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"Give me 6 hours to cut down a tree, and I will spend the first 4 sharpening the axe!" - Abraham Lincoln
The open-source hardware initiative which was started in 1997 has given birth to amazing hardware and software revolutions. The Arduino Project has been one of the most successful open-source hardware and software project ever created with nearly more than 700,000 official boards sold in 2013. While the availability of open-source hardware has made it easier for students, hobbyists and DIY-hackers both amateur and professional to tweak and tinker around with various development boards, sensors and shields to develop some really cool projects, they are still burdened with redundant tasks which include being vigil about the voltage and current supply, integrating different thousand other sensors while making sure there is hardware minimisation.
All these problems and also few inherent technical limitations of existing development boards gave rise to - "the Accexlron." The Accexlron is a new and improved rapid prototyping development board developed by me and my team at Tweak Labs Inc. Our startup is fairly obscure for a global audience, but nonetheless we are doing some exciting work by acting as an electronic components aggregator who provides technical assistance, develops open-source hardware for augmenting projects in Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities in India.
Just like Abraham Lincoln spending 4 hours on sharpening the axe, present day developers, DIY-hackers and students spend a lot of time deciding which components to use that will help them to arrive at a prototype faster. To circumvent such redundant tasks, we are excited to present our very own development board. The technical specifications of the board are as follows:
- It is based on the famous high performance ATmega2560 IC with advanced RISC architecture, having a throughput of 16 MIPS at 16Mhz clock speed.
- It has 54 digital I/O pins and 16 analog pins that allows for making complex projects with lot of interfacing hardware.
- High endurance non-volatile memory and 256KB Flash memory allowing larger sketch space.
- Presence of two monolithic high voltage, high current dual full-bridge driver -L298N, which provides built-in motor driver capability. Drives 4 high torque motors, 4-5 servo motors without breaking a sweat.
- Plug and play compliance for Bluetooth and WiFi. Just connect your modules and start using them.
- ~35-40V voltage threshold.
The board was primarily developed to help hardware startups, DIY-hackers and students to arrive at their prototype much faster, because the board is inherent with features like higher voltage and current thresholds, this means the user doesn't have to worry about frying his board while his project is highly intensive. The presence of motor driver circuitry further simplifies the process of interfacing third-party motor drivers or shields. The board is capable of driving high torque motors and also drive servo motors simultaneously without a snag. Further the presence of Bluetooth and wifi plug-n-play compliancy allows the user to just plug his Bluetooth or WiFi module (ESP-8266) and enable communication and networking protocols for his project. In this video embedded below, shows one of our DIY-hacker has built a simple robot arm using servo motors and Accexlron. The servo motors used are SG-90 micro servo and MG995 metal gear servo. Any DIY-hobbyist who has interfaced multiple servo motors onto an Arduino Uno or Arduino Mega knows how difficult it is to drive these motors without the help of special driver circuit or power supply. Our board is perfectly capable of driving multiple servo motors simultaneously.
In this post, I will describe a simple robot building project using our board that outline the capabilities of our board, we believe this board has the potential to replace existing boards like Arduino Mega. I will outline a simple bluetooth controlled robot that can be built with our board in less than an hour.
The word "Robot' literally means a "Slave" or a "Labourer Thanks to advancements in Artificial Intelligence, robots are no longer just part of Issac Asimov's Sci-Fi novels. Its possible to build a simple robot that can do your bidding at home. Lets see how we can put together few basic parts and make a cool robot at home. To begin, lets list out all the components that we'd need.
1) Basic working knowledge of Electronics.
1) Microcontroller board - 01
2) Motor driver boards - 02
3) DC geared motors - 04
4) HC-05 Bluetooth Module - 01
5) Batteries - either 12V Lead Acid or LiPo battery.
You can either buy these components discreetly or buy a cool robotics kit that houses all these components together from your nearest Tweak Labs Inc. store. This awesome kit designed by our team at Tweak Labs.
So what does the kit contain?
ACCEXLRON ROBOTICS KIT:
1) ACCEXLRON RAPID PROTOTYPING BOARD -01
2) DC GEARED MOTORS - 04
3) 4-WHEEL ROBOT CHASSIS - 01
4) HC-05 BLUETOOTH MODULE - 01
5) CONNECTING WIRES - A FEW.
So if you have got your hands on all these cool components, then its time.
"Beam me up....Scotty!"
The most important part of the robot is the microcontroller unit. A microcontroller is like a brain of the robot that tells the rest of the parts like motors how to run. But a microcontroller by itself doesnt have enough oomph to drive the motors, it needs to have an intermediate "driver board" which is usually referred to as a L298 Motor Driver Board. After a lot of research we decided to come up with our own microcontroller board with advanced capabilities. Since it is suppossed to help you arrive at your prototype at a much faster pace we decide to name it - Accexlron.
Accexlron is an improvement over existing boards like Arduino Uno and Mega. The board comes with built-in capabilty of driving motors and also allows plug and play compliancy for bluetooth and wifi capabilites. The board is designed to help overcome the redundant activities that take up a lot of time while arriving at your prototype, for example - supplying the right voltage or current.
1) Assemble the robot chassis kit. The robot chassis is made out of special acrylic material designed to withstand a decent amount of stress. The kit comes with appropriate spacers and screws to put together the chassis.
2) The DC geared motors supplied in the kit will be mounted on one of the robot chassis.
3) Before mounting the motors onto the chassis, take the connecting wires and solder them to the motor's terminals. The usual convention is to follow red for positive and black for negative.
4) After the wires are soldered onto the motor and mounted onto the chassis. We will program the Accexlron development board. To program the board, download and install the Arduino IDE onto your computer and get a micro usb cable.
5) Connect the microusb cable to the board and connect it to your computer with the newly installed Arduino IDE software open. Go to Tools --> Boards --> Arduino Mega 2560.
6) Upload the code.
7)After the code has been uploaded onto the board. Now make the rest of the connections as shown in the figure below
8) Download this app from the Google Play Store and install it.
9) Now launch the app and pair your phone with the bluetooth module present on your bot. If it asks for a passcode type either 1234 or 0000.
10) Voila! Your bluetooth controlled robot is ready! The code also involves interfacing buzzer, ultrasonic sensor and lights to make it more interesting. If you don't want all those features, comment the lines of the code accordingly.
Accexlron actually simplifies the whole process of building the robot, because the user doesnt have to bother about buying separate motor driver boards and then struggle to interface them with the microcontroller. The board seamlessly integrates all these features onto a single board.
My team and I are DIY-hackers at heart. We know how difficult it is to conceptualise a project idea and finally make it happen. We believe our development board could help DIY-hackers, hobbyists and students at large to arrive at their prototypes much faster without being vigil about redundant tasks. We believe this board could really impact the DIY community.