Monthly Archives: March 2019

New product: Case with Fan for RoboClaw 2×15, 2×30, and 2×45

via Pololu Blog

RoboClaw Case with Fan enclosing a RoboClaw (not included).

RoboClaw Case with Fan, open with RoboClaw (not included) mounted inside.

With this new RoboClaw case, our selection of RoboClaw products just got even cooler – literally! In addition to protecting the motor controller, this case also has an integrated fan, which will allow an enclosed RoboClaw to deliver higher continuous currents and sustain peak currents longer. The case works with 2x15A, 2x30A, 2x45A, and ST 2x45A RoboClaw motor controllers and features cutouts for accessing the motor outputs and the various control input header pins.

Friday Product Post: On the Edge of Our Seats

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

It's an exciting Friday New Product Post – the SparkFun Edge Development Board is officially shipping! We also have a brand new LED Driver board, pre-orders on the new Taz Pro 3D Printer, two brand new and top-of-the-line digital flex sensors, and a few little parts for your next project.

Your Edge is on the way!

SparkFun Edge Development Board - Apollo3 Blue

SparkFun Edge Development Board - Apollo3 Blue


In collaboration with Google and Ambiq, SparkFun's Edge Development Board is based around the newest edge technology, and is perfect for getting your feet wet with voice and gesture recognition, without relying on the distant services of other companies. The magic sauce is in the utilization of Ambiq Micro's latest Apollo3 Blue microcontroller, whose ultra-efficient ARM Cortex-M4F 48MHz (with 96MHz burst mode) processor can run TensorFlow Lite using only 6uA/MHz. Apollo3 Blue sports all the cutting-edge features expected of modern microcontrollers, including six configurable I2C/SPI masters, two UARTs, one I2C/SPI slave, a 15-channel 14-bit ADC and a dedicated Bluetooth processor that supports BLE5. On top of all that, the Apollo3 Blue has 1MB of flash and 384KB of SRAM memory - plenty for the vast majority of applications.

X gon give it to ya!

SparkFun ESP32 Thing Plus DMX to LED Shield

SparkFun ESP32 Thing Plus DMX to LED Shield


The SparkFun ESP32 DMX to LED Shield is the perfect way to send and receive DMX data. Whether it's coming in via the onboard XLR-3 jack or ArtNet, or outputting over the XLR-3 Jack/ArtNet, this shield has you covered! It's the perfect way to get started developing your own custom DMX fixtures, or even adding ArtNet capabilities to a current fixture. It also holds up to the DMX standard, which requires electrical isolation between the controller and communication side to avoid ground loops.

Taz Pro 3D Printer

Taz Pro 3D Printer


The TAZ Pro is an industrial desktop 3D printer that provides large, multi-material and soluble support printing with LulzBot's award-winning reliability. Create high-quality, large functional prototypes and parts with easy, professional results.

With a taller print area than the TAZ 6 and two extruder heads, the TAZ Pro is a major upgrade. The two extruder heads allow you to use two different colors or materials with similar melting points to create multicolor or multi-material objects. This configuration allows for clean and solid transitions between the two materials or colors. The upgraded electronics allow for more professional prints that run quieter. A 5-inch touchscreen, which replaces the previous monochrome LCD with wheel-selector, makes moving through the menus and adjusting settings incredibly simple.

The Taz Pro 3D Printer is now available for pre-order, and we hope to start shipping from LulzBot by the end of April.

Bend Labs Digital Flex Sensor - 1-Axis, 4 Inch

Bend Labs Digital Flex Sensor - 1-Axis, 4 Inch

Bend Labs Digital Flex Sensor - 2-Axis, 4 Inch

Bend Labs Digital Flex Sensor - 2-Axis, 4 Inch


The Bend Labs Digital Flex Sensors are an innovative solution for measuring motion, providing a unique alternative to existing sensor technologies. They are capable of highly accurate, drift-free angular displacement in a soft form factor, while maintaining extremely low power consumption. Constructed using highly durable, medical-grade silicone elastomers, this is a single axis bidirectional flex sensor, which measures one angle for 2D orientation, and a two axis bidirectional sensor, which measures two angles in orthogonal planes for 3D orientation. Its low-power, integrated analog front end, with I2C interface, provides angular displacement data in degrees and includes on-board calibration and bootloader.

Feather Stackable Header Kit

Feather Stackable Header Kit


These stackable headers connect the SparkFun ESP32 Thing Plus to a shield with a Feather footprint. This set includes one 12-pin and one 16-pin header; the pins are spaced by 0.1".

Alligator Clip with Female Header (10 Pack)

Alligator Clip with Female Header (10 Pack)


This is a 10-pack of wires that are pre-terminated with an alligator clip on one end and a female header on the other. Alligator clips are a staple item for any workbench or makerspace, and with these cables you will be able to easily incorporate those clips into a breadboard, development platform or anything else to which you would normally be able to attach a hookup wire.

That's it for this week! As always, we can't wait to see what you make! Shoot us a tweet @sparkfun, or let us know on Instagram or Facebook. We’d love to see what projects you’ve made!

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Updated product: A-Star 32U4 Prime LV

via Pololu Blog

We have updated our A-Star 32U4 Prime LV with a new regulator that offers a wider operating voltage range and increased current capabilities. For those of you not already familiar with our A-Star 32U4 Primes, they are a series of ATmega32U4-based, USB-programmable controllers with integrated regulators that offer operating voltage ranges not available on typical Arduino-compatible products; this new “LV” variant features an improved buck-boost converter that enables efficient operation from 2 V to 16 V power supplies (Note: it requires an input voltage of at least 3 V to start, but it can operate down to 2 V after startup). The A-Star Primes are arranged in the common Arduino form factor exemplified by the Uno R3 and the Leonardo, so they are compatible with many Arduino shields, including all of the Arduino shields we carry.

In addition to the increased input voltage range for the new A-Star Prime LV, the new regulator also provides more current. The graph below shows the current available on the new LV (ac03e) in blue compared to the old LV (ac03b) in purple. It is important to note that to use the full current available on the new A-Star Prime LV, you must connect to the VREG pin on the board and not the 5V ouput pin. The 5V output pin is limited to about 1.9 A because of the TPS2113A power multiplexer that makes up the board’s power selection circuit (a feature that sets the A-Star Primes apart from competing products). The power multiplexer decides whether the board’s 5 V supply is sourced from USB or an external supply via the regulator, allowing both sources to be connected at the same time and enabling the A-Star to safely and seamlessly transition between them. The multiplexer is configured to select external power unless the regulator output falls below about 4.5 V. If this happens, it will select the higher of the two sources, which will typically be the USB 5 V bus voltage if the A-Star is connected to USB. More information about the multiplexer can be found in this section of the A-Star 32U4 user’s guide under the Power heading.

Typical maximum output current of the 5 V regulators on the A-Star 32U4 Primes.

Power multiplexing circuit for the A-Star Prime LV.

The original version of the A-Star Prime LV, which operates from 2.7 V to 11.8 V, is now on clearance for 40% off! If you don’t need the increased output current and wider voltage range the new board offers, the previous version is still a great programmable controller to consider. Both the new and original A-Star Prime LVs come in multiple configurations. The complete selection of both versions can be found in the related products list below.

Enginursday: 3D Volumetric Display with Transparent OLED

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

Not surprisingly, this all started when (perhaps jokingly) a clever colleague questioned, "Why don't you stack 'em up like a sub sandwich?" A merely mundane Monday morning quickly became a maniacal midnight mash-up for yours truly, mad scientist. A little planning and proving the power of this particular display was providential in the proceeding process.

Sub Sandwich GIF of ten stacked OLED displays

Initially it was imperative to test the inconceivably incredible display's transparency. With only one unit working wonderfully well, nine more non-functioning displays were stacked on top, one by one. When at last the image at the bottom faded from view, the battle was won but the total number was ten.

Breadboard view of the Super Speedy SPI Bus

Another astonishing achievement that empowered this futuristic artifact was the super speed of the SPI bus. Said bus, in coordination with ten tiny chip select lines, was capable of continually captivating the consciousness of the (possibly concerned) crowd in a blistering burst of brilliance.

3d image of the emerald moving around

Nevertheless, such an exceedingly embryonic idea would be irrefutably evanescent could an elegant software solution not be embraced. Since we can spy furthest standing upon the shoulders of cyclops, I silently sought a singular font of pseudocode. Upon applying Bresengham's arcane craft to an additional dimension, one artful enigma appeared.

Stacked OLEDS on breadboard, showing our Elegant Emerald

Moral of the Story

So what's the take away from this experience? Several things:

  • There's a very cool 3D graphics library for Arduino out there by M Rule that allows users to render STL files on a display. If you want to look further, you can also see the code as one of the examples for the transparent graphical OLED.
  • SPI is a very nice protocol when you've gotta go fast. The symmetry is also pretty nice, as you can see from the stack of boards that all share MOSI, SCLK, D/C, VCC and GND. The only wire that couldn't be shared was the CS line, which I protected from the other layers with a smidgin of kapton tape.
  • Drawing in 3D seems hard, right? Well it's actually easier (from a number-crunching perspective) than drawing something 3D on a 2D screen. When going to 2D, you also need to project your points and determine if there are any overlapping parts.
  • If you like algorithms you should check out Bresenham's line algorith applied to 3D.

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Wireless RC Robot with Arduino and XBees

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

We recently added the XBee Series 3 to the catalog. What's great about Series 3 is that you can configure it to be compatible with the legacy XBee firmware! As a result, we updated our Exploring XBees and XCTU tutorial.

Exploring XBees and XCTU

March 12, 2015

How to set up an XBee using your computer, the X-CTU software, and an XBee Explorer interface board.

