Project image
)}
€18,268
pledged of €21,000pledged of €21,000 goal
369
backers
Funding Unsuccessful
The project's funding goal was not reached on Tue, April 9 2019 7:57 AM UTC +00:00
€18,268
pledged of €21,000pledged of €21,000 goal
369
backers
Funding Unsuccessful
The project's funding goal was not reached on Tue, April 9 2019 7:57 AM UTC +00:00

About

Introduction

The Arduino ecosystem provides an invaluable resource of hardware and software, which allows quick development of a myriad of projects thanks to its fruitful community. 

Several Arduino-compatible boards came out in the past years, to increase the versatility or to reduce the size of the original Arduino boards. However, in our opinion this has not come without compromises. 

  • Some cheap boards, while being small enough, lack of a proper integrated power supply. In other words, the developer has to implement it externally, reducing the benefits of low cost and small size. In other cases, linear regulators are used, making them unsuitable for low power applications or when you need to provide a decent amount of current for the external circuitry. 
  • Other boards use microcontrollers with limited memory, pin count or peripheral set, which make them unsuitable for more complex applications.
  • And finally, some boards are not breadboard compatible, and, to date no Cortex M0+ board features 0.3” spacing between rows, wasting precious breadboard space.

We wanted a device that solved all these problems without compromises.

uChip

Then we came up with our idea! We wanted a dev board:

  • USB based, capable of being programmed without requiring expensive external programmers, just like Arduino and many other dev boards.
  • With a powerful microcontroller with plenty of RAM and FLASH.
  • With a rich set of peripheral.
  • Capable of acting both as an USB host and Device.
  • With integrated buck and boost power supplies.
  • USB- or externally-powered.
  • Capable of providing an external programmable (3.3V or 5V) high-current power supply, when powered by USB.
  • Breadboard compatible, with a narrow DIP footprint (0.3” spacing).
  • And, of course, low cost. 

We worked hard, to optimize everything, and our result is uChip!

Hi! I'm uChip!
Hi! I'm uChip!

Many examples already available!

We have developed various examples that will be released as open source. Take a look at some of these! Do you want a light saber ? (this could come in handy sometimes ;) ) Or drive a small RC boat? Or carry with you a portable game that just requires a keyboard and a VGA monitor? Or play a colorful 25-fps platform, with 16-bit graphics and parallax scrolling? 

uChip can do all of this! No kidding!

Play with uChip!
Play with uChip!
Did we say that you can play with uChip? :)
Did we say that you can play with uChip? :)
 Antistatic IC tube + packaging foam + RGB LED strip + uChip = light saber!
Antistatic IC tube + packaging foam + RGB LED strip + uChip = light saber!
Recycle your empty bottles! Use two motors, one RF receiver and uChip and make an RC boat!
Recycle your empty bottles! Use two motors, one RF receiver and uChip and make an RC boat!
Simple parking sonar. No more dents on your car :)
Simple parking sonar. No more dents on your car :)
Dual role USB relay board: 1) as USB powered device (controlled with a PC), 2) as a USB host (connected to a USB 3G dongle to receive SMS commands)
Dual role USB relay board: 1) as USB powered device (controlled with a PC), 2) as a USB host (connected to a USB 3G dongle to receive SMS commands)
ElectrostatiCAT: measure electrification when you pet your cat!
ElectrostatiCAT: measure electrification when you pet your cat!

