Tag Archives: ATtiny

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!

DrinkMate is a mini breathalyzer that plugs into your iPhone

Have you had a couple of drinks? Don’t worry, DrinkMate has got your BAC!

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly 30 people die every day in the U.S. as a result of drunk driving accidents. The most heartwrenching part of it all is that such instances can be prevented. Cognizant of this, the Edge Tech Labs team has set out to heavily reduce the number of drunk driving occurrences and corresponding fatalities with its latest innovation.


DrinkMate is a lipstick-sized breathalyzer — measuring 1.9″ x 0.6″ — that plugs directly into your iPhone’s lightning port. This prompts an accompanying app to launch, and seconds later, for you to blow into the end of the device. Your blood alcohol content (BAC) will then appear on the screen.

What’s more, the app enables you to easily connect with friends, partner apps and other programs currently in development. The idea behind DrinkMate is that, the more that the people around you are aware of your BAC and location, the better off he group will be as a whole. Peer pressure, either physically or digitally, can be used in positive way to make safer choices.

“DrinkMate and its app fundamentally change the image and goal of breathalyzers. Its design inherently draws in friends and people around you to see what you’re doing in a friendly manner. If your friend keeps blowing a high BAC number, can you really just sit there and let them make a mistake? You can’t — you’re forced to help them make the right choice,” its creators explain.


If the concept sounds familiar, that’s because Edge Tech Labs completed a successful Kickstarter campaign last year, for its proof-of-concept Android version, having garnered just shy of $100,000 from 2,800-plus backers. Since its debut, the team has significantly improved its circuitry, design and packaging for a retail-ready model that is compliant with Apple’s MFi program. Aside from that, the mobile app has been completely revamped with an enhanced user experience, interface and plenty of additional features.

With a tinyAVR MCU at its heart, the extremely portable and lightweight gadget (only 0.2 ounces) is powered entirely by your iPhone — no battery required. Not to mention, the specially-crafted air inlet on the end of DrinkMate is tasked with slowing down and directing air towards a built-in custom sensor to ensure accurate readings without any contact. In other words, this will be great news for germaphobes!

“Our sensor manufacturer has created a brand new high-quality sensor for us and utilizes specialized quality control measures of our design. This new sensor is more accurate, robust, and has a quicker recovery time in between readings,” the team reveals.


Impressively, DrinkMate can produce results within 0.01% at a BAC of 0.02%. While the sensor has a maximum BAC limit of 0.20%, chances are that if you’re past that threshold, you’ll probably need help standing anyways.

“We compute BAC in a fundamentally different way than pre-existing breathalyzers so that DrinkMate is minimally affected by sensor changes over time. Our proprietary algorithm has been developed over months of testing, thousands of DrinkMates (Android units from last year), and accounts for sensor age effects in its operation.”

Want a mini iPhone breathalyzer of your own? Head over to DrinkMate’s Kickstarter page, where Edge Tech Labs is currently seeking $35,000. Units are expected to begin shipping in October 2015. Those with an Android phone can still purchase one as well.

This ATtiny85 box will make decisions of you

Can’t make up your mind? Then you may want to make this box.

After frequently finding himself struggling with everyday decisions, Victor8o5 chose to create a pint-sized box that would make them for him. Instead of toiling over making the right choice, the clever ATtiny85 powered tool would spit out a simple ‘yes’ or ’no’ answer. Following the incredible popularity of his original project (60K views on Instructables and counting), the Maker designed the next iteration of his device — this time with more commonly available materials so everyone could build their own.


Whereas the first version consisted of a small wooden cube with a single cathode red-green LED, the shell of the latest model features two perforated boards stacked together, joined by pin headers and connectors, along with three LED lights. While the circuitry itself is fairly straightforward, the Maker advises that assembling it unison in two different planes can be a bit tricky.

“This circuit runs on 1mA when in idle and around 5-6mA when using the LEDs, so assuming the coin battery has a capacity of 200mAh, it should run for a week before draining the battery in case its left on,” Victor notes.


