Author Archives: david

New product: P-Star 45K50 Mini SV

via Pololu Blog

I am excited to announce our new product, the Pololu P-Star 45K50 Mini SV, which is the second member of our P-Star family of programmable controllers based on the PIC18 microcontrollers from Microchip. The P-Star 45K50 Mini SV features a user-programmable PIC18F45K50 microcontroller (32 KB of flash, 2 KB of RAM, full-speed USB), a USB bootloader, and a switching step-down regulator that allows it to be powered from 5 V to 36 V.

The P-Star 45K50 Mini SV is very similar to the smaller P-Star 25K50 Micro, but is bigger and better, with 11 more I/O pins (for a total of 30), a more capable 5 V regulator, and several other additional features. The table below lists the main differences between the two P-Stars:

P-Star 25K50 Micro (top) and P-Star 45K50 Mini SV (bottom).

P-Star 25K50 Micro P-Star 45K50 Mini SV
Microcontroller: PIC18F25K50 PIC18F45K50
User I/O lines: 19 30
Analog inputs: 14 25
Reset button:   yes
Operating voltage: 5.5 V to 15 V 5 V to 36 V
Regulator type: linear switching step-down
Regulated current:(1) 100 mA 500 mA
Auxiliary 3.3 V regulator:   yes
Dimensions: 1″ × 0.6″ 2.0″ × 0.7″

1 These values are rough approximations for comparison purposes. Available current depends on input voltage, current consumed by the board, ambient conditions, and regulator topology.

Although we have been using PIC microcontrollers since our very first product, these two P-Stars are our first products where the PIC microcontroller can be programmed by the user. You can program the P-Star in C or assembly with the MPLAB X IDE, or you can use Microchip’s new online IDE, MPLAB Xpress. The P-Star User’s Guide has instructions for getting started with those environments.

You can load programs onto the P-Star via its proprietary USB bootloader using our open source software that is available for Windows, Linux, and Mac. The bootloader uses 8 KB of flash memory, leaving 24 KB for the user. Alternatively, an ICSP programmer can erase the bootloader and access the full 32 KB of program memory. (Since the bootloader is not recoverable, we recommend this option only for those who are comfortable programming exclusively with an external programmer.)

Both P-Star boards feature a precision 16 MHz crystal, a USB Micro-B connector, and three user-controllable LEDs. A voltage regulator and power selection circuit allow the board to be powered from either USB or an external voltage source.

P-Star 45K50 Mini SV pinout diagram.

Compared to the popular ATmega32U4 microcontroller, the PIC18F25K50 and PIC18F45K50 have nearly the same performance and memory capacity, but these PICs also have some compelling features that are missing on the AVR. For example, they use the PIC18 architecture, which has two interrupt priority levels: interrupts can be assigned to either level, and a high-priority interrupt routine can run during a low-priority one. This powerful feature is what enables our Maestro servo controllers to generate precise servo signals while still using low-priority interrupts to assist with serial communication and other tasks. Unlike the ATmega32U4, these PICs can operate at full speed down to 2.7 V (though the brown-out reset on the P-Star is activated at 2.85 V by default).

P-Star 45K50 Mini SV, bottom view.

P-Star 45K50 Mini SV on a breadboard, shown with a vertical 5-pin ICSP programming header installed.

The PIC18F25K50 and PIC18F45K50 also feature a 5-bit digital-to-analog converter (DAC), which is a handy feature not available on many 8-bit microcontrollers. We use that DAC to set the stepper motor current limit on our Tic stepper controllers, where the PIC18F25K50 serves as the main processor.

A 3 kHz triangle wave generated by the 5-bit digital-to-analog converter (DAC) on the P-Star 25K50 Micro.

For more information, check out the P-Star 45K50 Mini SV page.

New product: Tic T834 USB Multi-Interface Stepper Motor Controller

via Pololu Blog

I am excited to announce our new product, the Tic T834 USB Multi-Interface Stepper Motor Controller. The Tic T834 is the second member of the Tic family of USB stepper motor controllers. It incorporates a TI DRV8834 driver, can operate from 2.5 V to 10.8 V, and can deliver up to approximately 1.5 A per phase without a heat sink or forced air flow.

Like the Tic T825, the Tic T834 makes basic speed or position control of a stepper motor easy, with support for six high-level control interfaces:

  • USB for direct connection to a computer
  • TTL serial operating at 5 V for use with a microcontroller
  • I²C for use with a microcontroller
  • RC hobby servo pulses for use in an RC system
  • Analog voltage for use with a potentiometer or analog joystick
  • Quadrature encoder input for use with a rotary encoder dial, allowing full rotation without limits (not for position feedback)

Tic T825 and T834 USB Multi-Interface Stepper Motor Controllers.

The Tic T834 is available with connectors soldered in or without connectors soldered in.

Introducing the Tic T825 USB Multi-Interface Stepper Motor Controller

via Pololu Blog

I am excited to announce our new product, the Tic T825 USB Multi-Interface Stepper Motor Controller. The Tic makes basic speed or position control of a stepper motor easy, with support for six high-level control interfaces:

  • USB for direct connection to a computer
  • TTL serial operating at 5 V for use with a microcontroller
  • I²C for use with a microcontroller
  • RC hobby servo pulses for use in an RC system
  • Analog voltage for use with a potentiometer or analog joystick
  • Quadrature encoder input for use with a rotary encoder dial, allowing full rotation without limits (not for position feedback)

You can select which of these interfaces you want to use and configure the other settings of the Tic over USB using our free software.

The Status tab of the Pololu Tic Control Center.

The Input and Motor Settings tab of the Pololu Tic Control Center.

The Tic T825 can operate from 8.5 V to 45 V and deliver up to approximately 1.5 A per phase continuously without a heat sink or forced air flow. With a digitally adjustable current limit that can be set over USB, serial, or I²C, you can save power while holding position or increase the motor’s torque while it is moving. The Tic offers six different step resolutions, from full step through 1/32-step (32 microsteps per full step). We designed the Tic’s firmware to be capable of taking up to 50,000 microsteps per second, which lets you use those finer microstepping modes while still keeping a high motor speed. The Tic also supports acceleration and deceleration limiting for smooth movements, and very slow speeds down to 1 step every 200 seconds (or 1 step every 1428 seconds with reduced resolution). The Tic T825 is based on the DRV8825 stepper motor driver IC from Texas Instruments (for which we also have a basic carrier board), and we plan to make other versions of the Tic that are based on different drivers with different performance characteristics.

Tic T825 USB Multi-Interface Stepper Motor Controller, bottom view with dimensions.

The Tic T825 is available with connectors soldered in or without connectors soldered in.

For RC/hobby servos, we have a similar family of products called the Maestro servo controllers. For brushed DC motors, we offer the Simple Motor Controllers and the Jrk Motor Controllers.

New SK9822 LED strips and panels

via Pololu Blog

We’re excited to offer a series of addressable LED strips and addressable LED panels based on the new SK9822 integrated circuit. Like the APA102C, the SK9822 combines an RGB LED and driver into a single 5050-size package, allowing each pixel to be individually controlled using a simple two-wire SPI protocol.

The SK9822 is almost (see the notes below) a drop-in replacement for the APA102C and is better than it in a few ways, most importantly its built-in constant current control. If you’ve ever tried to power a long chain of LED strips and only connected power at one end, you might have noticed that the far end of the LED strip has a lower voltage across its power rails because of resistance in the long power connections. For LED strips based on the APA102C and WS2812B, the lower voltage makes the light dimmer and redder. With the SK9822, voltage drops like that are less likely to have a visible effect as long as the voltage stays above 3.5 V.

The SK9822’s protocol is very similar to that of the APA102C, but it updates the color that is being shown at a different time. If you replace APA102C LEDs with SK9822 LEDs in a low frame-rate application, you might have to update the code you are using to control the LEDs. The latest version of our APA102 Arduino library works with the SK9822 so you can either use it directly or use it as a reference when writing your own code. The colors generated by the SK9822 look different from the colors generated by the APA102C, so we would not recommend mixing the APA102C and the SK9822 in a single project.

We offer six different kinds of SK9822 LED strip with different LED densities and lengths:

We offer SK9822 LED panels in three different sizes:

These new SK9822-based products will replace our older APA102C-based products.

We continue to offer SK6812-based LED strips which also have constant current control but are controlled with a one-wire protocol.

Close up of an SK9822, with the red, green, and blue LEDs on at a low brightness.

An addressable RGB LED strip (APA102C or SK9822) displaying a rainbow animation.

Ten-Tec 1254 Receiver Display Upgrade Kit

via Pololu Blog

Edward Cholakian (call sign KB1OIE) makes and sells a Ten-Tec 1254 Receiver Display Upgrade Kit that is designed to upgrade a Ten-Tec 1254 shortwave radio receiver.

One of the main features of the kit is that it provides a backlit 2×20 character LCD to replace the receiver’s original 5-digit 7-segment display, allowing much more information to be shown. The kit includes a clear plastic window to replace the receiver’s original smoked dark plastic window, and a black plastic display mask. Edward gets both of these pieces made using our custom laser-cutting service.

Two laser-cut pieces, a clear window and black display mask, shown on top of the Ten-Tec 1254 receiver’s original face plate.

Ten-Tec 1254 receiver with Edward Cholakian’s display upgrade kit installed.

The display/control board in the kit uses the P-Star 25K50 Micro as its processor. Edward, a consulting engineer who designs embedded hardware and firmware, told us that he chose the P-Star because he was already using a Microchip processor similar to the P-Star’s PIC18F25K50 in one of his previous designs, and it was more economical to buy the P-Star than to hand-assemble his own board. He said the P-Star’s cross-platform USB firmware upgrade software was also a plus since his own bootloading software does not support Linux and macOS.

The kit comes with software for Windows that can control the receiver over USB. The software provides a graphical user interface and uses WinUSB to talk to the P-Star’s native USB interface.

USB control program for the Ten-Tec 1254 Receiver Display Upgrade Kit

For more information, see the Ten-Tec 1254 Receiver Display Upgrade Kit page.

New products: Addressable RGB LED strips based on the SK6812

via Pololu Blog

We are now selling new addressable RGB LED strips based on the SK6812. These LED strips replace our older WS2812B LED strips. Like the WS2812B, the SK6812 is an RGB LED with an integrated driver that allows independent control over a chain of LEDs using just one I/O line. The main difference between the two drivers is that the SK6812 has constant current control capabilities that let it have a voltage-independent color and brightness over a wide range of voltages, so any voltage drop due to long power lines is less of a concern.

LED side of the SK6812-based addressable LED strips, showing 30 LEDs/m (top), 60 LEDs/m (middle), and 144 LEDs/m (bottom).

We offer six different kinds of SK6812 LED strip with different LED densities and lengths. Our strips with 30 LEDs per meter are available in three lengths:

We also offer denser SK6812 LED strips that have 60 LEDs per meter:

Our highest density strip has 144 LEDs per meter:

We provide LED strip example code for the Arduino, AVR, and mbed microcontroller platforms. More information about the LED strips and how to use them can be found on the LED strip product page.

Controlling an addressable RGB LED strip with an Arduino and powering it from a 5V wall power adapter.