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Kit Review – “Short Circuits” 3 Digit Counter

Introduction

Time for another kit review and in this instalment we have a look at the “3 digit counter” kit from Tronixlabs. This is part of a much larger series of kits that are described in a three volume set of educational books titled “Short Circuits”.

Aimed at the younger readers or anyone who has an interest in learning electronics, these books (available from Tronixlabs) are well written and with some study and practice the reader will make a large variety of projects and learn quite a bit. They could be considered as a worthy 21st-century replacement to the old Dick Smith “Funway…” guides.

The purpose of this kit is to give you a device which can count upwards between zero and 999 – which can be used for various purposes and also of course to learn about digital electronics.

Assembly

The kit arrives in typical retail fashion:

Jaycar Short Circuits Counter Kit packaging

Everything you need to make the counter is included except for the instructions – which are found in the “Short Circuits” volume two book – and IC sockets. Kits for beginners with should come with IC sockets.

Jaycar Short Circuits Counter Kit contents

The components are separated neatly in the bag above, and it was interesting to see the use of zero ohm resistors for the two links on the board:

KJ8234 Jaycar Short Circuits Counter Kit components

The PCB is excellent. The silk screening and solder-mask is very well done.

KJ8234 Jaycar Short Circuits Counter Kit PCB top

Jaycar Short Circuits Counter Kit PCB bottom KJ8234

Furthermore I was really, really impressed with the level of detail with the drilling. The designer has allowed for components with different pin spacing – for example the 100 nF capacitor and transistors as shown below:

Jaycar Short Circuits Counter Kit PCB detail KJ8234

The instructions in the book are very clear and are written in an approachable fashion:

Jaycar Short Circuits Counter Kit instructions KJ8234

Jaycar Short Circuits Counter Kit instructions two KJ8234

There’s also a detailed explanation on how the circuit works, some interesting BCD to decimal notes, examples of use (slot cars!) and a neat diagram showing how to mount the kit in a box using various parts from Jaycar – so you’re not left on your own.

Construction went well, starting with the low-profile parts:

Jaycar Short Circuits Counter Kit assembly 1 KJ8234

… then the semiconductors:

Jaycar Short Circuits Counter Kit assembly 2 KJ8234

… then the higher-profile parts and we’re finished:

Jaycar Short Circuits Counter Kit assembly finished KJ8234

There wasn’t any difficulty at all, and the counter worked first time. Although I’m not a new user, the quality of PCB and instructions would have been a contributing factor to the success of the kit.

How it works

The input signal for the counter (in this case a button controlling current from the supply rail) is “squared-up” by an MC14093 schmitt-trigger IC, which then feeds a MC14553 BCD counter IC, which counts and then feeds the results to a 4511 BCD to 7-segment converter to drive the LED digits which are multiplexed by the MC14553. For the schematic and details please refer to the book. Operation is simple, and demonstrated in the following video:

However you can feed the counter an external signal, by simply applying it to the input section of the circuit. After a quick modification:

Jaycar Short Circuits Counter Kit counter input KJ8234

… it was ready to be connected to a function generator. In the following video we send pulses with a varying frequency up to 2 kHz:

Conclusion

This is a neat kit, works well and with the accompanying book makes a good explanation of a popular digital electronics subject. There aren’t many good “electronics for beginners” books on the market any more, however the “Short Circuits” range fit the bill.

And finally a plug for our own store – tronixlabs.com – which along with being Australia’s #1 Adafruit distributor, also offers a growing range and Australia’s best value for supported hobbyist electronics from Altronics, Jaycar, DFRobot, Freetronics, Seeedstudio and much much more.

visit tronixlabs.com

As always, have fun and keep checking into tronixstuff.com. Why not follow things on twitterGoogle+, subscribe  for email updates or RSS using the links on the right-hand column, or join our forum – dedicated to the projects and related items on this website.

Posted in education, electronics, kit, kit review, KJ8234, tronixlabs, tronixstuff6 Comments

Arduino Tutorials – Chapter 30 – twitter

Learn how to tweet from your Arduino.

This is chapter thirty of our huge Arduino tutorial seriesUpdated 16/06/2014

In this article you will learn how to send messages from an Ethernet-enabled Arduino to twitter. For the uninitiated who may be thinking “what is all this twitter nonsense about?”, twitter is a form of microblogging. 

You can create a message with a maximum length of 140 characters, and broadcast this on the twitter service. For people to receive your messages (or tweets) they also need to be a member of twitter and choose to subscribe to your tweets.

Generally people will use the twitter service using one of two methods: either using a web browser, or using the twitter application on a smartphone or tablet computer. For example, here is a typical web browser view:

twitter web browser

… and here is an example of a twitter application running on an Android OS smartphone:

twitter android

The neat thing about twitter on a mobile device is that if your username is mentioned in a tweet, you will be notified pretty well immediately as long as you have mobile data access. More on that later. In some areas, you can set twitter to send tweets from a certain user to your mobile phone via SMS – however if doing so be careful to confirm possible charges to your mobile phone account.

Finally, if you are worried about privacy with regards to your tweets, you can set your account to private and only allow certain people to follow your tweets.

So let’s get started.

First of all – you will need a twitter account. If you do not have one, you can sign up for one here. If you already have a twitter account, you can always open more for other uses – such as an Arduino.

For example, my twitter account is @tronixstuff, but my demonstration machine twitter account is @tronixstuff2. Then I have set my primary account to follow my machine’s twitter account.

Now log into twitter with using the account you will have for your Arduino and visit this page and get yourself a token by following the Step One link. The process will take you through authorising the “tweet library” page to login to your twitter account – this is ok. It will then present you with a long text called a “token”, for example:

twitter oauth token

Save your token somewhere safe, as you will need to insert it into your Arduino sketch. Finally, don’t give it to others as then they will be able to post onto twitter using your account. Next, follow step two from the same page – which involves download and installation of the required Arduino library.

Now for the hardware.

You will need an Arduino Uno or compatible board with an Ethernet shield that uses the W5100 Ethernet controller IC (pretty much all of them) – or consider using a Freetronics EtherTen – as it has everything all on the one board, plus some extras:

Freetronics EtherTen

Furthermore you will need to power the board via the external DC socket – the W5100 IC uses more current than the USB power can supply. A 9V 1A plug pack/wall wart will suffice. Finally it does get hot – so be careful not to touch the W5100 after extended use. In case you’re not sure – this is the W5100 IC:

Wiznet W5100If you’re looking for an Arduino-twitter solution with WiFi, check out the Arduino Yún tutorials.

From this point it would be a good idea to check your hardware is working. To do so, please run the webserver example sketch as explained in chapter sixteen (Ethernet). While you do that, we’ll have a break…

Lop Buri Thailand

Sending your first tweet

If you want your Arduino to send a simple tweet consider the following sketch. We have a simple function tweet() which simply sends a line of text (which has a maximum length of 140 characters). Don’t forget to update your IP address, MAC address and token:

You can check the status of the tweeting via the serial monitor. For example, if the tweet was successful you will see:

arduino twitter success 2014

However if you try to send the same tweet more than once in a short period of time, or another error takes place – twitter will return an error message, for example:

arduino twitter duplicate

And finally if it works, the tweet will appear:

Arduino twitter works 2014

Previously we mentioned that you can be alerted to a tweet by your mobile device. This can be done by putting your own twitter account name in the contents of the tweet.

For example – my normal twitter account is @tronixstuff. If I put the text “@tronixstuff” in the text tweeted by my Arduino’s twitter account – the twitter app on my smartphone will let me know I have been mentioned – as shown in the following video:

You may have noticed in the video that a text message arrived as well – that service is a function of my cellular carrier (Telstra) and may not be available to others. Nevertheless this is a neat way of getting important messages from your Arduino to a smart phone or other connected device.

Sending data in a tweet

So what if you have  a sensor or other device whose data you want to know about via twitter? You can send data generated from an Arduino sketch over twitter without too much effort.

In the following example we’ll send the value from analogue pin zero (A0) in the contents of a tweet. And by adding your twitter @username you will be notified by your other twitter-capable devices:

You may have noticed a sneaky sprintf function in void loop(). This is used to insert the integer analogZero into the character array tweetText that we send with the tweet() function. And the results of the example:

Arduino Twitter Tutorial success

So you can use the previous sketch as a framework to create your own Arduino-powered data twittering machine. Send temperature alerts, tank water levels, messages from an alarm system, or just random tweets to your loved one.

