Computing stuff tied to the physical world

Schematics and layouts

In Book on Dec 17, 2014 at 00:01

The past several weeks were about hacking stuff together: electrically connecting chips and some other components together, and making the resulting circuit + software do fun stuff.

This week is about turning an experiment into a more formal design.

In some cases, such as the mains distribution panel at JeeLabs, clear wiring is not a luxury:

DSC 4192

Those colour codes are not for making a pretty picture – the are required by law. And even though most mains distribution panels end up being unique one-offs, the formal “notation” is essential to make each design well-documented and understandable for decades to come.

With low-power experiments, we have a lot more freedom to just hack around, fortunately!

But although breadboards are great for trying out ideas by letting you “edit” the electronic circuit, at some point you will probably want to make it more permanent, or smaller, or more robust – or even all those at once. Or perhaps you simply want to make it repeatable, so more “instances” of your experiment can be produced – whether for fun or for profit, and perhaps even not for yourself but for others to replicate with minimal effort.

Tinkering is fun. Repeatedly solving the same puzzle or falling into the same trap is not.

Here are this week’s articles, as planned for the coming days at 0:00 CET:

Please note that these articles are not a how-to guide for the entire process, just a first introduction to all the steps involved in going from an idea to a reproducible design.

Dip into the LPC810

In Book on Dec 10, 2014 at 00:01

Getting to know the ARM architecture and the LPC810 is a wonderful adventure. It’s also almost impossible to figure out where to start. So let’s just dip our toes in the water, eh?

This week’s articles all highlight a different aspect of the LPC810 (of the entire LPC8xx series, in fact), by exploring a variety of uses and figuring out how to implement them.

Each of the following examples includes a minimal circuit to demonstrate their use:

All of them can also be built on a breadboard, but soldering up a little circuit with an 8-DIP chip (or socket) in them is a lot more fun. It really shows the versatility of such little ┬ÁC’s:

DSC 4830  Version 2

Who knows, you might even have an immediate use for some of these examples. With a bit of extra work, any of them could be turned into a self-contained I2C slave to add to your own project. Instead of complicating your own project code with the hard timing requirements of pulsed LEDs or servos, why not simply “off-load” to a dedicated LPC810?

The sky is the limit. Eh, wait, strike that, it isn’t anymore…

(For comments, visit the forum area)

Garage Parking Aid

In Book on Dec 3, 2014 at 00:01

This next article series is about setting up a practical project for use around the house. It’s small enough to be covered in a few articles, and simple enough to be constructed entirely on a breadboard with no soldering involved. It’s time to start making things!

I’ll take you through the problem definition, the way to pick a solution, and the many trade-offs involved in getting everything working as intended. As you will see, getting this thing to run off batteries poses some challenges, but is nevertheless feasible.

Here are this week’s articles, as planned for the coming days at 0:00 CET:

The GPA has all the properties you’d expect in a physical computing project: a sensor, a readout, a microcontroller, and a power source. You may not have a garage (or a car), or you may have a car with this functionality built-in, but there’s probably something to glean from this design process for your own use – and maybe some parts will be useful in other ways. It’s all “loosely coupled” after all, with a breadboard to build any variations you like:

DSC 4781  Version 2

Speaking of parts – Martyn & Co have produced a kit for the JeeLabs shop if you’d like to get going fast, with everything needed to create this little parking aid gimmick.

(For comments, visit the forum area)