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AU$ 5,471
pledged of AU$ 120,000pledged of AU$ 120,000 goal
49
backers
0seconds to go
Funding Unsuccessful
The project's funding goal was not reached on Tue, January 14 2014 1:06 AM UTC +00:00
Stephen EcobBy Stephen Ecob
First created
Stephen EcobBy Stephen Ecob
First created
AU$ 5,471
pledged of AU$ 120,000pledged of AU$ 120,000 goal
49
backers
0seconds to go
Funding Unsuccessful
The project's funding goal was not reached on Tue, January 14 2014 1:06 AM UTC +00:00

About

Why this project ?

I had a lot of fun playing with electronics kits in the 1980s. Electronics has since developed into a life long passion for me, but it all started with enjoying electronics kits as a child. It’s amazing how educational play can develop into something much bigger over time.

A kit like this was the start of my electronics journey. “new for 77” :-)
A kit like this was the start of my electronics journey. “new for 77” :-)

The largest limitation to my learning in those early days was the lack of lab equipment. Years later at university learning was so much easier with the help of oscilloscopes, signal generators and variable power supplies. But as a child these crucial tools were unaffordable.

Technology has come a long way in thirty years. The components needed to make a suite of lab equipment are now very affordable - so this project makes a full suite of electronics lab equipment available at a price that opens up electronics to everyone !

3 in 1 electronics lab equipment suite
3 in 1 electronics lab equipment suite
nova electroscope ... opening up electronics to the next generation
nova electroscope ... opening up electronics to the next generation

Nova electroscope will also be supplied with a 4x4 spring grid array prototyping board and components to make five experiments.

supplied with prototyping board and component kit
supplied with prototyping board and component kit

Design

Perhaps the most essential tool for understanding electronics is the oscilloscope - you’re working blind until you have an oscilloscope to open your eyes to see how the voltages in your circuit are varying with time. An oscilloscope needs a good display to really show you what’s going on - so why not make an iPad based oscilloscope ? The iPad has a great display, and is already owned by many of our target audience.

Nova electroscope is an iPad peripheral that provides an electronics lab equipment suite - an oscilloscope, signal generator and variable power supply, controlled from an iPad. Wireless connectivity using Bluetooth (BLE) will keep the iPad safely isolated from the circuits under test - preventing any damage to the iPad when inevitable wiring connection mistakes are made.

The unit can be externally powered from an AC-DC plug pack or from a battery to prevent drain of the iPad’s battery and to allow higher power output from the variable power supply units than would be permissible if drawing power from the iPad.

The frequency limits of the oscilloscope and signal generator are high enough to work well at common audio frequencies, but not so high that our product becomes unaffordable.

Physically nova electroscope is a light and compact three in one unit (oscilloscope, signal generator and variable power supply in one unit and working in a common voltage range).

Communication to the host device is through Bluetooth 4.0. Bluetooth 4.0 is supported by:

  • iPad 3rd generation and later, including iPad Air 
  • iPad mini - all models

Earlier iPads are not compatible due to the lack of Bluetooth 4.

What about the iPhone and iPod?

We will port our app to the iPhone and iPod. It is already working well on the iPad, it’s really just a matter of revamping the screen layout to work nicely with the smaller iPhone or iPod display.

Note that your hardware and software must support Bluetooth 4.0. Bluetooth 4.0 is supported by:

  • iPhone 4s and later
  • iPod Touch 5 (and later)

Earlier iPhones and iPods are not compatible.

What’s with the name ?

We chose the name to encapsulate our driving concept of a new approach to electronics, making electronics clearly visible to anyone. Yes, we have morphed the word “electroscope”. It’s original meaning is:

“a device for detecting the presence and determining the sign of electric charges by means of electrostatic attraction and repulsion, often between two pieces of gold leaf enclosed in a glass-walled chamber.”

Our device is more about electrodynamics than electrostatics, but we love the sound of the word and how it conveys our key concepts of electronics and visualisation.

Specification - oscilloscope

Channels: 1 or 2, depending on model

Input resistance: 1M ohms

Sampling rate: 50 KSPS

Input filter: 4th order active filter, corner frequency = 5kHz (-3dB)

Resolution: 7 bits effective (ENOB)

Voltage ranges: ±15mV, ±150mV, ±1.5V

Capture buffer: 350 samples per channel

Display latency: < 2 s in quick mode < 6 s in detail mode

Oscilloscope controls
Oscilloscope controls
“Quick mode” updates the display quickly, with some loss of detail
“Quick mode” updates the display quickly, with some loss of detail
“Detail mode” shows the full detail of the captured signal, with a screen update time of around 1 second.
“Detail mode” shows the full detail of the captured signal, with a screen update time of around 1 second.
Logging mode supports very slowly varying signals
Logging mode supports very slowly varying signals

Specification - Signal generator

 Channels: 1 or 2, depending on model

Sampling rate: 125 KSPS

Resolution: 8 bit PWM

Output filter: 4th order active filter, corner frequency = 5kHz (-3dB)

Voltage range: ±1.5V

Waveforms: Square, sine, triangle, user defined arbitrary waveform

Storage buffer: 350 samples per channel

Output resistance: 100 ohms

Signal generator controls
Signal generator controls
Arbitrary waveform support
Arbitrary waveform support

Specification - Variable power supplies

Channels: 1 or 2, depending on model

Topology: Variable linear

Voltage range: -5.0V to +5.0V

Current range: -100mA to +100mA

Variable PSU controls
Variable PSU controls
Here the oscilloscope channels are being used to track the response of the variable power supplies to changed set points
Here the oscilloscope channels are being used to track the response of the variable power supplies to changed set points

Specification - Physical

Dimensions: Prototype 1: 75mm x 85mm x 21mm

Weight: Prototype 1: 130g

Final hardware dimensions and weight are TBD

Prototype hardware shown
Prototype hardware shown

The team

Nova Electroscope is brought to you by...