Conclusion

So there you have it, another useful way to send information from your Arduino to the outside world. Stay tuned for upcoming Arduino tutorials by subscribing to the blog, RSS feed (top-right), twitter or joining our Google Group. Big thanks to @neocat for their work with the twitter  Arduino libraries.

And if you enjoyed the tutorial, or want to introduce someone else to the interesting world of Arduino – check out my book (now in a third printing!) “Arduino Workshop” from No Starch Press.

tronixstuff

In the meanwhile have fun and keep checking into tronixstuff.com. Why not follow things on twitterGoogle+, subscribe  for email updates or RSS using the links on the right-hand column? And join our friendly Google Group – dedicated to the projects and related items on this website. Sign up – it’s free, helpful to each other –  and we can all learn something.

Posted in arduino, ethernet, shield, tronixstuff, tutorial, twitter5 Comments

Old Kit Review – Silicon Chip Mini Stereo Amplifier

Introduction

In this review of an older kit we examine the aptly-named “Mini Stereo Amplifier” from Dick Smith Electronics (catalogue number K5008), based on the article published in the October 1992 issue of Silicon Chip magazine.

The purpose of the kit is to offer a stereo 1W+1W RMS amplifier for use with portable audio devices that only used headphones, such as the typical portable tape players or newly available portable CD players. I feel old just writing that. At the time it would have been quite a useful kit, paired with some inexpensive speakers the end user would have a neat and portable sound solution. So let’s get started.

Assembly

Larger kits like this one that couldn’t be retailed on hanger cards shipped in corrugated cardboard boxes that were glued shut. They looked good but as soon as a sneaky customer tore one open “to have a look” it was ruined and hard to sell:

Dick Smith Electronics K5008 Stereo Amplifier Kit box

The amplifier kit was from the time when DSE still cared about kits, so you received the sixteen page “Guide to Kit Construction” plus the kit instructions, nasty red disclaimer sheet, feedback card, plus all the required components and the obligatory coil of solder that was usually rubbish:

Dick Smith Electronics K5008 Stereo Amplifier Kit all contents

However the completeness of the kit is outstanding, everything is included for completion including an enclosure and handy front panel sticker:

Dick Smith Electronics K5008 Stereo Amplifier Kit enclosure face sticker

… all the sockets, plenty of jumper wire and even the rubber feet:

Dick Smith Electronics K5008 Stereo Amplifier Kit components

The PCB is from the old-school of design – without any silk-screening or solder mask:

Dick Smith Electronics K5008 Stereo Amplifier Kit PCB front

Dick Smith Electronics K5008 Stereo Amplifier Kit PCB rear

However the instructions are quite clear so you can figure out the component placement easily. Which brings us to that point – all the components went in with ease:

Dick Smith Electronics K5008 Stereo Amplifier Kit PCB partial assembly

… then it was a matter of wiring in the sockets, volume potentiometer and power switch:

Dick Smith Electronics K5008 Stereo Amplifier Kit socket wiring

Instead of using a 3.5mm phono socket for power input, I used a 9V battery snap instead. The amplifier can run on voltages down to 1.8V so it will do for the limited use I have in mind for the amplifier. However in the excitement of assembly I forgot the power switch:

Dick Smith Electronics K5008 Stereo Amplifier Kit PCB forgot the switch

However it wasn’t any effort to rectify that. You will also notice three links on the PCB, which I fitted instead of making coils (more on this later). So at that point the soldering work is finished:

Dick Smith Electronics K5008 Stereo Amplifier Kit PCB finished

Now to drill out the holes on the faceplate. Instead of tapering out the slots on the side of the housing, I just drilled all the holes on the front panel:

Dick Smith Electronics K5008 Stereo Amplifier Kit panel

Turns out the adhesive on the front panel sticker had lost its mojo, so I might head off and get some white-on-black tape for the label maker. However in the meanwhile we have one finished mini stereo amplifier, which reminds me of an old grade seven electronics project:

Dick Smith Electronics K5008 Stereo Amplifier Kit finished

How it works

The amplifier is based on the STMicro TDA2822M (data sheet .pdf) dual low-voltage amplifier IC. In fact the circuit is a slight modification of the stereo example in the data sheet. As mentioned earlier, the benefit of this IC is that it can operate on voltates down to 1.8V, however to reach the maximum power output of 1W per channel into 8Ω loads you need a 9V supply. The output will drop to around 300 mW at 6V.

Finally the Silicon Chip design calls for a triplet of coils, one each on the stereo input wires – used to prevent the RF signal being “shunted away” from the amplifier inputs. The idea behind that was some portable radios used the headphones as an antenna, however we’ll use it with the audio out from a mobile phone so it was easier to skip hand-winding the coils and just put links in the PCB.

Using the Amplifier

The purpose of this kit was to have some sound while working in the garage, so I’ve fitted a pair of cheap 1W 8Ω speakers each to a length of wire and a 3.5mm plug as shown in the image above. And for that purpose, it works very well. In hindsight it turns out the speakers were rated at 1W peak not RMS, however they still sound great.

Conclusion

Another kit review over. This is a genuinely useful kit and a real shame you can’t buy one today. And again – to those who have been asking me privately, no I don’t have a secret line to some underground warehouse of old kits – just keep an eye out on ebay as they pop up now and again. Full-sized images and much more information about the kit are available on flickr.

And while you’re here – are you interested in Arduino? Check out my new book “Arduino Workshop” from No Starch Press.

In the meanwhile have fun and keep checking into tronixstuff.com. Why not follow things on twitterGoogle+, subscribe  for email updates or RSS using the links on the right-hand column? And join our friendly Google Group – dedicated to the projects and related items on this website. Sign up – it’s free, helpful to each other –  and we can all learn something.

Posted in DSE, kit review, tronixstuff2 Comments

Arduino Tutorials – Chapter 15 – RFID

Learn how to use RFID readers with your Arduino. In this instalment we use an RDM630 or RDM6300 RFID reader. This is chapter fifteen of our huge Arduino tutorial seriesUpdated 19/11/2013

Introduction

RFID – radio frequency identification. Some of us have already used these things, and they have become part of everyday life. For example, with electronic vehicle tolling, door access control, public transport fare systems and so on. It sounds complex – but isn’t.

To explain RFID for the layperson, we can use a key and lock analogy. Instead of the key having a unique pattern, RFID keys hold a series of unique numbers which are read by the lock. It is up to our Arduino sketch to determine what happens when the number is read by the lock.  The key is the tag, card or other small device we carry around or have in our vehicles. We will be using a passive key, which is an integrated circuit and a small aerial. This uses power from a magnetic field associated with the lock. Here are some key or tag examples:

Arduino RFID tags

In this tutorial we’ll be using 125 kHz tags – for example. To continue with the analogy our lock is a small circuit board and a loop aerial. This has the capability to read the data on the IC of our key, and some locks can even write data to keys. Here is our reader (lock) example:

Seeedstudio RFID reader Arduino

These readers are quite small and inexpensive – however the catch is that the loop aerial is somewhat fragile. If you need something much sturdier, consider the ID20 tags used in the other RFID tutorial.

Setting up the RFID reader

This is a short exercise to check the reader works and communicates with the Arduino. You will need:

Simply insert the RFID reader main board into a solderless breadboard as shown below. Then use jumper wires to connect the second and third pins at the top-left of the RFID board to Arduino 5V and GND respectively. The RFID coil connects to the two pins on the top-right (they can go either way). Finally, connect a jumper wire from the bottom-left pin of the RFID board to Arduino digital pin 2:

Arduino RFID reader setup

Next, upload the following sketch to your Arduino and open the serial monitor window in the IDE:

If you’re wondering why we used SoftwareSerial – if you connect the data line from the RFID board to the Arduino’s RX pin – you need to remove it when updating sketches, so this is more convenient.

Now start waving RFID cards or tags over the coil. You will find that they need to be parallel over the coil, and not too far away. You can experiment with covering the coil to simulate it being installed behind protective surfaces and so on. Watch this short video which shows the resulting RFID card or tag data being displayed in the Arduino IDE serial monitor.

As you can see from the example video, the reader returns the card’s unique ID number which starts with a 2 and ends with a 3. While you have the sketch operating, read the numbers from your RFID tags and note them down, you will need them for future sketches.

