Wednesday, 9 September 2015

New PCBs for electronic board sections

After getting our multiplexed hall sensor array working last week - and failing to demonstrate them at a Unity meetup in Brighton recently after wiring the one working prototype up incorrectly! - we made up some smaller sections, this time in a 7x7 grid.

This means we can use a single input port (PORTB) with pull-up resistors (since the hall sensors pull to ground when activated) and a single port to activate each transistor individually to turn on each row of hall sensors at a time. This means loads of discrete components:

For prototyping (and because of space restrictions on our breadboard) we've only actually wired up five of the seven transistors, but after proving the concept worked, went on to use all 7 in a test (we went on to wire up two of the SMT transistors at the top of the board).

Ok, not exactly loads. But quite a few. Enough to make wiring up each controller circuit for each board section quite fiddly. We etched up a few different circuit boards, using a variety of different mcus, surface-mount and through-hole components.

Even after making as many components as possible surface mounted, there were still a lot of discrete components to stick down on each PCB! Enough to make it worthwhile investigating an alternative, all-in-one integrated (IC) chip to do most of the work for us...

The A2982 may be relatively expensive, at about a quid a time when bought in bulk, but it does simplify the circuit a great deal.

The A2982 is a source current driver. It includes resistors on the transistor bases, to allow them to work at 5v logic levels, and each channel can source up to 500mA if needed. So all those discrete components are gone - and the entire circuit is now just two IC units: a single PIC 16F1829 and a single AS2982 chip.

Each panel is now much simplified from our earlier 12x12 design - both in terms of hall sensors and the controller PCB. Here we're using some thin hook-up wire just to get the board working (the final version will use ultra-thin magnet wire)

We're using 3.5mm stereo jack sockets to connect our PCBs to power/ground/data. So here's the final PCB design all soldered up and ready for the new firmware.

Right now we've got a couple of panels soldered up and working individually - so we're in for a marathon etching session tonight, to make up half-a-dozen or more controller PCBs for all the other panels. A few more like this and some updated firmware and we can create one, big, playing surface....