About this project
nScope is a portable electronics workbench. We created nScope to make electronics easy and affordable, and to provide a tool that is safe for beginners, and powerful enough for experts.
Electronics can be easier. The startup cost for equipment is huge, even just probes for an oscilloscope can be prohibitively expensive for hobbyists. We wanted to change that. nScope plugs right into a breadboard, no need for special probes. It puts a dual power supply on the rails, no fussing with a bench supply. It runs on PC, Mac, and Linux, so just download the software, and build your electronics.
Our goal is to provide accessibility to electronics, and this means that everyone should have a workbench. We’ve experimented for years, pouring over datasheets for hours looking to get the most out of each and every component we’ve used on the nScope. The result is a small and efficient design, providing impressive capability at a great price point.
Beginners in electronics are always worried about burning something up, or shorting the power supply. But even we experienced tinkerers appreciate the constant power supply monitoring. nScope automatically cuts power and notifies the user when too much current is pulled.
What good would a tool be if it weren't hackable? It's why we're releasing nScopeAPI for C, python, and Matlab, and inviting you to use nScope to create anything and everything.
nScope is a usb-powered device that plugs into an electronics prototyping breadboard. nScope's main function is an oscilloscope. Much like a multimeter, an oscilloscope measures voltages in a circuit. But unlike a multimeter, it stores voltages over time and displays them in a graph. This makes nScope much more useful for observing sensor signals and dynamic circuits. nScope's software interface maximizes the graph space, and provides controls for setting the measurement speed and range.
More than just an oscilloscope
But we didn't make nScope just for its oscilloscope functionality. There are many USB scopes out there, but none of them have a power supply. If you want to build electronics you need a power supply, and that's just what we built into nScope.
nScope provides the breadboard rails with +/-5V and ground, all powered by the USB port. nScope constantly monitors the power usage, and will automatically disconnect the power supply in the event of a short circuit.
A full electronics workbench
In addition to the oscilloscope and power supply, nScope is equipped with two function generators and two pulse generators. To accompany all this great hardware, we're releasing an open API, for custom control from any PC, Mac, or Linux machine. Custom data measurements and experiment control just scratch the surface of what is possible with nScope. With all these tools packed into a small package, the possibilities for creativity are boundless.
The recent proliferation of the Arduino platform is evidence of an increase in at-home electronics hobbyists and makers. However, we see so many Arduino developers frustrated over non-working projects, with their only resource being online forums and sample code. Many times, electronics fails on the hardware side, and the only way to test is with an oscilloscope. In the video below, we show how nScope can debug a basic hardware mistake in a simple Arduino project.
Sometimes, we build circuits that are faster and more complicated than blinking LEDs. A typical benchtop oscilloscope has a useful trigger function that can be used to capture fast events for display. nScope also has that feature, but with an additional benefit... the ability to control an output and input programmatically. In the video below, we demonstrate how nScope can be programmed to determine the step response of an LRC circuit, as well as a rough sine-wave amplitude response.
RC Servo Control
nScope has two pulse generators. RC servo motors often use PWM signals for position control, so we thought "hey, let's hook one up to nScope". Within seconds, we were controlling the position of an RC motor with a python terminal. To add some cool functionality, we simultaneously read in the rotation of an accelerometer, and used the data to control the servo in real-time.
Real-time PID Control
For more custom control, you can use the pulse generators on nScope in conjunction with an H-bridge and battery pack to perform full motor control. We implemented a PID controller with a 400Hz control loop right in a python script. All the control is done with the computer in the loop, and this makes prototyping motor controllers super easy. Tuning parameters, adjusting trajectories and analyzing the controller performance all on nScope makes for a powerful real-time systems control platform.
- Micro USB for power and communication
- Microchip PIC24FJ as a central processor
- Power conditioning circuitry for +/- 5V power supply, up to 200mA
- OpenAPI for C, Python, and Matlab
- 4 Msps, 12-bit resolution, 4 channels
- 10 MΩ input impedance
- Variable gain, 25 μV minimum resolvable voltage
- Maximum FSR: 10V, Minimum FSR: 100mV
- 2 function generators, powered by dual AD9837 DDS chips
- Variable amplitude, variable DC offset
- 28-bit frequency resolution
- 2 pulse generators, variable frequency and duty
- $5 - nScale ruler
- $69 - Early bird: receive the first nScopes to be made
- $89 - nScope, a breadboard, and a micro-USB cable
- $165 - Official nScope lab kit OR two nScopes, breadboards, and cables
- $635 - Small Educators Special, 4 nScopes and kits for your classroom
- $1500 - Educators special, 10 nScopes and kits for your classroom
- $10000 - nScope electronics workshop
UPDATE: All reward levels will receive an nScale ruler... Hooray!
nScope kit will contain everything you need along with nScope to create your own electronics projects.
- wire strippers and wire
- various resistors and capacitors
- diodes, LEDs, and IREDs
- photodiodes and IR photodiodes
- 555 timing chips
- 74xx series logic chips
- JK Flipflop
- op-amps, both a 741 and a rail-to-rail
- speaker and microphone
- NPN and PNP transistors
Risks and challenges
Supplier issues: Suppliers for parts can often times neglect to provide exact part numbers that you requested. This might mean that we'll need to do a round of tests to make sure that nScope has been built to our standards. We've spent a huge amount of time ensuring proper noise levels and capability in our chips, so we need to make sure our suppliers give us the right chips.
Power Supply: The power supply is by far the hardest element of nScope to design. Creating low-noise, low-impedance power rails that are completely disconnected from the USB port of the computer is difficult. We're implementing a new design now, but we aren't yet totally satisfied. Rest assured that you'll get an nScope with a top-notch power supply, but it might take us some extra time to solidify the design.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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