Author Archives: Evan Walbridge

A111 Pulsed Radar Board gets Sparked with GroupGets!

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

Does your project require high-precision, cutting-edge distance measurement? Or maybe speed, motion or gesture sensing? We're not talking about simple ultrasonic, or even infrared, sensors here, but 60GHz radar! Well say hello to our tiny, pulsed-radar friend: the Acconeer A111. After a short time in retirement, the SparkX A111 Breakout Board is coming back in collaboration with GroupGets as part of the Get Sparked program!

The A111 is a single-chip solution for pulsed coherent radar (PCR). It comes complete with integrated antennae and an SPI interface capable of clock speeds of up to 50MHz. The A111's primary use case is distance-sensing, but it also supports applications in gesture, motion, material and speed detection. It can see objects at distances of up to two meters.

Our breakout board for the A111 includes a 1.8V regulator, voltage-level translation between 1.8V and either 3.3V or 5V and of course, it breaks out all pins of the pulsed radar sensor to both 0.1-inch and Raspberry Pi-friendly headers. The breakout board is primarily designed to interface directly with a Raspberry Pi – Acconeer’s SDK previously only supported ARMv7’s (e.g. a Pi) and ARM Cortex-M4’s (e.g. the nRF52832). Acconeer has been hard at work with software updated to their SDK - truthfully more that we could keep up with at SparkFun! However, have a solution in process and we are working on a transition to reds so this board will come with all the standard documentation, guides and support of a full SparkFun product! Pre-orders are open through September 22nd on Group Gets now.

Check out our Using the A111 Pulsed Radar Breakout tutorial, which explains how to use the sensor with a Raspberry Pi.

Using the A111 Pulsed Radar Sensor with a Raspberry Pi

July 30, 2018

Learn how to download, build, and use the Acconeer A111 SDK with a Raspberry Pi! The tiny A111 pulsed coherent radar (PCR) adds high-precision, cutting-edge distance measurement for speed-, material-, motion-,or gesture-sensing projects! We’re not talking about simple ultrasonic, or even infrared, sensors here, but 60GHz radar!

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Expanded Options for 3D Printing

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

We recently expanded our catalog of 3D printers, filament colors and accessories (and overhauled some of our in-house 3D printers with new print surface beds, tool heads and a rainbow of filament colors, so keep an eye out in future projects and videos).

If you have never 3D printed anything before, check out our past tutorial on Getting Started with 3D Printing Using Tinkercad. You can build your own 3D model in a program like TinkerCad and then set up the Lulzbot Cura edition to match any new hardware you may pick up! Lulzbot has also created lots of great tutorials that our team members use when they are getting started with 3D printing.

If creating your own 3D model is outside your scope, feel free to skip to the section on Using The Slicer, and head on over to Thingiverse to find a file you would like to start with.

Happy printing!

Getting Started with 3D Printing Using Tinkercad

April 30, 2018

Tinkercad is a great, easy-to-use online modeling software that can have you 3D printing quickly. This tutorial will walk you through designing a simple project enclosure.

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RPi’s Greatest Hits: Using RealVNC

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

Recently, there have been a lot of things Raspberry Pi related at SparkFun. While we are all eagerly anticipating the incoming stock of the new Pi 4 (the Pi of your dreams), we like to make sure everyone on our team who needs access to a Pi for testing and regular use has access to it.

For me, using the VNC (Virtual Network Computing) functionality built into the recent Pis provides that solution. The best bike in the world is the one you are riding, the best camera in the world is the one you have with you, and the best RPi in the world is the one I can access when I need it. VNC allows us to work and share no matter where you are in the building, and minimizes the number of changes I need to make to my normal screen and keyboard layout routine.

This tutorial originally written by Shawn Hymel (shout-out!!) covers everything you need to access your Pi over a local network or remotely over the internet. The remote functionality is very helpful when you need to access your desktop Pi at home or your personal Pi while at work. If you don't have a newer version of the Raspberry Pi, this tutorial will still get you up and running with a download of the "real-vnc" program in the section on "Enabling VNC."

We also love how this lets new users of Raspberry Pi learn to be more comfortable using the terminal window and other features, since you can copy/paste direct from a SparkFun tutorial or SparkFun forum post on your computer into the RPi environment!

How to Use Remote Desktop on the Raspberry Pi with VNC

July 9, 2018

Use RealVNC to connect to your Raspberry Pi to control the graphical desktop remotely across the network.

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Celebrating Bike to Work Day at SparkFun

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

You may be asking yourself, "Hey, wasn't national Bike to Work Day Friday, May 17th?" The answer is yes, but SparkFun is in Colorado so everything is different... and today is Bike to Work Day!

I usually ride my bike to work to avoid the traffic that comes with the seemingly endless population growth in Boulder County, but on this day I welcome the extra crowds on the bike path. This is one of those rare days where the electronics we build and design aren't the main reason I'm excited to come to work, so I'm going to brag a bit about how SparkFun enables us to take the road less traveled.

