@B_Abling: we can use lasers - preferrably a CO2 laser. I'll get started on the design now.
Funnily enough, one of the guys in my office building just stopped by to show me a new laser that's powerful enough to burn holes through stuff (I've managed to put the fires out and will clean up the office later)
@Caleb: Man, there are so many resources for learning how to use this thing, I don't even know where to start!
I know -- it's wonderful -- I only wish I'd had something like this available back in the late-1970s when I was starting to play with microprocessors. The young kids of today don't know how lucky they are (mutter mutter moan groan :-)
I seem to have a bias against Arduino. It was originally aimed at amateurs- and I can't help wondering if is a bit on an insult to the kind of work that we do.
Having said that, I have considered using an Arduino for some of our test jigs. Our test jigs are required to support products that can go for many, many years- I have stuff here that is over 20 years old. PCs age and stop working and replacing them is sometimes impossible. maybe dedicated hardware will last longer?
We also have a dearth of qualified people who may help in creating test jigs, so a large portion of an an engineer's time goes in designing (and sometimes maintaining) the test equipment. If we use Arduino, maybe we can "lower the bar". From your experience what do you think?
@antedeluvian: I seem to have a bias against Arduino. It was originally aimed at amateurs- and I can't help wondering if is a bit on an insult to the kind of work that we do.
In th ecase of someone who works with microcontrollers all the time, the Arduino is a bit simplistic -- but there are a lot of folks like mechanical engineers and non-engineers and even software developers, for example, who aren't used to getting their hands dirty at the "pin twiddling" level -- for them, the Arduino platform can be a great introduction into the wonderful world of MCUs
but there are a lot of folks like mechanical engineers and non-engineers and even software developers,
In a previous e-converstaion we had, you had said the programming language was "C-like". How like? C is not a particularily easy language for even for technical people (or at least me) to start using. I have a friend (really!) whose son is took a course in theatre (scenery and lighting etc.) and he was using Arduino for some of it. Is he particularily talented (and I have felt that he did have a propensity for engineering) or can anybody pick it up?
AD - The structure for an Arduino program is a bit wierd, but the syntax is mostly like C. It has looser typing and doesn't require any kind of garbage collection. One of the biggest values to beginners is that it has a very thorough set of libraries. It also takes care of pretty much all of the chip configuration.
@antedeluvian: In a previous e-converstaion we had, you had said the programming language was "C-like". How like? C is not a particularily easy language for even for technical people (or at least me) to start using.
I'm going to "punt" my answer to this question to my follow-up blog (I just didn't want you to think that I was ignoring you :-)
@Max: "In the case of someone who works with microcontrollers all the time, the Arduino is a bit simplistic"
The first time I heard about Arduino, I took a look to the programming language and IDE and I thought that it was cool for non-EE guys, but not for me...
Now, the huge number of compatible shields available had changed my mind. If you are a MCU hacker, you can purchase a bunch of interesting and cheap hardware an build a project without using the Arduino language -- i.e. if you are an AVR lover as I'm, you can squeeze all the power of the Arduino Uno by using AVR Studio ;-)
You're not out to win any popularity contests, I take it.
Seriously I was told that in any engineering organization 10% of the engineers carry the rest of the engineers. This might be a topic for a blog that will attract many responses, but you may have to check the post for suspicious packages, so i am not about to write it.
haha, I don't think anyone who wants to learn arduino will be offended with me telling them it is a good idea. Usually it is the ones who build their boards from scratch who get annoyed at the mention of the arduino.
AD - The 8-bit Arduinos really don't have enough capacity (in my opinion) to be of real value in commercial applications. There's too much overhead, both hardware and software and not enough memory left over to do much.
Recently, though, a number of 32 bit Arduino compatible boards have been released. With those boards, it's just another high level language with a relativbely low learning curve. These seem to be pretty capable devices.
@Duane: Recently, though, a number of 32 bit Arduino compatible boards have been released....
And the great thing is that any programs you've written for the 8-bit boards will compile down to the 32-bit boards without any problems -- all you have to do is tell the compiler which board you are connected to...
If you're getting into 32-bit land, it's worth checking out alternate ecosystems, such as the BeagleBone Black ($45) which is cheaper than the Arduino Due ($50).
As far as ecosystem size goes, the Arduino is by far the biggest, but I think some others are enough including:
--Beagle family (especially BeagleBone Black). The BBB has some really cool capes such as FPGA and multi-axis stepper - and even an Arduino cape! The Beagle has BoneScript for rapid development.
--Gadgeteer-based systems such as the FEZ Hydra from GHI which run .NET micro framework. There are also .NET MF Arduino compatibles.
--The MSP430-based Launchpad and its BoosterPaks and Energia IDE (similar to Arduino IDE).
Then there are the plug in sensor and IO systems that standardize cabling which allow easily attaching many devices that can be located away from the board, such as:
--Grove from Seeedstudio
--Tinkerkit from the Arduino folks
--Gadgeteer from MS
--Pmod from Digilent
Many of these systems can be used with different base boards. For example, you can get Grove shields for Arduino and there's a Grove BoosterPack design on Upverter. The Cypress PSoC Pioneer kit can take Arduino shields and Pmods.
@TonyTib: If you're getting into 32-bit land, it's worth checking out alternate ecosystems, such as the BeagleBone Black ($45) which is cheaper than the Arduino Due ($50).
I agree that anyone starting out from "ground zero" shoudl look around at all of the different alternatives before making a decision. In some cases it could be as simple as having a friend who has already opted for a particular platform, because that way you can share code and ideas and help each other answer problems.
In my case I'd purchased a 3D LED Cube with an Arduino-compatible controller -- plus I've sponsored a couple of Kickstarter project sthat also feature Arduino-compatible controllers ... so "Going Arduino" made total sense for me.
Tony re: "If you're getting into 32-bit land, it's worth checking out alternate ecosystems, such as the BeagleBone Black ($45) which is cheaper than the Arduino Due ($50)."
It's kind og a golden age for systems like this. Critical aplications generally take custom hardware, but for applications that can deal with off-the-shelf, there an incredible number of good options.
8-bit Arduinos are great for hobby and staters. 32 Arduino compatibles look like they may become a viable tool for non-critical embedded applications. The mbed fits that same place. The Beaglebone, Raspberri Pi and a few others are great low-end Linux systems. Move up to the Beagleboard XM and you've got a tablet-power system.
There's this new Intel Arduino compatible too. I'm not sure what to make of that one.
There are some dynomite kits for the Arduino that do let the beginner get up and running quickly. I got my son one of the mid range kits an he was making LEDs blick and playing notes on a speaker in just a few minutes! No soldering required either!
The original intent of the Arduino was to create a learning platform. Seems to have worked, lots of folks learning about MCU development with it. But it is the support ecosystem that grew up around the original Arduino that has captured the professional's attention. With the Arduino-compatible 32-bit, professional-grade development boards now coming out from MCU vendors, that support base is increasingly tempting for creating prototypes and proof of concept designs for commercial applications.
THe Arduino itself may be for amateurs (or students) but Arduino compatibles are finding their way into the professional's toolkit.
Very interesting Max, especially the comments, and I look forward to the next thrilling installment. I have heard reactions like Antedeluvian's before - ie that Arduinos are for amateurs - but in my case that's probably what I need. BUT - one of my current "to do's" is to learn C, and that fact the the Arduino environment is "C-like' does put me off a bit - I wonder if I would not be better dealing with a pure C environment like Microchip's PICs - which do offer a vast array of capabilities and sizes. Could you - and others - comment?
Yeah, I agree. Whatever about the Arduino IDE, the benefit of the Arduino shield compatible hardware is great for prototying and proof of concept or just plain old messing around! We @NXP are now making our LPCXpresso boards with these shields so customers can piggy back on this hardware ecosystem.