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Easter funtime with KiCad

06 April 2018 at 8:48 pm

Article image for Easter funtime with KiCad

This Easter, my 17 year old son got sick for the last days of the holidays, so we left the mountains were we usually stay. All of a sudden had a couple days of spare time, so I sat down and made two PCB’s that I had been thinking about for a while!

The first is a huge 8x8 LED matrix made with 10mm LED’s. Every year at Westerdals ACT where I tech Embedded Systems, the students have a hard time understanding how these work, so I made a BIG one that I can pass around for them to understand. Each row and column has a switch, so they can easily toggle between GND, 5V and having that line controlled by the onboard ATMega328P. When controlled by the MCU, it’ll scroll a text. By turning a potmeter, the code will run slower and slower so that you eventually see each single line in the Matrix light up. I also added a button just in case I wanted to change the program or so. The parts for it arrived in just two days from Farnell and I orderd the board from PCBWay. It should arrive in about a week. Here’s how it looks in the KiCad 3D view:

Persistence Of Vision research

I love how we humans use the slowness of our eyes to display pictures. For a long time I’ve wanted to make a board where I can use the programmable and tiny APA102 LED’s (that Adafruit sell as DotStar) to produce POV imagery. For this board I wanted to try out a lot of things that I haven’t had time to play with. I have a Lipo charger so the device can both run and charge from a small battery. The APA-102 RGB LED’s require 5V and a single cell LiPo battery is anything from 3.6V to 4.2V, so I needed a Boost converter that only works when the battery has enough voltage. If not, the LiPo battery will drain and eventually it’ll puff up and get destroyed. The setup I use should have this covered so that I won’t need to disconnect the battery. The Microcontroller I’m using is one of the cheapest STM32’s I could find that still has USB support. It’s super tiny!

How tiny? Just look at the match I added for scale and the dust between the legs of it! The micro requires 3.3V so I needed to add that to the board & I’ve also added a Hall sensor and two Phototransistors on the board to input various data. Can’t wait to get these boards and start writing the software! :-D