To do anything with the card data, we need to create some functions to retrieve the card number when it is read and place in an array for comparison against existing card data (e.g. a list of accepted cards) so your systems will know who to accept and who to deny. Using those functions, you can then make your own access system, time-logging device and so on.

Let’s demonstrate an example of this. It will check if a card presented to the reader is on an “accepted” list, and if so light a green LED, otherwise light a red LED. Use the hardware from the previous sketch, but add a typical green and red LED with 560 ohm resistor to digital pins 13 and 12 respectively. Then upload the following sketch:

In the sketch we have a few functions that take care of reading and comparing RFID tags. Notice that the allowed tag numbers are listed at the top of the sketch, you can always add your own and more – as long as you add them to the list in the function checkmytags() which determines if the card being read is allowed or to be denied.

The function readTags() takes care of the actual reading of the tags/cards, by placing the currently-read tag number into an array which is them used in the comparison function checkmytags(). Then the LEDs are illuminated depending on the status of the tag at the reader. You can watch a quick demonstration of this example in this short video.

Conclusion

After working through this chapter you should now have a good foundation of knowledge on using the inexpensive RFID readers and how to call functions when a card is successfully read. For example, use some extra hardware (such as an N-MOSFET) to control a door strike, buzzer, etc. Now it’s up to you to use them as a form of input with various access systems, tracking the movement of people or things and much more.

And if you enjoyed the tutorial, or want to introduce someone else to the interesting world of Arduino – check out my book (now in a third printing!) “Arduino Workshop” from No Starch Press.

tronixstuff

In the meanwhile have fun and keep checking into tronixstuff.com. Why not follow things on twitterGoogle+, subscribe  for email updates or RSS using the links on the right-hand column? And join our friendly Google Group – dedicated to the projects and related items on this website. Sign up – it’s free, helpful to each other –  and we can all learn something.

Posted in arduino, lesson, rfid, RFR101A1M, RFR103B2B, seeedstudio, tronixstuff, tutorial

Kit Review – Altronics 3 Digit Counter Module

Introduction

In this review we examine the three digit counter module kit from Tronixlabs. The purpose of this kit is to allow you to … count things. You feed it a pulse, which it counts on the rising edge of the signal. You can have it count up or down, and each kit includes three digits.

You can add more digits, in groups of three with a maximum of thirty digits. Plus it’s based on simple digital electronics (no microcontrollers here) so there’s some learning afoot as well. Designed by Graham Cattley the kit was first described in the now-defunct (thanks Graham) January 1998 issue of Electronics Australia magazine.

Assembly

The kit arrives in the typical retail fashion:

Altronics K2505 Counter Module Kit

And includes the magazine article reprint along with an “electronics reference sheet” which covers many useful topics such as resistor colour codes, various formulae, PCB track widths, pinouts and more. There is also a small addendum which uses two extra (and included) diodes for input protection on the clock signal:

Altronics K2505 Counter Module Kit instructions

The counter is ideally designed to be mounted inside an enclosure of your own choosing, so everything required to build a working counter is included however that’s it:

Altronics K2505 Counter Module Kit parts

No IC sockets, however I decided to live dangerously and not use them – the ICs are common and easily found. The PCBs have a good solder mask and silk screen:

Altronics K2505 Counter Module Kit PCBs

Altronics K2505 Counter Module Kit PCBs rear

With four PCBs (one each for a digit control and one for the displays) the best way to start was to get the common parts out of the way and fitted, such as the current-limiting resistors, links, ICs, capacitors and the display module. The supplied current-limiting resistors are for use with a 9V DC supply, however details for other values are provided in the instructions:

Altronics K2505 Counter Module Kit

Altronics K2505 Counter Module Kit

Altronics K2505 Counter Module Kit

At this point you put one of the control boards aside, and then start fitting the other two to the display board. This involves holding the two at ninety degrees then soldering the PCB pads to the SIL pins on the back of the display board. Starting with the control board for the hundreds digit first:

Altronics K2505 Counter Module Kit

Altronics K2505 Counter Module Kit

… at this stage you can power the board for a quick test:

Altronics K2505 Counter Module Kit

… then fit the other control board for the tens digit and repeat:

Altronics K2505 Counter Module Kit

Now it’s time to work with the third control board. This one looks after the one’s column and also a few features of the board. Several functions such as display blanking, latch (freeze the display while still counting) and gate (start or stop counting) can be controlled and require resistors fitted to this board which are detailed in the instructions.

Finally, several lengths of wire (included) are soldered to this board so that they can run through the other two to carry signals such as 5V, GND, latch, reset, gate and so on:

Altronics K2505 Counter Module Kit

These wires can then be pulled through and soldered to the matching pads once the last board has been soldered to the display board:

Altronics K2505 Counter Module Kit

 You also need to run separate wires between the carry-out and clock-in pins between the digit control boards (the curved ones between the PCBs):

Altronics K2505 Counter Module Kit

For real-life use you also need some robust connections for the power, clock, reset lines, etc., however for demonstration use I just used alligator clips. Once completed a quick power-up showed the LEDs all working:

Altronics K2505 Counter Module Kit

How it works

Each digit is driven by a common IC pairing – the  4029 (data sheet) is a presettable up/down counter with a BCD (binary-coded decimal) output which feeds a 4511 (data sheet) that converts the BCD signal into outputs for a 7-segment LED display. You can count at any readable speed, and I threw a 2 kHz square-wave at the counter and it didn’t miss a beat. By default the units count upwards, however by setting one pin on the board LOW you can count downwards.

Operation

Using the counters is a simple matter of connecting power, the signal to count and deciding upon display blanking and the direction of counting. Here’s a quick video of counting up, and here it is counting back down.

Conclusion

This is a neat kit that can be used to count pulses from almost anything. Although some care needs to be taken when soldering, this isn’t anything that cannot be overcome without a little patience and diligence. So if you need to count something, get one or more of these kits from Tronixlabs Australia. Full-sized images are available on flickr. And while you’re here – are you interested in Arduino? Check out my book “Arduino Workshop” from No Starch Press – also available from Tronixlabs.

In the meanwhile have fun and keep checking into tronixstuff.com. Why not follow things on twitterGoogle+, subscribe  for email updates or RSS using the links on the right-hand column? And join our friendly Google Group – dedicated to the projects and related items on this website. Sign up – it’s free, helpful to each other –  and we can all learn something.

Posted in altronics, cmos, counter, K2505, kit, kit review, LED, tronixlabs, tronixstuff1 Comment

Book – “Arduino Workshop – A Hands-On Introduction with 65 Projects”

Over the last few years you may have noticed a few of my Arduino tutorials, and during this time many people have mentioned that I should write a book. And now thanks to the team from No Starch Press this recommendation has morphed into my book – “Arduino Workshop“:

Arduino Workshop book

Now into the third print run, “Arduino Workshop” is one of the few books on the market that can take the reader from zero knowledge to understanding the Arduino development platform, and working with a huge array of add-ons and technologies. And a huge “thank you” to all those who have purchased and supported the book so far.

Arduino Workshop” offers a professionally-edited and curated path for the beginner to learn with and have fun. It’s a hands-on introduction to Arduino with 65 projects – from simple LED use right through to RFID, Internet connection, wireless data, working with cellular communications, and much more. Plus the reader also learns about electronics, good coding and other interesting topics.

Arduino_Workshop_GPS

Each project is explained in detail, explaining how the hardware and Arduino code works together. Plus we teach you how to read and understand circuit schematics and use this clear method of describing circuits which prepares the read for further electronics learning.

Arduino Workshop piezo

The reader doesn’t need any expensive tools or workspaces, and all the parts used are available from almost any electronics retailer. Furthermore all of the projects can be finished without soldering, so it’s safe for readers of all ages.

The editing team at No Starch Press, our technical editor Marc Alexander and myself have worked hard to make the book perfect for those without any electronics or Arduino experience at all, and it makes a great gift for someone to get them started. After working through the 65 projects the reader will have gained enough knowledge and confidence to create many things – and to continue researching on their own. Or if you’ve been enjoying the results of my thousands of hours of work here at tronixstuff, you can show your appreciation by ordering a copy for yourself or as a gift. If you’re still not sure, review the table of contents, index and download a sample chapter from the Arduino Workshop website.

