Tag Archives: EDN

Atmel-powered Printoo featured on Gigaom, EDN

Printoo – powered by Atmel’s ATmega328 microcontroller (MCU) – is a lineup of paper-thin, low-power boards and modules that offer Makers and devs new levels of creative flexibility.

The open source platform, created by the Ynvisible crew, made its official Kickstarter debut last week and has already been covered by a number of prominent publications, including EDN, Gigaom and Quartz.

“A spin-out from YDreams, Ynvisible was founded in 2010 with the goal to bring more interactivity to everyday objects and surfaces, mostly through the use of flexible and printed electronics including the company’s fully transparent electrochromic display. The paper-thin display, which only becomes visible when activated can easily be integrated with different background graphics,” writes EDN’s Julien Happich.

“Running Arduino software, the first Printoo packs include novel printed modules including LED light strips from VTT lab, 1.5V printed batteries from Blue Spark and Enfucell, 0.350mm thin organic photodetectors from ISORG, printed polymer solar cells from Mekoprint, and Ynvisible’s own transparent printed displays running from 1.5V. Also included are modules like Bluetooth LE, DC motor control, flexible LED matrixes, and a variety of sensors. The Printoo core is powered by the Atmel ATmega328 microcontroller.”

As Gigaom’s Signe Brewster notes, printed circuits are currently being considered for everything from shipping labels to tiny spacecraft NASA might send to Mars.

“Ynvisible expects Printoo to find a home among 3D printer owners and DIYers already familiar with Arduino,” Brewster explains.

“The modules are small enough to slip into a 3D printed object, opening up ways to easily create robots and other moving or connected devices. They could also be worn as a bracelet or sewn into clothes.”

Meanwhile, Lio Mirani of Quartz points out that bendable electronics could be the future of the rapidly evolving Internet of Things (IoT).

“When the first Harry Potter movie came out in 2001 the idea of the Daily Prophet, a newspaper that contains moving pictures, qualified as magic. A Kickstarter campaign by Ynvisible, a Lisbon-based technology firm, is bringing that magic to life with its displays, held together with paper-thin circuitry,” writes Mirani.

“Ynvisible’s ‘vision’ is to ‘bring everyday objects to life.’ For that to happen, it isn’t just processing power that needs to get cheaper and smaller, which it has, but the input and output mechanisms also need to be smaller and easily adaptable. Ynvisible is betting there is a broad market for such technology. The roaring success of its Kickstarter campaign is an early validation of that belief.”

Indeed, Ynvisible has already raised close to $36,000 – with support from almost 300 backers. Interested in learning more? You can check out the project’s official Kickstarter page here.

Nuvation talks Atmel and batteries at EELive! 2014

Nuvation CEO Mike Worry is at Atmel’s EELive! 2014 ToT booth presenting a series of Tech Talks about his company’s EV Battery Management System. His presentations have been covered by a number of prominent journalists, including Steve Taranovich of EDN.

“We’e seen enough instances of battery disasters occurring over the last few years in our industry. Batteries have a tremendous amount of energy within and if not properly handled and charged/monitored can be dangerous,” writes Taranovich.

“With chemistries such as Lithium, each cell must have its voltage monitored and balanced. This not only extends battery life, but prevents tragedies. [This is why] Nuvation has expertly developed their customizable battery Management System (BMS) that can handle 10s to 1,000s of cells. The system is easily made compatible with lithium, nickel, silver based and other battery chemistries.”

In terms of the Tank Controller, Nuvation selected Atmel’s ATSAM4E8C, a 32-bit ARM Cortex-M4 controller to power a wide range of features, including Ethernet, UART, CAN, current shunt and optically-isolated GPIO.

As Taranovich notes, the Tank Controller is also equipped with an optically-isolated interface to battery pack management (PackMan) strings.

“The system handles soft-start, main start and emergency disconnect and controls the charging system to protect the battery,” says Taranovich.

Meanwhile, the PackMan, or BMS slave utilizes Atmel’s ATA6870N, a Li-Ion, NiMH battery measuring, charge balancing and power-supply circuit.