Specifications

  • CPU: 32-bit Cortex M0+ ATSAMD21-series running at 48 MHz (Arduino Zero Compatible)
  • FLASH: 256 kB (248 kB due to integrated bootloader).
  • RAM: 32 kB, zero wait states.
  • Powered via USB or externally (3.3V to 5V).
  • Integrated 500-mA boost and 1-A buck converters and automatic power switching circuitry. 
  • Each converter can also be individually turned off, e.g. if you want to force power draw exclusively from external pins (self-powered device), or if you want to turn off an external USB device connected with a micro A cable.
  • When powered through the USB port, the output voltage on the power pins can be selected via software to be either 3.3V or the USB voltage (typically 5V +/- 10%).
  •  Specification update: pin 15 can be configured (via SMD jumper) as an additional 3.3V auxiliary output @100mA when pin 16 is 5V (either as input or output). By default pin 15 is a regular I/O. If this feature is not used, 5/3.3V (at up to 1A) are still available on pin 16.
  • 14 I/O pins (2 of them can be used to connect an external SWD programmer/debugger) and 2 power pins (VCC and GND).
  • Status LED (it can be turned on/off via software using a single instruction).
  • Multi function push button for reset/program.
  • 8 12-bit ADC inputs. (specification updated! Before there were only 7 ADC inputs!) 
  • 10-bit DAC output.
  • 14 external interrupt input pins.
  • Up to 5 serials between SPI, I2C and UART.
  • I2S port for audio decoders such as  UDA1334A.
  • 13 PWM pins.
  • Size: 28.5 mm x 10.16 mm (1.1 “ x 0.40 “), including USB port protrusions (27.23 mm x 10.16 mm excluding USB)
  • 4-layer board for improved noise performance.
  • Standards narrow-DIP footprint: 0.3” (7.62 mm) row spacing, 0.1” (2.54) pin spacing.
  • Pinout standard logic CMOS compatible: power and GND are on pin 16 and 8, so you can also emulate some 16 pin CMOS ICs (4000 and 74HC series)! 
  • Can be programmed in C/C++, asm, and also CircuitPython!
  • Low cost! (13.6€ per board for 10 pieces or 20€/board! Cost includes shipping on many countries!).

Let’s go straight to the comparison with Arduino Uno!

Note! The comparison now shows the new number of ADC inputs. Now they are 8, instead of 7!
Note! The comparison now shows the new number of ADC inputs. Now they are 8, instead of 7!

Pinout Diagram

Here is the current version of the pinout! The blue columns indicate which port pin is currently connected. For more details about the exact pin function, you can refer to the SAMD21 datasheet.

Size matters!

uChip is really small.  How small? Judge for yourself!

uChip has the same pin spacing of a 16-pin DIP package and can be mounted in a 16-pin DIP socket! uChip is much smaller than ATMEGA328P! (see comparison on the right)
uChip has the same pin spacing of a 16-pin DIP package and can be mounted in a 16-pin DIP socket! uChip is much smaller than ATMEGA328P! (see comparison on the right)

uChip fits a standard 0.3” 16-DIP socket, and it is only slightly longer than a 16-pin DIP IC, just the length required by the USB micro connector! 

Overall, this makes uChip about the same size of a narrow-body 20-pin DIP IC, and much smaller than the ATMEGA328, which powers  Arduino Uno  boards!  

uChip is breadboard compatible, and its 0.3” row spacing perfectly matches the center gap reserved for narrow-body DIP packages. Unlike other wider dev-boards, uChip leaves more holes for your connections!

Small. Yet powerful!

Despite its size, uChip has the same heart of Arduino Zero, a 48 MHz Cortex M0+. This alone already provides a nice raw-power upgrade with respect to an Arduino Uno. How much? Check the results about the same bubble sort algorithm running on the Arduino and on uChip! uChip is more than 5.7 times faster!

Bubble sort comparison between Arduino Uno (ATMEGA328P) and uChip (ATSAMD21).
Bubble sort comparison between Arduino Uno (ATMEGA328P) and uChip (ATSAMD21).

Furthermore, the Event System, DMA and Bus Matrix boost the performance of the Cortex M0+ by offloading some repetitive tasks such as memory<->peripheral, memory<->memory transfers, and peripheral to peripheral communications. These features open the door to incredible applications! Take a look at the examples shown before,  to get a glimpse of  what uChip is capable of!

