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The Stepoko is an ATmega328P powered CNC board


The SparkFun Stepoko is an Arduino-compatible, three-axis control board that runs grbl.


SparkFun has just unveiled an entire lineup of CNC products, including a brand new board that can be found at the heart a sleek and bright red desktop router.

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The SparkFun Stepoko is an Arduino-compatible, three-axis controller that runs grbl software and is capable of connecting to your computer to accept stepper motor commands. The board’s design and firmware are completely open source and works with Java-based cross platform G-Code sending application to translate commands.

“By just looking at the pictures, this board may look daunting but the simplest installation of the Stepoko consists of just plugging the stepper motors in, connecting it to power and to your computer! To top it off, we’ve designed the SparkFun Stepoko to fit and be secured inside of our Big Red Box as an effective enclosure option after a bit of milling to support the boards connectors and heatsink,” the team writes.

The board itself is broken down into two “hemispheres.” Stepoko’s right side is tasked with supplying power and system control, courtesy of the ATmega328P at its core. SparkFun has broken out all of the pins that are associated with the MCU and power supplies, and has included chart in silkscreen on the back of the board that matches the grbl pin functions to the Arduino pin naming convention. According to its creators, applying 12-30VDC to either the barrel jack or screw terminals (not both) and the Stepoko can supply up to 2.0A. Additionally, there’s a rail of screw terminals that function as limit, probe and e-stop connections.

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Meanwhile, the board’s left side features three of the stepper motor drivers for the Stepoko. Each of the three-axis drivers are managed by a DRV8811 IC, which communicates with the ATmega328P via digital control signals that are able to set direction, enable the motor and enact a step. Internally, it has a state machine that matches the states of each motor necessary to get it to perform. Modifying the microstepping control switches on each driver provide you to finely tune each array to your specified likeness. All the work that each stepper motor driver provides is contributed by the grbl software that comes pre-installed with each Stepoko.

“Whether you are using the SparkFun Shapeoko on your own rig or on one our Shapeoko CNC Machine platforms you should be able to utilize this board to its full functionality without breaking a sweat,” the crew adds.

Shapeoko-01

But that’s not all. The Stepoko can be found at the heart of the Shapeoko 3 — a heavy duty desktop CNC machine capable of routing designs in a variety of materials like MDF, wood and even thin aluminum. This device was brought to life in collaboration with Carbide 3D. Intrigued? Head over to SparkFun’s page to get your hands on the Arduino-compatible board and a mill our own.

Prometheus lets you make circuit boards in minutes


While it may look like a 3D printer, Prometheus is a PCB milling machine that carves, drills and shapes your PCBs so you don’t have to wait for a delivery truck.


While open source hardware has dramatically reduced the time and cost associated with product development, there are still a few speed bumps that Makers and designers must endure en route to taking their idea from prototype to mass production. Looking to change that is Rocco Tuccio, who together with his Zippy Robotics team, has built a desktop machine that can create real circuit boards in a matter of minutes. Meet Prometheus.

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“When we’re prototyping, we need a tool that can give us nearly instant feedback — not feedback that comes in a few week’s time in the form of a PCB delivery. Let the PCB manufacturers make the hundreds or thousands of boards for your production run — not your prototypes. If production is your goal, Prometheus will help get you there faster,” Tuccio explains.

Prometheus works by carving through the copper layer of a standard copper-clad board (FR-4 or FR-1). Essentially, it can be thought of as mechanically etching the PCB as opposed to dealing with chemicals to perform the etching. Prometheus can also drill holes and route the shape of the board itself if you need it to fit a specific enclosure.

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Surely the ongoing desktop fabrication revolution has yielded similar equipment, but what makes Prometheus stand out from others on the market is its unique spindle. This mechanical part’s incredible specs speak for themselves — 45,000 RPM and a static Total Indicated Runout (TIR) of less than 2.5 microns (.0001 inches), measured 10mm below the spindle bearing.

