Tools category

Snapmaker, The Modular & Multi-Functional 3D Printer

Snapmaker is a Kickstarter project with a lofty goal: to be the holy trinity for at-home makers by using detachable modules to convert between a 3D printer, a CNC carver, and a laser engraver. In retrospect, the idea seems almost obvious. All three devices need three-axis motors to work: so why not combine them into one?

But Snapmaker doesn’t just stand out for its modular nature — it’s also impressively cheap. The default Snapmaker costs $299 on Kickstarter, and includes just the 3D printer. The laser engraver and CNC modules then each cost $75, making the entire package cost $449 — which would be a pretty good price for just one of these devices, let alone all three.

Snapmaker also claims that it’s offering a fairly high-quality printer for the price, with an “all-metal” construction and 3.2-inch color touchscreen. When it comes to actual specifications, the 3D printing module can print items up to 125 x 125 x 125mm in size at a resolution of 50–300 microns. When it comes to engraving, the laser module offers a 500mW beam that can work with wood, bamboo, leather, plastic, fabric, and paper. And the CNC module can carve wood, acrylic, and PCB at speeds between 2,000 and 7,000 RPM.

Obviously, these are some pretty big promises to be making, especially at the relatively low price point that Snapmaker sells for. And as a first time, crowdfunded project from a new company that has yet to ship a product before, the burden is on Snapmaker to show that they can actually deliver. And while the company has posted videos to YouTube demonstrating the various modules in action, at the price that Snapmaker is selling, it’s possible the whole thing is too good to be true.

The crowdfunding campaign still has 35 days to go, and is already 130% funded! Check out the technical details at the official website.

Source: The Verge

ICP12 USBSTICK, A New Tool for Signals Control & Monitoring

iCircuit Technologies had produced the iCP12 usbStick, a mini size 28 pin USB PIC IO development board and a good tool for signal monitoring (as oscilloscope), data acquisition and circuit troubleshooting at 1mSec/Samples period.

The iCP12 usbStick is a PIC18F2550 based USB development board that comes preloaded with Microchip’s USB HID bootloader which allows users to upload an application firmware directly through a PC’s USB port without any external programmer. It provides access to its I/O pins through 0.1″ pitch headers. A slide switch is also provided on board to select the operation of the board in Bootloader or Normal mode.

The features of iCP12 are listed as following:

  • Mini size, easy interfacing, high performance and user friendly device
  • Used with PIC18F2553 28-Pin Flash USB PIC MCU
  • Excellent flexibility that allows user to expand the board with plug and play modules
  • Peripheral Features:
    • 13x IO Port (6x 12bit ADC pins, 2x 10 bit PWM/Freq/DAC pins)
    • Serial port emulation (UART Baud Rates: 300 bps to 115.2 kbps)
    • Supported operating systems (32bit/64bit): Windows XP ,Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10, Linux, Mac OS X and Raspberry Pi
    • Maximum Voltage: 5Vdc
    • 100mA current output at VDD pin with over-current protection
    • 20MHz oscillator
    • Green LED – power on indicator
    • 2x LEDs (Green, Red) – status indicator
    • ICSP Connector – on-board PIC programming
    • Switch Mode Selection – Boot or Normal mode

The iCP12 usbStick board is shipped with a preloaded data acquisition firmware that emulates as a virtual COM port to PC. Thereafter, the communication between the PC and usbStick is serial. The firmware also supports basic I/O control and data logging feature. They provide a PC application named SmartDAQ that is specially developed to communicate with the usbStick and control its I/O pins, PWM outputs, and record ADC inputs.

SmartDAQ has a very friendly GUI with real-time waveform displays for 6 analog input channels. The time and voltage axes scales are adjustable. SmartDAQ can log the ADC data in both text and graphic form concurrently. One can utilize this feature to construct a low-cost data acquisition system for monitoring multiple analog sensor outputs such as temperature, accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetic field sensor, etc.