One port, four functions

The USB port has four main functions:

  • 1 - Programming port.
  • 2 - USB Device port.
  • 3 - USB Host port.
  • 4 - Power supply port.

Did we say four? Well we meant five!

  • 5 - If you don’t need USB, two additional pins are available on D+/D-! These pins can be configured as a serial port, or GPIO or PWM outputs!

Integrated switching power supplies

Unlike many other small low cost Arduino Dev Boards, uChip integrates powerful high-efficiency boost and buck regulators. 

The boost regulator is used to power an external USB device connected to uChip (operating in host mode).  It provides a maximum current of 500mA, even when the input voltage is as low as 3.3V!

The buck regulator allows to power uChip and the external circuitry, when uChip is connected to a PC/Mac USB port or to a USB power supply. The output voltage between pin 16 (VEXT) and 8 (GND) can be software selected (3.3V or 5V*), and the output current of 1A will grant a good headroom for many applications!

 *Actual voltage will depend on the USB port voltage uChip is connected to! 

IoT Enabled! 

With plenty of communication peripherals, its low stand-by/run current consumption (270 uA in standby when powered externally) and its small size, uChip is your ideal companion for IoT and battery-powered applications!

Easy to use!  

uChip is Arduino compatible and we already integrated its variant in the Arduino IDE. We also developed uChip-specific libraries, which handle power supply management, a better USB host support and VGA output.

To program:

  • connect your uChip to the PC/Mac using a micro B USB cable.
  • Press twice the pushbutton. 
  • Now, you just need to upload your code through the Arduino or your favorite IDE (a simple guide on how to integrate uChip with Atmel Studio 7, IAR and Keil will be released after the end of the campaign).

That’s it!

uChip can be also programmed with any serial wire debug (SWD) programmer/debugger. This adds flexibility and allows you to easily and quickly debug your programs!

Ready!

uChip features the same ATSAMD21 series used on Arduino Zero. We connected the most important pins, so that most of the sketches will run unmodified on uChip!

In most cases, there is no need for many external components, such as voltage regulators. Power supply voltage conversion between 3.3V to 5V or 5V to 3.3V is performed internally. 

Program it in C, C++, asm or python!

uChip can be programmed using various languages. uChip supports also Adafruit's CircuitPhyton!

Yes, uChip can even emulate some digital logic ICs!

You need a 74HC191, or a 74HC138 or other digital CMOS ICs but you don’t have a spare one? Well, you can just emulate it using uChip! The VDD-GND pins are placed on pins 16 and 8 respectively!

uChip emulating a 74HC191, clocked by a 555 timer.
uChip emulating a 74HC191, clocked by a 555 timer.

Open Source!

The project will be open-source, included all the examples we showed here! The schematics, gerbers, as well as sources will be released online, to allow you and the community to develop shields, applications, projects, and, why not, improve it!

Project Status

  • First and second run of prototypes: Done!
  • Arduino Integration: Done!
  • Enhanced USB, VGA, and power management libraries: Done!
  • First examples: Done!
  • Build other examples, shields: in progress! (we are open to your suggestions!) 
  • Fund the first production run: the campaign is ongoing! Here we need your help! 

Why Kickstarter?  

Initially, we wanted a small board to be included in our private projects. But we could not find any with integrated power supplies, with good CPU performance, and in a standard 0.3” 16 dual-in-line package, so that it could be easily used on breadboards and prototyping boards (using cheap 16-pin IC sockets).

So we decided we were going to make it for us, and created the first prototypes. We saw that they were actually very cool! 

We improved them and made prototypes again. And we saw that they were even cooler! So we thought of making uChip available for everyone!

In fact, we believe that uChip would bring significant benefits to the community: smaller cost, smaller size, yet easy to use for everyone, without even requiring a soldering iron. 

Fully working prototypes are already here, and, while you are reading, we are developing more and more application examples, shields, etc. 

However, to make uChip affordable for everyone, we need your help! That’s why we are here on Kickstarter!