“TIR is important because it determines the minimum bit diameter we can run. Too much runout (wobble) and a micro end mill will just snap instead of milling copper as intended. Prometheus can reliably run bits as small as .007 inches in diameter, so you can use (with few exceptions) any surface mount components in your designs — not just ‘giant’ SOIC packages. This is a major differentiator with what’s available in our price class today,” Tuccio adds.

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And they didn’t stop there, either. No other manufacturer makes a PCB milling machine and the design software to go with it. Zippy Robotics’ Circuit Factory program works seamlessly with Prometheus, enabling you to devise your schematic and board layout quickly and easily, even if you’ve never designed a PCB before. Once completed with your mockup on Circuit Factory, simply click the ‘carve’ button and Prometheus will take care of the rest. 

In terms of hardware, Prometheus boasts its own custom motor controller which is built around an Atmel | SMART SAM4S Cortex-M4 MCU. The machine features USB plug-and-play connectivity and will soon come with its own free Java API that will let anyone write their own software using a set of commands called ZippyTalk. (This is how Circuit Factory communicates with Prometheus.)

“It will allow a software developer to control Prometheus so that they can write their own apps to make particular tasks easy. They can then give those apps away or sell them, without restriction, to the benefit of all Prometheus users. You don’t have to know anything about G-code. G-code is a relic from the ’70s and it’s time we moved on to better things,” Tuccio explains.

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With its incredible XY resolution and its ability to mill out traces and spaces as fine as 0.007 inches from any standard copper-clad PCB material, Prometheus is arguably one of the most advanced gadgets in its class. These traits will put Zippy Robotics toe-to-toe with other professional grade machines out there, which keep in mind, cost more than $8,000. This unit’s price tag, however, is a fraction of that.

Not only a great product, but an outstanding team behind it as well. We’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Tuccio and the New York-based startup for several years now, and have witnessed the progression of the desktop-friendly device — from its earlier and bulkier versions to its latest compact, commercial-ready form factor.

Tired of waiting for delivery and rather have your own PCBs just a click away? Head over to Prometheus’ Kickstarter campaign, where the Zippy Robotics crew is currently seeking $95,000. Delivery is slated for sometime next fall. Trust us, it’ll be worth the wait!

ZTE’s bezel-less Nubia Z9 smartphone is powered by Atmel maXTouch


With virtual edge keys and gestures — and no borders — the Nubia Z9 delivers key functions including wake-up, screenshots, flicking, volume and much more. 


Last month, the newly-revealed ZTE Nubia Z9 lived up to its hype in China by selling out in a matter of 10 minutes. Now, the device is looking to make a similar splash here in the United States. With a super-sleek, practically bezel-less profile, it certainly stands out from other high-end smartphones on the market today with an assortment of impressive features, ranging from unique touch controls integrated into its side to a sleek metallic design.

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Currently limited to China, the high-end handset is available in two colors, black and gold, and in three models, each with different memory capacities and built-in storage configurations. The base variant, the Classic, comes with 3GB of RAM and 32GB storage, while the Elite and Exclusive both pack 4GB RAM and 64GB storage.

The dual-SIM smartphones are powered by a 64-bit octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor, with a 16-megapixel rear  camera and 8-megapixel front-facing selfie shooter. The Nubia Z9 includes a 5.2-inch 1080p display, driven by an Atmel maXTouch mXT336T touchscreen controller, along with software that enables users to take advantage o its edge-to-edge design. Beyond that, the device boasts a 2,900mAh battery, Android 5.0 Lollipop, as well as 4G LTE, Bluetooth 4.1, NFC, Wi-Fi, GPS and USB.

Zubia

What truly makes this flagship gadget stand out is its bezel-free design — just 0.8mm thick — giving the illusion of a borderless display, all made possible by Atmel’s unique, proprietary single-layer pattern. mXT336T delivers these features, along with advanced algorithms and Atmel’s adaptive sensing technology to enable virtual edge keys and sliders—delivering interaction all the way to the edge of the phone.

