July Hardware Roundup
Take one look around online communities, crowdfunding sites and marketplaces, and it won’t be difficult to find countless pieces of hardware powered by Microchip technology.
Another month has come and gone, but not without its fair share of open-source hardware. From startups in our Get Launched program on Crowd Supply to PCB designs on community sites, we’ve compiled a list of the new boards that caught our attention in recent weeks.
PolarFire® SoC Icicle Kit
The PolarFire® SoC Icicle Kit is a low-cost development platform for the groundbreaking PolarFire SoC, which combines an FPGA and Linux-capable RISC-V system in a single chip. Whether you’re interested in embedded machine learning, wired networking, or industrial automation applications, or simply exploring the world of RISC-V/FPGAs, the Icicle Kit and its robust Mi-V ecosystem of tools are the perfect way way to get started. The kit features onboard memories (LPDDR4, QSPI, and eMMC flash) to run Linux off-the-shelf, a multi-rail power sensor to monitor various power domains, PCIe root port, Raspberry Pi and mikroBUS connectors, and a host of wired connectivity options for rapid prototyping. Those wishing to get their hands on one can do so now on Crowd Supply for $499.
Love Arduino? Raspberry Pi? With Eddie Espinal’s ATMegaZero, you can enjoy the best of both worlds. With an ATmega32U4 at its core, the Arduino-compatible board sports the popular Raspberry Pi Zero form factor — equipped with a 40-pin GPIO header, a microSD card holder for on-board storage, a micro USB port, a 32-pin OLED display connector, and an 8-pin header for installing an ESP8266 ESP-01 module to add Wi-Fi connectivity. Although not yet available, be sure to follow along with Espinal’s progress on Instagram.
Mooltipass Mini BLE
Stephan Electronics has taken to Kickstarter to launch the wireless successor to their open source password keeper, the Mooltipass Mini. Unlike the original, the Mooltipass Mini BLE works with any Bluetooth Low Energy-capable device, such as phones, tablets, and laptops. Simply insert your smart card, unlock it with your PIN, and you’ll be able to log in anywhere with a quick tap on a desk or a few tweaks of the scroll wheel. Using its Chrome, Firefox or Opera browser extension, the Mooltipass Mini BLE can automatically sign you into websites, behave like a keyboard to type credentials or text on any gadget, display text and info on its OLED screen, as well as store and recall small files or notes.
AtomSoftTech's Jason Lopez has unveiled yet another Arduino-compatible development board, this one a Flex PCB sharing similar dimensions to a dime. The aptly named DimeDuino is outfitted with an ATmega328P running at 8MHz and 3.3. or 16MHz and 5V, and places 20 I/O pins around the board’s castellated edge — one UART, one SPI, one I2C bus, six PWM, and 14 general purpose. More details on Lopez’s coin-sized board can be found on his website.
Thunkit Electronics has introduced a one-of-a-kind Arduino clone, which will have you ditching the perfboard for a small prototyping area built into the board itself. The KitDuino is based an ATmega32U4 operating at 8MHz, enabling the board to support three voltage modes selectable by jumpers: 3.3V regulated, 5V regulated, and Vin direct with no regulation. The board is programmable via the Arduino IDE using the Thunkit Arduino Core. Sound like a great addition for your next project? Thunkit is selling them on Tindie for $12.49.
Following the popularity of his earlier Serpente board, arturo182 has come up with a new CircuitPython design that sits on the outer edge of breadboards. His SAM D51-controlled Serpano includes an adjustable voltage rail, multiple GPIOs, a Feather-ish pinout, and a 1.3" 240x240 LCD for data visualization. You can stay up-to-date with arturo182’s progress through his YouTube livestream series and his project log.
Another participant in our Get Launched program on Crowd Supply, Linklayer Labs’ CANtact Pro is an open source USB to Controller Area Network device that enables you to connect a computer to anything that talks CAN. The CANtact Pro improves upon the original CANtact hardware by adding an extra CAN bus, support for CAN-FD and single-wire CAN, high-speed USB, and electrical isolation. What’s more, the CANtact Pro works with Windows, macOS, and Linux with USB drivers, command line interface, and Python, C/C++, and Rust APIs are available for all three operating systems. Users can take advantage of SocketCAN on Linux or ETAS BUSMASTER on Windows.
