Zigduino production

We just took delivery on the third production run of Zigduinos, and we're working on flashing and testing them all. This is not only far and away the largest run so far, it is the first run to be assembled in the United States. 

This means that all of our assembly is now done in the US. We've found an excellent local assembly house to do our higher volume work, Printed Circuits Assembly Corporation. The quality is great, the prices are good, and the level of service, communication, and professionalism is phenomenal. It was more than worth the cost increment over what OurPCB, our former Chinese assembler, was costing us.

I delivered the parts and PCBs in person in order to speed the process by a day and get a look at PCA's operation. They own a large building in Bellevue, where they've been since 2000. The owner of PCA, Sim Taing, showed me around. I failed to take any pictures, which I regret, but I loved the opportunity to see their operation. The place was a hive of activity, and Mr Taing showed me a variety of boards much more complex than a Zigduino that they were building for other clients. They have more than two dozen large and extremely fast pick and place machines, most of which were in use at the time I was there. 

What impressed me the most was Mr. Taing's clear enthusiasm and pride in his business. That gave me a very good feeling about giving them the work. The fact that they delivered excellent work ahead of schedule confirms it. I'll be using them for my future runs.

Production update and Zigduino plans

Production Status

All of the pieces for production have come together nicely; we expect to have the first run done and ready to ship this Friday. We'll open the store when they're ready to ship. Contact us or subscribe to our RSS feed in order to receive notice as soon as they are ready. There is one unfortunate caveat, however: we have not worked the kinks out of our RoHS-compliant process yet. Therefore, we will not be able to ship boards from this first run to customers in the European Union. 

Zigduino Product Plans

I'm as excited as everyone else in the larger Arduino community about the introduction of the new Arduino Uno. The shield interface has remained compatible, so I can continue to production with the 16 channel high side shield; it will work with all existing shield compatible Arduino variants.

The first production Zigduinos will use the old FTDI chip rather than the new ATmega8U2. Changing that up at this point would consume another couple of months and interfere with testing of the 802.15.4 radio and the software. I'd like to get them out on the market ASAP; updating the USB interface can wait a little longer.

Zigduino Software

The Arduino core libraries and IDE are substantially ported. However, sufficiently large changes to the IDE were required that I will be hosting a Zigduino-only port of the Arduino package. This is because of two substantial changes in addition to the library porting:

  1. Use of WinAVR-20100110 instead of WinAVR-20081205 for back-end compilation. Non-Windows platforms (to come later) will require a similar update to gcc and libc. This is because the version that ships with the standard Arduino package (as of 0019; I have not inspected 0020 yet) is too old to support the ATmega128RFA1 and therefore cannot compile to the right target.
  2. Application of uracoli's patch to Compiler.java, enabling the Arduino IDE to compile against pre-compiled libraries. This is because the RF libraries provided by Atmel are provided in pre-compiled form, i.e. as *.a files. They are not, in general, open source. However, that should not affect the open source hardware status of the Zigduino because these libraries implement well-designed public standards. 

In order to get the Zigduino into the hands of users ASAP, I plan to release it with a ported Arduino package and direct end users to one of the existing available RF libraries. There are two options that I know of right now. First, the uracoli project is developing a completely open source 802.15.4 MAC. This will not provide ZigBee support, but it will provide networking for up to thirty compatible devices.

Users who want to interface with ZigBee devices or who want to try out one of the other protocols built on top of 802.15.4 will need to download one of Atmel's free design software packages which includes the libraries for 6LoWPAN, ZigBeePro, Route Under MAC, and RF4Control, as well as several proprietary Atmel toolkits. While I don't think this is entirely ideal, it does allow me to get to market much, much sooner and with much better firmware.