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The Tsunami is a powerful and flexible signal generator, analyzer, and experimenter's kit built on the Arduino platform.
The Tsunami is a powerful and flexible signal generator, analyzer, and experimenter's kit built on the Arduino platform.
The Tsunami is a powerful and flexible signal generator, analyzer, and experimenter's kit built on the Arduino platform.
316 backers pledged £15,024 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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What is the Tsunami?

The Tsunami is a powerful and flexible signal generator built on the Arduino platform. It's the best way to get started experimenting with analog signals, and a great tool for a huge variety of tasks, too.

We've taken the versatile processor behind the Arduino Leonardo, and combined it with a Direct Digital Synthesis chip, which makes generating analog signals incredibly straightforward. Then, we've added on flexible input and output circuitry, and an easy to use software library, to make working with analog signals as easy as blinking an LED.

We've also tried to think of all the other tasks you might want to use the Tsunami for, from testing your audio equipment to communicating over the radio, and added the features you'll need to get them done. Along with the board itself, we'll be releasing a huge library of example code and ready-to-go applications that mean you don't even have to know how to code in order to put the Tsunami to work.

What can I do with the Tsunami?

Heaps! Here's a few projects which could make use of the Tsunami:

  • Use it as a building block for a synthesizer
  • Measure unknown signals
  • Measure the response curve of your audio amplifier
  • Implement an APRS modem
  • Generate precise clocks for other devices
  • Make a digital theremin
  • Read and write data tapes from classic computers (Commodore, Atari, etc)
  • Test filters and reactive components (capacitors, inductors, and so forth)
  • Encode and decode your own data for audio transmission
  • Teach yourself about Direct Digital Synthesis
  • Teach yourself about AC and complex impedance
  • Make your own low frequency radio transmitter

We've put a lot of effort into making the Tsunami as simple to use as possible, with an easy to use Arduino library that covers all the Tsunami's functions. Generating a sine wave, for instance, is as simple as telling the Tsunami what frequency you want.

The included Arduino library will cover all the Tsunami's functionality, meaning you don't have to worry about the low level details about how the hardware works unless you want to.

The Tsunami's most straightforward functions are frequency generation and counting. The Tsunami uses a high accuracy 2.5PPM (that's 0.00025%!) crystal, which makes it an excellent tool to generate highly precise frequencies, as well as to measure them with great accuracy. For comparison, your typical "high quality" crystal is between 8 and 25 times less accurate!

With its highly accurate crystal, you can use the Tsunami to generate signals - sine, triangle, and square waves - all the way from DC up to around 2 megahertz. A versatile analog frontend allows you to adjust amplitude from 0 to 6 volts peak to peak, and DC offset by up to 2 volts either side of ground.

Likewise, the Tsunami can be used to measure signals. The processor used in Arduinos has a good quality ADC, but it's slow, being limited to 15k samples per second. We've bypassed that limitation, equipping the Tsunami with a high speed comparator, allowing it to measure frequency, a peak detector, allowing it to measure signal amplitude, and a phase detector allowing it to, er, detect phase. All of these facilities work up to nearly 8 megahertz.

By combining these two building blocks together, you can use the Tsunami to do even more. For instance, by connecting the output of the Tsunami to an analog filter or an audio amplifier, and using the Tsunami's input to measure what comes out, you can measure how it responds at different frequencies. The phase detector in the Tsunami lets you detect the phase delay, too, allowing you to construct bode plots. The same basic technique can be used to measure unknown inductors, capacitors, or networks of them.

That's not all you can do with the Tsunami, though. The DDS has built in support for phase and frequency modulation, and the Tsunami adds on support for amplitude modulation too. With just a few lines of code you can take digital data and modulate it onto an audio or RF signal at any frequency the Tsunami supports, and using the Tsunami's input features, you can demodulate data, too.

All of this is only a taste of the things you can do with the Tsunami. If you've got your own plans, we'd love to hear about them in the comments section!

What's this about DDS?

DDS - the process of generating waveforms directly from digital data - is a fascinating piece of technology, and it's increasingly used in applications such as radio communications, test equipment, proximity and motion detection, and in audio synthesizers. Unfortunately, many DDS chips come in difficult to solder packages, and have complex interfaces. We've solved both of these issues by designing an affordable development board with a DDS chip onboard, and by providing excellent libraries and comprehensive sample applications you can use in the familiar Arduino environment.

