How do you decide a board in your tasks? Dimension? Specs? Comfort?
There’s no time like now to make that factor you’ve at all times been wanting to construct, and that’s very true in case your undertaking includes digital management or some form of computing want. The newest dev boards in the marketplace are smaller, extra highly effective and feature-laden, and cheaper than ever.
Software program choices have additionally expanded throughout a broad vary of boards to incorporate super-simple blocks and Python-based drag-and-drop strategies. Whether or not you’re constructing a single, everlasting undertaking, or creating proof-of-concept electronics that may flip right into a customized PCB, there are lots of — even limitless — choices to get you began.
With so many board choices now obtainable, we determined to succeed in out to a few of our high-tech friends to get the thin on what goes into getting up and operating on a brand new undertaking.
(A model of this text first appeared in Make: Vol. 74 — subscribe at this time!)
Since quite a lot of my tasks are wearables, I usually consider dimension and weight. I take advantage of Adafruit’s Trinket for servo and LED management, Professional Trinket for greater than two servo controls, then if I need web entry or on-line management I am going for the Raspberry Pi. For every little thing else I run for an Arduino Uno or Arduino Nano. [See Odd Jayy’s “My Monkey Companion Bot” in Make: Volume 73.]
I typically select the board for my undertaking primarily based on the capabilities I’ll want and the dimensions necessities. I carry on my desk all the essential issues I must whip collectively a fast digital prototype. It’s straightforward to only seize a breadboard and begin figuring out my circuit. I can develop my code at this level too, and switch it to the ultimate construct after I’m prepared. Once I’m completed with my undertaking, I disassemble the prototype and maintain the elements in my equipment for future tasks.
For small tasks, my go-to board is the Adafruit Gemma, which is compact, straightforward to energy, and has a handy on/off swap. I’m additionally beginning to play with making my very own customized boards, which was a bit daunting at first, however feels actually empowering as a designer. [See Sophy’s “Cosmic Cosplay” in Make: Volume 69.]
There are just a few favorites I at all times attain for:
- Adafruit’s Circuit Playground Categorical: LED ring, built-in speaker. Good for standalone interfaces and lights, like a DIY lightning cloud.
- BBC micro:bit: 5×5 LED matrix, 2-way radio, a number of programming choices. Nice for bike/skateboard lights.
- Teensy: A quick heavy lifter, with an audio breakout obtainable. Good for motors and music, e.g., filter pedals.
- TinyCircuits TinyLily: Teeny-tiny, easy, washable. Good for wearables, like my “mind-altering devices.”
- Particle Photon: Simple Wi-Fi integration (and past). Good for IoT with out the effort of ESP8266, together with the brainwave-controlled gentle I constructed with Moheeb Zara.
[See Alex’s “AI Robot Owl” in Make: Volume 66.]
I’m at all times looking out for tremendous small microcontrollers. If I see a brand new one that appears fascinating, I’ll purchase it “simply in case.”
I actually like prototyping in CircuitPython, so my go-to boards for small wearable tasks are Adafruit’s Trinket M0 and Gemma M0, and I normally have a stash of them readily available. I additionally maintain some ATtiny85 chips round for after I need to make one thing actually small or after I check out a undertaking that gained’t let me reuse the board afterwards, like embedding LED circuits in resin. For bigger tasks the place I need sensors, Bluetooth or each, I’ll prototype with a Circuit Playground Categorical Bluefruit.
Prior to now, my customized PCBs have principally been equipment for an exterior microcontroller, however just lately I’ve been creating self-contained PCBs with SMT LEDs and an ATtiny85 controller, powered by a CR2032 battery. [See Debra’s “LED Inner-Glow Heart” in Make: Volume 71.]
These days most of my tasks are written in CircuitPython, in order that narrows issues right down to an M0, M4, or nRF52840 board if I’m utilizing BLE.
I attempt to not use a board that’s overkill for a undertaking. For a less complicated LED undertaking I’ll use a small board, like a Trinket M0, reasonably than one thing larger like a Metro M4. I attempt to use a board that has as near the variety of pins that I must try to maintain issues as compact as attainable. This additionally reduces value since board worth can be
normally associated to dimension.
If I want battery energy, I’ll attempt to use a board that has an onboard JST plug for a LiPo, just like the Feather sequence of boards. I’ll additionally try to have as many options that I want for a undertaking (Wi-Fi, a display, speaker, capacitive contact, and so on.) constructed into the board. That simplifies issues for meeting and code since there’ll normally be a devoted library for these peripherals on that board.
[see Liz’s BLE MIDI Xylophone in Make: Vol. 76]
For prototyping, I normally begin with a straightforward board just like the Arduino Uno to test that the circuit and code work. For wearables and tech trend design, the boards should be well-hidden, so I search for the smallest succesful board.
Then I have a look at learn how to energy the board. It’s greatest in the event that they have already got a LiPo battery port or coin cell holder — having a USB battery pack is a nuisance. An onboard energy swap is handy. For tasks that want conductive thread sewn to the material, I want massive pin holes that may feed a needle by way of, like on the Adafruit Flora and SparkFun LilyPad sequence.
I attempt to design all of the above components right into a customized PCB if I can’t discover an present board that satisfies all of the wants. With this, I may also management the board footprint and look. [See Kitty’s “Novel Nails” in Make: Volume 62.]
The very first thing I do is ask myself the query: “Is there any purpose why I shouldn’t use an ESP8266?” That is my go-to board with my favourite taste being the Wemos D1 Mini-style boards. They’re small, breadboard suitable, and may be programmed by way of USB. Additionally they value lower than $3 delivered so I normally maintain a wholesome inventory of them! It could be a battle to include its options right into a design for lower than the price of one.
Battery wants are one of many essential causes I would use one thing else. For these instances, I normally choose Surprising Maker’s TinyPICO board. The ESP32 can be a good selection right here. For decrease powered tasks akin to badges I normally choose one thing like an ATtiny13 chip, preferrred to run off coin cell batteries.
USB HID (emulating a keyboard or mouse) is one other function I take advantage of usually. For this: the Arduino Professional Micro (ATmega32U4) or the ESP32-S2. [See Brian’s “Travel Light” in Make: Volume 59.]
For much more assist in your dev board decision-making, seek the advice of our Information to Boards.