Tag Archives: PLC

An open-source PLC to control the Internet of Things


Controllino is the first software open-source, Arduino-compatible PLC. 


Designed by the SG-Tronic team, the Controllino is an open-source programmable logic controller (PLC) built around Atmel’s ATmega328 and ATmega2560 microcontrollers (MCUs). Recently funded on Kickstarter, the Arduino-compatible PLC allows Makers to produce and control their next Internet of Things project, ranging from industrial to home automation applications.

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“When I was at electronic school, I would have loved Arduino. But back then, microcontroller programming wasn’t that easy. When I became aware of Arduino, I thought… What a great idea for young people and those who are not hardcore microcontroller programmers,” creator Marco Riedesser explained. “The only problem with Arduino is [that] when you don’t really know so much about electronic hardware, driving more than a LED can become difficult. And using an Arduino board in a professional project or even a product that you want to sell is quasi impossible if you want to get certification.”

Now fully UL and CE-certified, Makers can begin creating and actually shipping gadgets such as drones, home appliances, or any other electronic project that comes to mind. The Atmel powered PLC is currently being presented in three models: Mini, Maxi and Mega.

“I had to repair the coffee machine for my brother-in-law. I thought it would be easy to use Arduino but there was nothing on the market that could handle switching high voltage and high current. So I thought I had to come forward with a product,” Riedesser revealed to TechCrunch earlier this year.

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All Controllino PLCs are equipped with an internal RTC using SPI, which can be switched on/off and allow for the use of SPI for other purposes via pin header. With built-in processor contact, Makers have a direct link to a number of boards (like Arduino). All pins are also 4000V ESD protected. What’s more, both the Controllino Maxi and Mega let users select between internal RTC and Ethernet using SPI, as well as turn it off so they can use the SPI for other purposes via pin header.

The versatile device works in altitudes up to 2,000m above sea level, in temperatures ranging between 5°C to 55°C, and in maximum relative humidity 80% for temperatures up to 31°C decreasing linearly to 50% relative humidity at 55°C. Each Controllino features an automatic input voltage range selection. This internal function changes voltage dividers ratio on the processor input, and enables the use of one input for analog and digital and for 12V or 24V input voltage range without user action. In addition, the Controllino’s main supply voltage fluctuates up to ±10% of the nominal voltage

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Key Mini specs:

  • MCU: ATmega328 MCU
  • RTC
  • Clock speed: 16 MHz
  • 1x RS232 interface
  • 1x SPI interface
  • 6x relay outputs (230V/6A)
  • 8x digital outputs (2A @12V or 24V)
  • 8x analog/digital inputs
  • 10A input current max

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Key Maxi specs:

  • MCU: ATmega2560
  • RTC
  • Clock speed: 16 MHz
  • Ethernet connection
  • 2x RS232 interface
  • 1x RS485 interface
  • 1x I2C interface
  • 1x SPI interface
  • 10x relay outputs (230V/6A)
  • 12x digital outputs ( 2A @12V or 24V)
  • 12x analog/digital inputs
  • 20A input current max

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Key Mega specs:

  • MCU: ATmega2560 MCU
  • RTC
  • Clock speed: 16 MHz
  • Ethernet connection
  • 2x RS232 interface
  • 1x RS485 interface
  • 1x I2C interface
  • 1x SPI interface
  • 16x relay outputs (230V/6A)
  • 24x analog/digital inputs
  • 12x digital outputs – high side switch (2A @12V or 24V)
  • 12x digital outputs – half-bridge (2A @12V or 24V)
  • 20A input current max

Interested in learning more? You can check out Controllino’s official page here. Those wishing to purchase the Mini, Maxi and Mega can now do so for € 119.00, € 199.00 and € 269.00, respectively.

Embedded Developer features Atmel’s ATPL230A modem

Earlier this year, Atmel introduced the ATPL230A, a Power Line Communications (PLC) modem designed to implement the physical layer of the PRIME standard (Power Line Intelligent Metrology Evolution).

This month, the ATPL230A modem is featured in the June edition of EE Web’s Embedded Developer magazine. According to Atmel exec Kourosh Boutorabi, the ATPL230A offers OEMs a seamless and cost-efficient solution for smart metering platforms.

“Expanding on Atmel’s unique and highly flexible SAM4Cx platform, ATPL230A addresses the fifth pillar of [our] existing platform, the physical communication layer,” Boutorabi explained.