SmartDAQ v1.3 Features:

  • Sampling channel: 6x Analogs (12bits ADC/1mV Resolution) + 7x Digitals (Input/Output)
  • Maximum Sampling rate: 1KHz or 1mSec/Samples
  • Sampling voltage: 0V – 5V (scalable graph) at 5mV Resolution
  • Sampling period:
  • mSec: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500
  • Sec: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 30
  • Min: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 30, 60
  • Trigger Mode: Larger [>], Smaller [<], Positive edge [↑], Negative edge [↓]
  • Sampling Mode: Continuous, Single
  • Logging Function:
  • Save Format: Text, Graphic, Both
  • Start Time: Normal, Once Trigger, 24-Hour Clock (Auto Run)
  • End Time: Unlimited, Data Size, 24-Hour Clock (Auto Stop)
  • Recorded Data format: Graphic | text | excel

iCP12 is available with the PIC18F2550 for $15, and with the PIC18F2553 for $24.5. You can order it through the official page where you can also get more details about iCP12 and its source files.

You can also see this product preview to know more about its functionality.

Easy ARM Programming With 1Bitsy & Black Magic Probe

1 Bit Squared executes hardware and software design, development and manufacturing for a wide range of micro to nano UAV systems available on the market: from quadcopters to multicopters as well as airplanes, helicopters and transitioning vehicles. A Kickstarter campaign was launched to unveil  the new Black Magic Probe V2.1 with its companion demo platform 1Bitsy V1.0.

The Black Magic Probe is a JTAG and SWD Adapter used for programming and debugging ARM Cortex MCUs. It’s the best friend of any ARM microcontroller developer. It works like a brain tap, it allows you to inspect and affect any aspect of the program you are running on your 1Bitsy without having to add special code. 1Bitsy is a user friendly open-source ARM Cortex-M4F Development Platform.

Check the campaign video to know more about the new products.

The Plug & Play JTAG/SWD ARM debugger features:

  • On board implementation of JTAG (Joint Test Access Group) protocol
  • On board implementation of the SWD (Serial Wire Debug) protocol
  • High speed data interface to the Device Under Test 4.5MBit
  • On board implementation of the GNU Debugger Server protocol (no need for OpenOCD) works with stock arm-none-eabi-gdb (no patches or plugins needed)
  • Automatic detection of the Device Under Test (no need for config files)
  • Frontend Level shifter. Usable with targets that run on voltages as low as 1.7V and as high as 5V.

In efforts to demystify ARM programming, you are now able to do the following applications while using a Black Magic Probe:

  • Interrupt program
  • Inspect and modify registers and variables
  • Watch variables (the program gets interrupted and reports a variable value change)
  • Breakpoints (you can set a point in your code that will cause the program to stop as soon as it is reached)
  • Call stack and backtrace (you can see what functions, with which parameters brought us to the current point and state of the program)
  • Disassembly (see the machine code and find out exactly what your program is doing)
  • Dump memory (download the RAM and/or flash content to a file)

1Betsy & Black Magic was available as an early bird combo for $65. The campaign has exceeded its $10,000 goal with $47,841 and should be delivering rewards now. More technical details can be reached at the campaign and the official website.

Accessible Microfluidics Devices With Ultimaker

Researchers at Cardiff University use 3D printing to create small devices that move small volumes of fluid and are used in various areas of research. 3D printing makes it possible to share the devices with other researchers, making the study of microfluidics more accessible to a wider audience. The 3D printed devices offer a cost-effective alternative to the traditional ones, which are expensive and require specialized skills and equipment. As technology advances and more materials become available, the application of 3D printing in microfluidics research continues to grow.

Microfluidics research

Microfluidic devices are small-scale circuits that are used to study the behavior of fluids in small volumes. The devices consist of small tubes that deliver small volumes of fluid to different sensors and other actuators in the circuit. Conceptually, they can be compared to plumbing systems that are reduced in size, onto a chip. The techniques used to create these microfluidic devices largely coincide with techniques used in the microelectronics industry to make the electronic chips in our computers and phones.

Microfluidic devices are used to make, for example, artificial cells for pharmaceuticals development, nuclear fusion targets for fusion energy production, and alginate capsules with neuronal stem cells inside to transplant into people with damaged spinal cords.

