Der Blinken Lights (Part II -- Framebuffer)

Looking at the hardware from part I of this series, you may have realized that the addressing scheme of the individual pixels is likely to be a bit hinky, which is true. It's also necessary to rapidly scan through the columns in order to produce the illusion of a continuous image. The canonical way to do this is to store the image data in a frame buffer structured in such a way as to streamline writing the data out. Interface routines abstract the wiring and addressing shenanigans.

Der Blinken Lights (Part I -- hardware)

We'll have a table at this year's MakerFaire Bay Area and at the Seattle Mini Maker Faire. In order to give our table a little more visual interest, I've been putting together a couple of demonstrations. My goal is to draw people in to look at as many of our products working together as possible. So naturally I went straight to the blinky lights.

Just Another Solenoid Orchestra

Some of you may remember that I started a MIDI pipe organ project based around the predecessor of the 4x4 Driver many moons ago, but got distracted before I proceeded very far with it. However, joenotjoe, an electronic music artist from the east coast, had a similar idea and ran with it. He's currently building a solenoid orchestra called JASO (Just Another Solenoid Orchestra).

You can clearly see the 16 channel shield in this picture, with a nice breakout board that Joe was able to source for his project. You can get a similar one from Winford Engineering. I'm considering carrying these as an accessory, what do you guys think?

PS -- Joenotjoe also has some pictures up of fifteen solenoids all wired up and moving.

4X4 Driver Shield now available

The time has come to update our sixteen channel shield, so we gave it a better name and some new capabilities. It is now the 4X4 Driver Shield, and it does everything that the old sixteen channel does, with a couple of new twist.



  • A solder jumper allows the user to power the host Arduino off the high voltage power supply to the shield.
  • Solder jumpers allow all four power rails to be shorted together potentially simplifying wiring
  • The Arduino interface pins have been re-arranged in order to match the SPI pins of an Arduino Uno or a Zigduino. This allows you to push data out to the shield (or to a string of shields) much faster than previously and with less overhead as well. This enables users to take advantage of the speed boost in the latest version of Elcojacobs' ShiftPWM library.


And with the new changes, we've retained many of the key features of the old shield, including its current-handling capability, robust integrated protections (overtemp, overcurrent, overvoltage, etc), and daisy chaining. 

Zigduino and 16ch Driver availability, redux

We have Zigduinos in stock again! We sent a big package of them off to SeeedStudio yesterday, so they should have them in stock again soon as well. We don't have very many, so they'll probably be gone again, quickly. Luckily, we're only about two and a half weeks out from the availability of the third spin of Zigduinos. The third spin of board will be assembled in the US -- faster, more reliable, better quality, and not all that much more expensive. 

The story with 16ch driver shields is not as good -- Digikey just informed us that the availability is pushed back to the end of September. This has been the story since the end of July -- no stock, and no prospect of when IRF is going to make some more stock available. 

Open 7400 Logic Competition

We're sponsoring Dangerous Prototypes' Open 7400 Logic Competition. The prizes will include two Zigduinos and two 16ch Driver Shields.

The goal is simple: create the coolest thing you can think of out of discrete logic components, by the 21st of October. They will be judged as follows:

Originality. A smart new design that inspires

Documentation. Schematics, theory, pictures and/or video

(Mis)use of 7400 logic. Show us what 7400 logic was (never) meant to do

Technical prowess

Build quality

Imagination and creativity

I hope to see some truly awesome things come out of this, and I'm also looking forward to seeing what the lucky winners can do with our hardware later.

Zigduino and 16ch Driver availability

The Zigduino has been sold out at SeeedStudio since the middle of August and here for a week. Luckily, we already had another run of boards being built when that happened. Our assembler tells me that he will be shipping the next run of Zigduinos today, which means we should have them available for sale sometime around the middle of next week. Three-quarters of that run is already spoken for, so if you need more, either join the zigduino-announce list or like us on Facebook so you can get the announcement of availability at the earliest possible time. 

Since this run is likely to sell out so quickly, we're in the process of putting together a much larger run immediately afterwards. Watch this space for more information on that.

The sixteen channel driver shield has been sold out since the beginning of August. The only reason it's been out of stock so long is because International Rectifier has not been quick about making more of the part, the IPS6044G, that it's based around. Digikey has told us they should be getting their shipment of them in next week; we should have them back in stock a week or so after receiving them.