact, diamond has high carrier mobility, a high breakdown electric field and high thermal conductivity. Therefore, it is a promising material to use in the development of current switches and integrated circuits. Specifically to operate stably at high-temperature, high-frequency, and high-power. However, it had been difficult to enable diamond-based MOSFETs to control the polarity of the threshold voltage. In addition, fabricating MOSFETs of two different modes on the same substrate was a challenge. The modes are:  a depletion mode (D mode) and an enhancement mode (E mode).

Thus, the research group has successfully developed a logic circuit equipped with modes. Thanks to threshold control technique that allowed them create hydrogenated diamond NOT and NOR logic circuits composed of D-mode and E-mode MOSFETs.

Micrograph of a fabricated logic circuit equipped with diamond-based transistors

This study was published in the online version of IEEE Electron Device Letters and it is available at the IEEE Electron Digital Library website. Also, check the official announcement for more details.

Turn Your Fidget Spinner Into A Vision Display

Fidget spinner became a popular toy earlier in 2017. Most of us have one or at least have tried it. Consists of a bearing surrounded by a three-lobed flat structure, it can spin along its axis with a little effort.

Makers and hardware hackers always try to employ different tools to make innovative ideas. Some of those makers hacked a fidget spinner to display custom text while it is rotating. The concept is using a vector of LEDs and turn them on and off at each degree according to the required text. Then, when it rotates very fast our eyes will see the full text as it is displayed together.

At this project on HackadaySean Hodgins created a fidget-shape PCB that fits into the spinner. It consists of an 8-LED vector, a 32-bit microcontroller, an 8-bit shift register, and other electronics parts. It is powered by three 3.6 LiPo cell batteries and can be connected with PC through a micro USB connector.

Component needed for this project:

The total cost is about $20 for all parts, and here is the bill of materials. Also the design of the fidget is available for 3D printing for both the body and the caps. In addition, the microcontroller can be programmed simply with Arduino IDE.

Since this project is fully open source, all resources and files are available for download. The github repository includes the CAD files, firmware code and libraries, PCB design, and some pictures.

Although it is a brilliant project, similar projects had been developed before and had started  funding campaigns. But unfortunately, they weren’t successful and didn’t reach their fund goal.

Finally, if you like this idea you can make it by yourself with the help of this video, which describes how to make it and how it works:

Build And Simulate Quantum Software Applications With Rigetti Forest 1.0

Rigetti Computing is a full-stack quantum computing company. They build hardware and software with fundamentally new integrated circuits that store and process quantum information.

Accordingly, this Silicon Valley company is providing solutions for existing problems that traditional computers can not solve. These problems include the ability to provide molecular simulation showing all interactions and to accurately predict next week’s weather.

An 8-qubit quantum processor built by Rigetti Computing. (PRNewsfoto/Rigetti Computing)

Thus, Rigetti is using quantum mechanics for computation. Adding one quantum bit (qubit) can double the performance. Below is a table mapping the computation power of qubits with classical memories.

Rigetti Computing recently unveiled its Fab-1 facility. A facility which will enable its engineers to rapidly build new generations of quantum computing hardware based on quantum bits, or qubits. In fact, the facility can spit out entirely new designs for 3D-integrated quantum circuits within about two weeks—much faster than the months usually required for academic research teams to design and build new quantum computing chips. It’s not so much a quantum computing chip factory as it is a rapid prototyping facility for experimental designs.

Software is also included

It has also announced its Forest 1.0 service that enables developers to begin writing quantum software applications and simulating them on a 30-qubit quantum virtual machine. Forest 1.0 is based on Quil—a custom instruction language for hybrid quantum/classical computing—and open-source python tools intended for building and running Quil programs.