This IC is tasked with measuring all cell voltages simultaneously – and balancing cells with higher voltage. 

Each IC is capable of monitoring 6 cells, with a daisy chain configuration supporting up to 16 PackMan board or 96 stacked cells.

“Nuvation’s BMS must deal with the balance/imbalance of a battery pack. It looks at the state-of-charge (SOC) between cells in the pack,” Taranovich adds. “The usable SOC of pack is determined by the lowest energy cell and then the BMS has the task of balancing these cells accurately and quickly without overcharging or overheating the cell.”

Interested in learning more? You can check out Nuvation’s official site here, while the full text of Steve Taranovich’s “Nuvation at EELive: The Fun in Electronics Design” can be read on EDN here.

Atmel’s SAM4Cx clinches ACE awards nomination

Atmel’s ARM-based SAM4Cx platform had been nominated as one of the 2014 ACE award finalists in the category of energy technology.

The 2014 ACE Awards, presented by EE Times and EDN, showcases the best of the best in today’s electronics industry, including the hottest new products, start-up companies, design teams, executives and more. Winners will be announced April 1 at the ACE Awards event held in conjunction with EE Live.

“One of the many joys of working with ARM Partners is to witness their technologies and teams recognized for their hard work,” an ARM rep told Bits & Pieces.

“We look forward to reviewing the ACE Awards each year to see which Partners have been nominated as a finalist. It makes us proud each year to see the pervasiveness of the ARM technology in so many categories.”

As we’ve previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, Atmel’s ARM-based SAM4Cx is a comprehensive smart energy platform designed specifically for next-gen grid communications, electricity, gas and water metering systems and energy measurement applications.

The Atmel SAM4Cx platform includes several system-on-chip (SoC) devices built around a dual-core ARM Cortex-M4 architecture with advanced security, metrology, wireless and power-line communications (PLC) options.

Key features of Atmel’s smart energy platform include best-in-class metrology with class 0.2 accuracy and dynamic range of up to 6000:1 for single and poly-phase applications; low-power PRIME PLC connectivity with integrated line driver; advanced cryptography; the ability to integrate application, communication and metrology; up to 2Mbytes of embedded Flash and 304Kbytes of SRAM with external memory expansion option.

Additional specs include low-power RTC, LCD and anti-tamper feature sets designed to reduce smart meter BOM by as much as 40 percent.

Interested in learning more about Atmel’s new and comprehensive smart energy platform? Be sure to check out our official product page here and Atmel’s SAM4Cx deep dive here.

EDN: Atmel powers the majority of 3D printers

Writing for EDN, Suzanne Deffree confirms that 3D printing is set for “explosive growth” in 2014 and 2015. Indeed, analysts at Gartner expect worldwide shipments of 3D printers to increase 75 percent in 2014, followed by a near doubling of unit shipments in 2015.

“Atmel is one of the hardware makers answering the 3D-printer market call,” writes Deffree. “Atmel AVR XMEGA and megaAVR MCUs can be found in the majority of 3D printers on the market, including the popular MakerBot and RepRap rapid prototyping system brands.”

Andreas Eieland, Atmel’s senior product marketing manager for Flash microcontrollers, says printers like MakerBot and RepRap enable anyone, whether a DIY Maker or professional engineer, to create 3D objects.

“There are now two or three 3D printer companies that have a product that you don’t need to be an engineer at heart to make them work. They are so easy anyone can have them up and running in a few hours,” he explains.

“We have this huge development on the low-end side where for a couple hundred dollars you can build something yourself. [However], on the high end, 3D printers need to find a way to start printing harder materials, like metals. On the low end, the price still needs to come down for professional solutions.”

Nevertheless, emphasizes Deffree, 3D printing technology is reaching new heights and is now light years beyond the creation of simple Yoda busts.

“[This includes] everything from creating replacement parts for personal furnishings and gadgets, to replicating vital organs, making their way into space for use on the International Space Station [and] offering new home construction techniques. The possibilities for the near-term future are endless,” she adds.

Eieland concurs.

