We’re excited that the first five of our new open-source modules are on the shelf and the next five are hot on their heels. I have been working on a new product on and off for the past six months. Unfortunately, I ran into problems during the design. Because the new product is aimed squarely at the Maker-set, easy Arduino interfacing is a must. My original design accomplished this, but ran at +3.3V. This made interfacing sometimes problematical and I kept having to make design compromises. Eventually the tradeoffs became too much and I decided to start from the beginning and try to overcome the majority of the tradeoffs.
To that end, I switched the main microcontroller over to a +5V capable one, the Microchip PIC18F25K50. For my purposes, the important attributes of this controller is that it runs from +2V to +5V so it can interface to a wide range of host controllers. It has an internal oscillator, a USB port, serial port, EEPROM, and 14 channels of A/D. In addition to changing the controller, we have changed the product’s approach to line up with the new modules: the initial version will be open source hardware, and use the castellation/pin-header capability that the new modules have. Standardizing the connection methodology will make all of our modules easier to use.
In order to speed up the development and reduce said-development costs, I have bread-boarded the initial design. As seen below, it is a bit of a rats nest, but the basic functionality is there. I’ve done some basic testing and the new schematic with the new microcontroller seem to work well. With the old design, I had the code about 75% done, but with the new design I have to change a bunch of my code to match the new controller. Then I need basically retest everything. Hopefully I will be back to where I was in about 3 weeks. However, I am pretty excited with the new direction of this product. Within about six to eight weeks we should be able to announce the actual product. Keep your eyes peeled for more information.