Hi fellow saber builders,
I've been working on a concept for some months now as to what could be the next step in saber board design. Looking at the existing portfolio of established board manufacturers, #meetoosaberboard copies and open-source boards, we have seen an awesome development since the DIYino Prime board started the open-source revolution back in 2015. Powerful processors, mid- to high-end motion engines, installation optimized board layout, USB-charging, cheap boards, quality boards, programmable boards, GUIs, advanced power saving, you name it. Not to mention the features implemented in software, SmoothSwing, full features with single button, neopixel animations, etc. I came to the conclusion that there is only one thing which would be a great addition, opening up endless new possibilities: a board having all these AND integrated Bluetooth capability.
Therefore I made research into what is required to build a over-the-air controllable board with BLE. Most major industrial nations require a certification in order to sell Bluetooth capable devices, so that was what I'd been looking for. And I found the ideal candidate: the new board will be built around a ready-to-use BL module, which is certified for all the countries where a certification to use a BL device is needed: Raytac Corporation
. This beauty integrates an nRF52 chip from Nordic, which in turn has an ARM Cortex M4F. I.e. it has one of the most powerful 32-bit controller cores (same core AFAIK as implemented by the proffieboard, which is a boon for what we are discussing with Fredrik) on the market, with 512k Flash and 64k RAM. Hence the name Infinity, as it offers nearly infinitely more resources than the AVR open source sabering started with.
Infinity is engineered for perfection and quality without compromises known for all DIYino boards: I use the world's most advanced PCB design tool for professionals. It is developed with the full power of two expert EEs, using state-of-the-art Design Rules. More, it will be among those few boards which utilize 4 layers for routing, therefore it will have the highest density of features on the smallest PCB possible. I guess this is already formidable, but I haven't mentioned the best part: it is designed by someone who actively builds sabers Oh yeah, Infinity will be infinitely and definitely open-source, both in hardware and software.
But the most exciting topic comes now: I presented the idea of a board with BLE support to Fredrik who created the awesome proffieboard, we are discussing now how proffieOS could be ported to the Infinity. This way synergies can be optimally used. Due to cross-pollination between TeensySaber and FX-SaberOS, I have all the features I aim to have in proffieOS and by Fredrik's generous offer to help modify the code to run on the Infinity, I could concentrate on some unique features like power saving and testing out the BLE connection. There is a very promising open-source wireless development platform called Blynk Blynk
which I definitely will explore (and everyone willing to join us in this journey are more than welcome to do so).
The CPU of the BLE module has one more unique feature I instantly fell for: all of the pins can be configured for all possible functionalities. I.e. all 7 GPIOs available in addition to all signals controlling the motion engine, audio amp, power saving and UART link can be used for PWM, SPI, I2C etc. This makes the board ideally suited not only for saber boards but a whole range of other props and creations. The board supports USB charging of a single Li-Ion battery cell and has provisions to connect an external USB breakout board for both charging and programming the board, without the need to access the board itself. Well, not to mention that once BLE is up and running the saber can be interacted with, including config settings, from a smart phone or PC.
The first prototype PCBs just arrive yesterday, here are the first images.
The circuit is extremely small and densely populated, so it will definitely fit into all conceivable prop designs. Next step is to have the first prototypes assembled and verify the design. I'm totally excited!!! I will post updates as I progress with the feature checks.