Sometimes — despite impracticality, safety, failure, and general good sense — one has an urge to see a project through for the sake of it. When you’re sick of buttering your toast every morning, you might take a leaf out of Rick Sandc– ahem, [William Osman]’s book and build a toast-bot to take care of the task for you.
[Osman] — opting for nail the overkill quotient — is using a reciprocating saw motor to hold the butter while the toast moves underneath the apparatus on a platform controlled by a linear stepper motor. The frame and mounts for Toast-Bot were cut out of wood on his home-built laser cutter — affectionately named Retina Smelter 9000′ — and assembled after some frustration and application of zip-ties. The final result DOES butter toast, but — well — see for yourself.
Despite working with only margerine-al (sorry!) success from a practical standpoint — equally inclined to shred or butter — we are inclined to chalk this up as a win regardless. A robot doesn’t always need to be perfect to prove that it can be done — especially if it does the job in a deliberately comedic fashion.
It’s been a while since the last update, so I thought I’d better let people know that we haven’t forgotten about freeio.org. Ed Paradis and I played with the Toast prototype boards for some time but finally concluded it was best to leave the Toast project in its deprecated state. We ran into some minor memory issues that Marty suggested could be due to a hardware bug. We also decided that the limited availability of the parts used in the design just make it impractical to continue working with. We’re contemplating what the next step should be. The idea of designing an inexpensive free microcontroller is still appealing. Suggestions are welcome.
Marty sent me a couple of boxes filled with FreeIO prototypes, documentation, and other goodies. As part of the process of evaluating which projects to focus on in the future, I’ve been looking at which project pages seem to get the most hits. Right now the Donut and Toast boards seem to be the most popular. Because of the interest in the Toast board, I’ve decided to take a look resurrecting the project from its deprecated status. I’ve passed one of the prototype boards along with a BDM cable and some other tools to Ed Paradis of the Dallas Personal Robotics Group. If we can verify that the prototype board boots linux, we’ll try to provide a kernel image and cross tool chain (and move the project back to active status). So far, Ed has been able to power up the board and communicate with it using the BDM cable. We’re currently trying to verify that we can read and write to the Flash memory. If anyone out there has any prior experience with a Toast board, either Marty’s prototype boards or one that you fabricated yourself, I’d love to hear from you. Meanwhile, you can keep up with Marty’s status by following the almost daily updates in his cancer blog.
Several developers are working with the FreeIO.org Toast board. The big problem is the difficulty and expense involved with hand building the boards from parts built in small quantities. There are still plans to design a PC/104 form factor version of the Toast board, although this will not be done until there a consensus that the electronic design is completely correct.
Toast version 1.01 is ready for release and will be posted shortly. The only physical change to the board layout is the new footprint for U10, to improve manufacturability. Four of the five boards from the first batch have been sent out to developers and users, and feedback will be incorporated in version 1.02. So far, there have been no schematic changes required.
Two prototypes of the Toast ColdFire Control Board have been built, and preliminary hardware tests are complete. The BDM port works and the flash memory can be programmed through that port using the P&E Micro software and BDM cable. The pictures have been updated to show the serial number 2 prototype, which has two ethernet controllers on it. This particular prototype is being sent off this week to Andreas Schuldei who has graciously volunteered to help with porting uClinux to the board. There will be minor changes to the VHDL code appearing this week in order to support two ethernet controllers. The link is on the Toast ColdFire Controller Board page.