Traditionally, making these microfluidic devices was an expensive, lengthy and sophisticated process, requiring different types of expertise and using specialized equipment. The adoption of 3D printing significantly sped up this process, made it a lot cheaper, and allowed for the devices to be made on the spot in the research lab.

Microfluidics research studies the behavior of small volumes of fluid – Source: Ultimaker

3D printing microfluidic devices

Using their Ultimakers, researchers at Cardiff University now 3D print the microfluidic devices they use in their studies. The 3D printed devices are based on a modular system that consists of standard building blocks that are assembled together. Starting off with a number of standard components (tubings, junctions, etc.), the research team developed different types of microfluidic systems and used those designs to make a modular system that any other researcher can use to make their own microfluidic devices.

3D printing gives rise to significant cost savings over the traditional methods and allows for rapid iterations on the design of the microfluidic devices. Since the designs can easily be shared with researchers in different locations, microfluidics research becomes accessible to other researchers as well. As David Barrow, Research Professor at Cardiff University, explains:

The simple purchase of a 3D printer means that as long as one is able to draw out an object in a suitable file format, using a wide range of available software tools, it is a relatively easy thing to print the object, and indeed make many revisions, relatively rapidly.
Alex Morgan, Research Associate at Cardiff University, points out that other researchers previously discounted the use of 3D printing to create microfluidic devices as they were non-transparent and often leaked. By optimizing the print settings, however, Alex found that by printing in 50-micron layers and at a print speed of 30mm a minute, devices can be printed that are both transparent and water-tight. The research group’s recent publication explains how to do this.
After printing, the different parts of the microfluidic device are assembled – Source: Ultimaker

3D printing in research

3D printing makes it possible to share the designs of microfluidic devices with other researchers so that they can print them out in their own lab, perform their tests and report back the results. In this way, microfluidics becomes accessible for other researchers that otherwise may not be using it.

As the 3D printing industry evolves, applications of 3D printing in research continue to grow. As Oliver Castell, Group leader for Membrane Biophysics and Engineering explains, as the diversity of available materials increases and the precision of the machines improves, it becomes possible to incorporate not only microfluidics but also optical and electronic components in one device. This will yield multi-functional devices made from different materials.

The role of 3D printing in research is expanding with these technological advancements. Take a look at Ultimaker’s explore pages for more applications of 3D printing in research.

Source: Ultimaker

PCB-Investigator Now Supports Browser-Based PCB Design Review

PCB-Investigator is a CAD software developed by EasyLogix for circuit board design and PCB quality assurance. Its latest version came earlier in February with a new browser interface that enables electronics assemblers to do PCB review processes without the need for local installation.

By using the ODB++ data format, PCB-Investigator creates a common database, which documents every change, and is accessible to everyone involved in the development, quality assurance and production process. With the software’s comprehensive visualization, export and import capabilities, all layout reviews are easier. Errors can be fixed earlier and prototypes can be reduced. Further improvements in version 8.0 are an improved component library with editor capability as well as clearance and creepage distance measurement.

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HPS140MK2, The New Handheld Oscilloscope

Velleman Inc., a producer and a distributor of electronics, has produced a new handheld oscilloscope with the same power of its HPS140, but with smaller size and modern design.

HPS140MK2 is a 11.4 x 6.8 x 2.2 cm versatile component tester that fits in your pocket. This small oscilloscope features a real time 40 MS/s sampling rate with up to 10 MHz bandwidth and 0.1 mV sensitivity.

HPS140MK2 features:

  • 40 Mega samples/sec in real time
  • Bandwidth up to 10 MHz
  • Full auto range option
  • Sensitivity down to 0.1 mV
  • Signal markers for amplitude and time
  • Memory hold function
  • Direct audio power measurement

The device is powered by 4 AAA batteries. On the front panel you can find four buttons; menu, up, down, and hold. The display is used to menu options and received signal. On the top side you will find an on/off switch and a BNC input connector that can accept maximum input of 100Vp.On the bottom side there is an X10 probe test signal.

