Tag Archives: digital

ATmega32u4 MCU powers littleBits Arduino module



LittleBits has debuted a programmable ATmega32u4-powered Arduino at Heart Module. The new component will allow Makers to easily incorporate sketches into their littleBits circuits.

According to a LittleBits rep, the Arduino Module is capable of reading two types of input signals.

“The first is digital, which is a simple ‘on’ or ‘off’ signal. This is the type of signal you will get from a button or trigger. In the Arduino coding language, on is a HIGH signal and off is a LOW signal. All three inputs on the Arduino Module can read digital signals,” the rep explained.

“The other type of signal is an analog signal. Analog signals aren’t just ‘on’ or ‘off.’ They work like a dimmer switch or a volume knob. In the Arduino coding language, analog signals are given a value between 0 and 1023. If you connected a dimmer module to your Arduino and turn the knob up (clockwise), the value would slowly rise from 0 to 1023. The inputs on the Arduino module marked a0 and a1 both accept analog signals.”

As Engadget’s Jon Fingas notes, the programmable module gives Makers much more control over LittleBits’ existing modules, such as the oscillators in the Synth Kit.

“However, it also opens the door to interaction with your computer. Since the Arduino module has USB support built-in, you can create Etch-A-Sketches, Pong games and other programs that have LittleBits and your PC working in harmony,” said Fingas.

“[Plus], many existing Arduino projects should work with only a few slight tweaks to pin assignments.”

The stand-alone Arduino module can be snapped up for $36, although LittleBits is currently offering an $89 starter bundle that includes a total of 8 prototyping modules.

Interested in learning more? You can find additional information about the new LittleBits module here.

Video: PCB 201 with Atmel’s Paul Rako




In this Atmel Edge episode, Analog Aficionado Paul Rako demonstrates how to place a switching power supply on the same circuit board with analog and digital circuits.

“It’s a fairly high-level clever trick to lay out a switching power supply on a board that has analog and digital and some delicate circuits,” Rako explains.

“What did my two friends – Jon Dutra and Alan Martin – come up with? You use a top-side copper pour on your circuit board to make a local ground for your switching regulator. And then you just connect it at one place, at the bottom, at the ground reference of the output capacitor.”

To illustrate his point, Rako highlights a four-layer circuit board.

“So this is top, signal, then there’s ground, then there’s power plane, then there’s bottom signal. Design it four-layer. When you get that figured out, then you can spin it down to a two layer. A buck regulator, has an input voltage. Got an input capacitor. Then you’ve got a switch,” he continues.

“Usually it a FET transistor, or sometimes it’s inside the control IC. Here’s that control IC. Then you’ve got a catch diode, which causes a lot of problems. It gets hot. Sometimes it’s inside the IC. Sometimes it’s a synchronous. The basic thing with a switching regulator is this inductor. Then you’ve got an output capacitor. And always put those arrows and feathers on your circuit so people understand what’s coming in and what’s going out.”

As Rako notes, the inherent problem with a switching regulator is its fast-changing currents, di/dt.

“Those fast-changing create electromagnetic noise. If you let them run in the ground plane they’ll go out and affect other circuits on your PCB. So the trick is you pour a top-side copper pour,” he added.

Interested in learning more? Be sure to watch the video above for a full PCB 201 run-down.

Atmel-Arduino powers this hybrid clock

ECAL design student Pauline Saglio has created a unique series of three digital/analog hybrid clocks in an effort to meld the digital world with the analog act of winding a clock.

“Nowadays, time is everywhere, on our computers, on our phones, in the street; it has been so automated that the gestures relative to its reading have now changed,” Saglio told Wired. “In fact, we no longer have a permanent relationship with time but with the clock.”

According to Saglio, each of the three clocks is comprised of a touchscreen nestled into a box with a brass key sticking out of it. The screens remain blank until the user pulls, pushes or twists the key – prompting the display of time in the form of hand-drawn black and white animations. These minimalistic drawings fill the display for a minute or so before reverting to a blank screen.

Key project components include an Atmel-based Arduino board, potentiometer and Mac Mini.

“[These components] allow her to connect the physical action of rewinding to the digital animations. Three scripts interpret when the key is being turned, when it stops and when it’s returning to its original position,” explained Wired’s Liz Stinson. ” It’s a fairly technical process disguised by an analog appearance, which Saglio says is a recurring theme in her work.”

Indeed, Stinson said she often tries to conceal the technical aspects by introducing poetry.

“To make the public forget that it is a complicated work – to erase the boundary between them and me… I like this aspect of waiting for the time, and not have it like a gadget. I wanted to give time back the precious relationship it deserves,” she concluded.