Arduino Workshop is available from No Starch Press in printed or DRM-free eBook (PDF, Mobi, and ePub) formats. And the eBooks are also included with the printed orders so you can get started immediately. Furthermore you can also find Arduino Workshop for sale from all the popular booksellers around the globe.

tronixstuff

In the meanwhile have fun and keep checking into tronixstuff.com. Why not follow things on twitterGoogle+, subscribe  for email updates or RSS using the links on the right-hand column? And join our friendly Google Group – dedicated to the projects and related items on this website. Sign up – it’s free, helpful to each other –  and we can all learn something.

Posted in arduino, Arduino Workshop, book, lesson, tronixstuff, tutorial0 Comments

Tutorial – Google Docs and the Arduino Yún

Introduction

This is the second in a series of tutorials examining various uses of the Arduino Yún. In this article we’ll examine how your Arduino Yún can send data that it captures from the analogue and digital inputs and a real-time clock IC to an online Google Docs spreadsheet. Doing so gives you a neat and inexpensive method of capturing data in real-time and having the ability to analyse the data from almost anywhere, and export it with very little effort.

Getting Started

If you haven’t already done so, ensure your Arduino Yún can connect to your network via WiFi or cable – and get a Temboo account (we run through this here). And you need (at the time of writing) IDE version 1.5.4 which can be downloaded from the Arduino website. Finally, you will need a Google account, so if you don’t have one – sign up here.

Arduino Yun Yún front

Testing the Arduino Yún-Google Docs connection

In this first example we’ll run through the sketch provided by Temboo so you can confirm everything works as it should. First of all, create a spreadsheet in Google Docs. Call it “ArduinoData” and label the first two columns as “time” and “sensor”, as shown in the screen shot below:

Arduino Yun Google Docs Spreadsheet

Always label the required columns. You can call them whatever you need. For new Google users, the URL shown in my example will be different to yours. Next, copy the following sketch to the IDE:

Now look for the following two lines in the sketch:

This is where you put your Google account username and password. For example, if your Google account is “[email protected]” and password “RS2000Escort” the two lines will be:

Next, you need to insert the spreadsheet name in the sketch. Look for the following line:

and change your-spreadsheet-title to ArduinoData. 

Finally, create your header file by copying the the header file data from here (after logging to Temboo) into a text file and saving it with the name TembooAccount.h in the same folder as your sketch from above. You know this has been successful when opening the sketch, as you will see the header file in a second tab, for example:

Arduino Yun sketch header file

Finally, save and upload your sketch to the Arduino Yún. After a moment or two it will send values to the spreadsheet, and repeat this every sixty seconds – for example:

Arduino Yun Google Docs Spreadsheet data

If your Yún is connected via USB you can also watch the status via the serial monitor.

 One really super-cool and convenient feature of using Google Docs is that you can access it from almost anywhere. Desktop, tablet, mobile… and it updates in real-time:

Arduino Yun_ Google Docs Spreadsheet_data_mobile

So with your Yún you can capture data and view it from anywhere you can access the Internet. Now let’s do just that.

Sending your own data from the Arduino Yún to a Google Docs Spreadsheet

In this example we’ll demonstrate sending three types of data:

With these types of data you should be able to represent all manner of things. We use the RTC as the time and date from it will match when the data was captured, not when the data was written to the spreadsheet. If you don’t have a DS3232 you can also use a DS1307.

If you’re not familiar with these parts and the required code please review this tutorial. When connecting your RTC – please note that SDA (data) is D2 and SCL (clock) is D3 on the Yún.

The sketch for this example is a modified version of the previous sketch, except we have more data to send. The data is captured into variables from the line:

You can send whatever data you like, as long as it is all appended to a String by the name of rowdata. When you want to use a new column in the spreadsheet, simply append a comma “,” between the data in the string. In other words, you’re creating a string of CSV (comma-separated values) data. You can see this process happen from the line that has the comment:

in the example sketch that follows shortly. Finally, you can alter the update rate of the sketch – it’s set to every 60 seconds, however you can change this by altering the 60000 (milliseconds) in the following line:

Don’t forget that each update costs you a call and some data from your Temboo account – you only get so many for free then you have to pay for more. Check your Temboo account for more details.

So without further ado, the following sketch will write the values read from A0~A3, the status of D7 and D8 (1 for HIGH, 0 for LOW) along with the current date and time to the spreadsheet. Don’t forget to update the password, username and so on as you did for the first example sketch:

… which in our example resulted with the following:

Arduino Yun Google Docs Spreadsheet time date data

… and here is a video that shows how the spreadsheet updates in real time across multiple devices:

 Conclusion

It’s no secret that the Yún isn’t the cheapest devleopment board around, however the ease of use as demonstrated in this tutorial shows that the time saved in setup and application is more than worth the purchase price of the board and extra Temboo credits if required.

And if you’re interested in learning more about Arduino, or want to introduce someone else to the interesting world of Arduino – check out my book (now in a third printing!) “Arduino Workshop” from No Starch Press.

In the meanwhile have fun and keep checking into tronixstuff.com. Why not follow things on twitterGoogle+, subscribe  for email updates or RSS using the links on the right-hand column? And join our friendly Google Group – dedicated to the projects and related items on this website. Sign up – it’s free, helpful to each other –  and we can all learn something.

Posted in arduino, DS3232, Google Docs, iot, spreadsheet, temboo, tronixstuff, tutorial, Yún7 Comments

Old Kit Review – Diesel Sound Simulator for Model Railroads

Introduction

In this review of an older kit (circa 1993~1997) we examine the Diesel Sound Simulator for Model Railroads kit from (the now defunct) Dick Smith Electronics, based on the article published in the December 1992 issue of Silicon Chip magazine.

The purpose of this kit is to give you a small circuit which can fit in a HO scale (or larger) locomotive, or hidden underneath the layout – that can emulate the rumbling of a diesel-electric locomotive to increase the realism of a train. However the kit is designed for use with a PWM train controller (also devised by Silicon Chip!) so not for the simple direct-DC drive layouts.

K3030 diesel sound simulator kit

Assembly

The diesel sound kit was from the time when DSE still cared about kits, so you received the sixteen page “Guide to Kit Construction” plus the kit instructions, nasty red disclaimer sheet, feedback card, plus all the required components and the obligatory coil of solder that was usually rubbish:

K3030 diesel sound simulator kit contents

Everything required to get going is included, except IC sockets. My theory is it’s cheaper to use your own sockets than source older CMOS/TTL later on if you want to reuse the ICs, so sockets are now mandatory here:

K3030 diesel sound simulator kit parts

The PCB is from the old school of “figure-it-out-yourself”, no fancy silk-screening here:

K3030 diesel sound simulator kit PCB

K3030 diesel sound simulator kit PCB bottom

Notice the five horizontal pads between the two ICs – these were for wire bridges in case you needed to break the PCB in two to fit inside your locomotive.

Actual assembly was straight-forward, all the components went in without any issues. Having two links under IC2 was a little annoying, however a short while later the PCB was finished and the speaker attached:

K3030 diesel sound simulator kit finished

How it works

As mentioned earlier this diesel sound kit was designed for use with the Silicon Chip train PWM controller, so the design is a little different than expected. It can handle a voltage of around 20 V, and the sound is determined by the speed of the locomotive.

The speed is determined by the back EMF measured from the motor – and (from the manual) this is the voltage produced by the motor which opposes the current flow through it and this voltage is directly proportional to speed.

Not having a 20V DC PWM supply laying about I knocked up an Arduino to PWM a 20V DC supply via an N-MOSFET module and experimented with the duty cycle to see what sort of noises could be possible. The output was affected somewhat by the supply voltage, however seemed a little higher in pitch than expected.

You can listen to the results in the following video:

I reckon the sound from around the twenty second mark isn’t a bad idle noise, however in general not that great. The results will ultimately be a function of a lower duty-cycle than I could create at the time and the values of R1 and R2 used in the kit.

 Conclusion

Another kit review over. With some time spent experimenting you could generate the required diesel sounds, a Paxman-Valenta it isn’t… but it was a fun kit and I’m sure it was well-received at the time. To those who have been asking me privately, no I don’t have a secret line to some underground warehouse of old kits – just keep an eye out on ebay and they pop up now and again. Full-sized images and much more information about the kit are available on flickr.

And while you’re here – are you interested in Arduino? Check out my new book “Arduino Workshop” from No Starch Press.