Specifications:

  • Bandwidth: up to 10 MHz (-3dB or -4dB at selected ranges)
  • Input range: 1 mV to 20 V / division in 14 steps
  • Input coupling: DC, AC and GND
  • Real-time sample rate up to 40 MS/s
  • AD resolution: 8 bits
  • Time base: 250 ns to 1 h per division
  • Auto set-up function (or manual)
  • Probe x10 readout option
  • Readouts: DC, AC + DC,True RMS, dBm, Vpp, Min-Max. (±2.5%)
  • Audio power measurement from 2 to 32 ohms
  • Hold & store function
  • Time and voltage markers readout
  • Max. 100 Vp AC + DC
  • Monochrome OLED
  • Power supply: 4 x 1.5 V AAA batteries (not incl.)
  • Operating time: up to 8 hours on quality Alkaline batteries
  • Dimensions: 114 x 68 x 22 mm
  • Weight: 166 gr
  • Current consumption: max. 150 mA

The product is available for $150 on Velleman store. Additional parts will be available soon including component tester ‘HPS141’ to receive all useful information about resistors, transistors, diodes and more, including their pin out identification, and the ‘HPSP1’ protective pouch.

RELATED POSTS

DIY Arduino-Based Desktop CNC Router

Inspired by machines like the Nomad 883 from Carbide3D, Carvey from Inventables and more, Thimo Voorwinden had come up with a new tutorial for building a desktop CNC router powered by Arduino.

This CNC budget is around €200 and you don’t need a workshop to build it up, basic tools will do. It is designed to be modular, Arduino powered, and with a tolerance of (±0,1 mm). It has Ø8 mm linear rods, M8 thread lead screw and uses NEMA 17 stepper motors and drv8825 drivers. Plus, 250 watt flexible shaft is needed to drive the spindle and it has a work area of 200 x 250 x 100 mm (x,y,z).

Here you are the Bill of Materials that Thimo made based on his research in German and Chinese web-shops:

The tools Thimo used to build this CNC are listed here:

  • Homemade router table
  • Old ‘cordless’ drill
  • Ø22 mm wood spade drill
  • A rusty collection of old metal drill bits
  • Hammer
  • Metal saw
  • File
  • Screw drivers
  • Clamps
  • Try square
  • A soldering iron

Thimo shared this experience as a 5 HD video tutorials on Youtube to explain all the steps he went through: setting X and Y axis, the frame, Z axis and spindle, electronics and a video where the CNC is in action while milling a jigsaw piece. He added two extra videos for foam milling and testing the plotting function. Check them out here:

“For about €200 I’m now capable to CNC machine wooden parts. Not at a high speed, or without any bumps along the way, but having this option is still great. I will definitely try to machine some gears, specific parts for projects and engrave signs with this in the future.”

For more information, a detailed guide, and some notes check the project’s page at Thimo website.

Export Eagle Libraries With SnapEDA

Although the new Eagle subscription model by Autodesk will bring much-needed features to the software, many users after the announcement had decided to move their work to other alternatives, such as KiCad, Altium, Cadence, etc.

One of the challenges was to convert the libraries made by Eagle to be compatible with other software programs. SnapEDA solved that by offering a new free tool that translates Eagle libraries to KiCad, Altium, OrCad and other formats.

SnapEDA is a parts library for circuit board design provides free symbols, footprints, and 3D models for millions of electronic components. The goal behind SnapEDA is to build one trusted, canonical source of electronics design content that everyone can benefit from.

To convert your Eagle library just upload your file here, then you can re-download it in any format through your uploaded models page. The video below demonstrates the converting process:

Currently, all the uploaded parts will be public on SnapEDA until the private version is released. All parts are clearly marked as user-generated content and attributed to the uploader, and can be deleted at any time.

“We are big fans of Eagle and the new changes they’re making, and are confident that the subscription model will bring much-needed features to the software. But we also understand that it is (for many) a showstopper. Hopefully this free tool is helpful to those for whom this is the case.” – SnapEDA

Try now this tool and convert your files here!

CTC By Arduino, Creative Technologies in the Classroom

Arduino and Genuino Education is a worldwide-leading school initiative bringing technology into the hands of teachers and students to create a more inventive learning experience. It offers multiple platforms, including research-based projects and in-class programs such as Creative Technologies in the Classroom(CTC) and other initiatives like: Mastering Arduino: Foundations, Arduino Education on YouTube, #EduMondays on Arduino Blog, and other on-ground events. These initiatives are not launched yet and are coming soon, and one event, BETT 2017, was held in London earlier on January. CTC is the running initiative right now.

