Blinkenator – July Edition

Ordered the last design in yellow and it fits!

Just gotta procrastinate about adding components myself or getting a batch assembled…

The fancy pogo pin thingies seem to electrically do the job…..

This’ll be the last attempt at solderless, time’s ticking on and I really should plan to release this by Xmas!

Super LED Blinkenator 2000 Stuff –

Sorry for a lack of News of late…….

Have been having a little bit of a creative Block with the Blinkenator. It’s a typical story where ‘something shiny’ has been spotted and has been taking up the small chunks of time I’d normally allocate to this stuff.

I’m awaiting on those Pogo pins to test the next revision…….But, have also seriously re-thought the programminator / tester device…….And, we have what you see above

ROUGH IDEA OF CONNECTIVITY, The programminator sits ‘underneath’ the J15

The Plan.

40 Pin Raspberry Pi connector will allow some ‘playing’ around with the ESP device, and programming of the Arduino. I’ll need to figure out exactly how to write the software to do it- but, there’s dozens of tutorials out there so i’m confident.

Programming could also be done via a standard 6 or 10 pin ICSP device (that can be bought for a few quid off Ebay) directly on the blinkenator itself, or via the 9 pin connector at the bottom – which breaks out to the Programminator.

The Programminator also utilises the J15 connector of the Blinkenator – This should be a great way of testing the new Pogo pins connections as my Specnext J15 is fairly well shot

There’s 2 new holes – 57mm spaced (same as a Raspberry Pi!) which can sit standoffs which match the positioning on the programminator (rasperry pi footprint)

Took quite a while to get this far – now at least you should be able to see the LED’s doing their stuff whilst connected to a Pi and a test board!

June 2021 Revision of the Blinkenator

I’m very close now to getting this new board done as a BETA….next step is to print out, test fit and tweak

In other Interesting news, JLCPCB ‘s NEW version of EasyEDA exports OBJ files! I’ve literally just discovered that you can EXPORT a 3D model of your PCB.

That’s a game changer!

A quick Bodge-up with Microsoft 3D Builder

Why it’s a Game Changer – Simply use Microsoft 3D builder or Tinkercad (or anything really, those two are just superbly easy to use

Assemble your bits – whack ‘print’ and, send to a 3D printer. Or put into your favourite slicer program and do the same – I’ll have a little bit more of a play tomorrow – it’s 11PM now. Now, to use the Resin printer or the Filament one 🙂

Oh, as for the ‘something shiny’ that’s come along…..Checking the logs in Fusion360, I started back on the 8th February. Since then I’ve easily spent 200+ hours editing, tweaking, Learning. I made the first 3D print last week. There will be many more prints till it’s ‘final’ .

There’ll be a few versions of electronics inside, Basic version will likley be some type of Raspberry Pi – Compute Module , A design is well underway. I’m also possibly thinking of dabbling in FPGA, though a 6 layer double sided PCB is a bit daunting, I’m designing one anyway after gaining a big bit of help from someone who’s already familiar with FPGA’s

I’m being vague as I really don’t know where this one’s going. I’ll need to show this publicly, once it’s done and then see what occurs. I’ll need a new, larger resin printer for sure if it takes off though, it uses the entire build volume of my Anycubic Photon Mono printing off the two larger pieces at an angle!

Super LED Blinkenator 2000 (never ending story edition)

I’m still trying to make this darn thing solderless….and, I have possibly a lead, which ain’t cheap…but will allow me to offer two versions.

Those gold things are pogo pins. But, slightly less common ones with a 1.2mm diameter pin part. This should sit quite nicely into the Next’s 1mm holes in J15…..except in my excitement, I forgot about that darn keyboard connector!

Using these requires yet another redesign, but a relatively minor one that only needs the connector stuff soldered on the reverse of the PCB…

On the plus side, this could make end user fitting of the inserts a little easier 🙂

As for ‘expensive’ – those pogo pins are around £1 each and at least 6 will be needed, more if the wifi relocation is used!

Blinkenator – Slow going

Just a quick photo of me holding my Next up against a snowy scene!

And aaaaanother Beta!. Doing significantly more testing this time round

Still not quite over the roadblock for the solderless BETA, but have kinda proven that the ‘programminator’ idea doesn’t really work as well as hoped. BUT, i have proven that a simple 9 pin JST-PH connector – 1.27mm pitch will work – also known as a molex picoblade style.