“For the main switch, I used a pair of pin headers and a bridge connector from a computer, you can use a small though-hole switch or even a tilt switch,” he adds.

Victor programmed the cube to include three possible outcomes each represented by a different color. Green, yes. Red, no. Yellow, maybe. However, he does note that the latter can be undone by easily changing the code and removing the LED. The probabilities can also be modified, for example, by setting both red and green to 40% while keeping the yellow at 20%.


“To do this, simply expand the range of the elements in the random function and include them in the statements as shown as shown in the picture,” he concludes. “The random function will output anything from 0 to the second variable minus 1, meaning that if we introduce 3, the results can be 0, 1, or 2 (red, yellow, green). By introducing 5 as the second variable we can get 0, 1, 2, 3 or 4. We can use an ‘if’ function so 0 or 1 are recognized as red (40% chance), 2 yellow (20% chance) and 3 or 4 green (40% chance).”

Well, one thing is for certain: Though he may struggle with everyday decisions, when it comes to choosing awesome projects, he seems to have that under control. Think you may want a box of your own to stop the hemming and hawing the next time you’re in Starbucks, head over to the project’s official page here.

Flotilla is simplifying DIY electronics with Raspberry Pi

Build your next great idea in minutes, not hours, with this easy-to-use digital tinkering tool for Raspberry Pi. 

Developed by UK-based startup Pimoroni, Flotilla is an educational electronics kit that consists of smart and affordable modules that Makers can connect together to create a number of projects.


Flotilla is comprised of a series of plug-and-play hardware components that are controlled by a Raspberry Pi, but can be programmed via different software interfaces as well, contingent upon the experience of its user. The team has blended smart widgets and software to make the project friendly to Makers of all ages and skill levels. The 12 components include everything from motion and touch, to lights and color, to barometers and numbers, among some others. These are then connected by USB to a Pi via the Flotilla Dock board, and are programmed using web app interfaces.


Users are also provided with eight plug-and-play ports for linking their Flotilla modules. However, shall a project require more, you can also plug up to four Flotilla Docks into a single Raspberry Pi B+ — this will enable you to use up to thirty-two modules simultaneously. The pieces themselves are not wireless, so whatever a Maker devises with Flotilla is going to need some cables.

“Flotilla is designed to progress with you as your skills develop. You don’t need any coding skills or electronics knowledge to get started, you can simply plug and play,” its team writes.


At its most rudimentary level, Flotilla offers a pair of web-based resources that can be accessed right from any computer or mobile device. This lets young Makers experiment, learn and build without having to write a single line of code. Pretty cool, right? Users can simply select from a variety of recipe cards labeled with step-by-step instructions to complete projects and create a set of rules that link Flotilla modules together to define their own systems with the Cookbook and Rockpool apps, respectively.

To enable progression beyond this point, Pimoroni notes that it has already added Python support and is working on adding Scratch graphical programming language as well. This is great news for those with some programming experience that want to get into hardware.


“If you’ve ever scraped around the Internet looking for code examples or datasheets to get something working then you’ll know how frustrating it can be. Put that behind you with Flotilla,” the startup explains.

For plug-and-play functionality, the team needed to be able to detect when a device was connected and identify that said device. This meant polling each port of the Flotilla Dock to see if anything changed. Therefore, the Dock is powered by the same class of chip used in a number of Arduino boards, the AVR MCU.

“Its job is to keep a list of all connected devices, their locations and their current state. It communicates with each device in turn to see if it has been disconnected or has a new sensor reading. It then passes that information back to the Host (usually a Raspberry Pi) as serial data over the USB connection. This data is all text-based, human readable, and fairly easy to parse, so we expect it can be used easily by a coder of moderate experience. This also will enable Flotilla to be used with anything that supports Serial over USB in the future.”


There are eight ports on the Dock that communicate to the Flotilla modules. These all speak via Two-Wire Interface/I2C. However, a recent Kickstarter update revealed that the team turned to versatile tinyAVR for those that were unable to do so by themselves.

“The three modules which absolutely need an AVR-on-board are the Joystick, Slider and Dial. All three of these use exactly the same basic concepts for turning the movement of their requisite inputs into a useful signal; variable resistors.”