“Atmel’s ATPL230A can be paired with dual 32-bit ARM Cortex-M4 RISC processors to deploy an unprecedented level of integration and accuracy for single and multi-chip architecture options for system integrators and OEMs.”

The ATPL230A also boasts a class D line driver for PLC signal amplification, providing optimized signal injection efficiency by up to 62 percent.

Combined with low power sipping, this feature enables improved thermal behavior, extends long-term reliability and reduces overall power consumption. Meanwhile, new transmission modes and frequency band extensions facilitate robust power line communications.

As Boutorabi told the publication, Atmel is currently working with top tier customers worldwide who are developing multiple products for individual markets such as the Spanish, French or U.S. market.

“These customers need a supplier that addresses all their markets’ requirements. Our solution addresses 90 percent of all of these markets,” he said.

“Every utility has different communication requirements, so to be able to address all of these segments with one solution is a significant achievement.”

To help accelerate the design process for engineers, Atmel is currently offering the ATPL230A evaluation kit which can be used to test the ATPL230A’s smart metering capabilities with embedded PLC.

Interested in learning more about Atmel’s Smart Energy Platform? You can check out our recent deep dive on the subject here.


ATM90E26 extends smart energy roadmap

Atmel has introduced the ATM90E26, a low-cost metering Analog Front End (AFE) IC. According to an Atmel engineering rep, the ATM90E26 is specifically designed for smart grid communications, electricity metering systems and energy measurement applications.

“The Atmel Smart Energy platform includes several System-on-Chip (SoC) devices built around a unique dual-core ARM Cortex M4-based architecture. The platform includes the SAM4C with advanced security, in addition to metrology-enabled versions for single- and poly-phase metering (SAM4CMx) and Power-Line Communications (PLC) enabled solution (SAM4CPx),” the Atmel engineering rep told Bits & Pieces.

ATM90E26

“The new ATM90E26 is pin-to-pin compatible with the IDT 90E22/23/24/25 devices, featuring UART support and improved power measurement resolution. By providing the discrete metrology AFE ATM90E26 as well as various MCU/MPU and PLC/wireless solutions, our Smart Energy Platform offers designers multiple options and various levels of integration to address their smart metering designs. For example, the ATM90E26 can be bundled with the SAM4CPx for a complete smart metering architecture.”

Key ATM90E26 features include:

  • Dynamic range of 5000:1 with 0.1% kWh accuracy and 0.2% kvarh accuracy.
  • Temperature co-efficient of reference voltage 15ppm/ºC (typ.).
  • Single-point calibration for active energy.
  • Up to 24x PGA to support shunt sensing in L line current channel.
  • Programmable startup and no-load power threshold.
  • Measures Vrms, Irms, P(Q/S), frequency, power factor and phase angle. Enhanced resolution for RMS and mean power.
  • Measurement accuracy better than 0.5%.
  • Configurable high-pass filter (HPF) in each ADC channel.
  • On-chip parameter diagnosis function and programmable interrupt output to reduce complexity and increase robustness of the meter.
  • Standard four-wire, simplified three-wire SPI interface, or a UART interface.
  • Dedicated voltage zero-crossing output pin (ZX); voltage sag detection.
  • Software reset available.
  • 3.3V single power supply; 5V compatible for digital input.

It should also be noted that Atmel’s ATM90E2x single-phase energy metering demo board can be used to evaluate and test ATM90E2x chips. More specifically, the board is capable of sampling single-phase voltage/current, meter active/reactive energy, output active/reactive energy pulses, as well as measure parameters such as voltage, current and power.

Interested in learning more about Atmel’s smart energy platform? You can check out our detailed deep dive here.

ATmega16 MCU powers Oktopod dev platform

Oktopod Studio is an open source development platform for mechatronics, robotics and automation.

The platform – which is powered by Atmel’s ATmega16 micrcontroller (MCU) – allows Makers to more easily create low voltage electronic devices, models and home applications.

“We designed Oktopod Studio to be as user friendly as possible, [as it] features plug-and-play analog outputs, digital inputs, DC and Servo motor drivers [as well as a] graphical user interface for PC and Andriod devices,” an Oktopod rep explained.

“You don’t need to be a programmer or an electronic expert to use Oktopod Studio and make your own robotic projects.”