DDS works by having a counter - the 'phase accumulator' in the diagram above - driven by a high speed clock, which counts up at a rate determined by a configuration value. The output of that value gets fed into a module that translates the linear ramp up of values into a sine wave, typically by using a lookup table. Then, the output of that is fed into a DAC, producing an analog waveform on the output.

If you're less interested in DDS itself, and more interested in what you can do with it, the Tsunami makes an excellent signal generator and frequency counter. It can be used for a variety of tasks including measuring capacitors and inductors, complex impedance measurement, qualification of analog filters, and modulating and demodulating data. By the time we're ready to ship boards to backers, we'll have fully functional for code for many these applications that you can just load and go. We've tried to think through likely uses for the Tsunami, and make sure it has the hardware and peripherals you'll need to be able to execute those tasks with ease.

Tell me more about the Tsunami's specifications!

  • Generate signals from DC to 2MHz.
  • Supports sine, triangle, and square wave signals.
  • Supports frequency, phase, and amplitude modulation.
  • Adjustable signal amplitude up to 6 volts peak-peak (except square-wave).
  • Can drive a 50 ohm load.
  • Adjustable DC offset from -2V to +2V (except square-wave)
  • Programmable over USB, and USB powered.
  • Arduino Leonardo compatible ATMega32U4 microcontroller with 32KB flash and 2.5KB RAM.
  • 2.5PPM Temperature Controlled Crystal Oscillator (TCXO).
  • AD9838 Direct Digital Synthesis chip with 10 bit DAC.
  • Expansion headers onboard for easy access to I2C and UART interfaces.

Tell me about the rewards!

 For £5, you can show your support for what we're trying to build, and get a personal thank-you email.

£35 gets you Tsunami from the main production run, with worldwide shipping included. That's a significant discount on the retail price of £50, with free shipping thrown in to boot! We've taken an extra £5 off for helping us reach our goal.

For £40, you get a Tsunami from the main production run, with worldwide shipping included. You get a substantial discount on the retail price, free shipping, and our eternal gratitude for helping us make the Tsunami a reality.

In a hurry? £50 gets you one of the first Tsunamis off the line, on a fancy red PCB. You'll get your board weeks before everyone else, and save on shipping too. This reward's limited to 5% of the total production run, so it's first in first served.

The Discoverer tier gets you a production Tsunami, two BNC cables, and two 3.5mm headphone adapters - everything you need to start hooking your Tsunami up to other devices and learning how they tick. If it's more to your taste, you can swap out the BNC cables and adapters for cables with alligator clips or test hooks, instead - we'll let you choose after the campaign's finished.

A nice enclosure makes the difference between a development board to be handled with care and a robust piece of benchtop equipment. We've commissioned Hammond Manufacturing to customise one of their cases as an ideal high-quality and robust enclosure for the Tsunami. For £55, get a Tsunami from the main production run, and a high quality blue anodised enclosure with white silkscreen labels.

Silkscreen labels not shown, since this is a prototype enclosure.
Silkscreen labels not shown, since this is a prototype enclosure.

To add an enclosure to any other pledge level, add £20 to your pledge.

If you'd like to experiment with using the Tsunami in audio applications, we've collaborated with the Tymkrs to put together a really attractive package. The Tymkrs make some awesome kit for makers, including a lot of stuff that's great for experimenting with audio and synthesis.

£65 gets you a Tsunami, a Tymkrs Amplify Me SMT audio amplifier, a small speaker, a Tymkrs Hear Me microphone and amplifier, two BNC cables, and two BNC to 3.5mm adapters. That's everything you need to start experimenting with generating and analyzing audio with the Tsunami. If you want to experiment with digital audio synthesis, music, or data modems, this is the kit for you.

Everything from the noisemaker tier, plus the awesome custom aluminium Tsunami enclosure from the wavemaker plus tier for just £85! You'll be able to play with audio in and out for the Tsunami, and look awesome while doing it. 

Will there be stretch goals?

Will there ever!

  • £12,500: ACHIEVED! 3d printed and laser-cut cases designed and made freely available on Github.
  • £15,000: Custom Tsunami packaging. It'll look awesome, trust us.
  • 500 backers: 25 more Explorer units made available!
  • £17,500: Upgraded DAC, providing linear 10 bit (instead of 8 bit) control over amplitude and DC offset.
  • 1000 backers: 25 more Explorer units made available!

