Author Archives: Hailey Blessing

“Fast” and “Easy” USB PD: Prototype to Production

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

Jonathan, a passionate hardware engineer, routinely found himself creating tools to assist in the projects he’d been working on for several years. In late 2018, he began to merge several of his personal projects into a single tool, and the Binho Nova Multi-Protocol USB Host adapter was born. A veteran of several Bay Area hardware startups, he enjoys wearing many hats and doing whatever it takes to bring high-quality products to market, from proof-of-concept through mass production. Above all, he wants to share his enthusiasm for developing quality hardware products with as many people as possible.

Curious to learn more about Binho or this project? Head over to the forum thread for this project! Binho’s Founder, Jonathan Georgino will be there to answer questions!


barrel jacks and SparkFun Power Delivery Board

There comes a time in every electronic product’s development when you have to ask the question, “How will users supply power to this thing?” Maybe you have an older design that uses one of the various DC barrel jacks and associated wall warts, which always get lost in the tangled mess of the Misc. Power Adapter drawer. Maybe it’s time to upgrade that barrel jack to the increasingly standard USB Type-C connector for a more streamlined experience.

Fortunately, STMicro makes a chip (STUSB4500) designed precisely for fast and easy migration from DC barrel to Type-C. Now, “fast” and “easy” are four letter words in the manufacturing world, but in this short article we’ll turn those four letter words into four actionable steps toward successful implementation. Let’s get started!

Step 1: Prototype with the SparkFun Power Delivery Board

SparkFun Power Delivery Board - USB-C (Qwiic)

SparkFun Power Delivery Board - USB-C (Qwiic)

DEV-15801
$24.95
2

The first thing you’ll need to do is learn just enough to be dangerous. The formal USB Power Delivery documentation, while comprehensive, can be a heavy lift. Thankfully, the folks at SparkFun produced a Hookup Guide for the Power Delivery Board, which uses the STUSB4500 chip. This guide also provides an adequate briefing that covers the important aspects and nuances of using USB PD. Reading the USB-C Power Negotiation section should provide you with everything you need to know to get started.

Now that you’re armed with the knowledge of sinks, sources, PDOs and Power Contracts, it should be relatively straightforward to determine a good starting point for the STUSB4500 configuration you’ll want to use in your product. The STUSB4500 is a stand-alone USB Power Delivery Sink controller, meaning it doesn’t need to be connected to a microcontroller - rather, the desired configuration is simply loaded to its internal NVM (non-volatile memory) once, likely during product assembly, and will always use that configuration.

There are a variety of ways you can connect to the SparkFun Power Delivery Board to load the desired configuration into its NVM, but in keeping with the “fast” and “easy” theme we recommend using a USB host adapter like the Binho Nova to connect directly to the I2C bus on the board. Aside from being a handy tool to directly interface the board to your PC, using the Nova now gives us an easy path for manufacturing, discussed in step three below. The SparkFun Power Delivery Board conveniently has a Qwiic connector, so using the Qwiic Interface Board to connect to the Nova Host Adapter will probably be the quickest option (see what we did there?)

SparkFun Power Delivery Board, Qwiic Interface Board, and Binho Nova

Step 2: Integrate the STUSB4500 circuit into your hardware design

Once you have prototyped your configuration with the SparkFun Power Delivery Board, it’s time to integrate the STUSB4500 chip into your hardware design.

  • If you’re using Eagle, you can go right ahead and pull the symbols and footprints from SparkFun’s open source design files for this board.

  • If you’re using Altium, STMicro provides reference design files that can be accessed here. The files can be found in the section titled "Hardware Resources" about a third of the way down the page. The item is titled "STREF-SCS001V1 Altium Library."

  • For any other tool, I’d recommend pulling the design assets from SnapEDA.

Be sure to expose the SCL and SDA signals, as well as GND, on test points. These will be used for loading the configuration determined in step one onto the STUSB4500 IC on each and every board during production. The folks at FixturFab have a fantastic blog post regarding best practices for putting test points on your PCB. Once the design is ready, go ahead and fab a handful of them - I always recommend building first-articles by hand as you’ll get to intimately review aspects of your design that might have otherwise been missed.

Once everything visually looks good, go ahead and load the configuration and give it a try! Again, you can use the same Binho Nova to load up that configuration, connecting via those exposed test points on your form factor board.

Binho Nova and PCBite probe kit


Connecting Nova to the I2C bus using PCBite probe kit. Note that in practice you’d actually be probing your custom board. I worked on a proprietary design that I couldn’t photograph, so I’m demonstrating this technique with the SparkFun board.

