Tag Archives: modular

mCookies are Arduino and LEGO-compatible modules

These quarter-sized, stackable, Arduino and LEGO-compatible modules allow Makers to bring their ideas to life. 

If there’s one trend that is continuing to evolve throughout the Maker Movement, it’s modularity. DIYers are constantly seeking expedited and efficient ways to piece together their projects, all while bringing their ideas to life without the hassles of soldering and wiring messes. Joining the likes of littleBits and Modulo, the Microduino crew has launched mCookie — a small, stackable electronic hardware kit for designers, engineers and curious tinkerers of any age and skill set.


You may recall their first Kickstarter campaign from back in September 2013, which went on to garner well over its pledge goal in just a matter of days. Since then, Microduino has developed over 50 blocks and 30 sensors, and has granted users access to more than 100 basic tutorials, 500 project samples and a burgeoning online community.

Hoping to continue riding its wave of success, the next-generation of Microduino consists of quarter-sized hardware components inspired by the incredibly popular Arduino platform that not only connect magnetically, but can be built into predesigned projects or used to innovate new ones as well. Each open source module is color-coded and is designed to be stacked on top of a main processor to perform one core function — whether that’s expanding Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capabilities, GPS and sensor hubs, audio and battery management, or a core USB.


As its creators note, there are three microcontroller modules in the mCookie series, all of which powered by Atmel. The CoreUSB is built around the ATmega32U4, while the Core and Core+ are driven by an ATmega328P and ATmega644PA, respectively.

Ultimately, these components will provide users with the ability to build any number of projects, ranging from drones and robots to wearables and smart gardening gadgets. Helping speed up the development process, these devices can be programmed using Arduino IDE and integrated into existing Arduino sketches of all kinds. Aside from that, the modules are even LEGO-compatible and only fit together when the right connection is formed, making them more accessible to people of all ages and eliminating the need for soldering.

Meanwhile, for projects that require a little more reinforcement, spring pins offer rugged surface-to-surface linkage between circuit boards for an extended usable lifetime, and M2 screws can be employed to securely fasten more robust designs. Not only geared towards beginners, experienced and well-seasoned Makers can write their own programs in the Arduino IDE and transmit that program to the hardware via USB, too.


mCookie comes in a variety of packages, including Basic, Advanced and Expert kits, each of which bundles different boards and sensors. So whether you’re looking for a fast and simple way to devise a remote-controlled LEGO car, a Wi-Fi weather station or even a DIY quadcopter, mCookie is for you. With its incredibly popular crowdfunding campaign complete, Microduino expects to begin shipping units by the end of July 2015.

Modulo is a modular dev system for Makers

Modulo is a simple, modular solution for Makers looking to build powerful electronic devices.

When it comes to developing DIY projects, we as Makers love modularity. This was true back in the ‘50s when interlocking LEGO bricks, and even earlier, in the sticks-and-spool days of Tinkertoys. With that in mind, it’s no wonder why one Northern California startup has gone ahead and devised a set of swappable modules that will enable users to easily design electronic systems without ever having to assemble a circuit board from scratch.


Each Modulo is equipped with its own little processor (ATtiny841) — aside from the mini color display that is driven by an Atmel | SMART SAM D21 — tasked with handling its operation and communicating with an ATmega32U4 driven Controller board. Using a connector on its back, Makers can easily slide their modules right into the so-called Modulo Base which securely holds them in place — no breadboard, wiring and soldering mess! What’s more, those wishing to use a Spark Core, Photo or Electron instead of the Controller can do so by selecting a Spark Base.

“This vastly simplifies the process of building and programming devices, since you only need to deal with high-level concepts (e.g. get temperature or set motor speed) not I/O pin mappings, wiring, data sheets, and registers,” the Modulo Labs team writes.


The Arduino-compatible Controller boasts six I/O ports that can be used as digital or analog inputs and digital outputs. Four of the six ports can even be used to control servos or output a PWM signal. Additionally, each port has its own power and ground pins to help keep things nice and neat, while circuitry on the board will protect it from any potential wiring mishaps.

As with a number of other DIY dev kits, Modulo is offering a wide range of components for its initial Kickstarter run. Among the initial modules are a color OLED display, a push-button illuminated knob, a motor driver, a thumb joystick, a temperature probe, as well as I/O and extension cables. In other words, all of the necessary resources a Maker would need to get started with their gizmo or gadget. Four modules can be connected to the Base at anytime, however for larger projects, these can easily be daisy chained together.