The Oktopod platform consists of two primary components linked via Bluetooth or USB:

  • Hardware – Oktopod Board
  • Software – Oktopod Control App

The Oktopod Board offers Makers a Programmable Logic Controller (PLC), along with plug and play inputs and outputs for connecting a wide range of low voltage electronic devices, including LED lights, DC/servo motors, buzzers, electromagnets, switches, as well as photo-, thermo- and magnetic sensors.

Aside from Atmel’s ATmega16 MCU, key hardware specs include:

  • 

8x Analog output (up to 3A)
  • 2x DC motor driver
  • 3x Servo motor driver
  • 4x Digital inputs
  • USB/Bluetooth communication module
  • Power supply input 6-12 V (reverse polarity protected), on-board 3A fuse

In terms of software, the Oktopod Control app (PC and Android) allows Makers to assume manual control of the hardware via sliders and buttons.

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Meanwhile, the board is programmed by creating a so-called “wishList” of output operations using an intuitive virtual dashboard.

Interested in learning more about the ATmega16-powered Oktopod? You can check out the project’s official page here.

A closer look at Atmel’s smart energy platform (Part 2)

In part one of this series, Bits & Pieces introduced Atmel’s recently launched SAM4C series of products, with a spotlight on the SAM4C16 and SAM4C8. Designed for smart energy applications, these system-on-chip solutions are built around two high performance 32-bit ARM Cortex-M4 RISC processors. The devices operate at a maximum speed of 100 MHz and feature up to 2Mbyte of embedded Flash, 304 Kbytes of SRAM and on-chip cache for each core.

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The dual ARM Cortex-M4 architecture facilitates the integration of various layers, including application, communications and metrology functions in a single device. It also offers options for integrated software metrology or external hardware metrology AFE (analog front end), as well as an integrated or an external power-line carrier (PLC) physical layer solution. Essentially, this is a modular approach that is sure to meet various design needs.

In part two of this series, we’ll be taking a closer look at the software and hardware metrology of the SAM4Cx. Specifically, Atmel’s software metrology library provides a comprehensive level of performance, scalability and flexibility which supports the integration of proprietary advanced metrology and signal processing algorithms.

“Atmel’s standard library enables residential, commercial, and industrial meter design up to class 0.2 accuracy, dynamic range of 3000:1, and are compliant with IEC 62052-11, 62053-22/23, ANSI C12.1, C12.20 and MID,” an Atmel engineering rep told Bits & Pieces.

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“Meanwhile, software metrology front-end electronics is comprised of ATSENSE-301 and ATSENSE-101 multi-channel (up to 7) simultaneously-sampled Sigma-Delta A/D converters at 16sps, high precision voltage reference with up to 10 ppm/°C temperature stability, programmable current signal amplification, temperature sensor and SPI interface.”

Additional SAM4Cx features include:

  • Poly-phase energy metering analog front end for Atmel’s MCUs and Metrology library.
  • Compliant with Class 0.2 standards (ANSI C12.20-2002 and IEC 62053-22).
  • Up to 7 Sigma Delta ADC measurement channels: 3 Voltages, 4 Currents, 102 dB Dynamic Range.
  • Current Channels with Pre-Gain (x1, x2, x4, x8).
  • Supports shunt, current transformer and Rogowsky coils.
  • 3.0V to 3.6V operation, Ultra Low Power: < 22 mW typ (device fully active @ 3.3V).
  • Precision voltage reference.
  • Temperature drift: 50ppm typ (ATSENSE-301)and 10ppm typ (ATSENSE-301H).
  • Factory measured temperature drift and die temperature sensor to perform software correction.
  • 8 MHz Serial Peripheral Interface (SPI) compatible mode 1 (8-bit) for ADC data and AFE controls.
  • Interrupt Output Line signaling ADCs’ end of conversion, under-run and over-run.
  • Package: 32-lead TQFP, 7 x 7 x 1.4 mm.

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In terms of hardware metrology (AFE), Atmel offers out-of-the-box solutions for basic metering that supports up to class 0.2 accuracy; exceeds IEC and ANSI standards and offers best-in-class temperature drift.