Stephen Ecob: project lead,  electrical design, PCB layout, enclosure design, prototype assembly.

Stephen has been playing with electronics for 35 years and working as an electrical engineer for 22 years.

Ian Oliver: iOS application, bluetooth microcontroller embedded code.

Ian has been programming since his Dad bought him a Commodore VIC20 in 1982.  These says he codes for more modern platforms like iOS and Android with just an occasional return to legacy environments like VIC20 or Windows.

Design story

We've been wanting an affordable oscilloscope for decades, but the the big problem was the lack of affordable high quality displays.  The iPad changed that, and the idea for Nova Electroscope was born !

Original concept
Original concept

We really wanted to use a wireless link between the oscilloscope inputs and the iPad to avoid the chance of killing the iPad if the oscilloscope was misconnected.  Bluetooth to the rescue :)

The first thing was to design a Bluetooth transceiver.  We put this on a 4 layer PCB to provide good radio quality and good EMI suppression.  The rest of Nova Electroscope is on the larger 2 layer PCB to the right.

The PCBs
The PCBs

The little purple wires on the larger PCB implement the fixes for the bugs found with the first prototype.  After we receive funding we'll revise the larger PCB to make these fixes permanent.

rear of the main PCB
rear of the main PCB

The enclosure for Nova was a job for our CNC laser cutter.  In goes the 3mm acrylic, out comes the enclosure ...

Enclosure laser cut from 3mm acrylic
Enclosure laser cut from 3mm acrylic

Now, which colour should we choose for the enclosure?

Fluoro green looks nice :)
Fluoro green looks nice :)

Model 211 and Model 222

We decided to make two models to allow the user to trade off features against price - we know that not everyone needs a dual channel signal generator or dual power supply.

model 222
model 222
model 211
model 211

 Current status

Here's a video of our prototype in action:

 project video thumbnail
Replay with sound
Play with
sound

The status of the prototype in December 2013 is:

The first generation HW prototype is up and running. All functionality is available and has been verified, but a number of issues have been identified which will be fixed with revised hardware:

  • The variable power supplies, oscilloscope inputs and signal generator outputs only work with positive voltages. Support for negative voltages will be provided in the next hardware revision.
  • The prototype model only supports one signal generator output. This will be fixed in the next hardware revision.

The SW is running well on the iPad. All functionality has been verified, with a small number of issues requiring fixes identified.  The issues requiring fixes are shown in the above video as "Fix" at 1:11 to 1:17 into the video

Porting to the iPhone has been investigated - porting will be straightforward, except for a revamp of the layout of the UI screens to suit the smaller iPhone form factor.

Fulfillment plan

If we are funded the production plan is:

Revise hardware: 2-3 weeks

  • revise circuit design to fix issue with prototype 1
  • revise PCB layout to match

Verify revised hardware: 2-3 weeks

  • load components onto revised PCB and verify correct operation

Manufacturing: 5-7 weeks

our partner company in China will manufacture the production run of PCBs, assemble the components onto the PCBs and ship them to us in Australia

Final assembly: 2-3 weeks

  • Testing of PCBAs
  • Assembly of PCBAs into enclosures
  • Final testing
  • Packaging

Shipping: 2-3 weeks

Allow one extra week for shipments outside of Australia

Software

The software will be finished while the hardware is being manufactured.

  • Remove screen updated glitches (shown in video as "Fix")
  • Port to iPhone
  • Update for most recent iOS

Risks and challenges

Hardware
We've minimised risks to the hardware by making successful prototypes and by choosing components that are easy to source and are (almost all) available from multiple sources (to prevent problems with manufacturers discontinuing them or running out of stock for long periods of time).
Our manufacturing plan is based on conservative time estimates to minimise the risk of shipping delays.

Software
Our software is written, the remaining tasks are to remove a couple of small bugs and to port the app to the iPhone and iPod. These tasks are straight forward and can easily be done in the time frame of the hardware manufacture.

Our app will need to be approved by Apple before it becomes available on the app store. Apple reserve the right to veto any app for any reason, so like all iOS app writers we rely on Apple to approve our app and would be powerless if they did veto our app. That said, it is in Apple's interest to approve more apps for sale and we have no reason to expect that they would veto our app.

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge AU$ 5 or more About $4

    JUST THE APP - Our iPad app is useful all on its own. Without hardware the app uses the iPad's audio in to drive the oscilloscope and sends the signal generator output to the iPad's audio out.

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  2. Select this reward

    Pledge AU$ 80 or more About $57

    EARLY BIRD 211 - Nova electroscope base model with 2 inputs + 1 output + 1 psu at a great early bird price!

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    Limited 9 backers
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  3. Select this reward

    Pledge AU$ 90 or more About $64

    MODEL 211 - Nova electroscope with 2 inputs + 1 output + 1 psu. Great for basic electronic experiments.

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  4. Select this reward

    Pledge AU$ 110 or more About $79

    EARLY BIRD 222 - Double the power!
    Nova electroscope enhanced model with 2 inputs + 2 outputs + 2 psu's at an early bird price

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    Limited 35 backers
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  5. Select this reward

    Pledge AU$ 120 or more About $86

    MODEL 222 - Double the power!
    Nova electroscope enhanced model with 2 inputs + 2 outputs + 2 psu's. The extra signal generator output and PSU let you work with more complex circuits.

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    4 backers
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Funding period

- (21 days)