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Author Topic: IoT board with integrated BlueTooth for sabers? Meet Infinity  (Read 1362 times)

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Offline Obi_1

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IoT board with integrated BlueTooth for sabers? Meet Infinity
« on: February 14, 2019, 01:17:12 PM »
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.

Offline JakeSoft

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Re: IoT board with integrated BlueTooth for sabers? Meet Infinity
« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2019, 05:34:38 PM »
Looks great!

Will these have the USB recharge circuit like the Stardust V3?

Offline Yoda

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Re: IoT board with integrated BlueTooth for sabers? Meet Infinity
« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2019, 05:41:45 PM »
Hmmm good job on alll the work put into these Obi. how big are they?


Offline JakeSoft

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Re: IoT board with integrated BlueTooth for sabers? Meet Infinity
« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2019, 07:28:42 PM »
Hmmm good job on alll the work put into these Obi. how big are they?

It's tinny. Obi_1 can give you exact dimensions, but it's smaller than a Stardust V3 which is 21mm x 51mm (0.82" x 2"). It will have the smallest footprint of any of the DIYino boards yet.

Offline Obi_1

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Re: IoT board with integrated BlueTooth for sabers? Meet Infinity
« Reply #4 on: February 15, 2019, 04:54:36 AM »
The size of the current PCB is 19mm x 48mm (rounded up). It is extremely densely populated, that is why it is one of the first boards which utilizes 4 layers (2 for routing, one full GND plane and one for the different power domain). It was designed with state-of-the-are design rules (I also do not want to hide the fact that due to the design rules used to make the board so tiny, only PCB manufacturers with advanced equipment can produce them).

I aimed to find the sweet spot wrt board size which is small enough to fit into all conceivable hilts but does not reduce the size such that it will make it a xxx to install it. It is breadboard-friendly, a must for Arduino or generally speaking open source boards, with enough clearance between signals to make it easy to solder for novices. All the signals are on the sides, so there is no hard-to-reach spot to solder.

All in all I'm quite happy with the PCB. Let's keep the fingers crossed that it also performs the way I want.

Offline Obi_1

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Re: IoT board with integrated BlueTooth for sabers? Meet Infinity
« Reply #5 on: February 15, 2019, 01:08:58 PM »
Looks great!

Will these have the USB recharge circuit like the Stardust V3?

Yes Sir! It will have all the great features of the Stardust and obviously more!

Not to mention a CPU which is 16x faster, has 32x more memory and 15x more code space :)

Offline erv

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Re: IoT board with integrated BlueTooth for sabers? Meet Infinity
« Reply #6 on: April 20, 2019, 03:43:36 AM »
Very cool, I'm in the process myself of porting the CFx core to a nRF device. I'm still hesitating between starting with a module or go baremetal. For now, I'm using a dev-board, I really don't need any new PCB to get started with the port. 4 layers PCBs are fun, aren't they ? :-)

Offline Obi_1

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Re: IoT board with integrated BlueTooth for sabers? Meet Infinity
« Reply #7 on: May 03, 2019, 04:02:23 AM »
Very cool, I'm in the process myself of porting the CFx core to a nRF device. I'm still hesitating between starting with a module or go baremetal. For now, I'm using a dev-board, I really don't need any new PCB to get started with the port. 4 layers PCBs are fun, aren't they ? :-)

The complexity calls for a 4 layer PCB, and it's quite astounding what density of features can be integrated onto a single PCB if more than 2 layers are utilized. In fact the Infinity is smaller than any of the boards I made before, and they were already tiny. But the important design goal is to be able to handle the currents involved with neopixel blades and USB charging with a decent speed, and for that large areas are needed albeit the small size for handling the excess heat.

The nRF is a cool little beast, with amazing features, not to mention an in-built BLE, (nearly) infinite resources compared to the earlier mainstream Arduino standard board, plus the full freedom in using the GPIO's for whatever you want.

The main reason for going for a PCB was:
- I like it that way, a big portion of the satisfaction comes from making a PCB which is state-of-the-art
- the practical reason was to verify the design goals in terms of thermal performance and current consumption

With regards to the latter the nRF truly lives up to its reputation as low power, combined with all the rest of the power saving features on the Infinity I was able to come down to 0.1mA in deep sleep. That translates practically to infinite shelf time.

Offline NobAkimoto

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Re: IoT board with integrated BlueTooth for sabers? Meet Infinity
« Reply #8 on: May 06, 2019, 08:01:41 PM »
Is there a rough timeline on when these might be available and how much they'll cost?

Definitely been looking for more compact electronics solutions, particularly for cross-guard sabers and for smaller/shorter hilts.

Offline Obi_1

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Re: IoT board with integrated BlueTooth for sabers? Meet Infinity
« Reply #9 on: May 10, 2019, 05:33:30 AM »
I assume I will have a smaller run in the summer for those who want to collaborate bringing up the firmware. Then the first group buy will be announced in due time, probably in September. This is just a rough heads-up, I will definitely keep the community up to date as to my plans.