Electronic Projects

Solo and ZIFduino

I decided to name the new board Solo. As in, the chip is flying solo. The order has been processed with the manufacturer, now it's just a matter of time.

Aside from a few minor layout changes, it's exactly the same as posted in my previous entry. Once they come in I'll verify that everything's okay and get it up on http://www.bittyware.com both as kits and fully assembled boards.

On a side note, I'm also going to be assembling the remaining ZIFduino boards and offering them for the same price. The immersion silver process starts to degrade after a while, and the remaining boards are starting to show some signs of deterioration. Not enough to affect the final product, but enough to take action before it does. If there's demand, I'll be doing another run of kits after making a few tweaks. I really like the automatic power source detection of the Arduino Duemilanove and have every intention of incorporating that.


I finally got off my keister and got to the original point of designing the ZIFduino: the MegaBare board. As the name implies, it's a board with no frills, no programming headers, just the bare minimum necessary to pull the ATMega chip out of your *duino and put it in a small standalone package.

It's 2.3 inches x 1.2 inches (roughly 58 mm x 30 mm). The only functionally significant difference is the lack of a 3.3V pin. It could be smaller, but after talking to some of the people that have expressed interest, it's clear that mounting holes are more important than squeezing out those last few millimeters.

I'll be making a test board here in the next week or so, then it's off to manufacturing.

Update 11/06: Yes, I'm a farking slacker and have spent too much time setting up for this year's Halloween. I haven't found the time to get this batch ordered yet, but it's probably a good thing. I've decided it'll be safer to rename it to avoid trademark issues with Atmel. The last thing I want is to have to pull it off the market after investing in manufacturing dozens of the things.

New Board, Better Layouts

I took a good long look at the traces on the prototype, and decided it's just too ugly to unleash upon the world. I ripped up everything and did it all by hand. It looks much nicer now, and I've been able to reduce the vias to four (there used to be 45!).

You'll notice there's a change in the name. That's because there's a new board in town...

ZIF 1.2

The 1.2 prototype is a big success. I've gotten some good feedback so far, and the final version should be going out for production within the next several weeks. With some minor documentation changes this thing will be finished.

Apologies for the crappy picture...

ZIF 1.1 Update

As I suspected, the crystal was bad. I finally got the batch I ordered, and the board is working like a charm now. It can be programmed via USB, and all the pins are working as expected. Happy day.

Here we go again...

After looking around at all the shields people are making based on the Decimilia board, I decided it would be best to start over using that as a template. The goal here is to make a board that's compatible with what's out there so it's actually useful instead of being a novelty item. I spent all day trying new layouts and wrestling with traces, and I'm pretty comfortable with the result:

ZIF update

It's all put together, but after quite a bit of troubleshooting it looks like the crystal I used is bad. Of course I don't have another one on hand, so if the local Radio Shack doesn't have one I'll have to order it.

On a side note, It used to be that you could head on down to the local Radio Shack and get what you need. They were even out of a good number of fairly common resistors last time I went. Wish me luck...

Every time this kind of thing happens I get closer to opening my own store.

Update update...

Cheater over at the Arduino forums reminded me that I was being stupid. In all that effort, I spaced out the fact that the ATmega168 has an internal oscillator. After setting the right fuses to tell it to use the internal clock, it works just fine until I get around to replacing the crystal. The only drawback is it won't communicate with the Arduino programming software via USB until it's fixed. Good thing I just got my hands on an AVR programmer.

It's here

The board arrived today, and while I see a problem with the mounting holes being waaaaay too close to the edge, I don't expect to have any other issues. I'll be going over the layout to be sure the surface mount pads are okay and to make sure I have all the parts, then on to assembly. The new tips for my iron won't be in until Thursday so it won't be assembled before the weekend.

In the meantime, here's some eye candy:

ZIFduino prototype


The first time I saw the Arduino, I thought to myself, "where's the ZIF socket version?" It turns out that nobody's taken the time to design a board for it yet. The typical reasoning is the desire to keep the cost to a minimum. That's an excellent point, because a ZIF socket can add 50% to the cost of the assembled board. Well, I've bent the pins on an ATMEGA-168 for the last time, dag nabbit, and I don't care what it costs any more.

I spent several hours getting to know Eagle a bit, grabbed the Freeduino sketch and board files at http://www.freeduino.org/freeduino_open_designs.html (they have a through-hole version) and started tweaking. Here are the results:

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