Modern microcontroller come with plenty of internal FLASH memory. On the other side, many high performance MCUs as the NXP i.MX RT are ‘flashless’, because the silicon process for high performance cores is not matching the FLASH memory technology, so they are using external serial SPI or Quad-SPI (QSPI) memory instead.
Winbond w25q128 Serial Flash Breakout Board
Why not using an external SPI FLASH for a ‘normal’ microcontroller too?
I’m using the VL6180X ToF (Time-of-Flight) sensors successfully in different projects. The VL6180X is great, but only can measure distances up to 20 cm and in ‘extended mode’ up to 60 cm. For a project I need to go beyond that, so the logical choice is the VL53L0X which measures between 30 cm and 100 cm or up to 200 cm. For this project I’m using the VL53L0X breakout board from Adafruit, but similar products are available e.g. from Pololu.
To support my talk next week at the Embedded Computing Conference 2018, I have put together a video with the hardware features of that Pick&Place based on OpenPnP machine based on NXP LPC1769 and NXP Kinetis K22. Below is a picture of the current machine:
Doing Mini Sumo robot competition is really fun, and there is yet another one coming to end the current university semester. For several years we have used our own sumo robot, and this is the one used in the course this year too. But for future and extended events we are exploring a new robot. I proudly present the concept of the next generation sumo robot for the year 2018:
I have used E-Ink displays in projects three years ago, but from that time the technology has greatly evolved. That time displays were hard to get, expensive and difficult to use. Now things seem to change with e-ink displays available to the maker market :-). I’m able to get a 128×296 pixel e-paper display for $10! And for little more money I can have displays with black/white/red colors!
The ARM mbed USB MSD bootloader which is used on many silicon vendor boards has a big problem: it is vulnerable to operating systems like Windows 10 which can brick your board (see “Bricking and Recovering OpenSDA Boards in Windows 8 and 10“). To recover the board, typically a JTAG/SWD programmer has to be used. I have described in articles (see links section) how to recover from that situation, including using an inofficial new bootloader which (mostly) solves the problem. The good news is that ARM (mbed) has released an official and fixed bootloader. The bad news is that this bootloader does not work on every board because of a timing issue: the bootloader mostly enters bootloader mode instated executing the application.
Many projects benefit from a small display as a user interface. For very low power applications this is usually a no-go as the display needs too much energy. I have used e-paper displays from Kent: while these e-paper displays do not need any power to keep the image, changing the display content is not for free, plus is very slow (around 1 second needed to update the display). So I was looking for something low power and fast for a long time, until Christian (thanks!) pointed me to a display from Sharp: both very low power and fast:
For many of my applications I need to measure a distance. I have used ultrasonic sensors, but there view angle (beam) is not able to detect smaller objects, it very much depends on the object surface and angle, it is slow and not very precise. I have used infrared sensors, but here again it depends on the infrared reflection of the object in range, it depends the amount of reflected light is not really telling much about the distance, and yet IR reflection is subject of material and object targeted.
But there is yet another sensor type to consider: ToF! ToF (or Time-of-Flight) sensors have a built-in LIDAR: The sensor is sending out light pulses and measures how much time it takes for the light to come back. Similar to ultrasonic sensors (see “Tutorial: Ultrasonic Ranging with the Freedom Board“), but instead of ultrasonic it uses an infrared laser light. Or think about a radar system using an infrared laser light.
Vl6180x Breakout Board with tinyK20 (NXP Kinetis K20) Microcontroller-board
Getting a board from a distributor like Farnell/Element14/Mouser (add your own distributor) means that chances are high that the default firmware on it is written years from now because the inventory has not been updated, or because boards are still produced with that original firmware (because of testing?). So what happens if I use board with a firmware developed pre-Windows 8/10 area?
Freshly Unboxed NXP FRDM-KL25Z Board
It might work, but chances are high that the bootloader and firmware is not ready for the ‘modern age’, and as a result the board might be bricked. If you still have a Windows 7 machine around (I do!), you are lucky. If not, then you need to read this article….
One goal of this blog is to inspire engineers, in one way or another. And when I get reports back that things were useful, I like to share it :-).
So here is something what a team of young undergraduates (Przemyslaw Brudny, Marek Ulita, Maciej Olejnik) did for theirs Master Thesis work at the Politechnika Wroclawska, Poland: a very cool flying machine controlled by two Kinetis K66, having many sensors (on own designed boards) with a custom debug/programmer board similar to the tinyK20, developed with the NXP Kinetis Design Studio:
To put the tinyK20 board with the NXP Kinetis K20 into bootloader mode, well someone could check the schematics, or follow this quick guide :-). In short, the pin PTB1 has to be pulled to Ground (GND) while powering the Kinetis K20. The pin PTB1 is on the outside row as below:
In “openHAB RGB LED Light Cube with WS2812B and NXP Kinetis” I started experimenting Kinetis boards, a LED cube diffuser and Adafruit WS2812B NeoPixel LEDs. That worked well, but I was not to very happy about the visual effect. So here is my next version: I wanted to have control over each side of the cube. For this I have built a cube inside the cube with a 3D printed structure: