LibreMote PCBs are here!

Submitted by fabio on Thu, 2012-05-24 10:30.

During the past months, I held a workshop at the FabLab Torino teaching people how to design their own hardware using KiCAD. (workshop lessons archive)

During the workshop, we designed LibreMote, a simple remote controller programmable just like an Arduino Pro Mini which has an integrated accelerometer and a joystick. This served us as a pretty good example to introducing the design of simple hardware, from the electronics schematics to the PCB routing.

Yesterday, I finally received the LibreMote PCBs from Dorkbot PDX. I'll be assembling them soon and see how (if?) they work!

Here some pictures, looking not bad!

LibreMote top view

LibreMote used as controller

LibreMote top view closeup

LibreMote bottom view closeup

4-Digit 7-Segment Display with Arduino

Submitted by fabio on Thu, 2012-05-24 10:15.

I've been playing with Sparkfun's 4-Digit 7-Segment Display, of course connected to an Arduino. I recorded this short video to show how it works. I'm using the blue model which is very bright and visible indoor. Unfortunately, under direct sunlight doesn't work well and requires a bit of shadow to be visible.

In the video, I'm using the reference example code created by Sparkfun which is a simple timer.

Posted in:

FreeIMU with Arduino FIO over Xbee

Submitted by fabio on Wed, 2012-05-16 12:38.

I'm doing my first steps with Xbee/Zigbee, since I'm using it in a project for the Ph.D... to get started with it I decided to do a little orientation sensing prototype. I used an Arduino FIO as brain, connected to an Xbee and one of my FreeIMU.

Here is a picture of the setup:
Arduino FIO with FreeIMU and Xbee

Here is a little video demonstrating the setup.. as you can see it's pretty laggy.. I just using 9600 bauds here, so that's why it lags so much. Of course, configuring the modules for faster speeds and optimizing communication more I don't have doubts that I can get almost real-time tracking.

China clones FreeIMU

Last updated on Thu, 2012-05-10 07:47. Originally submitted by fabio on 2012-05-08 19:19.

Today I discovered that FreeIMU, in particular FreeIMU v0.3.5_BMP, has been cloned by some China people and it is now being sold through goodluckbuy and ebay.

Here are some pictures:

China FreeIMU cloned - top view

China FreeIMU cloned - bottom view

So, what's my reaction to this? Maybe you are thinking that I should be pretty mad about this, that I should report the cloning to ebay, call the police or something like that..

Instead.. I'm very proud of this.

In my opinion, being cloned is something which can occur to anybody on anything nowadays. Chinese are very good at cloning and they are doing that on everything: phones, fashion, art, electronics...

But Chinese they are also very smart. When they decide to clone, they simply go out and clone the best available. So, I consider FreeIMU being copied simply as an undeniable statement of its quality.

Moreover, I released FreeIMU under CC-BY-SA, meaning that selling a copy of FreeIMU or a derivative work from it is perfectly legal. In fact, I always encouraged and supported people in building their own FreeIMU.

Of course, I would have appreciated to be contacted by the Chinese: "Hey, we are going to clone your work and make money out of it, but we'd like to donate a bit to support your work".. but I understand that this isn't a common practice for them.. at least, they decided to keep the original silkscreen with my name and the link to this website.

I just hope that the people manufacturing those board are working safely and without being exploited.. Considering that even Apple can't guarantee on this, I have strong doubts about it.

Posted in:

Hardcore Quadcopter Flying with FreeIMU v0.4.3

Submitted by fabio on Mon, 2012-05-07 11:04.

rtsdrums on Youtube just posted the following video.. simply unbelievable. Great flying skills!

Posted in:

My quad is back to life!

Submitted by fabio on Tue, 2012-05-01 23:20.

Back in late November I had a big crash with my quadcopter, then with the cold season and the huge workload of the new job at the university I never had the mood to fix it..

But, as soon as spring arrived, I had to fly it again. So, I finally been able to spend a couple of nights fixing it and a couple of days ago it airborne again!

Following a small video on one of its flights. I spent a good amount of time on MultiWii PID tuning. To make my life easier I decided to plug on the quad one of my LibreTooth boards so that I could connect it via Bluetooth from my Android phone. There is a wonderful Android app called MultiWii Configurator which allows you to PID tune your MultiWii copter directly from your phone. With this setup, it's very easy to get to very stable settings.

Posted in:

Femtoduino on sale!

Last updated on Mon, 2012-04-23 11:51. Originally submitted by fabio on 2012-04-20 10:39.

Do you know Femtoduino, the smallest Arduino compatible board I designed some time ago?

Well, it's an ultra-small (20.7x15.2 mm) board with exactly the same computing power of the Arduino UNO/Duemilanove. Perfect if you are up for ultra small Arduino prototyping.

I released the designs as Open Hardware some time ago, and some brave people built their own Femtoduinos from the open designs.. however, I never decided to do a big batch of these.

But now, Alejandro from USA decided to be brave and organize a production run of 150 Femtoduinos.. I'm saying brave because he's going the hard way: hand assembling!

The boards can be bought from and are already available for shipping. If you are up for very small Arduino prototyping, nothing is smaller than the Femtoduino!

Here are some pictures from Alejandro's boards..

Femtoduino is so small!

Femtoduino is so small!

How to connect and test FreeIMU v0.4 with Arduino and the FreeIMU library

Submitted by fabio on Tue, 2012-04-17 10:31.

One of the FreeIMU users, who bought one of our production run FreeIMU boards, shipped me his board as a faulty one. We promptly shipped him a replacement board but when I tested his board I found out that it was working perfectly.

This motivated me enough to record this video (actually using exactly his board) showing you how to correctly connect a FreeIMU board and testing it with the FreeIMU library.

Electronics Workshop Lesson 3

Last updated on Sat, 2012-04-07 18:59. Originally submitted by fabio on 2012-04-04 11:55.

UPDATE 2012-04-07: I made some changes in the routing of the board to avoid the via below the RN42. This should simplify DIY etching of the board. The new revision r1.1 is attached below.

Yesterday we had the 3rd lesson of the Electronics Workshop I'm teaching at FabLab Torino.

During this lesson, starting from the electronic schematics from the previous lesson, we started routing our printed circuit board using KiCAD.

Firstly, we associated our schematics components to physical PCB footprints and then showed the basics of PCB routing with pcbnew, the PCB routing program from KiCAD.

Yesterday night, I completed the routing of the board and here is the result. See the attached files at the bottom of the page for Gerbers and updated KiCAD sources.

LibreMote r1 PCB 3D View

LibreMote r1 PCB Top View

Electronics Workshop Lesson 2

Submitted by fabio on Wed, 2012-03-28 13:27.

LibreTooth Schematics

Yesterday we had the 2nd lesson of the Electronics Workshop I'm teaching at FabLab Torino.

In the workshop, I'm teaching how to design our own hardware using a simple Arduino based remote control as example. The project is called LibreMote, an open hardware remote controller containing an accelerometer, 5 input buttons and a battery which communicates wirelessly via Bluetooth.

In lesson 1 we prototyped the device on a breadboard explaining the functioning of its various components and some theory around them.

In this lesson we designed the electronic schematics of LibreMote using KiCAD. In the attachment below you find the project schematics in PDF and the Kicad sources. The KiCAD sources ZIP also contains the various datasheets of some components we used.

A little note: while in the lessons we always talked about using 5 buttons, I decided to follow Franco's advice and using insted a 5 way joystick which will make everything much more cool ;-)

LibreTooth 5 way joystick

In the next lesson, starting from this schematics will design our LibreMote PCB. Will be fun!