Flotilla isn’t the first easy-to-use, modular electronics kits hoping to make a splash on the Maker market. In fact, there are an increasing amount of learner sets available, including those from our friends at littleBits and Adafruit to name just a few. Interested in learning more? You can head over to Flottila’s official Kickstarter page, where the team has just completed a successful campaign garnering well over its initial goal of £32,768.

Turning plants into capacitive sensors with tinyAVR

A young Maker duo experiments with plants as a capacitive material.

Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design students Francesca Desmarais and Paula Te recently used tinyAVR microcontrollers to turn plants into capacitive sensors.


Using an ATTiny MCU with Arduino’s Capacitive Sensing Library, the Maker duo built a circuit that could be clipped onto plants. The closer another capacitive object got to the pot, such as one’s hand, the faster the LED would blink.

“We started out clipping the circuit to non-organic sensors like aluminum foil and metal cans to discover that surface area positively correlates with sensitivity. As we continued our experiments, we learned the importance of grounding both the to earth, so that both sensors share the same ground.”


Experimenting with plants as a capacitive material allowed the students to better understand capacitance and basic electronics on the atomic level. Interested in learning more? Head over to the project’s official page here.

New shields for Arduino

Arduino has debuted two new shields for use with the company’s wildly popular lineup of Atmel-based boards.

First up is a USB host shield based on the MAX3421E. This USB peripheral/host controller contains the digital logic and analog circuitry required to implement a full-speed USB peripheral or a full-/low-speed host compliant to USB specification rev 2.0.

The shield can be used with the “USB Host Library for Arduino” hosted by Lauzus from circuits@home on GitHub (click to download zip).

Next up is the ArduinoISP (AVR-based in-system programmer) based on David Mellis’ project FabISP and useful to anyone needing more space on their Arduino board.

Interested in learning more? For more details about using the Arduino ISP please visit the Getting Started page. You can also learn how to program an ATtiny and read your Arduino built-in EEPROM using ArduinoISP on Scuola here.

Video: Creating an ATtiny robot family

A Maker by the name of “shlonkin” has created a number of mini autonomous vehicles capable of perceiving the world with sensors and adjusting their behavior accordingly.

According to HackADay’s Brian Benchoff, all the ‘bots are powered by Atmel’s versatile ATtiny85 microcontroller (MCU).

In addition, the uber-mini ‘bots are equipped with a small battery, two motors, at least one phototransistor and an LED.

“One robot has left and right eyes pointing down, and can act as a line follower. Another has a group of LEDs around its body, allowing it to signal other bots in all directions,” Benchoff explained.

“The goal of the project is to create a whole series of these tiny robots capable of interacting with the environment and each other.”

Interested in learning more? You can check out the project’s official page on HackADay here.

Building a tinyAVR pocket sequencer

Earlier this week, Bits & Pieces took a closer look at an ATtiny85-powered ultrasonic ruler designed by a Maker named “bergerab.”

Today, we’re going to get up close and personal with an ATtiny pocket sequencer created by bergerab that uses the very same tinyAVR microcontroller (MCU). 

Built around the popular ATtiny85, the pocket-sized sequencer is fully programmable and usable in a studio setting.

“Besides making a pocket-sized sequencer, my goal of this project was to stretch the uses of the ATtiny chips to show how powerful they really are,” bergerab explained a recent Instructables post.

“This project is great for those interested in music and/or electronics, and by the end you will have one of the smallest, unique sequencers ever made.”

Aside from the ATtiny85 MCU, key project components include:


Perfboard (5 cm by 7 cm)
  • Two 10k potentiometers
  • Two tactile switch-buttons
  • Two two-way switches
  • A 7805 voltage regulator
  • Two 10uF caps
  • One 100uF cap
  • One 2k resistor
  • 8 LEDs
  • 74HC595 shift register
  • 1/4 inch audio female jack
  • Speaker/buzzer
  • 9v Battery (with connector)
  • (optional) 5cm by 7cm acrylic sheet

On the software side, bergerab uses a relatively simple sketch to regulate the device.

