Tag Archives: ATmega16U2

BigBox is a large, hackable and open source 3D printer

This 3D printer from E3D and LittleBox boasts an impressive build volume, modular design and hotend.

It’s safe to assume that Makers who’ve dabbled with RepRap and other low-cost, open source 3D printers are most likely familiar with UK-based startup E3D. Combining their experience in crafting high-quality parts, the team has collaborated with fellow British company LittleBox, the designers of the MicroSlice desktop laser cutter, to introduce what they call the BigBox 3D Printer


Now live on Kickstarter, the BigBox is described as a no-compromise 3D printer that converges high-print resolution, a large build volume and an extrusion system that can spew out nearly every material on the market, all wrapped up in a clutter-free package with a powerful, easy-to-use toolchain. The machines will come in an assortment of DIY kits — Lite, Pro and Dual — or can ship fully-assembled for those seeking a more out-of-the-box experience. Nevertheless, all of the models boast a substantial print volume of about 12″ x 8″ x 11”, auto-leveling as a standard, and are capable of a layer thicknesses as fine as 50 microns.

Each of the BigBox units are equipped with a heated bed, a max print speed of 100mm/second and a E3D-v6 hotend that can reach temperatures up to 572°F (300°C), except for the barebones Lite version which lacks the heated bed, has half the max print speed and employs a “mostly metal” hotend. And as its name would imply, the Dual features two printheads to allow users to print in various colors or two totally different materials simultaneously.


When taking a look at the printer, one of, if not, the most noticeable attribute is its enormous build volume with a 17-liter space that provides everyone the freedom to create big objects without sacrificing quality. What’s more, the build volume has been configured to not just be large in one direction, like many other plus-sized printers, but balanced in all axes with a huge usable surface.

“Objects built in the plane of the bed are stronger than tall objects built away from the bed so this is a real practical advantage,”  E3D’s Sanjay Mortimer and Josh Rowley explain. “Having a larger bed also means that you can pack more items into a single print for high-volume printing. So BigBox has not just a large build space, but a well-proportioned, more useful build space.”

The motion system of the BigBox 3D printers have been designed by LittleBox to offer the right combination of both mechanical reduction and higher resolution motors to achieve twice the standard positional resolution, low drag motion and consistency across every axis. Any vibration and unnecessary wobbling is eliminated thanks to bearings on every corner, which in turn, offers users extreme precision and a smooth experience.


The company’s flagship E3D-v6 extruder has the ability to spit out just about every filament available on the market, ranging from flexible, rubber-like resin to metal and carbon-filled materials. And of course, Makers can still choose to use PLA and ABS.  On top of that, the hotends have interchangeable nozzles depending on if someone is looking for higher resolution or increased print times.

In terms of its electronics, the user-friendly machines include a couple of Atmel MCUs: an ATmega2560 at its core, an ATmega16U2 for managing communications, as well as an ATtiny to be added for “something else that as yet to be announced.” Each device is packed with an LCD display and an integrated SD card reader for untethered printing. Aside from the classic USB connectivity options, BigBox can also interact over the web with OctoPrint and Raspberry Pi.


Sound like a 3D printer you’d like for your Makerspace? Head over to BigBox’s Kickstarter page, where E3D and LittleBox have already well surpassed their initial goal of $46,870. The first batch of units is expected to ship in December 2015 — just in time for the holidays!

Apio is an IoT platform that lets you build smart devices

Apio lets you create smart objects in five minutes, while its SDK guides you along the way. 

Apio is an open-source platform for the Internet of Things, which lets Makers and designers create their own smart systems and connected objects in a matter of minutes. The platform is comprised of two USB devices, the General and Dongle, both of which are based on an ATmega256RFR2 and ATmega16U2, along with a custom operating system and SDK.

The General is a low-cost, low-power board that communicates wirelessly with the Dongle. This is tasked with connecting up to 65,000 General units, and through the Apio OS, controlling them via a mobile device or PC.


The General is entirely Arduino-compatible, which means users can write their own code in the Arduino IDE, and features an integrated IEEE 802.15.4 communication channel, the LWM. This allows for every board to “talk” with one another in a wireless mesh network. Apio makes it super easy for Makers to get started right out of the box, thanks to a comprehensive set of libraries. Being open-source, more advanced users can also modify existing or write their own codes, thanks to a powerful framework that supports a number of applications including IFTTT, Unity3D and Temboo.


So, what sort of IoT applications can the General be used for? For starters, Makers can develop an automatic watering system that lets them know when their plants are thirsty, or smarten existing household units like a smoke alarm or thermostat. Additionally, users can design an intelligent set of blinds or even connect a General to an electronic door lock to access remotely. The possibilities are endless.


Meanwhile, the Dongle connects wirelessly to each General through the Apio’s OS, permitting anyone to control the boards from a smartphone, tablet or PC. The Apio Dongle integrates with Atmel’s Lightweight Mesh protocol using the ATmega256RFR2, which paves the way for all single devices to become signal repeaters. The signal becomes stronger as the devices are brought closer, therefore overcoming Wi-Fi’s typical coverage problems. According to the team, Atmel’s LWM combined with XBee can provide a more affordable, lower power solution than Wi-Fi when it comes to radio communication. Beyond that, the pairing of a Dongle and a Beaglebone Black or Raspberry Pi gives users the ability create their own smart home gateway.

“With Apio, you can interact with your creations as in an orchestra and you’re the leader. You don’t need wires or expensive installations to create your own symphony,” the team explains.

Interested? You can delve deeper into the IoT platform on its official page here, or its detailed Wiki page here.

Using the power of two MCUs on an Arduino board

While the latest batch of Arduino and Arduino-compatible boards either have a chip capable of USB or rely on a V-USB implementation, did you know earlier Uno and Mega boards actually have two microcontrollers?


Writing for Hackaday, Brian Benchoff notes that “an ATmega16U2 takes care of the USB connection, while the standard ‘328 or ‘2560 takes care of all ‘duino tasks. Wouldn’t it be great is you could also use the ’16U2 on the Uno or Mega for some additional functionality to your Arduino sketch?”

That’s now a reality thanks to a Maker by the name of NicoHood. Both the [Atmel based] Uno and Mega boards possess a pair of MCUs, of which the ’16U2 is generally used for USB-Serial translation. Meanwhile, it can serve as standalone AVR MCU with (or without) USB functions as well.

Using what NicoHood calls “HoodLoader2,” Makers now have the option of reprogramming the ‘16U2 of an Arduino Uno/Mega R3 with custom sketches, and using its seven (sometimes overlooked) I/O pins.


“This means you can use the ’16U2 as a normal USB AVR like a Leonardo,” NicoHood adds.

With a fully-compatible USB-HID core and CDC serial, HootLoader2 is a real bootloader for the ’16U2 — not a firmware. It can replace the DFU bootloader with a CDC bootloader and USB serial function. This enables new USB functions like an HID keyboard, mouse, media keys and a gamepad, the addition of extra sensors or LEDs, or pretty much anything else you can do with a normal Arduino, Benchoff explains.

“The great thing about this is that you actually have two fully Arduino-compatible microcontrollers in one Arduino Uno/Mega board – the board most of you already own. Your main MCU (328/2560) is still reprogrammable if you enter bootloader mode. All you need for this is a normal Arduino Uno/Mega R3 and some cables to install the new HoodLoader2.”

You can read all about the HootLoader2 on NicoHood’s official page here.