When used with a Mac, Windows or Linux computer, a Maker will have the ability to manage all of their modules using Python over USB. The ATmega32U4 embedded board can also act as a bridge, enabling users to control their modules from Python running Raspberry Pi. Beyond that, they can choose to use the Arduino IDE to reprogram the controller or connect to the Internet with Spark. Communication between devices is accomplished through the standard I2C bus.

So, what can you make with this development kit? For starters, though its creators highlight a variety of projects ranging from an intelligent water system to keep your grass nice and green to an automated fish feeder for Nemo to a tea-brewing robot for your crumpets, the possibilities are endless.

“Modulo couldn’t exist without the amazing work of the open-source community, and it won’t exist without your generous support. We want to give back, so we plan to make the hardware, software, and firmware all open and available for you to use and modify. We’ll also provide eagle CAD files and firmware that you can use to create Modulos of your own design,” Modulo Labs founder Erin Tomson notes.


Looking for a simple yet powerful modular solution to construct a DIY project? Look no further. Head over to Modulo’s official Kickstarter page, where its team has already well exceeded its $10,000 goal. Shipment is expected to begin in November 2015.

ATMega32U4 drives vacuum florescent display clock

Hobbyist electronic shop Akafugu is selling a slick Atmel-powered vacuum fluorescent display (VFD) clock.

“A VFD display is typically green or blue and emits a bright light with high contrast. A VFD display tube looks like an old Vacuum Tube, the predecessor to the transistor. The inside of the tube contains segments that can be lit up to form numbers and letters,” an Akafugu rep explained in an official product description.

“Most tubes contain segments for one digit and several must be stacked together to make a complete display. [However, our] clock is modular, it comes with a base board, which is powered by [Atmel’s] ATmega32U4 microcontroller (MCU) and contains a high-voltage VFD driver used to light up the display shield that sits on the top board.”

Aside from the ATmega32U4 MCU packing an Arduino Leonardo bootloader, key product features and specs include:

  • Swappable display tube shields.
  • HV5812 VFD driver with 20 outputs.
  • Capable of driving up to four 16-segment alphanumeric displays or twelve 7-segment numerical displays.
  • Open source firmware (available at GitHub).
  • DS3231M Real Time Clock (RTC) with battery backup.

Akafugu is also selling several different display shields, each coded with a three-bit numerical identifier.

“This allows the firmware to automatically recognize the shield that is plugged in and it will adjust the display automatically. Support for shields added in the future will be released as firmware upgrades,” the rep added.

Interested in learning more about Akafugu’s VFD Modular Clock (mkII – IV-4 – 6 digit)? You can check out the product’s official page here.

R-360 is a modular 3D printer

The Replicator Warehouse crew has debuted the R-360, an open source modular 3D printer. The R-360 is equipped with a rotating printing bed for 3D scanning turntable mode and can be folded up for traveling without compromise on printing volume.

Plus, the 3D printer arrives partially pre-assembled, allowing Makers to build the versatile platform in about an hour or so.

“We know that there are vast numbers of amazing Makers or Makers, and some of them are really hesitant to have their own 3D printer because of the high price or the complexity to build,” the Replicator Warehouse crew wrote in a recent Kickstarter post.

“So we’ve invented a new 3D printer for those people. We would like more and more people to have 3D printers and bring more genius Makers into the world!”

On the software side, the R-360 offers easy access to a free slicing service aptly dubbed “Slicer Cloud” which processes files on clusters of online servers. Slicer Cloud also boasts a 3D object files library for Makers to browse and download pre-Sliced objects for fast printing.

Additional key specs include:

  • Torque – 4.4kg cm or 44 Ncm (62.3 oz.in)
  • Voltage – 2.8 V/Phase
  • Current – 1.68 A/Phase
  • Resistance – 1.65 Ohm/Phase
  • Inductance (mH/Phase) – 2.8
  • Inertia – 68 g.cm²
  • Weight – 0.35kg
  • Length “L” – 47mm (1.85 in)
  • GT2 belts and aluminium pulleys
  • CNC Motor Shaft Coupler (Flexible Coupling)
  • 608zz, 624zz bearings and LM8UU, LM10UU linear bearings
  • RAMPS 1.4 with Atmel-Arduino ATmega2560 rev3 and 5x A4988 motor controllers
  • Mechanical endstops
  • Memory card reader
  • LCD/SD (upgrade) panel with RAMPS GADGETS3D Shield (Kingston 4GB SD card included)
  • Extruder tip – 0.4mm
  • Layer heights 0.1mm – 0.3mm
  • Printing speed – up to 150mm/s
  • Traveling speed – up to 250mm/s

Interested in learning more about the R-360 modular 3D printer? You can check out the project’s official page on Kickstarter.