You can help in several ways:

  • The most obvious. Contribute to the campaign, become a backer!
  • Share this kickstarter campaign to your friends.
  • Last, but not least, create new applications with uChip, and share with us your expertise, your comments and criticism. We always try to learn from our mistakes! 

Expected Timeline

The following will be continuously updated as the  campaign is going on!

Let’s develop a community!

We want to create and grow an extraordinary community, which will provide ideas and feedback both during and after the campaign! 

What shields would you like? Do you want special soldermask colors? Any other suggestions?

Rewards, shipping, etc.

Yes, shipping is a hassle that has a huge impact on pricing, especially when dealing with low-cost devices. That’s why we have several perks, with a different number of uChip boards. If you want to just contribute to the campaign, you can do it for as low as 1€. By doing this, you’ll also receive the campaign updates! (do not worry! You can always opt out from the mailing list!).

The regular rewards are:

While you can order just as few as one uChip, we suggest to get more than one. In this way, the price per board will be substantially lower, because there will be just one shipment.  It might be a good idea if you and your friends joined your forces and get more uChip boards with one shipment! There is also a special early arrival reward, for those who cannot wait for their own uChip!

Early prototype and Supporter's Pack. 

This pledge is for those who really want uChip to become a reality! You'll get an early prototype too, with its documentation! This is in very limited quantity, and it contains:

  • One of the first prototypes of uChip
  • The hand-held console, with the display and the other components (excluding uChip)
  • The VGA-Tetrix example, with all the components (excluding uChip)
  • The giant uChip Pack (100 uChip boards).

The first three items will be shipped with DHL the first week of May.

The giant uChip Pack will be shipped on October, with DHL.

Since the number of early prototypes is very limited, we can provide the supporter pack only to three backers!

Please note that the prototypes do not include all the updates, and their pinout is as follows:

  • P1: PA16 (final will have PA06 too) 
  • P2: PA8 
  • P3: PA10 
  • P4: PA09 
  • P5: PA11 
  • P6: PA17  
  • P7: PA18 
  • P8: GND 
  • P9: PA19 
  • P10: PA22 
  • P11: PA23 
  • P12: PA31 
  • P13: PA30 (final will have PA03 too) 
  • P14: PA02 and PA03 (final will have only PA02) 
  • P15: PA04 and PA05 (final will have only PA03 and PA04, and an additional jumper to force 3.3V the additional auxiliary 100mA output) 
  • P16: VDD I/O

Headers: yes/no ?

For all the rewards, you can choose your uChip with or without soldered headers, at no additional cost! The backer survey, which will be sent at the end of the campaign, will allow you to specify this!

uChip with headers can be mounted on a breadboard, soldered directly on a PCB, like a regular IC or mounted on a socket. 

uChip without headers is useful if you want to have other kind of connectors (machined contacts, female connectors, etc.) or if your application is very space constrained and you need a very thin solution: you can directly solder the wires in the holes.

If you decide to get the uChip without headers, these will be provided in the same package, so that you can later decide to solder them by yourself!

How we will manage funding

Our goal is to produce enough boards to cut costs and make them affordable, at the prices they are listed in the campaign.

Unfortunately, there are some expenditures that we cannot avoid:

  • Kickstarter and payment processing fees (about 5% + 3%). These are applied on the shipping fees too.
  • Shipping and packaging fees. Yes, even the most basic shipping options have a strong impact on low-cost devices such as uChip. We have multiple uChip perks, which allow to dilute the shipping fees on more than one uChip!
  • Taxes.

To these expenditures, we must of course add the cost of uChip itself, i.e. components, PCB fabrication, programming, testing and assembly. 

Finally, we considered some headroom in the costs of uChip and shipping, to account for EUR/USD rate variation (manufacturers and shipping services are paid in USD) or component price variation (for instance if we need to choose an alternate part for some items which went currently out of stock).  In addition, to take into account the possibility of defective parts, the order quantity must be increased accordingly. 