“I hope people realize the potential of 3D printing. It’s more than toys and a small version of their own heads. There’s huge potential here in reducing the waste and turnover of products we have in our houses. At the same time there’s an even bigger opportunity in developing something – whatever they need so they can stick with what they have.”

Atmel leads OSHW movement

Writing in Electronic Design, David Tarrant and Andrew Back confirm that the greatest success to date in OSHW (open-source hardware) has been the Atmel-powered Arduino, primarily because it established a vibrant ecosystem. As Tarrant and Back note, all the hardware design files were made available, so both Makers and engineers could study the design and extend it for their own purposes in a commercial or non-commercial context.

“These files were combined with an accessible and equally flexible software platform. [Clearly], Arduino has benefited from derivative and complementary third-party hardware and is today a growing brand with a strong reputation for quality,” the two explained.

“Following its example, hardware companies are increasingly seeing OSHW as an opportunity to seed the market and educational establishments with their technology. Development kit design files are increasingly available under open-source licenses. And as was the case with software, more reusable components are becoming available.”

According to Tarrant and Back, another key product example of the OSHW revolution is the Atmel-powered MakerBot 3D printer, the initial generations of which were entirely based on open-source design.

“Although open-source hardware has to date largely been seen as existing at the simpler end of the electronics design spectrum, it embraces two major assets within the engineering community—goodwill and collective intelligence—and is being recognized as an important movement with increasing opportunities across both industry and education,” the two added.

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Casey Hare of EDN expressed similar sentiments.

“Open-source hardware is going mainstream. I always knew educators, academics, hobbyists and makers would push open-source hardware and software,” he opined. “Big companies and professional engineers would stay away until it was mature, robust, didn’t waste much time and added lots of value. [Clearly], that day has arrived.”

Indeed, Wilson Lee, Newark element14’s director of product marketing, told Hare the OSHW trend speaks to the importance of ease of access and use – as a strong community can help bring abstract ideas and designs to life.

“Engineers have historically been hesitant to fully embrace open source, but the sheer availability of open-source tools and resources has mitigated many of the risks associated with designing in open source for commercial use,” he concluded.

Atmel panel takes center stage @ 2013 World Maker Faire

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently declared “Maker Week” in honor of the 2013 World Maker Faire which opens its doors on Saturday, September 21st in the New York Hall of Science (NYSCI).

“As the old song goes, if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere,” Bloomberg wrote in an official proclamation. “I join you in applauding the all the Makers who continue to tinker, take risks, try new things and introduce their ideas first to New York City and then the world.”

Earlier today, Atmel kicked off the 2013 World Maker Faire with an analyst panel moderated by Windell Oskay, the co-founder of Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories. Participants included Arduino co-founder Massimo Banzi; Dr. Reza Kazerounian, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Atmel’s Microcontroller Business Unit; Suzanne Deffree of EDN; Brian Jepson, an editor with Maker Media (publisher of MAKE Magazine); Annmarie P. Thomas, an associate professor at the University of St. Thomas; Bob Martin from Atmel’s MCU applications team and Quin Etnyre, a 12-year-old Maker who loves to teach Arduino classes.

“The Maker Movement is changing the way people teach, learn and think. It allows you to have access to certain tech at a lower price,” Massimo told panel attendees.

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“[Remember], many closed source [hardware devices] aren’t as reliable and easy as the [Atmel-powered] Arduino. The value of open source is that you can really look at code, build upon what others have done. We don’t think the Maker Movement is about the future, it’s about the present.”

Indeed, as Atmel’s Reza Kazerounian noted, bringing businesses closer to the open source community will help empower both Makers and the industry.

“The open source community could be the start of the next big commercial engineering project,” he added.

Meanwhile, Annmarie P. Thomas said she had observed that Makers often spend time creating things they are passionate about.

“The Maker Movement redefines the classroom, it makes us want to celebrate curiosity and inventiveness, returning us to a time where people still understand how things work even if they aren’t engineers. Obviously, the Maker Movement isn’t really new, and the cool thing about design and making, there’s no right answer. It’s [definitely difficult] to engineer something without being a Maker first,” she explained.
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“One of the really exciting things about the MakerMovement is that it’s more about the making, less about the tools. Whatever you can obtain, you start with. The Maker Movement is about lowering cost of hardware, yes, but even more about the community pitching in. [Plus], more schools are now adopting Arduino and many university programs want to see students come in with a portfolio.”

