Revisiting Device Independent Control for LED Cubes

LED Cube 8x8x8

Some time ago, I wrote about device independent control of monochrome LED cubes (see this previous blog post which contains information referenced in this article).

Recently, someone contacted me about extending this framework to color cubes for a project they were considering. As it turn out, this was relatively straightforward and has added additional capability to the existing MD_Cubo library.

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Fast Prototyping for Arduino Systems

PrototypingOne of the great things about Arduino systems is they enable us to try ideas and experiment with concepts. At a software level this is simple – write, compile and download. Hardware components, however, can be more time consuming as you either have to wire up a temporary breadboard or you have to build dedicated circuits.

There is a simple way to make the hardware more ‘plug and play’ by building small modules with a simple standard interface that can be combined to create bigger systems. The outcome is a library of standard modules that are easily connected to the Arduino to prototype ideas without fiddling with breadboard wires for the simple stuff.

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Low Cost DIY Logic Analyzer

PulseView_LogoA logic analyzer is an electronic instrument that captures and displays multiple signals from a digital system or circuit on a common time base. It is a really useful tool for debugging circuits and communications links. However, the cost of brand-name logic analyzers runs into hundreds of dollars and can be really hard to justify for hobby use.

Fortunately, there is a low cost alternative using open source software and inexpensive hardware.

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PID Control Experiment – Tuning the Controller

PID_FCIn the first part of this blog I described building a test apparatus that allows me to experiment with tuning a PID loop controlling a levitating pin pong ball in a tube.

This second installment is about trying different hands-on methods of tuning the loop, understanding how they are derived, and how well they perform compared to each other.

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PID Control Experiment – Making the Testing Rig

PID_FCPID (Proportional, Integral, Derivative) control is a classic control algorithm that I have used for a few projects, ending with ‘good enough’ control, without really spending time learning how to properly tune the PID constants.

Time for me to fill in the gap in my knowledge, so in this two part blog I want to capture my learning. Hopefully it is useful for someone else. In this first part I will document the learning and testing rig and software. The next part will be about tuning the control loop.

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ATTiny Breakout Board

attiny_bo_built-upIn some upcoming projects I intend to embed some processing intelligence into small devices. The smaller Arduino boards are too big and expensive for these applications.

After some investigation, I settled on using the ATTiny series of 8 pin microcontrollers. These processors vary in capability (from a very low end) and all provide 6 I/O ports. Tools compatible with the Arduino ecosystem are also available.

As a first step, I designed a small breakout board for the SOP8 version of these MCUs.

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Configurable SD R/W Datalogger Shield

sd_shield_top_smallI always seemed to get a clash between the device select signal (SS) on my SD/microSD card reader and some other Arduino hardware I was trying to run with it. To get around this I decided to make a dedicated SD card shield with a jumper selectable SS signal.

SS signal clashes are now a thing of the past!

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DIY Soldering Station with Hakko FX-888 Iron – Part 2

SS_FinalIn Part 1 we looked at the design and hardware for the Soldering Station. This part covers the software, assembly and calibration of the system to provide accurate and reliable temperature control.

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DIY Soldering Station with Hakko FX-888 Iron – Part 1

SS_FinalAfter many years persevering with a ‘simple’ soldering iron, I acquired a temperature controlled iron and was amazed at the difference it made to the quality of my work. Recently the iron failed and, although I managed to find the fault and repair it (the temperature sensor wire had broken off), it made me realize that I should keep one as a spare. It is actually quite difficult to repair an iron without an iron!

As I can’t afford to buy an expensive piece of equipment ‘just in case’, I decided to use this as an excuse for a hardware and software project based around a Hakko-FX888 soldering handpiece that I had already purchased.
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UV Curing Lamp for DIY PCB Solder Mask

UV_Curing_In ActionOne of the downsides of home-made CNC printed circuit boards is that a lot of the copper cladding remains and can lead to short circuits when solder strays onto the common waste area outside the formed tracks. Also, after a while it tarnishes and does not look great.

One solution to both these problems is to apply a solder mask over everything that is not meant to have solder on it, similar to professionally made boards.

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