DuinoReactor 3-in-1 Programmer - USB to Serial
The DuinoReactor is a 3-in-1 programmer. It has USB to serial, an Arduino ISP with ICSP header, and an onboard programmer for ATtiny
DuinoReactor, 3-in-1 Programmer – A Skills Builder Project
The DuinoReactor is a 3-in-1 programmer. It is a USB to serial programmer, an Arduino ISP with an ICSP header, and an onboard programmer for ATtiny microprocessors. That is a bunch of features for one project.
What is in the DuinoReactor?
First, it has the classic FT232R chip made by FTDI for USB to UART/Serial communication. The FT232 chip is an easy to use chip. FTDI provides free computer software drivers to make the conversion of USB to serial connects simple. This will allow you to program your bare bone Arduino or other project that needs a serial to USB converter.
Second, the design includes an Atmega328 chip to use as an Arduino ISP. The Atmega328 chip is used on the Arduino Uno. The Arduino bootloader is designed for this chip, and is easy to upload. The assembled board will come with the bootloader and the Arduino ISP sketch preloaded. You can then use the ICSP header to connect to an external project for in circuit programming.
Third, the Arduino ISP can be used to load sketches to the ATtiny series of products. We have included three DIP sockets for on board programming. Each socket is compatible with one of three ATtiny series of products, ATtiny84, ATtiny85, and ATtiny2313. You simply load the ATtiny chip for programming, then remove to install into your circuit.
The DuinoReactor can come fully assembled and tested for those who like the project, but are not interested in soldering. It will make a nice addition to your toolbox of equipment for programming microcontrollers with an emphasis on Arduino compatible devices.
The DuinoReactor started with a simple idea of why do I need an Arduino, a programmer shield, and a USB to serial converter just to do the simple task of programming a variety of different circuits? We thought that it would be nice to have both the USB converter and a dedicated programming chip to handle all the all of these jobs. This way if your Arduino is tied up on a project, you can still prototype another.
The first prototype DuinoReactor had a bug with the Arduino ISP. It could pass the USB to serial data, but I couldn't program the blank Atmega chip. I built a bare bones Arduino with a surface mounted TQFP Atmega chip to work out the details. To do this quickly, I had to custom etch a blank copper clad PCB. I figured out the problem and I was able to get the prototype working.
All of this development was possible because of time I had spent learning both how to solder and fabricate PCBs. That process of learning is why I want to offer this project as a DIY. When I was learning, I searched for interesting projects I could build myself. There were not many to choose from and even fewer worth spending your money on getting.
Skills Builder Project
We wanted the project to be more than just a tool to use. That is why we are offering it as a DIY kit ready to be assembled. It is an advanced kit that will require previous electronic assembly skills. While there are some kits on the market, few are difficult enough to challenge people who have experience with soldering.
This project is designed to challenge your soldering and fabrication skills. Most other DIY kits are just for beginners, especially with SMD components. These projects are simple blinking LEDs or sirens. While they may be entertaining, they are not very useful.
This project builds on the skills needed for our first Kickstarter project, the BoostMini. That Kickstarter was a small 5V power supply that used two AA-batteries. The BoostMini circuit used the larger 1206 style passive components. See below for more info about the BoostMini.*
The DuinoReactor takes the DIY difficulty up to another level. We replaced all of the passive components with the smaller 0805 style. These are smaller, but still easy enough to handle and place on the circuit board.
The real challenge is soldering the two IC chips, ATmega328P and the FT232R. These have to 28 or 32 pins each with less than .020” spacing. That is tiny. It will be a real challenge for your soldering skills. It is also an opportunity to learn hot-air reflow soldering.
For the hobbyist like myself, hot-air reflow soldering means using a toaster oven or hot plate to flow the solder. This requires a soldering stencil and solder paste to apply the solder where it is needed. It may be easier than hand soldering, but requires a new set of skills, e.g. making soldering stencils.
If you plan to try hot-air reflow soldering, we recommend you shop at a thrift store for a used toaster oven. They are cheap and work fine for this type of project. You do not want to do this work in the toaster you use for food.
Here is my Instructable on how to make a solder stencil:
We will be selling the project based on difficulty level.
1. I’m a Programmer, Not a Builder – This is fully assembled and tested.
2. Basic Intermediate – All the parts, pre-programmed ATmega328P, solder stencil, and a sample of lead-free soldering paste.
3. Hard Intermediate – All the parts, a pre-programmed ATmega328P, PDF file of the solder stencil, and sample of lead-free soldering paste. You have to make your own solder stencil using the PDF file, or hand solder the components.
4. Nothing is Too Hard for Me! – This includes the parts, and PDF file of the solder stencil (no solder). With this kit, you will have to make your own soldering stencil, and program the ATmega328P yourself using the ICSP header.
5. Cover Your Bets - You want the challenge, but it helps to have a working unit for comparison. This will include all the parts for the Nothing is Too Hard for Me! level and a fully assembled and working unit.
6. Ace in the Hole - This is the DIY kit with a stencil and a fully assembled unit.
The solder paste will be sent only to USA customers. Generally you are supposed to keep it refrigerated but a couple of days in the mail should be ok. International shipments can take a week or more to get through customs. This is beyond my control, so I am declining to ship the solder paste internationally.
What will it take to build?
Fabrication will be done with local or US suppliers as much as possible. The PCBs are all manufactured in the USA by a popular community circuit board aggregatator. I will get the parts from either Digikey, Mouser, or Newark. Then we will build the DIY kits first since those won't require any fabrication. The fabrication if the quantities is small will be done at the shop using the oven reflow process. Otherwise they will get sent out for assembly. The whole process should take between 1-2 months depending on how many orders we have to process.
Earlier Kickstarter Was Easy in Comparison
* The BoostMini was designed to make learning SMD assembly easy. When you were done, you had a power supply that could be used for other projects. It was both challenging and useful. (The Kickstarter project was huge with five unique implementations of the BoostMini circuit,. There was the BoostMicro, BoostMini http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00GH16FS2/, BoostMiniUSB https://www.tindie.com/products/JouleTime/boostminiusb-power-supply-voltage-booster/, Boost NiteLite, and the Boostduino. All of these projects generated 5 volts power from two AA-batteries.)
Risks and challenges
The challenges will be the solder paste and the solder stencil. I’ve made all my own stencils so far, but there are services that sell solder stencils. These are expensive even for plastic. We will need to sell dozens of the DIY kits to buy the stencils. Anything less, then I will honor the reward by making the stencils myself out of aluminum. If that happens then the quality will be rough, but it will still work. You can also switch your reward to the assembled version if you prefer. (Any price difference will apply.)Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)