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Last year our cultural engagement team designed The Spoke House: part bike garage, part DIY bike repair station, all SparkFun – and complete with tools and spare tubes to perform basic maintenance and fix any flat tires you may get coming to or from work. This is also a popular stop to show on tours, so if you are ever walking through feel free to push the big red button to show off some SparkFun flair!

SparkFun Bike Shop

Bikes are plagued with umpteen different standards for fasteners and bottom brackets, but 3D printers have so far solved every issue we've come across so far! This is a bottom bracket installation and removal tool I made just the other day.

If you find there are not enough hours in the day for all your bike maintenance needs, we have a local bike mechanic who stops by once per month to perform any tune-ups and repairs that are beyond DIY. Shout-out to Rob for keeping us riding in smooth, blissful, squeak-free silence!

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The SparkFun bike library includes a collaboration with Community Cycles in Boulder, with two bikes employees can check out to ride to lunch or a post-work happy hour. We have a great network of trails just outside our business park that lead to countless restaurants and six breweries within four miles!

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Last October SparkFun won the Denver area Bike-tober challenge (we will be defending our title this fall). Below is one of our congratulatory television commercials captured by one of our employees!

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Here are some of the other perks our cyclists have in house:

  • Locker rooms and showers
  • Bikes from previous Burning Man adventures (wild colors, and dirtier than I have ever gotten my own bike)
  • Several iterations and varying levels of success on DIY electric assist bikes

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"Get on your bikes AND RIDE!" - Freddie Mercury

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"Archives Exist to Keep Things Safe but not Secret" – Kevin Young

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

Over the years, SparkFun has changed standard operating procedures on how we craft our tutorials, in order to provide the best customer experience. Our tutorials team regularly reviews our archives to make sure that we are keeping the hard work of our past team members relevant with the new content we release alongside our products each week. For today's tutorial update, these things range from small (.gif instead of a picture) to very useful; see below.

  • The tutorial is now searchable on sparkfun.com where you can read and comment.
  • There are links to all products and required materials used in the tutorial, as well as other color options.
  • There is video background content on the hardware – "How LCD Works."
  • We added additional features on RGB LED Backlight Control, which we curated since the original tutorial went live.
  • The overall formating matches the way we do things now (#OCDandproudofit).
New!

Basic Character LCD Hookup Guide

May 28, 2019

Liquid crystal displays (LCDs) are a great way to output a string of words or sensor data to a display for visual feedback. In this tutorial, we'll learn about LCDs, how to print a strings of words to a 16x2 basic character LCD, create custom characters.

You can still find our archived tutorials page, so keep an eye out for more additions and updates on learn.sparkfun.com as we revise and release them!

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Why Buy it When You can Build It?

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

Working at SparkFun has all kinds of perks, many of which appeal to my need to constantly have a project in process. There are multiple 3D printers on each floor of the building; access to an entire warehouse of electronics prototyping parts; shipping that's better than Prime, since I'm already here every day; and a manufacturing shop that essentially serves as a members-only maker space on nights and weekends (provided you put the tools back and clean up afterward).

Recently, I spilled coffee on my keyboard, and now some of the buttons don't work (I brought home the Multimedia Wireless Keyboard that same day, causing minimal delay in access to full-screen typing). While chatting with my team, they floated the idea that I should build a keyboard to replace the damaged one. We had recently discussed how our Cherry MX Breakout and Cherry MX Switch sell really well, but we didn't sell any keycaps. For in-house projects we 3D-print them, but not everyone has access to 3D printers any hour of the day. Sometimes new product decisions are easy, and everyone loves when meetings end early, so if you haven't already noticed, SparkFun now has everything you need build a full mechanical switch: a breakout, a switch, keycaps and a hookup guide.

Cherry MX Switch Breakout

Cherry MX Switch Breakout

BOB-13773
$1.95
3
Cherry MX Keycap - R2 (Opaque Black)

Cherry MX Keycap - R2 (Opaque Black)

PRT-15305
$0.95
Cherry MX Switch

Cherry MX Switch

COM-13834
$0.95
Cherry MX Keycap - R2 (Translucent Black)

Cherry MX Keycap - R2 (Translucent Black)

PRT-15307
$0.95

Cherry MX Switch Breakout Hookup Guide

April 21, 2016

How to assemble and use the Cherry MX Switch Breakout, allowing you to turn a matrix of mechanical switches into a full-size keyboard!

Now building a custom mechanical keyboard breakout is on my list so I can put the wireless keyboard away for emergency use only – it's too small for my fingers anyway, and has no satisfying clicky sound. This brings to mind a question many makers are familiar with: "Why buy for $X, when you can build it for $10X and a week of your time away from all your other projects in progress, like that half a bike in the garage, the IoT doorbell and the four different prototypes of the SparkFun JetBot AI Kit Powered by NVIDIA Jetson Nano sitting on you desk at work?" Thankfully, the team and I dismissed these thoughts and got down to ordering and soldering. Thank you to those who choose to build incredible projects using SparkFun hardware – we are humbled by your enthusiasm, and we appreciate it!

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