If you’re moving very fast, you may already have a bed-of-nails test fixture ready, although it’s very likely that your first boards are available before the fixture is ready. The Sensepeek PCBite probe kit is the perfect way to zoom through the testing and validation stage when you don’t have access to a test fixture. These probes provide a solderless, hands-free method to connect to the surface mount test points on your board. Even if you forgot to add a test point to an important signal, the pins on the probes are so fine that you can easily probe the leads on the IC itself if necessary.

When the new design has been tested and verified, it’s time to look at the changes that will need to be made on the production line.

Step 3: Update the manufacturing line

Now that the STUSB4500 IC is integrated into your hardware design, you’ll need to put on your industrial engineer hat and figure out the best way to introduce an automated fixture capable of loading the configuration for that IC, verifying the configuration, and performing the appropriate tests. It’s not uncommon for firms to spend $10K+ on automated fixtures, but the good news is that doesn’t always have to be the case. Fortunately, there is a more budget-friendly solution that will work just fine for production runs up to tens of thousands of devices. This solution comprises a FixturFab DEV260 Test Fixture, pyTest (a Python framework for automated testing), and a Binho Nova (the host adapter you used in steps one and two above).

Custom fixture for testing

To create your own custom fixture, you can follow this demo from the team at FixturFab, where they show you how to generate design files to quickly build a bed-of-nails test fixture for this exact board.

Then with your fancy new custom fixture in hand, you can use this demo test script as a starter for getting the automated testing part of your fixture rolling with the Binho Nova and pyTest framework. The demo code loads the configuration to the STUSB4500 and verifies it. Here’s a screen capture of the test script in action:

GIF of test script running

Step 4: Celebrate

Yes, that was “fast” and “easy.” Pat yourself on the back - you’ve given new life to an aging product through an updated, sleek USB Type-C connector, your manager is pleased, and your customers enjoy the improved user experience. And even better, hopefully you’ve learned something new along the way and added some new tools to your toolbox for future use.

Happy Debugging!


Ready to get started with the Binho Nova Multi-Protocol USB Host Adapter ?

Grab one today and get a Binho Qwiic Interface Board for free! Offer is available to the first 15 customers to use the promo code “BINHO20.” Be sure to place both boards in your cart before checkout.

Rules & Information:

  • One per customer, 15 total uses available
  • Code will be active September 15 - September 30th at 11:59 p.m. MT
  • Add the Binho Nova (DEV-16382) and the Binho Qwiic Interface Board (BOB-16420) to your cart!
  • Use code "BINHO20" during checkout (be sure to have both boards in your cart!)
  • No rainchecks or backorders will be allowed. We will not be allowing the combining of orders. Distributor and reseller accounts will not be eligible.

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Learn, Connect and Develop at the Arm DevSummit

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

While we can’t hang out together in person, we can all hang out together virtually. We’re excited to be part of the Arm DevSummit, running from October 6-8. Meet industry peers, learn about the latest hardware and software, and gain hands-on experience with various workshops.

Blue banner with event dates and summit logo

If you’re curious to see what type of workshops you can attend, check out the examples below. SparkFun is excited to be providing hardware for these courses through our custom kit service offering:

  1. Simplified Deep Learning using an OpenMV Cam, Edge Impulse, and an Arduino: In this workshop, Kwabena  Agyeman will show attendees how to quickly train a TensorFlow Lite Convolutional Neural Network (CNN) for image classification using an OpenMV Cam and Edge Impulse, then deploy the CNN on an OpenMV Cam and have it running immediately. Finally, attendees will connect the OpenMV Cam to an Arduino to easily control devices in the real world.

  2. Containers Over-The-Air: Building Your First IoT Device: This workshop is designed to be a beginner lesson in how to deploy and manage IoT devices, in this case using the balenaCloud platform and Arm-powered devices such as a Raspberry Pi. Attendees can follow along at home to set up an account, build a container and push it to their device. Participants with a SenseHAT or similar will come away with a fully functional IoT device.

  3. tinyML development with TensorFlow Lite for microcontrollers and CMSIS-NN: Deep Neural Networks are becoming increasingly popular in endpoint devices. Developers can perform data analytics on devices with reduced latency and energy consumption. Join Google and Arm in this workshop where we will introduce how Google’s TensorFlow Lite for microcontrollers (TFLu) and its integration with CMSIS-NN maximize ML application performance. Learn how to run a person detection sample with TFLu and CMSIS-NN on an Arduino Nano device.

To register for this great event, head over to the Arm DevSummit homepage: https://devsummit.arm.com/

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Summer Camp – SparkFun Style

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

We know a lot of summer camps, trips and activities are up in the air, if not downright canceled this year. Not to worry - we’ve got some of your typical summer camp activities covered, with an electronics twist. Check out this summer’s activity schedule, and let’s have some fun!