In the meanwhile have fun and keep checking into tronixstuff.com. Why not follow things on twitterGoogle+, subscribe  for email updates or RSS using the links on the right-hand column? And join our friendly Google Group – dedicated to the projects and related items on this website. Sign up – it’s free, helpful to each other –  and we can all learn something.

Posted in DSE, electronics, K3030, kit, kit review, model railway, tronixstuff2 Comments

Project – LED Cube Spectrum Analyzer

Introduction

A few weeks ago I was asked about creating a musical-effect display with an RGB LED cube kit from Freetronics, and with a little work this was certainly possible using the MSGEQ7 spectrum analyser IC. In this project we’ll create a small add-on PCB containing the spectrum analyser circuit and show how it can drive the RGB LED cube kit.

Freetronics CUBE4 RGB LED cube kit

Assumed knowledge

To save repeating myself, please familiarise yourself with the MSGEQ7 spectrum aanalyserIC in Chapter 48 of our Arduino tutorials. And learn more about the LED cube from our review and the product page.

You can get MSGEQ7 ICs from various sources, however they had varying results. We now recommend using the neat module from Tronixlabs.

The circuit

The LED cube already has an Arduino Leonardo-compatible built in to the main PCB, so all you need to do is build a small circuit that contains the spectrum analyzer which connects to the I/O pins on the cube PCB and also has audio input and output connections. First, consider the schematic:

MSGEQ7 CUBE4 spectrum analyser schematic

For the purposes of this project our spectrum analyser will only display the results from one channel of audio – if you want stereo, you’ll need two! And note that the strobe, reset and DCOUT pins on the MSGEQ7 are labelled with the connections to the cube PCB. Furthermore the pinouts for the MSGEQ7 don’t match the physical reality – here are the pinouts from the MSGEQ7 data sheet (.pdf):

MSGEQ7 pinouts

The circuit itself will be quite small and fit on a small amount of stripboard or veroboard. There is plenty of room underneath the cube to fit the circuit if so desired:

MSGEQ7 LED cube

With a few moments you should be able to trace out your circuit to match the board type you have, remember to double-check before soldering. You will also need to connect the audio in point after the 1000 pF capacitor to a source of audio, and also pass it through so you can connect powered speakers, headphones, etc.

One method of doing so would be to cut up a male-female audio extension lead, and connect the shield to the GND of the circuit, and the signal line to the audio input on the circuit. Or if you have the parts handy and some shielded cable, just make your own input and output leads:

MSGEQ7 input output leads

Be sure to test for shorts between the signal and shield before soldering to the circuit board. When finished, you should have something neat that you can hide under the cube or elsewhere:

MSGEQ7 RGB cube LED spectrum analyzer board

Double-check your soldering for shorts and your board plan, then fit to the cube along with the audio source and speakers (etc).

Arduino Sketch

The sketch has two main functions – the first is to capture the levels from the MSGEQ7 and put the values for each frequency band into an array, and the second function is to turn on LEDs that represent the level for each band. If you’ve been paying attention you may be wondering how we can represent seven frequency bands with a 4x4x4 LED cube. Simple – by rotating the cube 45 degrees you can see seven vertical columns of LEDs:

MSGEQ7 LED cube spectrum analyzer columns

So when looking from the angle as shown above, you have seven vertical columns, each with four levels of LEDs. Thus the strength of each frequency can be broken down into four levels, and then the appropriate LEDs turned on.

After this is done for each band, all the LEDs are turned off and the process repeats. For the sake of simplicity I’ve used the cube’s Arduino library to activate the LEDs, which also makes the sketch easier to fathom. The first example sketch only uses one colour:

… and a quick video demonstration:

For a second example, we’ve used various colours:

… and the second video demonstration:

A little bit of noise comes through into the spectrum analyser, most likely due to the fact that the entire thing is unshielded. The previous prototype used the Arduino shield from the tutorial which didn’t have this problem, so if you’re keen perhaps make your own custom PCB for this project.

visit tronixlabs.com

Have fun and keep checking into tronixstuff.com. Why not follow things on twitterGoogle+, subscribe  for email updates or RSS using the links on the right-hand column, or join our forum – dedicated to the projects and related items on this website.

Posted in analyzer, arduino, com-10468, cube, freetronics, LED, MSGEQ7, projects, rgb, RGB LED, spectrum, tronixlabs, tronixstuff, tutorial

Kit Review – Altronics Pocket Oscillator

Introduction

In this review we examine the Pocket Oscillator Kit from Tronixlabs, based on an design from (the now defunct) February and March 1989 editions of Electronics Australia magazine – and manufactured by Altronics. The purpose of this oscillator is to give you a high quality, portable square or sine wave generator that can be used to test audio equipment, speaker response, fool about with oscilloscopes (!), and so on. The prototype basic specifications are as follows:

  • Frequency range: 41~1082 Hz and 735 Hz~18.1 kHz
  • Output: 1.27V RMS sine, 1.45V peak square
  • Load: 1.0V RMS sine into 330 Ω
  • Distortion: 0.16% THD at 1 kHz

Assembly

The kit is packaged in typical form, without any surprises:

Altronics K2544

In the usual Altronics fashion, the instructions are accompanied with a neat “electronics reference sheet” which covers many useful topics such as resistor colour codes, various formulae, PCB track widths, pinouts and more. The kit instructions are based on the original magazine article and include a small addendum which isn’t any problem.

Unlike some kits, everything is included to create a finished product (except for the IC socket):

Altronics K2544 parts

… including a nice enclosure which has the control instructions screen-printed on the lid…

Altronics K2544 enclosure

However at this point I think the definition of a “pocket” is the same used by Sir Clive Sinclair when he had those pocket televisions. At this time I won’t use the enclosure as my drill press is in storage, however look forward to fitting the kit within at a later point. The PCB has a neat solder mask and silk screen:

Altronics K2544 PCB top

Altronics K2544 PCB bottom

Assembly was pretty straight forward, the original design has tried to minimise PCB real-estate, so all the resistors are mounted vertically. The signal diodes take this a step further – each pair needs to be soldered together:

Altronics K2544 diodes

… then the pair is also mounted vertically:

Altronics K2544 diodes mounted

However it all works in the end. The rest of the circuit went together well, and we used our own IC socket for the opamp:

Altronics K2544 assembled PCB

From this point you need to wire up the power, switches and potentiometers:

Altronics K2544 assembly

… and consider mounting the whole lot in the enclosure (or before assembly!):

Altronics K2544 lid

However as mentioned earlier, I just went for the open octopus method for time being:

Altronics K2544 finished

How it works

The oscillator is based around the Texas Instruments TL064 opamp, and due to copyright I can’t give you the schematic. For complete details on the oscillator, either purchase the kit or locate the February and March 1989 edition of Electronics Australia magazine. However the waveforms from the oscillator looked good (as far as they can on a DSO):

Altronics Pocket Audio Oscillator K2544 sine wave output

Altronics Pocket Audio Oscillator K2544 sine wave output

Altronics Pocket Audio Oscillator K2544 square wave output

Altronics Pocket Audio Oscillator K2544 square wave output

Conclusion

The oscillator works well, however the PCB layout could have been a little lot easier on the end-user. It’s time for a redesign, possibly put all the contacts for external switches around the perimeter – and allow space for the diodes to lay normally. Nevertheless – this is a neat kit, and still quite popular after all these years. For the price you get a few hours of kit fun and a useful piece of test equipment. So if you’re into audio or experimenting, check it out. Full-sized images are available on flickr.

Finally, check out tronixlabs.com – which along with being Australia’s #1 Adafruit distributor, also offers a growing range and great value for supported hobbyist electronics from Altronics, DFRobot, Freetronics, Jaycar, Seeedstudio and much much more.

visit tronixlabs.com

As always, have fun and keep checking into tronixstuff.com. Why not follow things on twitterGoogle+, subscribe  for email updates or RSS using the links on the right-hand column, or join our forum – dedicated to the projects and related items on this website.

Posted in altronics, K2544, kit, kit review, tronixstuff2 Comments

Tutorial – twitter and the Arduino Yún

Introduction

After spending almost $100 on an Arduino Yún to see what the fuss was about, it seemed like a good idea to find and demonstrate some uses for it. So in this article we’ll examine how your Yún can send a tweet using some simple example sketches – and the first of several Arduino Yún-specific tutorials.

