Our Help Day for September is this Saturday 26th of September in our training building

Help Support Advice Assistance and Guidance on a signpost

Our next Help Day is this Saturday 26/09 at 11.00 o’clock in our training building.

If you need help with your project, or you don’t know how to use some of our boards you can come this Saturday at our Help day.

We got a number of requests to make KiCAD workshop in Plovdiv like the one we did in Sofia at Hack Conf this weekend, so if you want to get familiar with KiCAD you can come on the Help day with your laptop with KiCad pre-installed and to learn how to use it 🙂

We use KiCAD extensively this year and already got more than 20 boards designed with it, so we got some experience we can share.

We will make KiCAD workshop on HackConf 2015, 19-20 of September in NDK, Sofia

hackconf

We have been invited by Hack Conf 2015 organizers to make workshop and will take this opportunity to make small workshop about the Open Source PCB CAD program KiCAD.

The workshop will get you introduced to KiCAD, the flow of work, component library creation, schematic capture, PCB layout. At the end of the work shop you will be able to make your first small PCB with KiCAD and to prepare files for manufacturing.

Bring your computer with you and download and install KiCAD before you come. KiCAD can be download from http://kicad-pcb.org/

Looking forward to see you there!

New Open Source Hardware KiCAD project – MOD-MPU9150 9-axis motion tracking device with gyroscope, accelerometer, magnetometer

MOD-MPU9150

MOD-MPU9150 is 9-axis motion tracking device with 3-axis gyroscope, 3-axis accelerometer and 3-axis magnetometer in small 4×4 mm package.

Possible applications: Motion-enabled game and application framework, gesture recognition, portable gaming, 3D remote controls, 3D mice, wearable sensors for fitness and sports, toys, navigation, electronic compass.

Features are:

  • 3-axis gyroscope ±2000°/sec
  • 3-axis accelerometer ±16g
  • 3-axis magnetometer ±1200μT
  • I2C interface

The female connector can connect directly to boards with UEXT creating small wearable devices which can track gestures etc:

MOD-MPU9150-2

 

PCB files are designed with KiCAD and the project is Open Source Hardware with files on GitHub released under Apache 2.0 Licensee

New KiCAD OSHW PCB project – Getting rid of FTDI – BB-CH340T USB to Serial converter

BB-CH340T-3

Many of you probably remember the FTDI nasty drivers they released just to mess up with the FTDI clones.
This caused lot of trouble to people who use FTDI devices, we have been also affected.
We try to buy FT232RL from local distributor and they had no stock, then we look around and found the chips from other supplier, but unfortunately we got clone FTDI chips.
We made production with these chips and sent boards to customers, then at one point of time we start to get complains (only from Windows users) that boards stop working.
All these windows users were affected by the evil drivers released by FTDI which make VID/PID as zero if the chip is recognized to be not FTDI original.

We try to help our customers who have been affected on our forum and got nasty message from FTDI lawers to remove all the help instructions from our forum and pull back all boards which use these clone FTDI chips from customers and distributors. WTF?

No wonder from this moment we took decision to avoid dealing with this cheeky and nasty company as much as possible. Re-designing all our boards which were unfortunate to use FTDI chips.

CH340T is nice alternative to FTDI chips and have same features and even more, but cost exactly 1/10th of FTDI chip price.

BB-CH340T is nice small board which takes power from USB and can provide 3.3V and 5V to target together with Serial Tx and Rx (transmit and receive) signals and GND.

Note that by default neither 3.3V neither 5V is selected.

BB-CH340T is specially made to be used easy with breadboard. The design is open source hardware made with KiCAD and files are on Github under Apache 2.0 licensee.

Our first two small KiCAD OSHW boards are ready!

MPU9150

I wrote some time ago about the importance to use Open Source CAD tools when you want to make OSHW designs.

FOSS CAD tools increase the base of your contributors, you can’t expect to have many people who to contribute back to your project if you make it with Altium or PADS which cost thousands of EURO/USD.
Even Eagle which have low cost entry version cost thousands if you want to use it for more complex designs.

So the decission was taken, but the resistance among our developers was not small 🙂 nobody wants to break his comfort when there are already lot of libraries made and had to be duplicated for the new platform.
It’s hard to teach old dogs new tricks 🙂

Situation changed a bit this month as we got two new guys who joined Olimex design team – Todor Bobotilov 25 years old “fresh out of school”, who recently graduated Technical University in Plovdiv with one of the best scores/results from the exams, and Christo Budakov who have 25 years of experience with electronics design and has worked for Bulgarian Academy of Science, and as free consultant last years. They both joined Olimex on March 4th.