Additional specs include:

  • A dynamic range up to 6000:1
  • Optimizes performance
  • Reduces OEM’s cost of manufacturing
  • Great fit with SAM4L
  • picoPower Technology
  • Active mode @ 90μA/MHz
  • Full RAM retention @1.5μA
  • SleepWalking
  • 4×40 Segment LCD Controller
  • Hardware Crypto block

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

A closer look at Atmel’s smart energy platform (Part 1)

Driven by evolving environmental concerns and regulations, the market for energy, water and gas metering systems is rapidly changing. To be sure, traditional standalone meters are currently being replaced by complex networked systems that utilize a variety of communication methods.

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To meet the needs of an evolving smart grid, engineers require solutions capable of providing advanced connectivity options, iron-clad security, precise metrology, versatility and a high-level of integration.

Atmel addresses the needs of the evolving smart energy market with application-specific, as well as standard microcontroller (MCU), microprocessor (MPU), security, memory, wireless and power-line connectivity devices. Simply put, our portfolio offers developers a wide range of best-in-class feature sets and performance for smart grid equipment.

“Today’s smart meter architect demands various levels of integration depending on system architecture partitioning, project timelines, and the level of flexibility needed to address various utility and geographical requirements,” an Atmel engineering rep told Bits & Pieces.

The Atmel platform provides a unique multi-level architecture built around the same multi-core architecture as outlined below. Various devices integrate the building blocks of the smart meter, namely, metrology sensing (ADC), metrology DSP, application, communication, and security processing, as well as connectivity to home area and neighborhood area networks.”

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Key Atmel differentiators include:

  • Leading-edge connectivity
  • Low power 802.15.4/4g wireless devices
  • Field proven, low power PLC (PRIME)
  • Integration & flexibility
  • Flexible (SW or HW) metrology
  • Multi-standard wireless and PLC solutions
  • Advanced cryptography
  • Best-in-class metrology
  • Dynamic range of up to 6000:1
  • 25M units shipped since 90’s
  • Broad MCU portfolio
  • Large array of SAMD, SAM4 and SAM5 solutions
  • Best-in-class tools from Atmel, IAR and Keil

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At the core of Atmel’s smart energy platform is the SAM4C series of products, starting with the SAM4C16 and SAM4C8 system-on-chip solutions for smart energy applications built around two high performance 32-bit ARM Cortex-M4 RISC processors. These devices operate at a maximum speed of 100 MHz and feature up to 2Mbyte of embedded Flash, 304 Kbytes of SRAM and on-chip cache for each core.

The dual ARM Cortex -M4 architecture facilitates the integration of various layers, including application, communications and metrology functions in a single device. It also offers options for integrated software metrology or external hardware metrology AFE (analog front end), as well as an integrated or an external power-line carrier (PLC) physical layer solution. Essentially, this is a modular approach that is sure to meet various design needs.

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

LED power management with Atmel’s XMega

LED lighting power management typically comprises power conversion, constant current regulation and fault handling. Key design considerations of LED power management include high integration capabilities, small form factor, energy efficiency, high temperature operation and support for a variety of standard lighting communication protocols.

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“That is exactly why Atmel’s XMEGA E is highly integrated to support multiple LED driver topologies, all while leaving CPU resources for additional application functionalities,” an Atmel engineering rep told Bits & Pieces. “Plus, we offer a small form factor and dual high-speed 40ns analog comparators for current regulation, with multiple high speed 128MHz timers allowing generation of fast PWM.”

The XMEGA E also boasts dual digital to analog converters for peak current management, asynchronous event system for ultra-fast response and control loops, with a custom logic (XCL) block removing external logic components.

“In terms of energy efficiency, the XMEGA E, with its rich analog peripheral features, is capable of running a complicated power control algorithm (e.g. PFC) to achieve high power efficiency,” the engineering rep continued. “Plus, the XMEGA E offers ultra low power consumption as low as 100uA/MHz in active mode and 100nA in RTC/RAM retention. Last, but certainly not least, the XMEGA E qualifies for high temperatures at 105C and 125C.”

Atmel also offers support for multiple lighting communication protocols, such as DALI via the XCL block in XMEGA E (hardware), along with DMX, LWmesh, and interface to PLC, ZigBee Light Link, ZigBee Home Automation and other wireless protocols (software). In addition, developers have easy access to Atmel Studio 6.0, Atmel Software Framework and Atmel Gallery.

Want to learn more about designing LED power management platforms with Atmel’s XMega? Be sure to check out Atmel’s extensive lighting portfolio here.