Getting Started

If you haven’t already done so, ensure your Arduino Yún can connect to your network via WiFi or cable – and get a Temboo account (we run through this here). And you need (at the time of writing) IDE version 1.5.4 which can be downloaded from the Arduino website. Finally, if you don’t have a twitter account – go get one.

Arduino Yun Yún front

Sending a tweet from your Yún

Thanks to Arduino and Temboo, 99% of the work is already done for you. To send a tweet requires the Arduino sketch, a header file with your Temboo account details, and also the need to register an application in the twitter development console.

Don’t panic, just follow the “Get Set Up” instructions from the following page. When you do – make sure you’re logged into the Temboo website, as it will then populate the header file with your Temboo details for you. During the twitter application stage, don’t forget to save your OAuth settings which will appear in the “OAuth Tool” tab in the twitter developer page, for example:

Arduino Yun OAuth twitter

… as they are copied into every sketch starting from the line:

When you save the sketch, make sure you place the header file with the name TembooAccount.h in the same folder as your sketch. You know this has been successful when opening the sketch, as you will see the header file in a second tab, for example:

Arduino Yun sketch header file

Finally, if you’re sharing code with others, remove your OAuth and TembooAccount.h details otherwise they can send tweets on your behalf.

OK – enough warnings. If you’ve successfully created your Temboo account, got your twitter OAuth details, fed them all into the sketch and header file, then saved (!) and uploaded your sketch to the Arduino Yún – a short tweet will appear on your timeline, for example:

Arduino Yun twiiter

If nothing appears on your twitter feed, open the serial monitor in the IDE and see what messages appear. It will feed back to you the error message from twitter, which generally indicates the problem.

Moving on, let’s examine how to send tweets with your own information. In the following example sketch we send the value resulting from analogRead(0) and text combined together in one line. Don’t forget twitter messages (tweets) have a maximum length of 140 characters. We’ve moved all the tweet-sending into one function tweet(), which you can then call from your sketch when required – upon an event and so on. The text and data to send is combined into a String in line 26:

Which results with the following example tweet:

Arduino Yun sends twitter data

With the previous example sketch you can build your own functionality around the tweet() function to send data when required. Recall that the data to send as a tweet is combined into a String at line 26.

Please note that you can’t blast out tweets like a machine, for two reasons – one, twitter doesn’t like rapid automated tweeting – and two, you only get 1000 free calls on your Temboo account per month. If you need more, the account needs to be upgraded at a cost.

Conclusion

Well the Yún gives us another way to send data out via twitter. It wasn’t the cheapest way of doing so, however it was quite simple. And thus the trade-off with the Arduino platform – simplicity vs. price. If there is demand, we’ll examine more connected functions with the Yún.

And if you’re interested in learning more about Arduino, or want to introduce someone else to the interesting world of Arduino – check out my book (now in a third printing!) “Arduino Workshop” from No Starch Press.

In the meanwhile have fun and keep checking into tronixstuff.com. Why not follow things on twitterGoogle+, subscribe  for email updates or RSS using the links on the right-hand column? And join our friendly Google Group – dedicated to the projects and related items on this website. Sign up – it’s free, helpful to each other –  and we can all learn something.

Posted in arduino, tronixstuff, tutorial, twitter, Yún1 Comment

Review – “Ardublock” graphical programming for Arduino

Introduction

After helping many people get started with the world of Arduino and electronics,  we still find a small percentage of people who are turned off by the concept of programming or have trouble breaking larger tasks into smaller ones with regards to writing algorithms for their code/sketch.

So after being introduced to a new graphical programming tool called “Ardublock“, we were excited about the possibilities wanted to share it with our readers. Ardublock provides a truly graphical and non-coding solution to controlling an Arduino, that is an open-source product and thus free to download and try for yourself.

Installation

Ardublock is a Java application that runs from inside the Arduino IDE, which can be downloaded from here. It’s only one file, that needs to be placed in a new folder in the Arduino IDE. The folder names must be the same as shown below:

ardublock installation folder

Once you’ve copied the file, simply open the Arduino IDE and select Ardublock from the Tools menu:

arduino ide tools menu ardublockFrom which point a new window appears – the Ardublock “development environment”:

ardublock development environment

 Using Ardublock

It’s quite simple – you simply select the required function from the menu on the left and drag it into the large area on the right. For a quick example where we blink the onboard LED on and off – watch the following video:

 

The following image is the screen capture of the program from the video:

ardublock LED Blink

As you can see the “blocks” just fit together, and parameters can be changed with the right mouse button. After a few moments experimenting with the Ardublock software you will have the hang of it in no time at all.

And thus you can demonstrate it to other people and show them how easy it is. And there is much more than just digital output controls, all the functions you’re used to including I2C, variables, constants, servos, tone and more are available.

The only technical thing you need to demonstrate is that the Arduino IDE needs to stay open in the background – as once you have finished creating your program, Ardublock creates the required real Arduino sketch back in the IDE and uploads it to the board.

This is also a neat function – the user can then compare their Ardublock program against the actual sketch, and hopefully after a short duration the user will have the confidence to move on with normal coding.

Conclusion

Ardublock provides a very simple method of controlling an Arduino, and makes a great starting point for teaching the coding-averse, very young people or the cognitively-challenged. It’s open source, integrates well with the official IDE and works as described – so give it a go.

And if you enjoyed this review, or want to introduce someone else to the interesting world of Arduino – check out my book (now in a third printing!) “Arduino Workshop” from No Starch Press.

tronixstuff

In the meanwhile have fun and keep checking into tronixstuff.com. Why not follow things on twitterGoogle+, subscribe  for email updates or RSS using the links on the right-hand column? And join our friendly Google Group – dedicated to the projects and related items on this website. Sign up – it’s free, helpful to each other –  and we can all learn something.

Posted in ardublock, arduino, software, software review, tronixstuff, tutorial3 Comments

Freetronics OLED Display Competition Winner

In September we published a review of the new Freetronics OLED Display module for Arduino and Raspberry Pi, and inside that review was the details for a simple competition – send in a postcard to go in the draw for a free OLED display. Today marks the end of the competition, so we’ve put all the cards in a box, shuffled them around a bit and selected one winner:

postcard_OLED_winner

Congratulations to Jorge from Portugal. Thanks to all those who entered, and for the curious here are the submitted cards:

postcards_OLED_all

Personally I’d like to thank all those who enjoyed the spirit of the competition and sent in a card, and of course Freetronics for the OLED Display:

freetronics OLED

We hope to run more competitions in the future and also offer product discounts for our readers – so be sure to read all of a post when they appear. And if you made it this far – check out my new book “Arduino Workshop” from No Starch Press.

In the meanwhile have fun and keep checking into tronixstuff.com. Why not follow things on twitterGoogle+, subscribe  for email updates or RSS using the links on the right-hand column? And join our friendly Google Group – dedicated to the projects and related items on this website. Sign up – it’s free, helpful to each other –  and we can all learn something.

 

Posted in competition, freetronics, tronixstuff2 Comments

Tutorial – Arduino and the TLC5940 PWM LED Driver IC

Use the Texas Instruments TLC5940 16-Channel LED Driver IC with Arduino in Chapter 57 of our Arduino Tutorials. The first chapter is here, the complete series is detailed here.

Introduction

Today we are going to examine the Texas Instruments TLC5940 16-channel LED driver IC. Our reason for doing this is to demonstrate another, easier way of driving many LEDs – and also servos.  First up, here is a few examples of the TLC5940

TLC5940

The TLC5940 is available in the DIP version above, and also surface-mount. It really is a convenient part, allowing you to adjust the brightness of sixteen individual LEDs via PWM (pulse-width modulation) – and you can also daisy-chain more than one TLC5940 to control even more.

During this tutorial we’ll explain how to control one or more TLC5940 ICs with LEDs and also look at controlling servos. At this point, please download a copy of the TLC5940_data_sheet (.pdf) as you will refer to it through this process. Furthermore, please download and install the TLC5940 Arduino library by Alex Leone which can be found here. If you’re not sure how to install a library, click here.

