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Using Arduinos for Real-World Embedded Applications
2/12/2014

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Garcia-Lasheras
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It's the economy stu#%&d!
Garcia-Lasheras   2/13/2014 12:18:44 PM
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I think Mark is really pointing in the right way when talking about the problem of building your own custom PCB when there is not a huge production involved.

When the number of units to be built is low, not only you cannot justify the manufacturing costs, but also the R&D and testing process too.

But, of course, we are talking about open-hardware designs. In this way, if the production volume increases to a high enough level, you can always take the design files and build your own PCBs.

Max The Magnificent
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Re: It's the economy stu#%&d!
Max The Magnificent   2/13/2014 12:40:17 PM
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@Garcia: ...we are talking about open-hardware designs. In this way, if the production volume increases to a high enough level, you can always take the design files and build your own PCBs.

That's a really good point -- I'd forgotten that all of the Arduino hardware was open-source.

alwaysalearner
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Steampunk exhibit
alwaysalearner   2/13/2014 12:22:16 PM
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I just finished up your blog article, Using Arduinos for Real-World Embedded Applications. Great article and thank you for including the tip about the Steampunk Springfield exhibit. I have to admit I donít know much about Steampunk but my motto is life is about continuous learning. Iím always on the lookout for cool and different exhibits and Iíll have to try to coordinate a day trip to Springfield.

paul.dillien
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"...or do you think they belong only in hobby projects?" Don't denigrate hobbyist
paul.dillien   2/13/2014 3:36:37 PM
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How many readers of these pages started out playing with electronics as a hobby and then went on to "catch the bug" and are now professional engineers?

David Ashton
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Arduinos et al
David Ashton   2/13/2014 4:18:19 PM
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I used to think that a lot of the fun had gone out of electronics because it had gone so far beyond taking (eg) a 555 and a handful of components and making them do something good on a PCB or veroboard.  But really, things like the Arduino are today's 555s.  They're a component in themselves and if you treat them as such you can have just as much, if not more, fun.  And as pointed out above, their universality and the heaps of code written for them makes them just as good for professional applications.

Duane Benson
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Transition
Duane Benson   2/13/2014 4:27:20 PM
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I'm enjoying watching the transition from exclusively hobby to a mix of hobby and commercial application. I wonder if the Arduino folks ever thought their education board would become a viable commercial embedded platform.

It's not totally totally there yet, but it's getting closer.

MikeCasale
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Re: Transition
MikeCasale   2/14/2014 9:44:39 PM
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I am working on a commercial application and using the Arduino to make a breadboard. To-date it is working great. I assumed I needed to design and manufacture my own Arduino-based PCB. I have worked as a Development Engineer for MANY years. I know designing a custom board can be VERY expensive.

If I don't do my own board, how do I make a reliable hardware product? I need to add a bunch of specialized electronics around the MPU. Do I design what they call "a shield"? Interconnections can be the downfall of a good design. Thanks for any help.

Max The Magnificent
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Re: Transition
Max The Magnificent   2/16/2014 4:02:04 PM
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@MikeCasale: I am working on a commercial application and using the Arduino to make a breadboard. To-date it is working great. I assumed I needed to design and manufacture my own Arduino-based PCB. I have worked as a Development Engineer for MANY years. I know designing a custom board can be VERY expensive.

If I don't do my own board, how do I make a reliable hardware product? I need to add a bunch of specialized electronics around the MPU. Do I design what they call "a shield"? Interconnections can be the downfall of a good design. Thanks for any help.

As you say, you can take the Arduino board open source files and use these as part of a larger custom board design -- making your own custom board isn't all that expensive -- you should talk to Duane about this.

The alternative is as you say to make your own shield that plugs on top of the Arduino -- you can get proto-shields from Adafruit.com for Unos (will also work with Leonardos) and Megas (will also work with Dues) -- but Duane and I opted to design our own (click here to see my blog on this).

Duane has also made a custom Arduino-based sensor board for his robot project -- he'll be blogging about that sometime in the next week or so.

MikeCasale
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Re: Transition
MikeCasale   2/16/2014 4:59:43 PM
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Max, thanks for the info. Who is Duane? My experience designing instrumentation with SMT is that it can get expensive, but maybe that's just the kinds of products we did (big boards & lots of parts).

I already have a schematic and layout done in Eagle. The size of the board is fairly small (5" by 6").

I know a [fairly] local PCB shop that does good work. I think I'll ask them which approach is best.

Thanks again.

Max The Magnificent
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Re: Transition
Max The Magnificent   2/16/2014 5:33:32 PM
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@Mike: Max, thanks for the info. Who is Duane?

Duene Benson -- you can see him in the comments below -- if you send me a message to my personal email (max@clivemaxfield.com) so that I have your email address, I'll connect you up with Duane.

 

Duane Benson
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Re: Transition
Duane Benson   2/17/2014 11:28:23 AM
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Mike - It's really a matter of trade offs. If you're only going to build a small quantity, have more time than money, and want to hand solder, you're probably better off going with thru-hole parts. If you plan on having it manufactured in more than just small quantities, surface mount is the way to go. The parts are less expensive, and it will cost less to get it manufacturered in high volume.

You can also look at something like the Arduino Micro (http://www.adafruit.com/products/1086) and plug it into the board with your custom hardware and connectors.

Again, it's kind of a trade off. Small quantities, it might be easier and less expensive to use something like the Micro. Larger quantities, it would be better to design a fully custom surface mount board.

MikeCasale
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Re: Transition
MikeCasale   2/17/2014 11:41:34 AM
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Thanks Duane. Yes, I know all of life is a trade-off. That's why we engineers get the big bucks (NOT!).

We are definitely starting off with small quantities. I tried to do a complete design with thru-hole parts, but some key components only come in SMT. Bummer.

I will look at the Micro, as you suggest, and see if it will help.

Thanks for your help.

Duane Benson
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Re: Transition
Duane Benson   2/17/2014 1:31:42 PM
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Mike - "but some key components only come in SMT"

This is becoming a more common occurrence. For example, I've used the Arduino Leonardo as a jumping off point in some of my designs. I picked it because the USB is built into the primary MCU, while the Uno and Mega require a separate MCU to handle the USB.

It reduces the complexity quite a bit, but the Leonardo MCU only comes in surface mount packages. That works for me, because I have Screaming Circuits (my day job) as a resource if I need SMT soldering. Although, I often hand solder my own small quantity surface mount boards because I enjoy it.

Adam-Taylor
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Re inventing the wheel
Adam-Taylor   2/15/2014 7:38:16 AM
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Max engineers sometimes get carried away and want to do everything from scratch as it is what interests them.

To many engineers forget that they need to get the product to market quickly and cheaply as possible while ensuring it has maintained quality and performance. I have seen several systems and test systems which have utilised off the shelf demo boards and evaluation kits as part of the system to reduce the timescales, cost and project risk. This then allows more focus and time on the critical areas

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toddkrein
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Great for low-run projects
toddkrein   3/13/2014 2:30:10 PM
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Max, we design all of our own manufacturing test harnesses, and all of them use either an Arduino or a BeagleBone. It's quick, easy, cheap, and anyone can get the IDE, even if they're in a hotel in China. You can also get replacements in a single day.

Max The Magnificent
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Re: Great for low-run projects
Max The Magnificent   3/13/2014 2:34:07 PM
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@Toddkrein: Max, we design all of our own manufacturing test harnesses, and all of them use either an Arduino or a BeagleBone.

I'd love to hear more about this -- can you email me at max.maxfield@ubm.com so I have your email address and we can chat some more offline.

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