Computing stuff tied to the physical world

Multi-ISP programmer

In AVR, Hardware on May 18, 2010 at 00:01

This is a project I’ve been meaning to do for a long time:

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It’s a portable ISP programmer which can program four 28-pin ATmega’s independently. It takes about 12 seconds to program fuses, bootloader, and RF12demo sketch into each chip, so with this unit I can essentially keep going and program some 20 chips per minute. Just what I need for yesterday’s batch of fresh ATmega’s. For reference: a USBtinyISP needs a few minutes per chip! (update: but it can be speeded up, see comments below)

Not that I need to program 1200 chips/hour! The point is that at this speed, I can now flash ATmega’s just-in-time, i.e. with the very latest version of RF12demo, etc.

This multi-ISP programmer is built from 4 Flash Boards, 1 JeeNode USB, 3 JeeSMD’s, a 450 mAh rechargeable LiPo battery, and a couple of ZIF sockets, resonators, and resistors. I’ve got roughly a dozen more ZIF sockets for the shop of there is interest. Also some 6-pin IDC headers and flat-cable.

The unit uses the capturing ISP programmer sketch and is very simple to use: plug the JeeNode USB in and use it as a normal AVRISP programmer @ 19200 baud. Use as many programming steps as you want. When idle for 3 seconds, the process stops – blinking the LED twice. Then exchange its Flash Board with one of the others and repeat the process until all flash boards have been set up.

From then on it can also work in battery-powered mode: insert chip, press button, wait for LED to start blinking, then rinse and repeat. Total current draw will be well under 90 mA, so this programmer should get over 5 hours of autonomy on one charge – up to 6000 chips… :)

The programmers are independent, so I can upload different contents in each of them. I’ve labeled each flash board to be able to do this without mixing things up.

The JeeNode USB v3 powers all the boards and includes the LiPo charge circuit, so the battery can be recharged by simply plugging it in. There’s a slide switch to disconnect the LiPo battery.

Some more build pictures. As you may have noticed, there is no connection from the 2×3-pin ISP header to the ZIF socket. That’s because I wired those up from below by using stacking headers for 2 of the 4 ports:

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Here is the other side, wired up manually with wire-wrap wire. I’ve since covered it up a bit to avoid accidental shorts. The risky one is a direct short between the LiPo power pins, the rest is probably harmless.

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And here’s the side view:

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I’m looking forward to using this thing: swap chip, push button, swap chip, push button, … how convenient!

  1. Yup, you’re right, this is great!

    Still think the robot arm with scary LED eyes would be a cool addition ;-)

  2. The USBtinyISP can program quite quickly if you set the clock rate properly. The -B switch in avrdude is indeed your friend.

    • Ah, didn’t know that – I’ve updated my remarks. I’m still using it for some things, so that’s good to know. Thanks.

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