“We selected Atmel’s innovative single-layer on-cell maXTouch solution to enable our first borderless smartphone design,” explained Ni Fei, CEO of the Nubia brand. “Atmel’s adaptive sensing and edge-sensing technology enable the innovative edge keys and gestures in our flagship nubia handset. We are thrilled to team with Atmel and look forward to delivering more unique smart phones with excellent touch performance using maXTouch solutions.”

And of course, one can’t forget the company’s Frame Interactive Technology, or FIT, which allows users to carry out various preprogrammed actions with gestures made along the beveled sides — whether that’s launching the camera, taking a screenshot or adjusting the volume.

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Given the reception to the Nubia Z9 in China, this family of gadgets will surely make for an attractive option in America as well. Those wishing to get their hands on one will have to wait for its release that is slated for sometime in Q3 of this year. The Classic edition will go for approximately $565, the Elite for $645, and $725 for the Exclusive, which also includes an integrated fingerprint sensor.

Rewind: A look back at some of the original Arduino prototypes


While the shapes, colors and sizes of the earliest Arduinos may have varied, one thing has remained the same: Atmel at its heart.


During Memorial Day weekend, the first Arduino to be made in the U.S. was hand built by Limor Fried alongside Massimo Banzi in Adafruit’s New York City headquarters. The initial board off the production line — which seems appropriate to have been an Uno (meaning “one” in Italian) — comes just a few days after Banzi’s announcement at Maker Faire Bay Area of the company’s manufacturing partnership with Adafruit, the availability of the highly-anticipated Zero, as well as the launch of its new sister brand Genuino.

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With the theme of “firsts” in mind, we couldn’t help but reflect upon the earlier years of Arduino and some of its prototypes. And upon conducting some research, we stumbled upon a photo album showcasing many of them. While their sizes, colors and shapes may have varied, one thing remained constant: they all had an Atmel chip at its heart. (As you can see, many of which powered by an ATmega8-16PU.)

So without further ado, let’s take a trip down memory lane.

Arduino Prototype 0

At this time, the board was still called

At the time, the board was called “Programma 2005” as an evolution of the “Programma 2003.” (Source: M. Banzi)

Arduino Extreme v1

First version of the SMD Arduino. Only 200 of these boards were produced. (Source: M. Banzi)

The first version of the SMD Arduino. Only 200 of these boards were produced. (Source: M. Banzi)

Arduino Bluetooth Prototype

The first prototype of the Arduino Bluetooth unit. The is module was never easy enough to use for beginner Makers, so only a couple were ever manufactured. (Source: M. Banzi)

The first prototype of the Arduino Bluetooth unit. The module was never easy enough to use for beginner Makers, and as a result, only a couple were ever manufactured. (Source: M. Banzi)

Custom Arduino Board – Lamp Controller

This custom Arduino features an iPod-like wheel sensor, an SMD Arduino, on-board RGB LEDs and three DSI outputs. (Source: M. Banzi)

This custom Arduino features an iPod-like wheel sensor, an SMD Arduino, on-board RGB LEDs and three DSI outputs. (Source: M. Banzi)

Arduino Prototype 1

There it is: The first useable prototype ever created. As you can see, it was still called

There it is: The first useable prototype ever created. As you can see, back then it was called “Wiring Lite” and used as a low-cost module for wiring users. (Source: M. Banzi)

Arduino Extreme v2

The second iteration of the Arduino USB board. (Source: M. Banzi)

The second iteration of the Arduino USB board. (Source: M. Banzi)

Arduino Ethernet Prototype

(Source: M. Banzi)

(Source: M. Banzi)

Arduino Bluetooth Proto 4

The pre-production prototype of the Arduino Bluetooth module. (Source: M. Banzi)

The pre-production prototype of the Arduino Bluetooth module. (Source: M. Banzi)

Arduino NG

Revision C of the Arduino NG did not have a built-in LED on pin 13. Instead, it featured two small unused solder pads near the labels

Revision C of the Arduino NG did not have a built-in LED on pin 13. Instead, it featured two small unused solder pads near the labels “GND” and “13.” (Source: M. Banzi)

Arduino Ethernet and PoE Prototype

(Source: M. Banzi)

In the album, this board was labeled “Secret Prototype.” Not longer after, Massimo would go on to spill the beans in its comment section. (Source: M. Banzi)

Arduino Zero

The Zero boasts an Atmel | SMART SAM D21 ARM Cortex-M0+ core, enabling the board to run much faster and pack more of a punch than its 8-bit counterparts.