Going forward, this will be the way someone programs up the Blinkenator. I’ll have another board – possibly included with every blinkenator to convert this to a standard USBASP style header, unsure yet, depends on just how easy I can make the 6 pin header up on the top right to access. would be nice if people can program it up with their case closed….we’ll see

I’m hoping to double down on the blinkenator over the coming weeks, still quite a bit to finalise with the code and the LED inserts!….fun fun.

and, yes, my small digression with the 90’s miniatures is actually a disguised learning excercise. My LED inserts have some fantastically small detail. i’m now learning how to use supports properly….which will dramatically speed up development time on 3D printed inserts. and, also provide a proper path / workflow to being able to get them injection moulded….IF the budget and interest allows. My early experiments however suggest, I may just about be able to achieve an injection moulding style ‘gloss’ finish with 3D printing….keep tuned in!

Super LED Blinkenator 2000 – Beta …Err, lost count!

BETA 12….ALMOST IDENTICAL TO BETA 11

Beta 11 had a minor cock-up in that i’d missed off the 3v3 line. I’ve also taken the oportunity to shift things around a bit, re-align stuff and generally do a lot of really picky small stuff that generally makes me feel a bit better. Except that upside down C22 that i’ve just spotted, D’oh!

Also, I now introduce 2 more members of the Super LED Blinkenator 2000 family

The Clampinator

This one, you’ve kind of met before. It’s a small ‘clamp’ PCB, but it now splits into two parts. One ‘spacer / shim’ sits in-between the Clampy larger bit, the other, is the clampy larger bit.

When installed, it’ll look a little something like this…..

Blue is the Next PCB. Red is the tiny thin break-off ‘spacer’. Black is the Blinkenator.

The Red ‘shim’ part stops the yellow clamping PCB from getting too close to the Blinkenator when the screws and nuts are tightened.

That combination of PCB’s, copper balls, nuts & bolts provides a robust electrical contact to J15 – Without needing to solder. Yes, it’s a little fiddly – I’ll make some instructions.

Another Member – The Programminator

Glorified serial to USB convertor

Now i’ve switched over to a SMT atmega chip, it needs programming. I’ve bought some of the important signals out to a PCI EXpress connector to make for me, at Bleugh.Biz headquarters to quickly program the on-board arduino and test some basic features.

I thinkn REV 2 of this board could be useful for general tinkering also, so i’ll probably do a limited run to sell if people really want them. I’ll send out a handful of REV1 of this board to the BETA testers, IF BETA12 works.

And, finally – a quick overview of the new layout and routing. I’m now confident enough in the design to use a copper pour for a much more professional finish!

Blinkenator – Beta 11

Have had quite a few ‘spare’ hours to tinker these past few weeks. Finally have gotten over a little bit of a hill and put some development time back into the SUPER LED BLINKENATOR 2000

Thanks to some fellow hardware developers for keeping me sane!.

The changes to this board – Mainly switching from a soldered on Arduino Pro Micro to using a discreet Atmega328p chip which is commonly found in the Arduino Pro Mini

My previous choice of Micro was mainly driven by attempting economies of scale and using the same one for the C64 Mini keyboard kit as this. Also, a desire to allow people to ‘program up’ their own Blinkenator board – The Atmega32u4 is a bit of an overkill for a handful of LED’s though. Importantly also, prices of arduinos have risen quite a bit since Brexit . Changing to a chip saves easily 60% in hardware costs over the soldered on Arduino, it also saves a handful of minutes in soldering!

It does introduce a little more complexity – I now need to figure out how to ICSP – In Circuit Serial Programmin works as i’ll need to burn an Arduino bootloader to each one.

I’ll also need to develop (or modify) a Programmer to allow a more day-day use of the device over UART to USB

Next step, port the Blinkenator to the 328p, test, if it works, Order Beta11

Oh, the Ball clamps are working superbly, just gotta be careful of feature creep on that clampinator board now!

oh, probably will look at swapping the JST connector footprints to SMT – would be nice if I can have just the

Super LED Blinkenator 2000 – Scrrew it.

Had to admit, the failure of the Beta 9 got to me a little bit. Took me a couple of days to take stock, stand back and think.

After much thinking, about life, being married, kids and generally having to work hard at a day job, remembering about that one time where that bloke ripped you off, Postulating how things can build up and get to you to the point where you just think that getting screwed and having your balls in a vice would be more preferable………..

You can come to yet another epiphany!….Screw it and put the Balls, in a vice.

I present to you……..The precursor to the release candidate for the production version….Err

Continue reading “Super LED Blinkenator 2000 – Scrrew it.”

Super LED Blinkenator 2000 – Beta 8 Ordered

Been a busy few weeks here at Bleugh.Biz industries, working ridiculous hours at my day job, keeping kids from murdering each other during the evenings……But, i’ve been getting some good tinkering time in.