“Developing quantum computing software is one of the most fascinating and challenging emerging fields of engineering. Today, that field is at the foundational stage, where learning and discovery are at a premium. Our full-stack strategy allows us to run faster, more tightly coupled iteration cycles between hardware, software, and applications.” – Chad Rigetti, Founder & CEO

More details about this API are available on Forest 1.0 official page and this blog. Also watch this workshop video by Rigetti:

Bulgarian National Innovator Creative Spaces

Few days ago, a group of 10 young and experienced people launched a Kickstarter campaign for their new socially significant project “Innovator Creative Spaces“. It is a national network of co-working spaces that cover the whole country of Bulgaria.

The goal of this project is to build creative centers that provide hi-tech workshops for software development and hardware prototypes. It will also have modern tools for prototyping and production laboratories, focused on digital technology, electronics and production technologies.

The creative spaces are targeting enthusiasts, young entrepreneurs and researchers, providing them with required tools and environment to design, make, hack, invent and learn. Their long term goal is to turn Bulgaria into the Silicon Valley of Eastern Europe.

This list of tools is planned to be held in the labs:

  • 3D printers and 3D scanners
  • Laser cutter
  • CNC router
  • CNC lathe
  • Water cutting (water jet cutter)
  • Advanced circuits Lab LPKF Protolaser S
  • CNC PCB Plotter
  • Internet of Things
  • Virtual Reality lab
  • Open Hardware lab
  • Arduino kits
  • Sewing Machines
  • Sergers
  • Embrodiery machines
  • Knitting machines, Soldering irons, Grinders, Vises, Electrocautery
  • Woodworking Facilities
  • Assembly test
  • Other electronic equipment, woodworking tools, measurement gadgets such as micrometer, calipers, etc. And other tools (needed for hacking, creating or fixing just about any project)

Besides the main advantages, the teams see that the co-working spaces will also help building a friendly, encouraging, collaborative and supportive community. The community would enable specialists to enjoy a higher standard of living, achieved by qualification training and mentorship.

At the first phase of the project, only 500 of 1300 square meters will be used. The space includes workshops for different types of machines, separated mini-offices, bar and kitchen, library, conference room, exhibition area, and assembly area.

In addition to membership subscription, the project will provide makers with other services such as prototyping, 3D printing, laser cutting, mentoring and business development, design and branding, events consultations , and more.

We are confident that our project not only helps to deal with youth unemployment, but also improves the re-qualification opportunities and entrepreneurship by discovering new possibilities for personal development in Bulgaria. We believe that the future of our country is in the capable hands of young and pro-active people and gives the fact that a lot of successful start-ups around the world.

If you are interested in supporting this project, you can do that by backing it on Kickstarter and by sharing it with you friends.

96-Layer Memory Chips By Toshiba

The need for larger memory storage for smartphones will never stop, especially with the continuous development of larger and stronger applications. This need is always pushing semiconductor manufacturers to keep trying to fit as much bits as possible in  smaller volumes and with lower costs.

To achieve this, memory chips are now growing in three dimensions instead of two. Recently, Toshiba has developed a new 96-layer BiCS 3D flash memory device with a storage capacity of 32 GB. The new device meets market demands and performance specifications for applications that include enterprise and consumer SSD, smartphones, tablets and memory cards.

This memory chip was built with three bits per cell, known as triple-level cell (TLC) technology. Stacking layers and manufacturing process increase the capacity of each chip with 40% per unit size. They also reduce the cost per bit, and increase the manufacturability of memory capacity per silicon wafer.

In order to add more layers to the chip, Toshiba is working on increasing the number of bits in every cell. In the near future, it will apply its new 96-layer process technology to larger capacity products, such as 64 GB. It will also develop chips with QLC (quadruple-level cell) technology.

By stacking 64 layers of QLCs, the engineers at Toshiba have created a 96-gigabyte device. Integrating 16 of them in one package will achieve a capacity of 1.5 TB, that corresponds to 12 trillion bits.

If you are interested, you can check these out at the 2017 Flash Memory Summit in Santa Clara, California from August 7-10.

Source: elektor