“In my design of this sequencer, I wanted the user to program the steps right when the device is turned on. To do this I used the ‘setup()’ function, [which] is executed when the ATtiny is initially given power, or if its reset pin is set to LOW,” he continued.

“I added a startup tone (which is a little arpeggio of a c major chord) to notify the user that they are in the frequency programming mode. In the main loop (‘loop()), the ATtiny is told to go through each step, and for each step, light the appropriate LED. Then play the note assigned to that step, at the specified note length. During this, the MCU is checking if the button (analogRead(pot)<30) is pressed. If it is, the program enters a function called ‘setSustain()’. In this function, the user can select the notes length, (via the button and potentiometer).”

Interested in learning more? You can check out the project’s official Instructables page here.

Making your own ATtiny (model) police light

Jan Henrik has designed a multi-functional police light for model cars using Atmel’s ATtiny tinyAVR (25/45/85) microcontroller (MCU).

The project – which recently surfaced on Instructables – features several “animations” or sequences that can be easily changed by simply pressing a button on the circuit board.

“It has two channels, which can be controlled with PWM,” Henrik explained.

“This allows us to add serval animations or police light flashing sequences. The maximum rated current per channel is 500mA, [enabling] us to control high power LEDs, LED stripes or old light bulbs.”

Aside from Atmel’s ATtiny MCU, key project components include:

  • Two buttons (off/on)
  • Two resistors (1kOHM)
  • Two resistors (220kOHM)
  • Two resistors (450OHM)
  • Two diodes (1N4007 or Equal)
  • Terminals with screws
  • One 8 pin IC holder
  • Two BC548 (or Equal)
  • Un-isolated wire
  • One circuit board

As you can see in the circuit board layout above, the two output channels are on pins 0 and 1 (PWM outputs), while pins 3 and 4 are designated as input pins for the buttons.

To program the ATtiny, Henrik used an Arduino Uno with a shield, although as he points out, a simple breadboard will suffice.

On the software side, Henrik wrote two separate programs for the police light. The first is easier to understand and alter, while the second features German and American police light sequences, along with a more responsive menu.

Interested in learning more? You can check out the DIY ATtiny police light official Instructables page here.

Reactor Core is an AVR programmer

The Reactor Core – which recently surfaced on Kickstarter – is a hardware programming platform for Arduino boards and stand-alone AVR-based microcontrollers (MCUs). 

Designed by Frank Fox, the Reactor Core is powered by Atmel’s ATmega328P MCU and an FT232R for USB to serial communication.

“The Arduino IDE has a fantastic option of directly programming microcontrollers using ISP [and] we included a ATmega328P (equivalent to an Arduino Uno board) on the programmer,” Fox explained.

“This allows you to program compatible blank ATmega microcontrollers with the Arduino bootloader. Once the bootloader is installed, then they are ready for use with the Arduino software. You can then switch back to the USB/serial connection to upload your sketches.”

The Reactor Core also includes an integrated ZIF socket for a number of Atmel’s ATtiny chips.

“To make  programming easier, we built in a ZIF socket. You setup the Reactor Core as an ISP, place your ATtiny chip in the ZIF socket, select the type of chip in the Board option, upload the sketch and then remove to install into your circuit,” said Fox.

“With the ZIF we will have support for both the ATtiny84 and ATtiny85. Using the ISP header you can connect to other compatible microcontrollers.”

As Fox notes, Makers can use the platform to self-replicate the bootloader to a blank microcontroller, thereby creating a cloned MCU.

“We think of this process like the chain reaction in a nuclear power plant. Once the first reaction happens, additional reactions are triggered. You can have dozens of projects all powered by the microcontrollers you programmed yourself. The Reactor Core is a device to empower you to make more reactions happen,” he added.

“The Reactor Core is also a way to simplify your life. Instead of having an Arduino, a programmer shield and a USB to serial converter, you only need the Reactor Core for all of these processes. This way if your Arduino is tied up on a project, you can still prototype another.”

Interested in learning more? You can check out the Reactor Core’s official Kickstarter page here.