The Zero boasts an Atmel | SMART SAM D21 ARM Cortex-M0+ core, enabling the board to run much faster and pack more of a punch than its 8-bit counterparts.

Want more? You can browse through the entire photo album here.

Getting up close and personal with symmetric session key exchange

In today’s world, the three pillars of security are confidentiality, integrity (of the data), and authentication (i.e. “C.I.A.”). Fortunately, Atmel CryptoAuthentication crypto engines with secure key storage can be used in systems to provide all three of these.

Corinthium column in antique town Jerash

Focusing on the confidentiality pillar, in a symmetric system it is advantageous to have the encryption and decryption key shared on each side go through a change for every encryption/decryption session. This process, which is called symmetric session key exchange, helps to provide a higher level of security. Makes sense, right?
 nsa 1

So, let’s look at how to use the capabilities of the ATSHA204A CryptoAuthentication device to create exactly such a changing cryptographic key. The way a key can be changed with each session is by the use of a new (and unique) random number for each session that gets hashed with a stored secret key (number 1 in the diagram below). While the stored key in the ATSHA204A devices never changes, the key used in each session (the session key) does. Meaning, no two sessions are alike by definition.

The video below will walk you through the steps, or you can simply look at the diagram which breaks down the process.

The session key created by the hashing of the stored key and random number gets sent to the MCU (number 2) and used as the AES encryption key by the MCU to encrypt the data (number 3) using the AES algorithm. The encrypted data and the random number are then sent (number 4) to the other side.

session key exchange r0

Let’s explore a few more details before going on. The session key is a 32 byte Message Authentication Code or “MAC.” (A MAC is defined as a hash of a key and message.) 16 bytes of that 32 byte (256 bit) MAC becomes the AES session key that gets sent to the MCU to run the AES encryption algorithm over the data that is to be encrypted.

It is obvious why the encrypted code is sent, but why is the random number as well? That is the magic of this process. The random number is used to recreate the session key by running the random number through the same SHA-256 hashing algorithm together with the key stored on the decryption side’s ATSHA204A (number 5). Because this is a symmetric operation, the secret keys stored on both of the ATSHA204A devices are identical, so when the same random number is hashed with the same secret key using the same algorithm, the 32 byte digest that results will be exactly the same on the decrypting side and on the encrypting side. Just like on the encrypting side, only 16 bytes of that hash value (i.e. the MAC) are needed to represent the AES encryption/decryption key (number 6). At this point these 16 bytes can be used on the receiving side’s MCU to decrypt the message(number 7).

And, that’s it!

sha 204

Note how easy the ATSHA204A makes this process because it stores the key, generates the random number, and creates the digest. There’s a reason why we call it a crypto engine! It does the heavy cryptographic work, yet is simple to configure the SHA204A using Atmel’s wide range of tools.

Not to mention, the devices are tiny, low-power, cost-effective, work with any micro, and most of all, store the keys in ultra-secure hardware for robust security. By offering easy-to-use, highly-secure hardware key storage crypto engines, it’s simple to see how Atmel has you covered.

Atmel launches new CAN transceiver family

We are excited to announce the launch of a new family of control area network (CAN) transceivers to meet the growing demands of the automotive and industrial markets. Supporting the new CAN FD (flexible data rate) standard with data rates up to 5Mbits/s, our new ATA6560 and ATA6561 provide an interface between a CAN protocol controller and the physical two-wire CAN bus.

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Compliant with ISO11898-2, ISO11898-5 and SAEJ2284, the new CAN transceiver family offers high electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) and electrostatic discharge (ESD) performance. Both the ATA6560 and ATA6561 devices deliver ideal passive behavior to the CAN bus when the supply voltage is off, while the ATA6561 offers a direct interface to MCUs with 3V to 5V supply voltages.