What about Open Source?

Everything from Arachnid Labs is Open Source, and that includes the Tsunami. The source files for the PCB are available here, and the Arduino libraries - still a work in progress - are here.

How will the Tsunami be produced?

The prototypes you see in the pictures and video are fully functional, with only minor tweaks required to start production. We've tested them thoroughly, and we're confident they're ready to go.

Once the campaign is complete and we have the funds from Kickstarter, we can push the button on the manufacturing run for the Explorer units. Concurrently with that, we'll send an early unit off for CE certification and testing.

Once we've passed the CE tests, and sent out the explorer units, we can get started on the main production run.

The Tsunamis will be produced in the USA, and shipped from warehouses in the US and the UK. We've worked with our production partner, MacroFab, on our previous Kickstarter for the Re:load Pro, and we couldn't be happier with them. They've got the expertise and the facilities required to build the Tsunami to a high standard on a tight timeline.

Here's our timeline:

Naturally, we hope to beat these timelines and get the Tsunami into your hands sooner than forecast, but we're acutely aware that the unexpected does happen, so we've built lots of slack into our schedule.

Risks and challenges

One risk is the possibility of supply issues. As with any electronics project, there are a lot of parts, and when parts go out of stock, it can be weeks before they come back into stock. Fortunately, the Tsunami only has a couple of parts that do not have substitutes readily available; both of these are well stocked by all the major suppliers, and we don't anticipate any issues.

A big unknown for any new electronics project is CE compliance. We've gained some experience with this from our previous Kickstarter, but the equipment required to do CE compliance testing is extremely expensive, and commercial test labs charge a lot too. Even when following all the recommended practices, it's hard to know ahead of time if a device will pass all the tests.

We're mitigating this risk in two ways. First, we'll buy a set of near-field probes and use them with a spectrum analyzer to take EMC measurements to identify and minimise any issues ahead of time. Wel'll also pay a test lab for "quick look" services to get an indication of where any issues may lie.

Second, we're producing a limited number of units upfront, and sending a couple of them off for CE testing to get results before committing to the main production run. This way, if there are compliance issues, we can make modifications with a minimum amount of cost, and a minimum loss of time. We've built in slack into the production schedule to allow for this possibility.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge £5 or more About $7

    SUPPORTER - Our lasting gratitude, and a personalised thank you email.

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    Pledge £35 or more About $52

    WAVEMAKER - A blue Tsunami from the main production run. Worldwide shipping included.

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    Pledge £40 or more About $59

    WAVEMAKER - A blue Tsunami from the main production run. Worldwide shipping included.

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  4. Reward no longer available

    Pledge £50 or more About $74

    EXPLORER - A limited edition Tsunami 'Explorer' unit. Red PCB, and it'll ship weeks before everyone else's! Explorer units are limited to 5% of the total production run, and won't be sold after the Kickstarter.

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    Reward no longer available 25 backers
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  5. Select this reward

    Pledge £50 or more About $74

    DISCOVERER - A blue Tsunami from the main production run, two 0.5m BNC cables, and two BNC to headphone adapters. Swap out the cables and adapters for alligator clip or test hook cables instead if you want. Worldwide shipping included.

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  6. Select this reward

    Pledge £55 or more About $81

    WAVEMAKER PLUS - A blue Tsunami from the main production run, and a high quality custom blue aluminium enclosure. Worldwide shipping included.

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    43 backers
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  7. Select this reward

    Pledge £65 or more About $96

    NOISEMAKER - Tymkrs collaboration! A blue Tsunami from the main production run, a Tymkrs Amplify Me audio amplifier with speaker, Tymkrs Hear Me microphone and amplifier, two BNC cables, and two headphone adapters. Everything you need to experiment with the Tsunami's audio capabilities.

    Worldwide shipping included.

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    14 backers
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  8. Select this reward

    Pledge £85 or more About $125

    NOISEMAKER PLUS - Tymkrs collaboration! Everything from the Noisemaker tier, plus an awesome Tsunami enclosure!
    Worldwide shipping included.

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    41 backers
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Funding period

- (20 days)