What happens if the campaign is successfully funded?

Once we receive the funding from Kickstarter, we proceed immediately with the order of the first production run. Before this, please consider that, under Kickstarter’s terms, funding will be collected and sent only 14 days after the campaign has ended. Furthermore, according to Kickstarter's guidelines, the funds might take between further 3 to 14 days to actually arrive.

We will also release the final schematics, gerbers and source code of uChip, so that during the manufacturing process, you can already develop your application!

What happens if the campaign is largely overfunded well before its ending?

We would really love this! This would create excess margin, which we would like to invest in stretch goals! We will develop other shields and add other rewards! And why not, improve specs (at no additional cost for you)?

What happens if the campaign is not funded?

Your credit card won’t be charged.   

But wait! Who are you?

We are a group of Electronics Engineers, who got their Master Degree and PhD at the University of Padova, Italy.

We love challenging ourselves and design electronic devices, especially when there are tight constraints. We love making complex things simple, affordable and easy to use for everyone. 

Here's something more about us!

  • Nicola Wrachien: he is the original creator of uChip. He loves electronics, programming (especially C and asm), DIY and design optimization. He is also one of the members of next-hack.com crew.  Ah, yes, you might think that we applied a grayscale filter to his picture. Wrong, he is actually grayscale and, to save on bits per pixel, he lives in a grayscale planet too.
  • Antonio Rizzo is an Electronics enthusiast. He brought significant improvements to uChip.  Antonio loves DIY projects and is an RC hobbyist; he builds both hardware, firmware and software for his projects making use of the huge knowledge available on the net (despite being himself not very “social” on the internet). He is grayscale too.
     

Credits

  • Video Background Music: Our Inspiring Corporate by Redafs.com, Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License.
  • The graphics of the platform game is from the Sunny Land Tiles free asset by Luis Zuno @ansimuz
  • We also would like to thanks Franco Gobbo from next-hack, for his support and for creating the logo of uChip!

Risks and challenges

uChip already works! We already have working prototypes and examples, so there is no risk in this sense.

We also already contacted high reputation companies, which will perform component procurement, PCB fabrication, assembly, packaging and shipping.

However, component shortages could introduce unexpected delays, which do not depend on us. Catastrophic variations of component prices or EUR/USD exchange rate could still have an important impact, even though we have accounted this on the headroom. In case of any unforeseen circumstances, we will work hard to overcome any issue.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge €1 or more About US$ 1.11

    THANKS!

    Thank you very much! You'll get updates about uChip! Don't worry, you'll be able to unsubscribe if you no longer want to receive email from us!

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    One uChip!

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    Two uChip boards!

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    Three uChip boards!

    Three uChip boards!
    Now you get some serious savings! 25%-off and you get 3 uChip boards!

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    Five uChip boards!

    Five uChip boards!
    Now you’re talking! Get five uChip boards and save 30%!

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    Ten uChip boards!

    Never run out of uChip boards! Save even more and get your personal reserve of uChip!

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    Big uChip Pack (50x)

    Get 50 uChip boards, and save 37.5%! Furthermore, worldwide shipping cost is included!
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    Giant uChip Pack (100x)

    If you eat uChip at breakfast, then this pack is for you! Not only you save 40%, but also worldwide DHL shipping is included! You can choose later if you want your boards with or without headers.

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    Supporter’s Pack

    This pack is for those who really want uChip to become a reality! You’ll get one of the first prototypes, the hand-held console (with all its components including the display, but excluding uChip), the VGA Tetris example (with all its components, but without uChip), and a Giant uChip pack (100 uChip boards). You'll get also the prototype documentation.
    The first three items will be shipped within the first week of May 2019 (just after the campaign) via DHL. The Giant uChip pack will be shipped via DHL on October 2019.

    Includes:
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    Get your uChip Earlier!

    So, you can't wait for your uChip? Then this reward is for you!
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Funding period

- (30 days)