While I pour a toast, here are a few highlights of the past year:
PID Controlled Solder Paste Fridge
The first project I documented on the site, my solder paste fridge was the end result of a weekend effort to turn an old beer chest into a PID-controlled Peltier cooler for storing tubes of solder paste. A year later, the cooler has a permanent home under my workbench and is still going strong, keeping its contents at a chilly 36 degrees F. Besides solder paste, I keep my POR-15 rust proofing epoxy paint and a few tubes of superglue in the fridge (they never dry out!).
Space Invaders! Making RGB video with the PIC
I needed an excuse to learn assembly language programming on the PIC, and this project fit the bill perfectly. Instead of slogging through yet another PIC tutorial I decided to “just do it” and the video above shows the result. One of my favorite projects of last year, I have plans to build more of these and make some electronic artwork for the lab.
Bluetooth Handset Hack
One aging bluetooth headset plus one obsolete telephone handset equals one retro-fabulous hack that I still use today. The best part: Look for this one in Make: volume 20!
DIY PID-Controlled Soldering Hotplate
I’m a big fan of the hotplate (aka reflow skillet) method of surface mount soldering. Over the course of a few months I designed, machined, and assembled this PID-controlled soldering hotplate to help build the first few prototypes of my AVR HV Rescue Shield kit. Hacking around in the garage is always fun, but creating a new tool is one of the most rewarding things I have can think of.
Here’s a video of the hotplate in action, reflowing the step-up converter on the Rescue Shield:
The AVR HV Rescue Shield
What started as a simple hack to save a crippled AVR microcontroller eventually became a kit that I’ve sold to AVR enthusiasts around the world. The AVR HV Rescue Shield includes a cool custom PCB, integrated 5V-12V step-up power supply, and is completely open source. I only made one batch of these, and when they’re gone, they’re gone, so head over to the AVR HV Rescue Shield product page to order one today!
This all started last year, when I was playing with an ATmega168 microcontroller and did something silly. I programmed the RSTDISBL fuse bit, which effectively makes it impossible to reflash the chip using an ordinary (serial) programmer.
Instead of giving up and throwing out the “dead” chip, I decided to try to revive it using an obscure high voltage parallel programming mode that isn’t supported by most AVR programmers. Armed with my Arduino and the ATmega168 datasheet, I quickly designed and constructed a programmer using parts I already had on my workbench.
A few hours later, I tested my new programmer and it worked! I revived my “dead” AVR by using spare parts and a few lines of Arduino code. That week I published the schematics and Arduino sketch to the site and called it my Arduino-based AVR High Voltage Programmer.
The response was overwhelming. Since I first posted the design, many people have built their own and used it to fix their “dead” AVR microcontrollers by restoring the fuse bits to sane values. I even received several requests for a PCB and/or kit based on the design, which got me thinking…
Today I’m proud to introduce:
The AVR HV Rescue Shield
The AVR HV Rescue Shield is a high voltage parallel mode fuse programmer for Atmel AVR microcontrollers.
It currently supports the ATmega48/88/168/328 series and the ATtiny2313. The Rescue Shield does everything my original AVR High Voltage Programmer does, and a lot more. I think the new features make this a really useful tool for anyone working with AVR microcontrollers.
New features include:
Custom 2-layer PCB with silkscreen and soldermask. No more hacking and modifying perfboards to fit Arduino’s nonstandard pin spacing!
Onboard 12V DC-DC boost converter eliminates the need for an external 12V power supply
Support for two of the most common families of AVR microcontrollers, the ATmega48/88/168 and ATtiny2313
Support for programming the extended fuse (EFUSE) byte.
A new interactive mode, where desired fuses can be entered using the Arduino’s serial port.
Separate Ready and Burn indicators
Protection resistors on every single data, control, and supply line to the target AVR, meaning that your Arduino and AVR should survive any mishaps during programming, including inserting the AVR backwards or off by 1 pin.
I spent considerable time testing each new feature and documenting the Arduino sketch. I hope that you’ll find that the finished product was worth the wait!