SAM D21 Lite
BOKRA has announced what they’re claiming to the world's smallest SAM D21 board, the SAM D21 Lite. Despite its compact package in the mikroBUS format, the module includes I2C and mikroBUS connectivity, plus a single-wire debug (SWD) interface. The SAM D21 has a 5V input power supply, plus a MIC5528 regulator with a 500mA output current, three LEDs and a reset button. You can pick up your SAM D21 Lite on Tindie for $18.
David Bershadsky and Alexander Kirillov’s RoverWing is a robotics expansion board for Adafruit Feather boards, equipped with motor drivers, a 6DOF IMU, and connection ports for servos, sonars, GPS, and other peripherals commonly used by mobile bots. At its heart lies a SAM D21G preloaded with firmware to control these peripherals, which communicates with the Feather over I2C protocol, thus freeing resources of the board for other purposes. As you can see from its shape and layout, the RoverWing was heavily influenced by Adafruit’s CRICKIT; however unlike the Crickit, it’s intended for use with more powerful 6-12V motors and provides a slightly different set of peripherals. There’s even an optional accessory for the RoverWing that mounts a power switch, small prototyping area, three NeoPixel LEDs, buttons, and a three-line OLED display to the top of the board.
Radomir Dopieralski has been documenting his journey to creating the “cheapest possible Feather-compatible board that runs CircuitPython.” Based on a SAM D21, the no-frills Fluff M0 features an on-board prototyping area, USB-C (swapped out for micro-USB in his latest version, v1.5), and more. If you’re seeking a beautifully-crafted barebones board, you ought to check out Dopieralski’s work and this deep dive.
USB Component Tester
Akshay Baweja has devised an ATmega328-powered universal testing device for electronic components with three or lesser pins, which comes with a custom desktop app compatible with macOS, Windows, and Linux-based systems. The USB Component Tester can automatically detect whatever’s plugged in and measure the desired parameters without you having to manually select the part type, unlike the multimeter. Want one for your workbench? Baweja has them listed on Tindie for $49 and uploaded a tutorial online so you can recreate it yourself.
Coming soon to Crowd Supply, Hayri Uygur’s Tiny1284P is a development board with USB-C connector for programming and power. It’s huge upgrade from other similarly-sized boards that use the ATmega328, boasting four times more flash and EEPROM and eight times more RAM.
Open Game Station
Nostalgia alert! Longan Labs has released an open source, ATmega32U4-powered platform that allows you to build an extensible, handheld console for classic 8-bit games. The Open Game Station is based on what resembles a barebones PlayStation controller with six buttons, plus an ATmega32U4 that supports all Arduboy titles. The controller comes with slots for expansion cards, ranging from a128x64 monochrome display, buzzer, and AAA battery pack to a 9DOF IMU and sound sensor. The Open Game Station is available in two models, basic and pro, priced at $25 and $35 respectively.
Sven Gregori has shared a breadboard-friendly, Arduino-compatible(ish) platform for USB development using the V-USB library. RUDY is powered via USB with an additional 3.3V on-board voltage regulator to select either 5 or 3.3V supply voltage. It’s clocked by a 12MHz crystal to comply with V-USB and also 3.3V supply voltage, features a six-pin ISP header with an option to power the board directly from the programmer, and emits a nice glowing effect with LEDs mounted under the chip.
Space Invaders Inspired Soldering Kit
A dsPIC33E-driven handheld Space Invaders game in the shape of a space invader! MadLab’s fun soldering kit includes a 1.3" 240 x 240 color display, three buttons (left, right, and fire), and a piezo for the 8-bit sound samples rendered with a high-frequency 1-bit PWM output. You can buy the board on Tindie for $32 and view MadLab’s instructions.
Read our last hardware roundup, here.