Build a TLC5940 demonstration circuit

The following circuit is the minimum required to control sixteen LEDs from your Arduino or compatible. You can use it to experiment with various functions and get an idea of what is possible. You will need:

  • An Arduino Uno or compatible board
  • 16 normal, everyday LEDs that can have a forward current of up to 20 mA
  • a 2 kΩ resistor (give or take 10%)
  • a 0.1uF ceramic and a 4.7uF electrolytic capacitor

Take note of the LED orientation – and remember the TLC5940 is a common-anode LED driver – so all the LED anodes are connected together and then to 5V:

TLC5940 Arduino circuit

For this particular circuit, you won’t need an external 5V power supply – however you may need one in the future. The purpose of the resistor is to control the amount of current that can flow through the LEDs. The required resistor value is calculated with the following formula:

R = 39.06 / Imax

where R (in Ohms)  is the resistor value and Imax (in Amps) is the maximum amount of current you want to flow through the LEDs. For example, if you have LEDs with a 20 mA forward current – the resistor calculation would be:

R = 39.06 / 0.02 = 1803 Ohms.

Once you have the circuit assembled – open up the Arduino IDE and upload the sketch BasicUse.pde  which is in the example folder for the TLC5940 library. You should be presented with output similar to what is shown in the following video:

Controlling the TLC5940

Now that the circuit works, how do we control the TLC5940? First, the mandatory functions – include the library at the start of the sketch with:

and then initialise the library by placing the following into void setup():

x is an optional parameter – if you want to set all the channels to a certain brightness as soon as the sketch starts, you can insert a value between 0 and 4095 for in the Tlc.init() function.

Now to turn a channel/LED on or off. Each channel is numbered from 0 to 15, and each channel’s brightness can be adjusted between 0 and 4095.

This is a two-part process…

First – use one or more of the following functions to set up the required channels and respective brightness (PWM level):

For example, if you wanted to have the first three channels on at full brightness, use:

The second part is to use the following to update the TLC5940 with the required instructions from part one:

If you want to turn off all channels at once, simply use:

You don’t need to call a TLC.update() after the clear function. The following is a quick example sketch that sets the brightness/PWM values of all the channels to different levels:

and the sketch in action:

The ability to control individual brightness for each channel/LED can also be useful when controlling RGB LEDs – you can then easily select required colours via different brightness levels for each element.

Using two or more TLC5940s

You can daisy-chain quite a few TLC5940s together to control more LEDs. First – wire up the next TLC5940 to the Arduino as shown in the demonstration circuit – except connect the SOUT pin (17) of the first TLC5940 to the SIN pin (26) of the second TLC5940 – as the data travels from the Arduino, through the first TLC5940 to the second and so on. Then repeat the process if you have a third, etc. Don’t forget the resisotr that sets the current!

Next, open the file tlc_config.h located in the TLC5940 library folder. Change the value of NUM_TLCS to the number of TLC5940s you have connected together, then save the file and also delete the file Tlc5940.o also located in the same folder. Finally restart the IDE. You can then refer to the channels of the second and further TLC5940 sequentially from the first. That is, the first is 0~15, the second is 16~29, and so on.

Controlling servos with the TLC5940

As the TLC5940 generates PWM (pulse-width modulation) output, it’s great for driving servos as well. Just like LEDs – you can control up to sixteen at once. Ideal for creating spider-like robots, strange clocks or making some noise. When choosing your servo, ensure that it doesn’t draw more than 120 mA when operating (the maximum current per channel) and also heed the “Managing current and heat” section at the end of this tutorial. And use external power with servos, don’t rely on the Arduino’s 5V line.

To connect a servo is simple – the GND line connects to GND, the 5V (or supply voltage lead) connects to your 5v (or other suitable supply) and the servo control pin connects to one of the TLC5940’s outputs. Finally – and this is important – connect a 2.2kΩ resistor between the TLC5940 output pin(s) being used and 5V.

Controlling a servo isn’t that different to an LED. You need the first two lines at the start of the sketch:

then the following in void setup():

Next, use the following function to select which servo (channel) to operate and the required angle (angle):

Just like the LEDs you can bunch a few of these together, and then execute the command with:

So let’s see all that in action. The following example sketch sweeps four servos across 90 degrees:

And the following video captures those four servos in action:

 

If you servos are not rotating to the correct angle – for example you ask for 180 degrees and they only rotate to 90 or thereabouts, a little extra work is required. You need to open the tlc_servos.h file located in the TLC5940 Arduino library folder and experiment with the values for SERVO_MIN_WIDTH and SERVO_MAX_WIDTH. For example change SERVO_MIN_WIDTH from 200 to 203 and SERVO_MAX_WIDTH from 400 to 560.

Managing current and heat 

As mentioned earlier, the TLC5940 can handle a maximum of 120 mA per channel. After some experimenting you may notice that the TLC5940 does get warm – and that’s ok. However there is a maximum limit to the amount of power that can be dissipated before destroying the part. If you are just using normal garden-variety LEDs or smaller servos, power won’t be a problem. However if you’re planning on using the TLC5940 to the max – please review the notes provided by the library authors.

Conclusion

Once again you’re on your way to controlling an incredibly useful part with your Arduino. Now with some imagination you can create all sorts of visual displays or have fun with many servos. And if you enjoyed the tutorial, or want to introduce someone else to the interesting world of Arduino – check out my book (now in a third printing!) “Arduino Workshop” from No Starch Press.

tronixstuff

In the meanwhile have fun and keep checking into tronixstuff.com. Why not follow things on twitterGoogle+, subscribe  for email updates or RSS using the links on the right-hand column? And join our friendly Google Group – dedicated to the projects and related items on this website. Sign up – it’s free, helpful to each other –  and we can all learn something.

Posted in arduino, BOB-10616, COM-10136, LED, PWM, servo, TI, tlc5940, tronixstuff, tutorial15 Comments

Review – NXP LPC800-MAX Development Board

Introduction

Now and again we examine various development boards designed for use with the mbed development platform for ARM microcontrollers, such as the the original mbed unit and the Freescale Freedom FRDM-KL25Z – and now we have another one from NXP … their new LPC800-MAX development board:

LPC800-MAX front PCB

LPC800-MAX rear PCB

Although the LPC800-MAX works with the mbed online compiler, you’re not limited to that. NXP have also supplied free offline development tools based on the Eclipse IDE.

Hardware specification

The board is based on the NXP LPC812 with an ARM Cortex-M0+ Core running at 30 MHz. The LPC812 has 16KB flash memory, and 4KB RAM. For I/O you have 3 x USARTs, 2 x SPI ports,  one comparator, and one I2C port. The serial lines are brought out to a separate serial expansion connector to allow easy connection to a range of expansion boards from the manufacturer. An RGB LED is fitted to the board for all the “hello, world” fun you could want, and for extra I/O (and I2C practice) there’s a four-channel NXP PCF8591 ADC (and also gives you one DAC as well – convenient) along with a PCA9672 I/O expander IC for more GPIO. 

If you’re using the offline development IDE you can also make use of the NXP hardware debugging interface as well. Users of the physically-narrow range of NXP LPC development boards will also recognise the two parallel rows of pinouts down the length of the PCB, and Arduino users will recognise the header sockets (more on those later). When you receive the board – you just receive the board, so you’ll need a typical microUSB cable. Finally, you can download the LPC800 MAX schematic for further examination.

What is mbed anyway?

mbed is a completely online development environment. That is, in a manner very similar to cloud computing services such as Google Docs. However there are some pros and cons of this method. The pros include not having to install any software on the PC – as long as you have a web browser and a USB port you should be fine; any new libraries or IDE updates are handled on the server leaving you to not worry about staying up to date; and the online environment can monitor and update your MCU firmware if necessary.

However the cons are that you cannot work with your code off-line (no working in-flight) and there may be some possible privacy issues. Here’s an example of the environment:

mbed compiler screen

As you can see the IDE is quite straight-forward. All your projects can be found on the left column, the editor in the main window and compiler and other messages in the bottom window. There’s also an online support forum, an official mbed library and user-submitted library database, help files and so on – so there’s plenty of support.

Code is written in C/C++ style and doesn’t present any major hurdles. When it comes time to run the code, the online compiler creates a downloadable binary file which is copied over to the hardware via USB, from which point you reset the board and off it goes.

If you’re using the LPC800-MAX with mbed, be sure to follow the “Getting Started” guide and also check for the latest firmware from the mbed handbook. And although the mbed board appears as a USB storage device, you can still have serial communication with a PC using a virtual serial port via the USB cable connected between the PC and the LPC800-MAX.