Wooden trail sign with SparkFun Summer Camp and deal dates

Our summer camp schedule includes:

  • E-textiles: Kick your arts and crafts game up a notch by adding lights and sound to your projects - we see that rad patch you’re working on! (If you end up making a sweet summer camp patch, we’d love to see it! Share on social media and tag @sparkfun.)
  • GPS: Hiking and exploring nature can be tricky if you’re somewhere unfamiliar. Learn more about GPS and try making your own system.
  • Robotics: You could play a classic summertime sport or game – or you could build a robot and teach it to play with you (very slow, two-player tag, anyone?)!
  • Machine Learning: Ever tried to memorize the plants, bugs and animals you might meet in your local great outdoors? Maybe it’s time to have machine learning lend you a hand, so you don't learn the difference between poison ivy and Boston ivy the hard way.

Camp will kick off Thursday evening, July 2nd, and end on Friday, July 31, at 11:59 p.m. MDT. Our special summer camp page will be live on Thursday evening, and each week will have activities, projects and information to get you started on the different topics. While we’re at it, each theme will feature some sort of surprise, because who doesn’t love a sale? Check Thursday evenings for the latest surprise! Please note that we will be closed in observance of the July 4th holiday on Friday, July 3rd.

We’d love to see the projects that you create this summer! Please share with us on social media by tagging us on your post.

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Taking the Open COVID Pledge

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

As we adapt to the daily challenges of the COVID-19 crisis, scientists, engineers and researchers have been working tirelessly to create a treatment and vaccine that will help return life closer to the normal we used to know. The Open COVID Pledge, created by the Open COVID Coalition, an international group of scientists and lawyers, seeks to help those working hard to have the resources they need - without having to worry about patents and copyrights. Companies that take the pledge are allowing open access to their patents and copyrights during this unprecedented time.

SparkFun Building and Open COVID Pledge logo

Thank you to Gary Robinson of logoglo.com, the designer of the Open COVID Pledge trademark and logo

We are excited to announce SparkFun's support for the Open COVID Pledge. As you know, SparkFun was founded on the promise of open source hardware, and the Open COVID Pledge aligns with that promise. While there are ways to help with the immediate needs of this crisis, it will take working together and sharing knowledge to truly end it.

“SparkFun Electronics has been committed to open source hardware from our beginning," said CEO Glenn Samala. "Allowing electronics professionals and entrepreneurs to use our designs has become baked into what makes SparkFun, SparkFun. Technology will always be a race to improve and become better – open source allows us to work together to accomplish greater feats than we could individually. The Open COVID Pledge mirrors this value, with companies allowing open access to their copyrights and patents.”

SparkFun provides resources for our original products like schematics, Eagle files, dimensions and more to help users fully utilize the hardware we offer. Many of our products have earned open source certification, with all hardware created by SparkFun licensed under Creative Commons’ BY-SA license. For the pledge, we will continue to offer all SparkFun originals under our BY-SA license. The BY-SA license:

  • Allows others to “remix, adapt, and build upon work, even for commercial purposes”
  • Requires users to credit the original work and license their new work under the same terms and conditions

For those curious about the Open COVID Pledge, check out their website for more information. New pledgors are being added often and we’re so honored to be one of them.

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Spring Sale – Now in Session!

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

With the school year wrapping up, learning - and having fun doing it - doesn’t have to stop! If you haven’t already heard, we’ve got great beginner kits on sale, as well as some books to help maximize materials you already have on hand.

Is a student or kiddo in your life looking to get into electronics? These kits are great for beginners who are looking to get started in electronics in a variety of ways.

Hopefully these can help fend off boredom while instilling a love of electronics! Check out the full sale here, and get your orders in before it ends on Friday, May 22nd (at 11:59 p.m. MT).

 

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Resources for Learning at Home

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

We know that learning from home can be a stressful transition for you and the student(s) in your home. Between our Spring Kit Sale and resources from our SparkFun.com and SparkFunEducation.com sites, we’re here to help make the transition go as smoothly as it can.

If you're in need of some materials, be sure to shop our Spring Kit Sale - available through April 17th! Designed with beginners in mind, these kits offer a springboard into electronics through circuit building, creating e-textile projects, measuring the weather, practicing soldering, and exploring the Internet of Things (IoT).

Spring Kit Sale

If you’re looking for a particular item or ecosystem, check out our Education Materials page for a more robust list of our education-focused items.

We know teaching isn’t easy, but we have some handy resources that will hopefully help. With lessons on the basics of electronics to more advanced learning with coding, you will be able to help kids continue to learn from home.

Resources:

Between our current sale and our ever-growing list of resources, hopefully we can help make learning at home a little easier.

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