Tag Archives: Atmel AVR XMEGA

3D printing at Yale University

Writing for the New Haven Register, Jim Shelton describes 3D printers as “magic boxes” fueled by sheer ingenuity. So it comes as little surprise that at Yale University, where students, faculty and researchers are flocking to the technology by the hundreds, 3D printers are filtering into nearly every discipline on campus.

According to Shelton, the devices are accelerating innovation, enhancing design projects and sparking inspiration for engineers, medical researchers, architects and biologists.

“In the past year, we have 3D-printed everything from scientific research tools to key chains, ancient Egyptian artifacts to trombone mouthpieces, race car parts to human tumors,” Joseph Zinter, assistant director of Yale’s Center for Engineering Innovation and Design (CEID), told the New Haven Register. “People are still trying to figure out where this is going to go. We’re at a very exciting time. This gives students the ability to create things their hands aren’t able to create. That’s the leverage we’re talking about here.”

Indeed, CEID has successfully taught more than 550 students and faculty how to use the printers. Training sessions are scheduled every week and Zinter expects at least 10 percent of Yale’s undergraduates to go hands-on with the 3D printers over the next few months.

“People are still trying to figure out where this is going to go. We’re at a very exciting time. This gives students the ability to create things their hands aren’t able to create,” he explained. “That’s the leverage we’re talking about here. You’re taking ideas and turning them into physical objects. We’ve become a hub for people to bring these projects.”

To be sure, 3D printers are gaining positive traction among faculty, researchers and medical staff across campus.

Mark Michalski, a radiology resident at Yale-New Haven Hospital, told the New Haven Register he has printed 3D versions of human bones and even a kneecap surrounded by a tumor. The models are particularly useful in helping patients visualize an ailment or a medical procedure. Similarly, Gordon Shepherd, who teaches neurobiology at Yale’s School of Medicine, worked with CEID to create a model of a neuron and plans on printing models depicting multiple neurons in the future.

Meanwhile, Roman Kuc, who teaches electrical engineering at Yale, noted that flexibility to experiment in an inexpensive way helps promote innovation.

“For people like me, 3D printing is ideal. You can try out many ideas and converge on what works,” he added.

As we’ve previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, Atmel AVR XMEGA and megaAVR MCUs can be found in the majority of 3D printers on the market, including the popular MakerBot and RepRap. It should also be noted that the lucrative 3D printing space is set for “explosive growth” in 2014 and 2015. Indeed, Gartner analysts expect worldwide shipments of 3D printers to increase by 75 percent in 2014, followed by a near doubling of unit shipments in 2015.

Wireless chipsets for the Internet of Things (IoT)

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to a future world where all types of electronic devices link to each other via the Internet. Today, it’s estimated that there are nearly 10 billion devices in the world connected to the Internet, a figure expected to triple to nearly 30 billion by 2020.

In a recent article about the IoT, the LX Group took a closer look at a number of chipsets on the market that can be used to integrate wireless networking and existing embedded designs with low complexity and cost. One of the chipsets highlighted by the LX Group is Redpine Signals’ Connect-IO-n series of modules which allows 802.11 wireless LAN connectivity to be added relatively easily to an embedded microcontroller system.

“In collaboration with Atmel these modules have been optimized for use with Atmel microcontrollers (MCUs), particularly the Atmel AVR XMEGA and AVR UC3 series microcontrollers,” an LX Group rep wrote in an article published on the Australian-based Ferret. “Some modules in this family provide 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi connectivity, while all modules provide the TCP/IP stack on board and are FCC certified, simplifying RF compliance certification of the entire design.”

More specifically, noted the LX Group rep, these modules are aimed at providing the ability to add 802.11 wireless connectivity to 8-bit and 16-bit microcontrollers with low integration effort and low memory footprint required in the host microcontroller to support the WiFi device, especially where 802.11n support is desired.

“The modules in this series can also be interfaced to the host microcontroller over a UART or SPI interface, while a standby current consumption of only a few microamps potentially allows for years of battery life with no external energy source as long as the radio is only briefly enabled when it is needed,” the rep added.

“The RedPine RS9110-N-11-28 module from the Connect-IO-n family is relatively unusual in that it provides dual-band 2.4GHz/5GHz 802.11 a/b/g/n connectivity for an embedded device, supporting connection to any Wi-Fi device or network and potentially avoiding congestion in the 2.4 GHz band as used with 802.11b/g devices.”

Clearly, wireless connectivity is more important than ever for developers and engineers, as wireless extends from PC peripherals and home entertainment applications to the smart grid and beyond. To support these sophisticated applications, Atmel offers a complete line of IEEE 802.15.4-compliant, IPv6/6LoWPAN based, ZigBee certified wireless solutions.

They are based on Atmel’s family of RF transceivers, 8-bit and 32-bit AVR and ARM microcontrollers. To facilitate rapid development and speed time to market, Atmel offers a variety of free software stacks, reference designs, wireless modules and development kits. Simply put, the provide everything engineers need to meet the unique needs of low-cost, low-power, wireless control and sensor network applications.

Key features include:

  • Single-Chip Solutions — The Atmel IEEE 802.15.4-compliant single-chip solution combines an AVR microcontroller and best-in-class 2.4GHz RF transceiver. This particular combo is ideal for applications requiring minimal board space and cost – without compromising MCU and RF performance.

  • Transceivers – Atmel’s wide range of high performance, low-power IEEE 802.15.4-compliant transceivers support regional 700/800/900MHz frequency bands available in China, Europe, Japan and North America, as well as the 2.4GHz band available worldwide. For maximum flexibility, these unique RF transceivers can be combined with Atmel’s microcontrollers over the SPI Interface.

  • Bundles – Flexible IEEE 802.15.4-compliant bundles make it easy to create a solution that is appropriately aligned to your application needs.

  • Modules – ZigBits are compact 802.15.4/ZigBee modules featuring record-breaking range performance and exceptional ease of integration. ZigBits also pack a complete FCC/CE/ARIB certified RF design that eliminates costly and time-consuming RF development and gets your product to market on-time and on-budget.

Additional information about Atmel’s MCU Wireless controllers can be found here.