Atmel’s Bob Martin expressed similar sentiments.

“The Maker Movement makes learning more fun, exciting and practical, allowing brilliant individuals such as Quin Etnyre to move forward and succeed. Personally, I’m trying to encourage my daughters to take their toys apart and build things. I was always a big fan of LEGO, which is probably why I’m a Maker.”

Suzanne Deffree concurred. “If we can inspire people to tinkering a bit with kids, they may go on to college to become an analog engineer,” she opined. “What we need to do is show that Paris Hilton isn’t cool. Then we’ll start seeing Makers as the really cool people.”

Quin, the 12-year-old Maker who loves to tinker with Arduino boards, said he thinks there should be more funding for Makers within the context of elementary, high school and universities, as the Movement can help teach real world job skills.

“Over past three years, the Maker Movement has started creating more Kickstarter businesses. I personally started with soldering kits from MAKE… It’s really good to take a kit, play with it, then later on dissect it and look at each individual part,” he concluded.

That’s it for the panel, but you can come visit us at the Atmel booth in the Arduino pavilion. Don’t worry if you can’t make it to out to the Big Apple, because you can still follow all the goings on via Twitter – just look for the hashtags @makerfaire, @atmel and @arduino.

For those of you attending the Faire, Atmel will be showcasing a number of uber-cool exhibits and demos including:

  • Hexbug/hovercraft hacking: Watch Atmel employees hack traditional Hexbugs and hovercrafts using Arduino boards.
  • MakerBot: We’ll be showing off the wildly popular AVR-powered 3D printer and providing 3D samples over the weekend.
  • Pensa: This company uses Arduino boards to make their flagship DIWire, a rapid prototyping machine that bends metal wire to produce 2D and 3D shapes.
  • Infinity Aerospace: The ArduLab – powered by Atmel’s versatile ATMega 2560 microcontroller – is a highly capable experimentation platform ready for space right out of the box. Sensor mounting is straightforward, with unique functionality addressing the technical challenges of operating in space.

Additional exhibitors at the Atmel World Maker Faire booth include Fuzzbot (robots), Evil Mad Scientist and Colorado Micro Devices. We’re looking forward to seeing you at the Atmel booth, so don’t forget to follow us at @makerfaire, @atmel and @arduino!  Also, be sure to join us when Bob Martin presents Prototyping is as Easy as Uno, Due, Tres. As previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, the Ardruino Uno is an excellent lab tool for technicians and h/w engineers who have a specific design in mind. Martin’s presentation will demonstrate how Atmel’s MCU apps lab uses the Uno to test harnesses for LED lighting stress testing, SBC reset response and power supply stress testing on a regular basis for the weather station prototype.

When: Sunday, September 22, 2013, 12:30PM – 1:00PM ET
Where: Make: Electronics Stage

Atmel’s 8-bit AVR is one of the most popular MCUs ever!

EDN has chosen Atmel’s stalwart and versatile AVR as one of the most popular microcontrollers (MCUS) ever!

“Atmel AVRs revolutionized the 8-bit market when it was launched, with single cycle execution, free software tools and large Flash memory options. Since then, Atmel has continued to innovate and gain market share,” writes EDN’s Stephen Evanczuk.

“For the devices that run in the biggest volumes it is never one feature that makes it good as It needs to be successful in many markets to hit the high numbers. Ease of use, high performance, good sales support, high quality levels and on time delivery are essential.”

As previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, Atmel’s current generation of AVR 8- and 32-bit microcontrollers compliment our ARM MCU and microprocessors (MPUs) to deliver a unique combination of performance, power efficiency and design flexibility. Simply put, no other microcontrollers deliver more computing performance with better power efficiency.

Interested in learning more about Atmel’s extensive AVR MCU portfolio? You can check out our detailed AVR 8- and 32-bit device breakdown here.