Arduino form-factor compatibility

You will notice the header sockets physically match the Arduino Uno R3 specification, so you can drop in an Arduino shield. However the board runs on 3.3V and is 5V-tolerant, so it’s preferable your shields or new designs are good for 3.3V operation. Furthermore, as the onboard LPC812 doesn’t have as much analogue and digital I/O as an ATmega328P found on the Arduino Uno, the extra I/O are provided by two external ICs via I2C. Four analogue inputs are provided by the onboard NXP PCF8591 ADC (and also gives you one DAC as well – convenient) – and the equivalent A4 and A5 pins are not ADC, instead they’re just I2C SDA and SCL respectively.

The extra digital I/O pins are provided via I2C by the aforementioned PCA9672 I/O expander IC. Upon reflection you’d have to be very keen to use a specific Arduino shield as some extra coding would be required to deal with the required I/O – however on the other hand you can easily add external circuitry with blank Arduino protoshields for new projects. Finally, here’s a pin map of the shield connectors.

LPC-800 pin map

Not a fan of mbed? Offline tools

NXP have also made their LPCXpressoIDE based on Eclipse available for free download for all platforms – http://lpcware.com/lpcxpresso/download. The free version is good for up to 256 KB code size (provided you register the software) which more than covers the requirements for this and other LPC800 products:

LPCXpresso IDE screenshot

For more information and support, there is a huge repository of information on the NXP website.

Where to get an LPC800-MAX

The board is manufactured and sold by Embedded Artists. At the time of writing the board retails for €15, which is around US$21. NXP also have a range of LPC800 microcontrollers, including very inexpensive through-hole 8-pin versions which are available from the usual retailers. And adafruit of all places have a US$13 starter pack based around the DIP LPC810, which is an interesting 32-bit alternative to the ATtinys out there.

Conclusion

If you’re interested in working with the NXP LPC800-series of microcontrollers, the LPC800-MAX board is a very convenient development board considering the included debugger, Arduino protoshield capability, external GPIO expander and ADC/DAC and onboard LED – as well as the free IDE.

If you enjoy the mbed development environment, the board gives you another hardware option. However if you’re an Arduino user looking for a cheap way of getting a faster board whilst using your existing environment – this is not for you. The product under review was purchased without the knowledge of the supplier.

Full-sized images can be found on flickr. And while you’re here – are you interested in Arduino? Check out my new book “Arduino Workshop” from No Starch Press.

In the meanwhile have fun and keep checking into tronixstuff.com. Why not follow things on twitterGoogle+, subscribe  for email updates or RSS using the links on the right-hand column? And join our friendly Google Group – dedicated to the projects and related items on this website. Sign up – it’s free, helpful to each other –  and we can all learn something.

Posted in LPC800, LPC800-MAX, LPCxpresso, mbed, review, tronixstuff0 Comments

Tutorial – Arduino and the MAX7219 LED Display Driver IC

Use the Maxim MAX7219 LED display driver with Arduino in Chapter 56 of our Arduino Tutorials. The first chapter is here, the complete series is detailed here.

Introduction

Sooner or later Arduino enthusiasts and beginners alike will come across the MAX7219 IC. And for good reason, it’s a simple and somewhat inexpensive method of controlling 64 LEDs in either matrix or numeric display form. Furthermore they can be chained together to control two or more units for even more LEDs. Overall – they’re a lot of fun and can also be quite useful, so let’s get started.

Here’s an example of a MAX7219 and another IC which is a functional equivalent, the AS1107 from Austria Microsystems. You might not see the AS1107 around much, but it can be cheaper – so don’t be afraid to use that instead:

MAX7219 AS1107

 At first glance you may think that it takes a lot of real estate, but it saves some as well. As mentioned earlier, the MAX7219 can completely control 64 individual LEDs – including maintaining equal brightness, and allowing you to adjust the brightness of the LEDs either with hardware or software (or both). It can refresh the LEDs at around 800 Hz, so no more flickering, uneven LED displays.

You can even switch the display off for power saving mode, and still send it data while it is off. And another good thing – when powered up, it keeps the LEDs off, so no wacky displays for the first seconds of operation. For more technical information, here is the data sheet: MAX7219.pdf. Now to put it to work for us – we’ll demonstrate using one or more 8 x 8 LED matrix displays, as well as 8 digits of 7-segment LED numbers.

Before continuing, download and install the LedControl Arduino library as it is essential for using the MAX7219.

Controlling LED matrix displays with the MAX7219

First of all, let’s examine the hardware side of things. Here is the pinout diagram for the MAX7219:

MAX7219 pinout

The MAX7219 drives eight LEDs at a time, and by rapidly switching banks of eight your eyes don’t see the changes. Wiring up a matrix is very simple – if you have a common matrix with the following schematic:

LED matrix pinoutsconnect the MAX7219 pins labelled DP, A~F to the row pins respectively, and the MAX7219 pins labelled DIG0~7 to the column pins respectively. A total example circuit with the above matrix  is as follows:

MAX7219 example LED matrix circuit

The circuit is quite straight forward, except we have a resistor between 5V and MAX7219 pin 18. The MAX7219 is a constant-current LED driver, and the value of the resistor is used to set the current flow to the LEDs. Have a look at table eleven on page eleven of the data sheet:

MAX7219 resistor tableYou’ll need to know the voltage and forward current for your LED matrix or numeric display, then match the value on the table. E.g. if you have a 2V 20 mA LED, your resistor value will be 28kΩ (the values are in kΩ). Finally, the MAX7219 serial in, load and clock pins will go to Arduino digital pins which are specified in the sketch. We’ll get to that in the moment, but before that let’s return to the matrix modules.

In the last few months there has been a proliferation of inexpensive kits that contain a MAX7219 or equivalent, and an LED matrix. These are great for experimenting with and can save you a lot of work – some examples of which are shown below:

MAX7219 LED matrix modules

At the top is an example from tronixlabs.com, and the pair on the bottom are the units from a recent kit review. We’ll use these for our demonstrations as well.

Now for the sketch. You need the following two lines at the beginning of the sketch:

The first pulls in the library, and the second line sets up an instance to control. The four parameters are as follows:

  1. the digital pin connected to pin 1 of the MAX7219 (“data in”)
  2. the digital pin connected to pin 13 of the MAX7219 (“CLK or clock”)
  3. the digital pin connected to pin 12 of the MAX7219 (“LOAD”)
  4. The number of MAX7219s connected.

If you have more than one MAX7219, connect the DOUT (“data out”) pin of the first MAX7219 to pin 1 of the second, and so on. However the CLK and LOAD pins are all connected in parallel and then back to the Arduino.

Next, two more vital functions that you’d normally put in void setup():

The first line above turns the LEDs connected to the MAX7219 on. If you set TRUE, you can send data to the MAX7219 but the LEDs will stay off. The second line adjusts the brightness of the LEDs in sixteen stages. For both of those functions (and all others from the LedControl) the first parameter is the number of the MAX7219 connected. If you have one, the parameter is zero… for two MAX7219s, it’s 1 and so on.

Finally, to turn an individual LED in the matrix on or off, use:

which turns on an LED positioned at col, row connected to MAX7219 #1. Change TRUE to FALSE to turn it off. These functions are demonstrated in the following sketch:

And a quick video of the results:

How about controlling two MAX7219s? Or more? The hardware modifications are easy – connect the serial data out pin from your first MAX7219 to the data in pin on the second (and so on), and the LOAD and CLOCK pins from the first MAX7219 connect to the second (and so on). You will of course still need the 5V, GND, resistor, capacitors etc. for the second and subsequent MAX7219.

You will also need to make a few changes in your sketch. The first is to tell it how many MAX7219s you’re using in the following line:

by replacing X with the quantity. Then whenever you’re using  a MAX7219 function, replace the (previously used) zero with the number of the MAX7219 you wish to address. They are numbered from zero upwards, with the MAX7219 directly connected to the Arduino as unit zero, then one etc. To demonstrate this, we replicate the previous example but with two MAX7219s:

And again, a quick demonstration:

Another fun use of the MAX7219 and LED matrices is to display scrolling text. For the case of simplicity we’ll use the LedControl library and the two LED matrix modules from the previous examples.

First our example sketch – it is quite long however most of this is due to defining the characters for each letter of the alphabet and so on. We’ll explain it at the other end!