Looking for more XBee fun? The SparkFun RedBot kit is a great way to get your feet wet in the world of robotics, and the last experiment of the kit goes over controlling the RedBot using an XBee tethered to your computer and a serial terminal. As a bonus, we recently released a new tutorial that explores different Arduino Serial objects used for the ATmega328P and the SAMD21 microcontrollers. In the process, we will control the RedBot from the wireless joystick kit using a pair of XBee Series 3s configured with the legacy XBee Series 1 firmware. For more information, check out the Wireless RC Robot with Arduino and XBees tutorial (and note you'll need to solder the wireless joystick controller's components to the board)!


Wireless RC Robot with Arduino and XBees

March 12, 2019

In this tutorial, we will expand on the SIK for RedBot to control the robot wirelessly with XBee radios! We'll explore a different microcontroller and wirelessly control the RedBot at a distance.

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An Overlooked Arduino

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

This is a guest blog post from Andrew Shepherd. Andrew has been studying electronics in earnest for over a decade and loves working with his mind and hands. He specializes in analog electronics, but his interests are eclectic and span seemingly unrelated areas.

The Arduino Leonardo came out a few years ago but somehow flew under the radar to most people. There are rather few blogs and tutorials written about it around the web. Older boards like the Duemilanove, Arduino Uno and their clones are so ubiquitous that they are used in most projects where a basic microcontroller is needed. Later models like the Due and Yun fit the bill for more complicated computational needs. The Leonardo sits between these two extremes. It is more useful and more powerful than a standard Uno with the ATmega328 chip. It uses a different chip (ATmega32u4), which has a built in USB interface among other things. The cost is nearly the same as a ATmega328 model Arduino (like the Uno or Duemilanove), but is more capable.

Arduino Uno
Arduino Leonardo

What’s Better?

  • More analog pins – the Leonardo has 12. A0-A5 are dedicated analog pins, and A6-A11 are on digital pins. Just like the Uno, the input resolution is 10 bits.
  • All of the digital and analog pins can be used as digital inputs and outputs. There are also seven PWM pins instead of six, as with the Uno.
  • Since their is no external USB interface chip, the ATmega32u4 can directly talk to your computer. In other words, it can easily behave like a mouse or a keyboard. This makes for some interesting applications for hardware-software automation or video game controllers. There are handy libraries available for mice and keyboards.

Leonardo in Action

A very common way to use the Leonardo is to create a circuit that can press keys on your keyboard – for instance if you wanted some piece of hardware to trigger a repeatable event on screen. Maybe you want to advance slides in a PowerPoint presentation by pressing one of the arrow keys; it would be ideal to press the key by a serial command instead of a servo or solenoid pushing it. Any device using the ATmega32u4 chip and the keyboard library makes this a simple task.

A slightly more sophisticated use of this feature would be to make a controller or some sort of haptic device to control a p5 script or even a video game. There will not likely be a shortage of pins, since there are 20 available and 12 of those can be analog. You can experiment with new types of user interfaces and not worry as much about getting it to talk to your computer. In fact, the Arduino Esplora is basically a Leonardo in the form of a controller designed exactly for this purpose.

Other Devices with the ATmega32u4 Chip

SparkFun Pro Micro

Arduino Micro (or SparkFun Pro Micro) - SparkFun has a 5V and a 3.3V version.

SparkFun Fio V3

SparkFun Fio - Similar to the Micro/Pro Micro but is LiPo battery-compatible and is even capable of charging the battery when plugged into a USB port. It also has an XBee socket for wireless capability in a small package.

Qduino Mini

Qduino Mini - Like the Fio, it can charge your battery, but it also has RGB LEDs and a library for a “battery fuel gauge.” Naturally, it’s slightly smaller than the Fio because it doesn’t have the XBee socket.

Arduino Esplora

Arduino Esplora - It’s similar to a Leonardo but in the form of a video game controller. It has built-in buttons, a joystick and some other built-in hardware.

Arduino Yun

Arduino Yun - Basically Arduino’s attempt at a Raspberry Pi since it runs Linux. The ATmega32u4 is most likely ancillary and used for its serial communication capability.

LilyPad Arduino USB

LilyPad USB - Probably the smallest device listed here. Designed specifically for fabrics and wearable devices. They sell a 3.3V version so it can run from a single cell 3.8V LiPo battery.

ATmega32u4 with Pins
ATmega32u4 with Pads

Two versions of the ATmega32u4 in non-PTH form.

Unfortunately, the ATmega32u4 chip does not come in a thru-hole package unlike the ATmega328. This might be a problem if you ever want to “roll your own” Arduino for size or cost purposes. However, the price for a Leonardo or similar device is comparable to that of an Uno, and the size can be made quite small with the Micro or LilyPad. In this regard, the inability to easily roll your own is almost a non-issue.


Because the Leonardo has a different chip than the Uno, there will be some slight differences when it comes to compatibility. Certain shields and libraries might have discrepancies when used on the Leonardo. Usually, pre-existing products and libraries make sure to mention somewhere if they can be used or not. If you are planning on making your own libraries or shields however, be aware of the slight differences as you plan your design.

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