Some very good progress has been made! – and this is the board that’ll hopefully, finally, once and forever physically fit perfectly

Some Notable changes

  • Balls! – A revised J15 connection method that’ll provide a simple and very robust connection method
  • Spacings – The holes for the LED inserts have been altered a little to allow easier assembly. It’s still mildly fiddly but easy enough.
  • Fixtures – The J15 are has now two horizontal slices cut into it – this provides a spring mechanism for the balls. it helps to PCB distortion locally without warping all of the board from Next PCB to inserts
  • Holes – The whole board is now held with press fit type connection. The two screws holding the Next PCB are removed and replaced with two new ones. this holds the Blinkenator board to the next PCB and the Next PCB to the case. The two holes for the screws have been changed to 5mm!
  • Positions – The JST style connectors have been re-located and changed from Right angle to Vertical. Now the board’s mounted above the next board there’s plenty of space underneath. The path from the Arduino USB connector is now also free so you can tuck a cable into the board permanently
  • LED’s – Moar Bling! Each insert location now has a LED colour on the main board. No real purpose other than to look great and provide the end users with some assurance that the board is powered up when they do their first tests with a USB cable outside of the Next
  • ESP-01 – CPU_RST has been changed to a JST style connector to make ease of fitting. This whole feature is still highly experimental and may not make it into final production (if it doesn’t work, there’d be no point!)
  • Inserts – There’s now a 0.56mm gap between the jumpers – to fit a 0.6mm wide PCB!. makes a nice snug fit. and easy also to work with – simply trial fit once when you receive your board, that’ll loosen them up. remove and re-fit into the Next
  • Jumpers – Lots of experimental jumpers! GPIO to arduino, TX/RX to arduino, DB+ integration enabling / passthrough…….and some secret sauce also
  • THICKNESS – The board’s back to a phat 1.6mm thick. this provides significant stability to the jumpers that hold the inserts in place. Much easier to repeatedly get them soldered straight when assembling
  • Components – The whole board’s been rationalised for component price – and where possible using @JLCPCB’s BASIC library – that saves quite some amount in production prices as non Basic items incurr an engineering fee per component. Previously 3/4 the components were Extended, now 3/4 are Basic!
  • Silkscreen – Tidied up and made a bit more slick……..

I’m sure there’s a few more changes i’ve missed, but that’s the important stuff.

Where from here……….IF this last board plugs in, fits well, i’ll be sending out to the key Dev team. I can then kick back, relax a little and start again playing with the software side of things, Both Next side and Arduino side!.

I’ll eventually also need to consider switching over the whole board to SMT, or as much as possible. I’m not that daunted by this as there’s quite a number of ways this can be achieved, including just putting the 32U4 straight on-board, or considering changing the micro type entirely. After all, the main reason i’m using a 32u4 is that it’s cheap, Arduino compatible, has USB built in. All those things give a great ‘dev board’ capability that people can use to simply plug in and tweak!

Spectrum Next – Blinkenlights Part 3

LED Strips!

https://www.alibaba.com/product-detail/Arbitrarily-Cut-Ultra-Narrow-Board-1_62369796191.html?spm=a2700.12243863.0.0.6d933e5fkghAZf

They make TINY super thin LED strips –

tiny strip 2

Great, I could shave down the underside of the insert and then I could shove a bunch underneath the insert –

The problem……….

tiny strip 1

The Pixel density isn’t so good 😦

the Inside radius of the arc of the insert is about 17.1mm…see picture below…

That gives us a total circumference of about 108mm for the circle. hat gives us about 27mm for a 90 degree sweep of the arc. There’s actually a bit less than 90 degrees, so lets say that we have 25mm of length along the arc where the white dots are.

Spectrum Next LED Insert - PCB First Test

25mm of length and LED’s spaced 6.3mm apart only allows us 3 LED’s along the arc……and based on previous experiments, that won’t be enough to give a nice looking line of light……

I’ve messaged the manufacturer to see if they can do anything with more LED’s – at least double, maybe 8 for the 25mm length about 1600 per meter ;-)…who knows!

 

So, onto another idea……maybe a small PCB?

Looks like I can probably fit a bunch of 0603 LED’s inside!

Some quick outlines in EASYEDA

To the left is a bit of a trial to see if I can maybe get a Flexi-PCB in alongside the Insert….and another trial spacing to see if I can maybe get some degree of control of the LED’s – instead of a long block of 6 or 8 LED’s in parallel, why not 3 or 4 pairs of LED’s?

That way I can have a winking left/right status and a solid status…you could get some very basic animations going on all 4 LED’s split into 2 segments each – 8 individual lights…