CTC is Arduino’s one-of-a-kind STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) program for upper secondary education. Students are introduced to the foundations of programming, electronics, and mechanics through a series of playful, well-documented projects and easy-to-assemble experiments.

Arduino’s one-of-a-kind STEM program has been implemented in nearly 500 schools throughout the globe, resulting in an overwhelming satisfaction rate among both students and teachers alike. 95% of instructors continue to use the curriculum in their classrooms year after year, while more than 13,000 students have already participated.

Source: Intel IQ

CTC 101 — running on Arduino 101 — is divided into 4 modules or blocks covering various topics. The CTC program is a toolbox comprised of more than 20 hands-on and easily assembled electronic projects, an online source for course materials, documentation tools, content specific reference sections, and professional support services.These four distinct stages are:

  1. Teacher training (one week)
  2. Themed modules (five modules, 10 weeks)
  3. Student projects (nine weeks)
  4. Technology fair (one day)

Each program comes with a CTC 101 Toolbox consisting of:

  • Sets of electronics components and pre-cut mechanical parts
  • 25+ hands-on projects
  • Live training for teachers
  • Free online documentation and course materials
  • Support forums for teachers and students

“CTC is one of our best educational activities and makes us especially proud on account of its potential for teacher training, student motivation, and transformation of the society in which we live.” – Javier Hidalgo, Head of Exhibitions and Programmes, la Caixa Foundation

Participating schools should have student access to computers and the ability to access the internet – A dedicated room that can function as a workshop, or at least a room with tables to work on – Different exercises may involve common school appliances such as pens, scissors, sticky tape, etc. In order to register your school in the CTC program just apply here.

Arduino Education is committed to empowering educators with the necessary hardware and software tools to create a more hands-on, innovative learning experience. More details about these initiatives are available at Arduino Education and this blog.

Upverter, The Online Hardware Design Hub

If you are a hardware DIY enthusiast who is interested in open source hardware and want to share projects and designs, you have to learn more about Upverter.

 

Upverter is a web-based EDA (Electronic Design Automation) system which enables hardware engineers to design, share, and review schematics and PCBs (Printed Circuit Boards). It does for open-source hardware design what GitHub have done for open-source software development, providing a collaboration platform. And also offers a Wikipedia-like electronic-component libraries which would ease the burden of electronic design substantially.

Upveter’s Tools and Services:

  • Schematic Design

Upverter’s Schematic Capture tool is a simple editor that features a real-time syncing and error catching, which enables the teams to work on the same design at the same time. In addition, the in-design search allows you to find a part, net, or an attribute in your design.

  • PCB Layout

Intelligent and responsive PCB layout editor, tightly integrated with the Schematic Capture tool to create an efficient work environment. The netlist and footprint updates appear automatically so that there is no need to manually import the changes.

  • System Design

This tool enables engineers to capture their high-level ideas without losing them as the design moves forward. It allows them to create system architecture, alongside the circuit diagram and PCB layout design.

  • Real-time Collaboration

A very important feature for teams that makes them able to work and develop the designs together, at the same time, and from different places. With Upverter’s automated version control, every action by a team member is logged, synced, and stored, enabling infinite redo/undo stack and quick jump back to a previous instance.

  • Verified Parts Library

A growing and updated large library with the ability to create or order your parts if you couldn’t find them. For accuracy of the schematic symbol, footprint, and key part attributes, Upverter verifies all the parts’ designs, removing the risk of symbol and footprint errors.

  • 3D Rendering & Export

Upverter helps hardware designers to visualize their boards as a real, three dimensional objects before sending them to manufacturing. The rendering is automated and does not need time. You can also export your model in many file types to bring your product to the real world.

The service is free for open-source circuits and boards enabling most features, the professional and premium plans allow private project with access to more features starting from $1,200 per year.

Sign-up and start explore Upverter more by yourself.