So I decided that after the latest announcements for the new features in KiCAD we have no excuses anymore and have to kick Eagle by the end of this year with all our designs. And to start clean the new guys will be thrown in the deep waters from the beginning and they will start working with KiCAD from scratch.

First thing was to install newest and latest although unstabile version of KiCAD to may be up to date with latest developments.

This is easy to do in Ubuntu, you just have to add the nightly builds repo to your apt-get list:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:js-reynaud/ppa-kicad

Then every morning you will be asked if you want to install the newest build. This had some trade offs like latest KiCAD tends to crash every couple of hours for some reason, but this is OK, we know that we work with unstabile version and just have to save the projects more frequently :))))

Another issue – the libraries, we have our own technologycal setup in our production, based on our process we run for many years, this includes how the stencils are manufactures, how the NC files for the machines we have are generated, what component pads to be used, what drills, annular rings, etc we have to use to suit our PCB design and manufacturing process to achieve the best yield in production, in most of the cases this have nothing in common with the recommended by vendors PCB land pads and dimensions.

Christo started working on the libraries slowly while making new boards he converts from proven Eagle libraries just the components he uses in his current designs.

This week we got two new very simple boards designed with KiCAD:

MOD-MPU9150 3-axis gyro + 3-axis accelerometer + 3-axis magnetometer compass all in one here is the GitHub repo you can see it how it looks on the picture above.

and MOD-OLED-128×64 OLED 1″ display with UEXT and Breadboard 0.1″ headers, the GitHub repo is here.

OLED

you may bet many more and much complicated designs are to follow 🙂

A10-OLinuXino-LIME shield templates for Eagle and KiCAD uploaded on GitHub

Image

For these who want to make their own LIME shields we made templates in Eagle and KiCAD which they can use.

Be careful as these are freshly made and still not prototyped by us, all measures are taken the shields to be functional and error free, but these shields are still not prototyped and may contain errors so use on your own risk until we prototype and verify them 🙂

https://github.com/OLIMEX/OLINUXINO/tree/master/HARDWARE/A10-OLinuXino-LIME

Specially KiCAD is still black magic to us 🙂

Why is important Open Source Hardware Community to use Open Source CAD tools

Image

Eagle PCB Layout is around for many years and with their freeware 80x100mm licensee attracted lot of Open Source Enthusiasts to use it.

If you check the OSHW projects which people release probably 80% of them are made with Eagle for the same reason. When Eagle was available for free, nothing comparable existed, the open source tools were very immature and not so easy to use, then once you start using one CAD you get used to it and you make your own libraries, scripts, ULPs and you are tight bind to it so you do not want to move to other platform.

CarSoft (Eagle creators) had this wise idea that you can download and use the freeware version to view big projects and to edit and modify small projects with size 100×80 and up to two layers which in most of the cases is enough for the mass Arduino community.

Working with complex boards like OLinuXino is another story – the boards are 2-4-6 and some 8 layers, very complex, some of them big and exceeding the PCB limits for the freeware and for the non-commercial EUR 100 licensee (limited to 160×100 4 layers).

The CAD tools are the major difference between Open Source Software and Open Source Hardware. With FOSS to start contribute you just download your open source compiler and you can reproduce, modify, re-compile, debug the code.

With Open Source Hardware the sources are edited with special CAD tools, which may cost from free to 100 000 EUR.

You would not expect to have many contributors if your CAD cost EUR 100 000 would you?

Even now with Eagle where the full licensee cost EUR 1200 there are mostly companies working on commercial projects which decide to spend these money, and generally releasing OLinuXino using Eagle CAD just help Eagle owners to sell more licensees 🙂

The more Open Source Projects we do the more I think that moving to Open Source CAD would help Open source community in several ways:

  1. increasing the base of the people who could modify the projects as the open source CAD tools are free to obtain
  2. the selected CAD tool will gain more users and community, which will help to fix bugs, add new features, libraries and move forward and improve.

Having taking all this into consideration we have to select open source tool to migrate to.

Out of the list https://www.olimex.com/PCB/DesignTools/ we have check gEDA, PCB, kiCAD and it seems only the later have some improvement with the years.

So we are going to evaluate kiCAD as tool which to use for our future released OSHW boards.

I know this process will be painful and will cost us *lot* of money due to the time spent on re-training of our PCB developers, the decreased productivity of working with new and unknown tool, time spent to transfer the developed many years libraries and scripts/tools from Eagle, but the final result will be more open and community friendly product.

We may fail with the migration, but it worth to try at least

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