Welcome to the Pololu Blog, where we provide updates about what we and our customers are doing and thinking about. This blog used to be Pololu president Jan Malášek’s Engage Your Brain blog; you can view just those posts here.
With the holiday season upon us, many are on the hunt for interesting projects that we can give as gifts. This year, why not make your project about unveiling your gift? You would still have to get an actual gift to put inside the box, but you’d win major style points. Forum member Bob Day’s knock knock unlock puzzle box has no visible way of opening it, but given the right combination of knocks will unlatch itself with the help of a servo and several other electronic components inside. The puzzle box is controlled by an A-Star Micro, which is powered by our S7V8F5 voltage regulator and a mini LV pushbutton power switch. The power switch is turned on by a mercury tilt switch and turned off by the A-Star if no knocks are received for about 30 seconds. This power switch circuit allows power to be completely turned off, which should extend the battery life tremendously over just leaving the A-Star on. (For advanced microcontroller programmers, another option would be to put the A-Star into a low-power mode.) A list of the parts and connections used and some example code for the box are given on Bob’s blog.
“Knock Knock Unlock” Puzzle Box outside view.
If you found this project interesting, you might also like a similar GPS puzzle box, also created by Bob, that we featured on our blog last year. That box unlocked when brought to a specific location and included a simpler toggle switch for power and an LCD screen.
Here at Pololu, we think our Zumo 32U4 Robot is great! It’s one of our flagship products – a compact little robot packed full of features and tailored for mini-sumo. Whether you are a high school or college student learning to program through the Arduino IDE, or you are a C++ programming god and want to dabble in hardware for mortals, we think it’s a fantastic robot that you’d really enjoy. But, hey, you don’t have to take our word for it! Josh over at Breakout Bros has started a review series on robot kits, and recently posted his review of the Zumo 32U4. Check it out!
Have an opinion about that review? Maybe you have existing reviews of our products that you haven’t already shared with us? Feel free to post a comment about any of that below, or share your opinion on our forum. If you prefer, you can also contact us directly.
Forum user ZipZaps shared a fantastically charming project that uses a 24-channel Maestro servo controller to automate a Smith Corona typewriter using the speech recognition built into Windows. The Maestro controls a mechanism consisting of multiple rows of servos on some small linear rails to strike the keys in a manner resembling the way a person would normally interact with the typewriter. An Arduino paired with a Big Easy driver controls the stepper motor used to slide the carriage return system.
You can find more pictures and information about this project in ZipZaps forum post.
We have had a lot of fun with this year’s Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale so far, and I hope many of you have, too. The sale isn’t over yet, but it will be soon, so make sure you get any last-minute orders placed in the next eight hours!
Also, a big thank-you to the shipping department for getting all the orders out (especially to those who came in on the weekend to make sure everything went smoothly)!
Our Black Friday / Cyber Monday sale is going strong, and we have been working hard to make and ship the products that people are getting great deals on. If you have already placed an order, thank you! If you are still trying to decide if you want to take advantage of our amazing deals, don’t wait too long—the sale ends Monday night.
We’re less than two days away from our annual Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale, our biggest sale of the year! This year, in addition to our usual doorbuster deals (limited total quantity promotions at extreme discounts) and large discounts, we are offering up to $7 off of shipping for those who claim their coupon before the sale begins. For many of our smaller items shipping within the US, that discount will be enough to make shipping free, and it should also make a meaningful reduction in shipping costs for our international customers who want to participate in this American tradition. To take advantage of this offer, just log in to your account and follow this link, which will generate a coupon code just for you. You must get your coupon before the sale begins, and you can then use it during our sale, which will run from Wednesday, November 23 through Monday, November 28. Keep an eye on our Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale page for all the latest about the sale!
We are now carrying the Raspberry Pi Model A+ 512MB, which is just like the previous Model A+ but with double the RAM, so it also works with our various Raspberry Pi expansion boards. In particular, it can be combined with our A-Star 32U4 Robot Controller with Raspberry Pi Bridge to make a powerful control center for a small robot (check out this tutorial).
A-Star 32U4 Robot Controller SV with Raspberry Pi Bridge on a Raspberry Pi Model A+.
And speaking of small robots, stay tuned for some fun new products that will also work with the Raspberry Pi!
We are now selling new addressable RGB LED strips based on the SK6812. These LED strips replace our older WS2812B LED strips. Like the WS2812B, the SK6812 is an RGB LED with an integrated driver that allows independent control over a chain of LEDs using just one I/O line. The main difference between the two drivers is that the SK6812 has constant current control capabilities that let it have a voltage-independent color and brightness over a wide range of voltages, so any voltage drop due to long power lines is less of a concern.
LED side of the SK6812-based addressable LED strips, showing 30 LEDs/m (top), 60 LEDs/m (middle), and 144 LEDs/m (bottom).
We offer six different kinds of SK6812 LED strip with different LED densities and lengths. Our strips with 30 LEDs per meter are available in three lengths:
We also offer denser SK6812 LED strips that have 60 LEDs per meter:
Our highest density strip has 144 LEDs per meter:
We provide LED strip example code for the Arduino, AVR, and mbed microcontroller platforms. More information about the LED strips and how to use them can be found on the LED strip product page.
Controlling an addressable RGB LED strip with an Arduino and powering it from a 5V wall power adapter.
I am excited to announce that we just released our highest power regulators ever. The new D24V150Fx family of step-down regulators includes units with 3.3 V, 5 V, 6 V, 7.5 V, 9 V, and 12 V outputs and can output currents of around 15 A! With all of the output voltages available, the D24V150Fx family of regulators is great for a variety power-hungry projects like running servos or our metal gearmotors and supplying large LED displays.
The maximum continuous output currents for all the members of the D24V150Fx family are shown in the graph below. You can see that the available output current is generally a little higher for the lower-voltage versions than it is for the higher-voltage versions, and it decreases as the input voltage increases.
These regulators accept input voltages up to 40 V and have typical efficiencies between 80% and 95%. Integrated reverse-voltage protection, over-current protection, over-temperature shutoff, undervoltage lockout, and soft-start features make these regulators robust, and a power good output can be used to monitor the output voltage.
We have released slightly updated (irs05b) versions of our 38 kHz IR proximity sensors and discontinued the previous (irs05a) versions. The main changes are to the locations of the IR emitter and receiver, which have been moved away from the edge of the board. This results in better shielding from the PCB itself, which improves performance. Also, the front edge is now routed rather than scored to provide a cleaner edge that also slightly improves the sensor performance and consistency.
Like the originals, these new sensors are available in high-brightness and low-brightness versions with typical sensing ranges up to around 24″ (60 cm) and 12″ (30 cm), respectively. The new versions have the same dimensions and pinouts as the originals, so they can be used as drop-in replacements for any applications that are not dependent on the original component locations.