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Various operating modes together with the dedicated fail-safe features make the ATA6560/ATA6561 an excellent choice for all types of high-speed CAN networks, especially in CAN nodes requiring a low-power mode with wake-up capability via the CAN bus. Atmel’s new low-power CAN transceivers are developed on an advanced process technology that allows further integration of analog and complex digital functionality. The devices are available in SO8 and DFN8 packages with wet-able flanks for automated optical solder inspection.

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“Our new family of CAN transceivers enables our OEMs to bring improved connectivity with higher speed in their automobile with overall lower power,” explained Claus Mochel, Atmel Marketing Director for Automotive High Voltage Products. “We are continuing to expand our automotive product portfolio to give our customers the right mix of products to help shorten their design cycle and bring next-generation designs faster to market.”

Among the many key features of Atmel’s ATA6560/61 are:

  • Data rate up to 5Mbits/s
  • Fully ISO 11898-2,-5, SAE J2284 compliant
  • Low EME and high EMI
  • Remote wake-up capability via CAN bus
  • Transmit data (TXD) dominant time-out function
  • Undervoltage detection on VCC and VIO pins
  • CANH/CANL short-circuit and over temperature protected
  • ATA6560: Silent Mode (Receive only)
  • ATA6561: Compatible to 3.3V and 5V control signals

Both the ATA6560 and ATA6561 CAN transceivers are now available in mass production in SO8 and DFN8 packaging with wet-able flanks for automated optical solder inspection. Interested? Pricing starts at $0.48 USD each in 10,000-piece quantities. You can find more detailed information — including datasheets — here.

Heading to Munich next week for Electronica 2014? Stop by Atmel booth — located in Hall A5, #542 — to discover how we’re bringing the Internet of Things to the connected car though simple, touch-enabled human machine interfaces. There, you will find both the ATA6560 and ATA6561 CAN transceivers among a number of other demos including passive entry and start, a next-generation center console and futuristic door handle.

More details revealed around the Arduino Materia 101

As recently reported on Bits & PiecesArduino co-founder Massimo Banzi gave the world a sneak peek of the company’s first 3D Printer, the Arduino Materia 101. First shared on the Arduino Twitter account and introduced on the Italian television show Che tempo che fa, the white and teal device will be presented next weekend at Maker Faire Rome.

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While their entry into the 3D printing space may seem like an interesting one, it is not entirely shocking. In fact, a number of machines are driven by Atmel megaAVR and AVR XMEGA MCUs — the same chip used to power a majority of Arduino boards.

Writing for MAKE Magazine, Mike Senese notes that the open source 3D printer is the largest piece of hardware that our friends over at Arduino have launched to date.

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“It’s an interesting move for the company, but not an entirely disconnected element, as many of the printer developments in the 3D community have used [megaAVR powered] Arduino boards for control. Moreover, it further indicates how bigger companies are starting to release 3D printers,” he writes.

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After quite a bit of buzz over the past couple of days, Arduino has revealed the full specs of the newly-unveiled Materia 101 3D printer, which was developed in collaboration with Italian 3D printer manufacturer Sharebot:

  • Printer Size: 310 x 330 x 350 mm
  • Printer Weight: 10 kg
  • Printing Technology: Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF)
  • Build Volume: 140 x 100 x 100 mm +/- 5mm
  • X and Y Resolution: 0.06 mm
  • Z Resolution: 0.0025 mm
  • Filament Type and Size: 1.75 mm, PLA.
  • Extrusion diameter: 0.35 mm
  • Experimented filaments: Cristal Flex, PLA Thermosense, Thermoplastic Polyuretane (TPU), PET, PLA Sand, PLA Flex
  • LCD display 20 x 4 with encoder menu

The electronics board will be compatible with Arduino Mega 2560 (ATmega2560) with open source firmware.

UPDATE (10/16/2014): Arduino has announced that they have made the Materia 101 available for pre-order from their online store. The printer will be priced at $727 in kit form, and $887 fully-assembled.

While you wait for your printer, the team has shared several documents and resources around the product, including its detailed manual and Github repository with all the source files.